Last updated: 05-Aug-20
We have all had to adapt our training over the last few months, and it has been disappointing to see race after race cancelled. But there is no doubt it has also been an opportunity to focus on strength, conditioning, resting and cross training that we rarely do when we are busy running.
Let’s face it, most of us fail to do the complementary work that is so vital to keep us strong and injury free but the last few months has allowed us to stop and refocus on that because our running has been curtailed.
However, gyms in the UK have been closed throughout the lockdown and are only set to reopen again in the next few weeks. How they will manage with Social Distancing and the increased hygiene necessary to allow gym-goers safe use of their equipment remains to be seen.
Helen Wyatt, a busy mother, ultra runner and business owner has always seen the benefit of strength training and regularly went to the gym. On the last day the gyms were open, Helen was training as usual and considering what she could use at home to keep the momentum of her strength training up. A box like the one she used regularly at the gym would be perfect.
“I looked on my phone, thinking how much are they, I’ll order one. But they were horrifically expensive and also they were all made in China so I couldn’t get one anyway because China had already closed down. So I asked James (Helen’s husband and a furniture maker) to make me one.”
A friend said it was a great idea, so another one was made for her. Helen realised that home gym equipment had become incredibly difficult to buy. No one could get plyo boxes, no one could get kettle bells, dumb bells, treadmills or rowers. If she could move quickly, Helen could actually provide a piece of gym equipment that would be really useful to people during the crisis. If she could make it affordable that would be even better and she could perhaps contribute to making people’s lives easier during lockdown. And that was the start of Fitt-BOX.
“Helen Davies, GB marathon runner and second place in the IAU 50km World Championships last year, got in touch with me and said I’ve seen your boxes and they would make such a massive difference to me, can I buy one?”.
Helen Davies using the Fitt-BOX
“Helen exemplifies the whole point of the box to me and everything Helen said she used the box for was exactly what I wanted to provide people with the Fitt-BOX.”
Like me, you may be wondering what the fuss is about. My only knowledge of boxes in gyms was for people to jump onto them and I was puzzled about what range of exercises could be done on one that could possibly make such a difference to runners.
This is where Lloyd Chapman comes in. Lloyd used to be Helen Davies’ strength and conditioning coach and is a firm believer in the use of boxes as training aides.
“There are many different strength exercises that can be done with a box. A bench can be used, but a box is more versatile as it can be turned over to reach different heights. Box jumping is a good exercise as it fires the fast twitch muscles and activates the glutes and hamstrings.”
“For an endurance runner, however, jumps like that offer limited benefit and there are many other activities that can be more relevant for them.”
“With a proper strength and conditioning plan, you are training your body to be more resilient. That is the basis of all strength training; resilience. It will fix any imbalances or previous injuries. Runners always get injuries; regardless of who you are if you are working to the limit, injuries happen.”
Photo courtesy of Lloyd Chapman
“I wrote a blog for Fitt-BOX; using a Fitt-BOX, a kettle bell and a resistance band, if you have those three items at home you can get a good, effective programme working.”
“The best thing about using a box is that you can do single leg work a lot more easily with a box than you can without one. So for example if you wanted to do a split squat, with your rear foot elevated, there are a lot of household items you could use such as a chair or a bench.”
“But then you are dragging furniture around and it’s not as versatile as a box, because of its different heights. So you may be able to use a chair for a split squat, but you may want something higher for a step up.”
Despite building his own box at the start of lockdown, when Lloyd met Helen Wyatt through Helen Davies, he ordered a Loz Box and uses it every day for himself and his clients.
To get an idea of the breadth of exercises you can do with just three pieces of equipment, watch Lloyd go through a selection of them here:
Click on image to be taken to YouTube
I was lucky to get a tour of the Fitt-BOX HQ and they certainly are a well made piece of furniture, made out of attractive birch plywood. It would fit in your living room without standing out as a piece of gym equipment and throw a cloth over it and you have an instant coffee table.
It’s been a fascinating learning curve for me and talking to both Lloyd and Helen has underlined the ease and benefits of strength training at home.