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Former Osprey offers advice to be active

Former Welsh rugby star Ben John has a message for anyone worried that lockdown means meltdown when it comes to health and fitness.

“It needn’t be because you don’t need fancy equipment or even that much space in order to look after yourself,” says John, now a personal fitness trainer and head coach at London gym, Manor.

John – who played professionally for the Ospreys for a decade before injury forced his retirement – has been busier than most during this period of isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Not only has he switched from one-to-one coaching for his clients to online sessions, but he’s been posting a series of hugely popular videos on Twitter, Instagram and his YouTube channel that have gathered plenty of approval in rugby circles and beyond.

His rugby ball-handling skills can work as a gentle aerobic workout as well as improve hand-eye co-ordination.

Then, there is his three-ball juggling routine as well as a mixed “skills and drills” show that combines press-ups, lunges, squats and high knees – at speeds to suit all levels – with those pleasing, eye-catching ball skills.

If that’s not enough, then try his fun-packed spin a tennis ball into a cardboard box in the corner of the room routine. (It’s harder than it looks).

As a holder of all kinds of personal training qualifications as well as a Level 2 British Olympic weightlifting certificate, John is ideally placed to suggest ways to stay in shape inside your own home.

Advising on three different levels of activity, he says everyone can maintain – and even improve - their fitness, with a little imagination and determination.

•          Gentle Activity – Gentle home activities for people who might be new to exercise or have restricted movement.

“If you’re not really used to exercise then, you need something that’s going to replace the daily movement you were doing when we could all leave the house.

“The first thing I’d say, is get some structure into your day. You need a new routine because our old routines have gone.

“So, make time for exercise, plan your daily walk. If you find yourself over-snacking it’s probably because you’re bored rather than hungry. 

“A good tip is to have a notebook and pencil in the kitchen and write it down every time you grab something. That way you can get a handle on what you’re doing.

“For exercise, you don’t need gym equipment in the house. You can use your own body to stretch and move and get your heartrate going. There are plenty of videos you can follow to suit all tastes.

“Not only will staying healthy improve your immune system and protect you if you fall ill, but it will improve your mental health, also.

“If you exercise in the house, then you can use your outdoor allowance to walk with a family member and just relax and be in the present.”


•          General Activity – Activities for people who enjoy sport and exercise and want to continue to reap the health benefits.

“For people who were used to doing a fair bit of sport and exercise, you’ll probably be motivated to exercise and stay fit.

“Again, there’s lot to watch and get instruction from. What this group will miss is maybe the competitive element of what they were doing before.

“So, find some competition in the exercises with your friends and teammates. It will make it more interesting if you keep that edge that you had before.

“You can either challenge others, or just challenge yourself. Note your levels and achievements and work on trying to improve.”


•        Advanced Activity – For people who take part in sport regularly and want more intense training.

“For people who did a lot of sport and for those at a high level, there are different challenges to overcome. 

“I think these people will experience what elite sports people feel when they go through transition after finishing their sport.

“They all know how to train and stay fit, but they may miss the comradeship, the togetherness, the banter of the dressing room.

“They have to get creative – form groups, use technology like WhatsApp and Zoom to re-create the bonds they had before.

“They will know which physical routines to go through, but the big difficulty may be staying upbeat and that’s why connections are so vital.

”Stay in touch, compare routines, swap stories, hold a quiz – keep part of a bigger group even if you feel a bit alone.”

John also encourages everyone in all sports to seek to learn from others and the ways they are coping in these very difficult days.

In a digital on-line sense, have a look over your garden fence and see what your neighbour is up to.

“Joe Wicks is doing some fantastic stuff as The Body Coach, for all ages, but I’ve also been really impressed with what other sports are up to,” says John.

“Welsh Netball have been putting out some good stuff on their channels, with people like Nia Jones and Kyra Jones, while Jazz Carlin’s videos for swimming fitness are amazing.

“I’ve enjoyed all the efforts with the toilet roll challenge and I saw a clip of an old rugby mate kicking a ball through an open house window – though I’m not sure that one’s going to catch on.”