Looking to focus on your mind, body and soul? Louis Byrne shares his perspective on movement and fitness in order to best lead a healthy lifestyle
Health and fitness are considered buzzwords of the moment. It’s terminology we see or hear almost daily, be it online, in newspapers, or when earwigging on the tube. While many of us know the importance of keeping active, there’s a certain stigma that surrounds fitness. How often have you felt pressured to workout, get a gym membership, or stick to a strict meal plan? It’s these common misconceptions which don’t actually apply to everybody that is conscious about keeping fit and healthy.
‘I Can, I Am and I Will’ founder Louis Byrne has found a significant improvement in reframing the idea and the language we use. Talking through his steps to keeping active, he shares advice on how to switch the narrative from ‘fitness to ‘movement.’
“During my school days, I attended a sport focused secondary school. I struggled to fit in with the sporty crowd, so stayed active in other ways. Rather than playing football or rugby, I would often walk the field with my grandad who was a farmer. I’d also go on weekly forest walks every Sunday with my Nan and her friend, and was a regular at the local swimming pool. I’d also cycle everywhere! Then I found the dance floor – this was my place to escape physically and mentally. However, this environment came with alcohol and drugs, which are simply part of the culture. It kept me fit but not mentally in the best shape.
Self-esteem played a huge role in my ability to participate in group classes and activities. The negative language in my head would tell me I wasn’t good enough, fit enough or strong enough. I didn’t realise that if you’re not practicing, then you’re not improving.
Now, the overarching element of staying active is community; the benefits it has on my mind and mood are as rewarding as those for my body. In fact, the body benefits are an added bonus.”
In hindsight, breaking my leg was a huge turning point. I made a goal to go to the gym every day and work out my upper body, in order to shake off the depressive mood I found myself in.
I climbed Table Mountain in South Africa in my cast. I was there for work, and was being wheeled around in a wheelbarrow. Once my leg came out of the cast, I began training to strengthen the areas that needed work and quickly resumed hiking.
Raising the endorphins and maintaining a determined mindset were the most crucial ways to not allow my situation to hold me back from what I wanted to achieve. I hiked the mountains in Ibiza, and the unloved ground really helped to build my trust and confidence in my body again.
I discovered an overwhelming drive to work harder on myself since being in lockdown. Due to my HIV diagnosis, I was categorised as vulnerable. This was at the beginning of the pandemic – I saw the virus wiping people out globally and I felt the fear.
I set myself personal goals to track my progress and improve my mood. As standard practice, I always set myself one big goal each year, weather that be to run a half marathon, climb a mountain or learn a new technique.
I made the decision to publicly discuss my fitness journey to hold myself accountable. Through sharing it, I am grateful to have been named an ambassador for Nobu Pilates. A council estate boy from Northampton becoming an ambassador for a luxury 5-star hotel wellness Pilates studio – who’d have thought?
I am honoured to collaborate with Marsha Lindsey, creative director of Nobu Pilates on this feature. We have put together three moves that can be easily done each day wherever you are. It will help to stretch out your limbs and muscles.
Three Pilates exercises to focus on spinal flexibility and breathing
The Roll Up
This is a great exercise to work all layers of the abdominal muscles and stretch the whole back of the body.
- Lie on your back with your arms reaching to the ceiling. Extend legs long into the mat and press them together (if you are a beginner have knees bent and feet flat on the mat).
- Lift your head off the mat, curl your chin to your chest and peel the spine off the mat gradually.
- Stretch forward reaching fingers toward your toes.
- Begin to roll back into the mat with control. Do this slowly until the head is back the mat, and the arms are to the ceiling.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the mat, hip width apart and parallel.
- Press your straight arms and palms of hand firmly down into mat.
- INHALE. Start with the tailbone and peel the spine away from the mat into a bridge.
- Hold breath for ten seconds.
- Slowly EXHALE. Roll the spine bone by bone back into the mat until hips are grounded.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Turn onto your stomach, face down.
- Rest one hand on top of the other with your elbows wide, and connect your forehead to your hands.
- Keeping forehead and hands connected and maintaining a long neck, take an INHALE to lift your upper body two to three inches off the mat.
- Hold the position as you hold the breath.
- Slowly EXHALE as you lower the upper body back down to the mat. \
- REPEAT six times, then sit back into child pose stretch.
My journey with Pilates has been something of a revelation. It has taught me to connect mind and body on a deeper level. With the practice of reformer Pilates, you have to learn how to connect with every inch of your body. By doing this, you learn where you hold tension. This allows for a more thorough focus while building strength muscle and posture
My preferred routine changes and so the activities remain interesting and enjoyable. I like to switch between exercises; whether it’s reformer Pilates, swimming, hiking, weightlifting or cycling. Even if it’s for 30 minutes, it’s so important to get out and do something. Building the momentum is so important and valuable.
You simply have to be the change you want to see. Nothing will grow without nourishment, including body and mind. I use my wellbeing journal to track my process.
Accountability, momentum, play.”