I first met Ollie Brown of Redevelop Movement nearly 18 months ago now, at Emmet Louis’ Modern Methods Of Mobility Seminar (Read the review HERE). As it turned out, we would spend the entire seminar partnered up. Of course this gave us a great chance to chat about our industry, nutrition, lifestyle, health, business and just about everything in between!
What was clear about Ollie upon meeting him was this was a guy who was innovative and driven. He thought outside the box and saw the bigger picture. He had been to many seminars and had been mentored by the best…..and it showed. Sadly after the seminar we lost touch for a while as I wasn’t on Facebook and therefore had no access to the after-seminar Facebook group everyone was invited to.
I even gave him a special shoutout in the aforementioned review above, in the hope he might see it and get in touch….but nothing. Over a year later he started following me on Instagram. Bang. It had happened. Finally! It turned out he had launched his own company and started work as a coach & movement teacher!
We met up various times over the summer and chatted over the phone a lot. This gave birth to our upcoming Calisthenics & Bodyweight Strength Training Workshop in his hometown of Norwich (UK) next month (Read more about the event HERE).
Ahead of our workshop I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down for an interview with him and to pick his brains about training, movement, health, learning, motivation, philosophy and a whole load more! I sincerely hope you find it as insightful as I did.
1. Tell us about yourself? How did you get into the ‘fitness industry’ and the job you’re currently in?
In honesty, it got into me. Only after necessity did I decide to involve myself further. I was a very active and sporty kid and I also had a taste for marathon length computer games (specifically strategic ones where it’s actually hard to ‘finish’ the game). This was a lethal combination for my physicality; I had a lot of sport specific injuries (bad knees from skateboarding, bad shoulder from cricket) and I also was on my way to developing a lot of the common issues that come from ‘sedentarianism’. All the sitting still for computer games was almost as much as the sitting I was doing in school at the time. It was usually all or nothing, similar to the people today who work desk jobs and run marathons for fun – overcompensation is the way to describe it.
When I finished school (Sixth Form) I began involving myself in other activities; I learned to surf and to KiteSurf and had some major problems due to my knees and shoulders and decided I had to start fixing them before I went any further. I later qualified to teach a number of watersports which became my primary work for the next 7 years and was only really possible by sorting out my physical problems. They are hard demanding jobs, both physically and mentally and you absolutely have to be in excellent physical condition.
I went about solving my problems the way anyone would – I turned to specialist therapists (physios, osteos, chiros) in the hope they would help diagnose and cure me. I was thoroughly disappointed with the results so took the matter into my own hands. It’s important to point out that I don’t have a negative view of all people who hold these positions, but my experience was very poor and I spent a lot of money with a wide range of individuals and not a single one gave me any material or advice that I use today.
It took me roughly three years of trial and experimentation to be injury and pain free – it cost me very little money but a lot of effort on my part to make time researching and testing different options. The success I had led me to working with friends and family members before ultimately deciding that I had some very valuable material that I wanted to turn into something tangible.
2. How would you define your current job? Are you a personal trainer or would you use the term ‘movement coach’ – or even anything else?
I am most definitely a teacher. I’ve had a lot of experience teaching different disciplines and always get the same great results paired with excellent feedback from a huge array of students and trainees. I like to use the strength I have in teaching to determine my place in the industry. I am not a typical trainer and I don’t believe in calling myself something that I am not, just because I have a qualification. There’s a huge problem in the fitness industry that dictates what a trainer ‘should’ be and this alienates a massive number of individuals who could really provide a quality service if our collective expectation wasn’t so narrow minded. The simple idea of a ‘trainer’ also causes many individuals to relinquish responsibility.
I work on many different levels, be it with an individual, a group or much larger audience and the goal for me is always education. Education on the matter is what has made the difference for every single person I have worked with and removes the need for them to rely on me.
3. I assume you started off with general fitness, i.e. weightlifting and commercial gym use. Can you remember a key point where you sparked an interest for movement and using your bodyweight as resistance?
I did start with a very typical gym routine – a mixture of machines and free weights but I quickly left that behind when I began training for watersports (which basically involved doing them a lot) and found other activities such as climbing and mountain biking. I think this was an excellent change for me, even though it was unintentional, as it made me good at a lot of stuff and developed my ‘general’ approach to physical activities as opposed to being specialised and one-dimensional.
I lived and worked in Mexico in 2012 and found myself spending a lot of time doing very basic bodyweight training thanks to an old structure which was abandoned on the beach I worked on. This re-kindled my interest in training and led me to start researching training methods and individuals who could help me develop. Two individuals who made a big impact early were Charles Poliquin and Pavel Tsatsouline. I remember spending time in the gym figuring out how I could incorporate Pavel’s ‘Naked Warrior’ training with Charles’ classic strength training. I then discovered other disciplines such as Gymnastics Strength Training and Ido Portal who has been by far the biggest influence on me in developing a ‘movement’ approach.
4. What would you say to anyone who thought calisthenics/gymnastics/movement training was inferior to your traditional ‘bro-split’?
Whether something is inferior is relative to your intentions. Having said that, there are many more benefits and reasons to training with a movement based approach than there are to the traditional gym-split. Perhaps if you want to look like Dorian Yates then a split program will undoubtedly be the best way to get you there. Then again, where is all that muscle now? he got rid of it (out of necessity) and is now a yoga aficionado – that itself should tell us something.
5. If someone was looking to get started with bodyweight training & ring work etc… where should they start? Are there any fundamental moves you think everyone should learn, that open the gateway up to bigger and better stuff down the line?
The fundamental moves that people should start with should be determined by what they want to achieve and what they need. The good thing is, they are generally very similar (if not the same) for everyone. I will always have people build a solid base in the classic pulling and pushing exercises on both vertical and horizontal planes. For instance, Pull Ups, Rows, Dips, Press Ups and Overhead Pushing. From there I will include a good base of Straight Arm exercises, both pushing and pulling and begin incorporating assistance work for the weak areas (which are typically the same places on everyone). Developing a really good standard in bodyweight training comes from this work – you really can’t rush it. A favourite quote of mine is especially relevant here:
‘The basics are the basics and you can’t beat the basics’ – Charles Poliquin.
6. What has been your biggest training success to date? Either with a client or for yourself, or both!
For myself – handstand work. Despite being an active youngster I didn’t attempt my first handstand until I was 26/27. It’s now one of my strong points and only getting better. I also say it’s my biggest success as it really takes a long time to develop. I have always made relative quick gains in the strength department but technical work has always been a lot harder for me.
For people I have worked with, it’s always the details which weren’t at the forefront of the training. People usually come to me hoping to learn something specific and then find themselves benefiting in all kinds of other ways. For example, my trainee Tim, used to have particularly bad sciatica. Now it has gone, completely. These are the details which really improve someones quality of life, not the number they achieve in the session.
7. What has been your biggest mistake in your training career thus far? How about in your own training and with clients?
My biggest mistake with my own training has been trying to rush things. With the type of training I do, progress is as slow as a moving glacier, but when it does move, you sure as hell notice. I’ve often set myself goals that I can’t attain because I have underestimated how long they will take to achieve – I’ve learned to set many goals along the way as a way of keeping the progress going in the right direction over the course of months so that when I have a down day or week it isn’t enough to derail me.
When it comes to training other people, I’ve learned to use the First Things First principle; give them what they want. Even if this is not precisely what I do, it’s entirely possible to give someone some major improvements without even telling them that is your intention. For example, some people are set on the idea that their weight and physique is the issue when I may see a whole host of other stuff that I consider to be more important. If I approach it from my point of view (which I tended to do in the past) it becomes overwhelming for the trainee and often fails. However, I’ve found I can make enormous improvements to someones mobility without them even knowing, and when they realise, you can imagine how they feel about it.
8. Do you have any mentors or idols within our industry? People whose work you just can’t get enough of and apply to your own work?
Yes. I tend not to go searching endlessly for these people but know how to spot them when I come across them and then stick to their work. I then make a point of learning from them and applying it to my work.
The most influential people for me have been;
There are many more, but I only mention these individuals as I use things that I have learned from them on a daily basis.
9. If you could only do one exercise for life, what would it be?
If it’s structured exercise, I’d have to go with either something based on the Gymnastic Rings which covers a lot of bases (such as a Muscle Up) or something for the enjoyment factor, such as handstands, particularly as it’s very diverse. If it’s just any exercise in general then I would definitely say swimming. There’s so much enjoyment to be had in the water even without a board of some kind. Body surfing is fantastic.
10. What would you say is the biggest myth/lie within the fitness industry?
That your gym is actually a gym. Typically, they are a total disgrace and insult to the incredible complexity and athletic ability of the human body. Crossfit gym’s are heading in a good direction, but they are still a far cry from what they should be. The old gymnasiums you’d find in school blow all of them out of the water, it’s not even close. The next best would be some of the newer ‘movement facilities’ that are opening up around the world or the parkour style gyms.
11. Could you give us your general take on diet & nutrition? I know everyone always wants to find the perfect diet for them, which is hard without a lot of experimentation, but do you have any general philosophies when it comes to eating?
I tend to focus on general principles before specific guidelines. Both for myself and students/trainees. I find this approach works best as it builds a framework to operate in as opposed to strict guidelines such as meal plans and calorie based approaches. For example; I begin with foods to focus on and what to avoid then I’ll recommend spending some time determining which are most relevant to the individual. then from there it’s easy for someone to begin constructing meals based on what we have found works well and other restraints in their life such as their schedule and time.
I am keen on finding the ‘optimal’ diet for individuals, though I believe this can take a serious amount of time (and possibly money).
12. What do you have planned for Redevelop Movement over the next few months? Any exciting projects?
I’ve been running a couple of classes based on Handstands and Mobility work for the past month and plan on continuing these with the possibility of adding more and other subjects depending on the demand. Our workshop in November is a good milestone in the calendar as it will be the first collaboration event I have run with anyone else which I am thoroughly looking forward to.
13. What do you have planned for Redevelop Movement long term? Where would you like to take it over the next 5 years?
It’s most definitely an educational project – because of this there are many routes I can take. I have a lot of ideas and potential avenues to explore – so it’s a particularly exciting time. Essentially, I have no idea where or what it will look like in 5 years and I’m quite alright with that!
My main long term focuses are summarised in my ‘tagline’; ‘Enjoy Physical Freedom – Have Fun Looking After Your Body, Always be Learning‘.
This means to rid the body of pains and injuries, explore the possibilities and ensure that it’s working well for the rest of your life. How I do this with people will no doubt change. I wan’t to have a much bigger reach than the immediate individual so that’s what I am working on right now. I’ve recently begun corporate style events and workshops within industries that can really benefit from the inclusion of this kind of work – specifically the Tech industry.
14. Do you have any life advice for anyone who may be young and unsure of where they’re heading? Maybe a quote to live by or a rule?
‘If you don’t make a decision to do something then you are making a decision to do nothing’ – A quote from the best school teacher I ever had.
When I was 17 and unsure of what to do he did an excellent job of making me aware that choosing one path does not close off all others – if anything it opens up more opportunities. Whereas deciding to wait it out until some magic epiphany strikes is pretty foolish. I don’t know a single person who found what they wanted to do by any way other than doing, even if it meant doing 12 different things first.
15. Where can people find out more about you and your work?
Online! In the day of hyper connectivity – I’m easily accessible. www.redevelopmovement.com is my website. Though websites aren’t typically the best place for people in our field it provides links to all other social media platforms that I use, specifically Instagram (@_otbrown_) and LinkedIn (Ollie Brown).
A huge thanks to Ollie for taking the time to provide us with such a detailed interview and wonderful wisdom! Interviews are always a wonderful chance to learn and apply new knowledge and insights. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.
If our Calisthenics & Bodyweight Strength Training Workshop on Saturday November the 24th, at GAIN Fitness, Norwich, UK is something that interests you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message me on Instagram and I’ll reserve you a spot!
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