Cell Workout: achieving goals

19 Aug 2015

Three years ago L.J Flanders was sitting in his cell in HMP Pentonville when he had a light bulb moment. He was going to write a book to help people get fit. Recognising there was a gap in the market as he couldn’t find a similar resource in the library that he could use to exercise his cell, he gained a qualification in personal training in prison and developed the skills to do it himself.

LJ FlandersSince leaving prison he has been working in the fitness industry and devoted any spare time to research and refining the book. This summer he finally achieved his dream and published Cell Workout, an extensive self-study guide to bodyweight training. 

In the book’s intro L.J writes: “In prison, people can discover new things and improve themselves in many ways; faith, fitness, a new language, education, skills and qualifications that may lead to job opportunities.

"In my case, I decided to make use of my time and channelled my energy into exercise and fitness.”

In the past few months L.J has sold 200 books via Amazon, Waterstones and his website and been interviewed by the Telegraph. As the book was written with prisoners in mind, he is currently working with the Prison Service so prisoners can order copies directly, “I had the idea in prison, I thought when you’re in 22 hour bang up, there’s a definite need for this. The Cell Workout offers body weight training in a confined space” he says.

LJ and PET staffDespite being aimed initially at prisoners, anyone can use this self-study exercise book. L.J designed his workout to be easy to follow with lots of images showing each position and weekly fitness plans which can be adapted depending on each individual’s level of ability, all to be followed over 10 weeks. L.J has used his experience working as a personal trainer at Virgin Active and then freelance to make the training regime challenging but achievable.

Since launching the book, L.J has been back inside to share his story and show prisoners that it is possible to work towards their goals. On Saturday 8th August, he went to HMP Thameside to talk to a group of 15 prisoners about the benefits of studying in prison and how he built his professional career in fitness.

He said the City and Guilds personal training course he studied, gave him the qualifications he needed to get a job at Virgin Active after he was released: “If I hadn’t had taken on that course I never would have got a job, written the book or set up my own business.

I said ‘You may not write a book, do fitness or set up a business, but make the most out of your time in jail and achieve something’.”

L.J was joined by Suzan Nabbanja, Prisoners’ Education Trust Grants Manager, who then explained how prisoners could study a range of health and fitness distance learning courses with help from PET.

Since publishing the book earlier this year, L.J hasn’t looked back. He says: “I’m really enjoying my fitness career and I’m still learning  about running my own business, how many books to buy, cost of printing per copy, how to promote it etc. I’m currently looking forward to the future working on Volumes 2 and 3 and releasing my own sportswear range. I hope all my hard work will pay off.”

Buy Cell Workout at £19.99 from Amazon or visit L.J’s website for more information.

Read PET’s report Fit For Release on the importance of sports-based learning in helping prisoners to engage with education, gain skills for employment and the motivation to move away from crime.