Fitness Expert Alex Crockford: Why Having Fun is Key to Staying MotivatedBy Dale Rutledge
Alex Crockford loves Krispy Kreme doughnuts. It’s a weakness of his. It makes him relatable. And then you learn that he tried to break a world record and complete more than 10,000 burpees, or squat thrusts, within 24 hours, and you think he might be a superhero.
He did it for charity but mostly for himself, completing 5,578 burpees before collapsing. Still impressive. So very impressive.
“It taught me that I can achieve anything I set my mind to,” the 27-year-old fitness trainer from Surrey, England (a short drive to London, where he lives) recently told his online fans. “It taught me that pain is temporary and enduring it is the toughest challenge. It taught me that the emotion I felt from my friends, family, loved ones, pets, the music I could hear, the sun rising in the morning and the touch of someone’s hand, is the most powerful and valuable gift for our soul.”
Crockford admits that last line is a little cheesy, but for someone who has devoted his life and career to fitness, he is always looking for the next challenge.
He also is always ready to lend a hand and provide advice to others looking to shape or transform their bodies. That’s also true for frequent travelers, with Crockford frequently providing tips for what to do or eat while on the road for work or pleasure on his various social channels and #CrockFit website.
To become an online fitness star, Crockford was inspired by the trend of communities rallying around fitness via social media. “When people see certain groups of people going to certain gyms or classes on Instagram or the like, they want to go themselves,” he says.
But he knows the same workout plan won’t work for everyone. What works for him isn’t going to necessarily entice every single one of his clients.
“Everyone is so different so it’s really hard to tell someone to do something specific when they enjoy something else,” Crockford recently told Marriott TRAVELER for the site’s Fit Traveler column. “Most people really see the biggest results from consistency, and they’ll only be consistent with things they enjoy.”
No gym available to you? No problem. Crockford’s YouTube channel features a number of helpful videos, including how to use a chair, bed, and your own body for various body weight exercises whether at home or in a hotel room.
“Just be mindful of your neighbors downstairs!” Crockford says.
What would you say is your overall fitness philosophy?
It’s never been just one thing. A lot of personal trainers hold on to one area and a lot of them say this is the be all and end all. However, I think it’s all about functional training—just moving your body the way it’s designed to move. People really need to enjoy it.
For me to transform my body as a bodybuilder I have to lift weights and grow muscle, but for an every day person just wanting to get fitter and healthier, you’ve got to move your body and use your own body weight to move forward. You’ve got to have the motivation to carry on by using challenges and finding enjoyment.
What’s your favorite workout at the moment?
Probably a gym style workout where I use minimal pieces of equipment but working my entire body.
I’ve been through phases of “split” workouts (IE: working chest, working legs separately), but I’ve had great enjoyment recently with working my entire body using compound and dynamic movements with things like medicine balls and dumbbells—single pieces of equipment in more dynamic ways.
Is that type of workout easier for on-the-go?
I enjoy using no equipment at all when I’m traveling or in a hotel gym with just one piece of equipment. It helps to take out all the questions in your mind. If you’ve got five cool exercises with one piece of equipment, it feels really good and it’s all you need.
Is that your best advice for travelers—use what you have around you?
Yeah, definitely my top piece of advice. Also, having the tools in your brain to prepare yourself for things like, “What if they don’t have a gym?” or “What if they don’t have the equipment I like?” You’ve gotta be prepared for what you’re going to do on the fly. It’s always better to do something rather than nothing and you’ve always got your body.
Do you find that gym hotels are sufficient enough?
They are so varied, so it’s hard to depend on. Luckily with my fitness training and the way I workout there’s always a way to have a good workout with what you’ve got in each hotel. I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s always some sense of excitement with new gyms to try new equipment as long as you have the confidence to give it a go.
What’s your go to item for traveling?
It’s all weight dependant really, but there’s a few suitcase friendly workout items. A resistance band or TRX strap are my top two favorites. You can either attach a TRX band to your door or the gym or even a park’s tree or pole. A resistance band is a bit limiting but certainly easy to travel with.
What motivates you to stay fit?
A variety of things. I’m so fortunate that it’s my life now. The accountability of developing this platform on Instagram and social media. It’s what I do every day and I create content every day and I want to bring the best motivation that I can for others that are following my plans. So if I’m not on form then it doesn’t motivate people as much. That really motivates me to stay in top shape.
Second, I always feel so much more motivated when I train, so when I go on holiday I sometimes come back in better shape! I’ve got a bit more time, I’m a bit more relaxed. I’ve got friends who say, “Why are you on holiday training?!” But it just makes me happier and more confident.
You’ve built a successful online business as a fitness expert. For the novice, why is exercise important?
Usually when it comes to things like injuries or stiffness, as soon as you stop exercising and moving and eating more, they get so much worse. I’ve always struggled with a tight back and silly glutes that don’t switch on, so I’m always trying to move and get training.
My biggest advice to people is to have something that motivates you. A 5K run, a photoshoot, hot weather that calls for less clothes … anything that keeps you motivated.
Some people think working out is too hard or takes too much time. What’s your best way to address that?
There’s always a way, you just need to have a plan! A lot of people struggle with thinking a good workout takes an hour or more and if you’re not doing that there’s no point doing it.
But more often than not, if someone dedicates eight- to 10 minutes to a high intensity training session with their own bodyweight—no matter if they’re in a hotel room or in a park—they will get great benefits from that workout and then they’ll release those endorphins and be motivated to eat a healthier dinner.
It’s so easy to get distracted these days with family, TV, social media …
I know with relationships and families it can be hard, but the funniest thing is when I receive a Facebook comment or email saying, “I don’t have time to do workouts,” they don’t think I’m gonna check up on them. But on Facebook or Instagram I’ll go check out their page. Sometimes they’ll say they don’t have time but their Facebook status says how much they loved the last season of Game of Thrones. So I’ll comment and say, “So you don’t mean you don’t have time, you mean you’re not making it a priority.” It really surprises them!
So basically you’re saying you should workout AND watch Game of Thrones at the same time?
Outside of fitness, what do you like to do in London?
London is a great place for food. I’m very flexible and open but it’s a bit of a struggle for me as I’m usually careful what I’m eating. There is a Nandos on almost every high street. You can actually get away with a pretty great clean meal there whilst you are focused on your diet and nutrition.
As far as alcohol goes my favorite is whiskey. I love Jack Daniels. But when I’m conscious of my diet I stick to white spirits like vodka and gin. My cheat meals often consist of cookies and donuts. I love Krispy Kreme. It’s so standard and cliché but I love their donuts!
Why should people visit London?
London is just incredible. Being so close to London, it took a few years to realize how lucky I am to be around it. I started to see what brings people from all over the world to London and how beautiful it is.
It’s so modern yet it has so much history and culture all intertwined with great food and gyms. It’s quite a fast paced city but with plenty of spots where you can slow down and appreciaite where you are.
What are your favorite holiday spots?
We love Spain! Sarah, my fiance, is learning Spanish so we go to Spain about once a year. She’s almost fluent so we love going there so she can practice. We usually go to Malaga. there’s a fantastic gym there. In the morning Sarah does her Spanish class and I hit the gym then we enjoy our holiday hours in the afternoon. We do that once a year and then our second holiday in the year is usually somewhere we’ve never been. We’d love to go to South America next.
Travel can broaden your perspective on life and hopefully make you more wise. It can often make you appreciate what you’ve got at home.
Where have you been recently that really impressed you?
We went to the Greek isle of Santorini and it was just absolutely beautiful. It’s actually where I proposed to Sarah so that felt very special. That was only a few months ago. We love it there.
What kind of packer are you?
I’m more fussed about training usually so I take basic supplements like whey protein. The tubs are massive so I scoop out into a Tupperware and try to make sure it’s packed well but more often than not there’s just powder everywhere! I need to find a better tactic for packing my protein. Apart from that I always take TRX resistance bands. Sometimes even small balls for relief massages.
Outside of that I love to look good in the evening so fashionable clothes, the best smelling aftershave I can find, and a nice watch. Because at home I spend all my time in gym gear and track suits, being on holiday is quite exciting since you go out almost every evening and have a nice meal so it’s a chance for me to dress a bit nicer and feel good.
Do you have good dietary tips for people when they travel?
For me, I feel very in control of breakfast, snacks and lunches knowing that in the evening I can enjoy whatever meal I want, maybe a drink and a cultured delicacy of whatever area I’m in. Having that to look forward to in the evening usually motivates me to stay on form during the day.
If you’re on a holiday where you’re set in one place or hotel, try to find a new routine. If you leave it to chance it’s never going to be good.
Why should people travel?
Fortunately for me I have built my life and my career online now so I really appreciate working and traveling the world at the same time. If work and life is very intense at home and you put yourself somewhere else—whether it’s someplace with nice weather or somewhere that just looks beautiful—it helps detach you and refresh you for when you come home.
Secondly, the culture change sometimes can ground you a little bit. Travel can broaden your perspective on life and hopefully make you more wise. It can often make you appreciate what you’ve got at home.