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How Prison Produced a Personal Trainer

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“I don't like jail, they got the wrong kind of bars in there.” – Author Charles Bukowski

The objectives of the jail system include retribution (punishing one for his/her harmful acts), incapacitation (locking one up so he/she cannot commit more crimes), rehabilitation (changing one's ways for the better), and deterrence (scaring people away from crime). One objective conspicuously absent from that list is developing personal trainers. However, that is exactly what happened in the case of England’s L.J. Flanders.

HM (Her Majesty’s) Prison Pentonville in London, built in 1842, has been home to many famous individuals over the years. Irish author Oscar Wilde, and more recently, pop stars Boy George and George Michael, have all served time at Pentonville. In 2011, 21-year-old L.J. Flanders was imprisoned there while awaiting trial for his role in a brawl. Prior to his jail time, Flanders “wasn’t a gym-goer,” he said. Confined in his cell, however, he quickly realized that he had to make efforts to fight off extreme boredom. Like many inmates, Flanders turned to working out.

Flanders was locked in his cell 23 hours a day and began running out of options for exercises. “There are only so many standard press-ups or sit-ups a person can do in a room that’s eight feet by six feet,” Flanders said. He wanted to find new, creative ways to work out using only his bodyweight in a small space. Flanders hit the books to learn about exercise and earned himself a role as personal trainer at the prison gym. Before long, he was instructing fellow inmates in the gym and earned a reputation as a provider of constructive guidance. However, he still wanted to find new ways to work out while in his cell.

Flanders began drawing up exercises he could perform with no equipment in his tiny cell. He decided to write a book that would constitute a blueprint for working out with no resources in small spaces. Over the course of his 14-month stint in Pentonville, he created the foundation for his book, Cell Workout. Flanders designed exercises for every major muscle group, stretches, and even meditation methods. In total, the book lays out a comprehensive workout program, and includes exercises such as sprinting in place and wall presses. The book was published after he left prison, but includes images of Flanders demonstrating each position with a mock-jail cell in the background. The workout was developed in a jail for those in jail, yet it does not limit the application. It can be used in an office, walk-in closet, or a typical Manhattan apartment.

L.J. Flanders has spent the last 18 months as a personal trainer for Virgin Active, an international gym chain with over 100 locations in the U.K. He has developed his own clientele and, at age 25, is building his own business as an independent personal trainer. Flanders used his time in prison to develop a new career in fitness and he said he hopes “in some way [his book] can help other prisoners” in the future.

We'd love to hear from you. What do you think about L.J.’s transformation? Comment below or on our Facebook page at facebook.com/flytefitness, or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Jeremy Greenberg
Co-Founder & CEO
Flyte Fitness

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