Before Brad Newman and his wife Amelia had kids, they went rock climbing at every opportunity. Outdoors, indoors, roped, bouldering—they tried it all. And loved it.
But when they brought home their first child–a son–just like that, time for climbing disappeared. The all-hours demands of a newborn, along with details like working, cleaning, and getting food on the table, seemed to demand every minute and every ounce of energy they had.
Months later, as the natural chaos gave way to new family rhythms, Brad realized that his body had changed–his strength had faded, he’d gained weight, and he felt less physically capable and confident.
This is completely normal, of course. But Brad had always been active and loved physical challenges. And even though having a young child at home made it harder to find time for exercise, it also inspired in him a deeper commitment to stay healthy, active, and capable.
He started searching for something to help him regain his body’s edge and keep pursuing the activities he loved. And that’s when he discovered Rings One, our introductory program for gymnastic rings training.
With R1, Brad could train at home whenever he found time. And the expert programming helped him not only regain his strength and physique more quickly than he had hoped, but it actually made him a better climber than he’d ever been before. By the time they had their second child, he was ready for the challenge.
Brad’s Active Life Before Kids… and How Things Changed
Before having kids, Brad fell in love with climbing, and it was something he and Amelia shared together.
“I love the physical and mental challenges climbing has. I enjoy the success of working hard and focusing solely on the movement, unlocking a delicate sequence, powering through a difficult section, tinkering with gear placements and overcoming fear of failure. Succeeding on a route at the edge of my ability is a feeling like no other. I also like that it demands total focus so there is no room for life’s other worries.”
Not everyone finds that one activity that fuels their passion and helps them feel connected to their bodies, but for Brad, climbing was it.
He’d been active his whole life, though. Working as a graphic designer, Brad spends a lot of time sitting at a desk, but at one point to offset this, he was cycling 14 miles roundtrip to work each day. That’s not something most people can do without some serious training, but for Brad, staying active was never a question.
So when he discovered how much he loved climbing, it seemed natural to him to make it an important part of his life. Brad and Amelia would do some sort of climbing 2-3 times per week, and that was more than enough training to keep them well conditioned and strong.
But, as anyone with kids knows, things change when a new little human enters your lives. Brad told us about how “going climbing is quite difficult with a young family. I don’t have as much time as I used to.” And that makes sense–there are so many demands that come along with being a parent, and Brad certainly isn’t alone in not really knowing how to juggle it all.
After having his first child, Brad had a hard time fitting training into his life, and before he knew it, 6-8 months had passed with little-to-no exercise, resulting in weight gain and loss of strength and conditioning.
It was time for a change, but getting to the climbing wall was still problematic for Brad. So he started looking for answers.
How Brad’s Perspective Changed–For the Better
Brad took stock of his situation and how, like many others, he’d let life’s changes get in the way of his health, and he realized the stakes were too high to let things go any longer.
“Now that I’ve had children my whole perspective on life has shifted. I no longer take the short view on things. It’s forced me to take the long view. I think about what I’m going to be like in 20 years when my children are coming into adulthood and I don’t want to be immobile or infirm.
I want to be who I am now. I want to be fit and strong for them. They need that from me now but I would like to be that 20 years from now as well. As a 40-year old man with a desk job, that can be a tall order. If you don’t work at your fitness and your strength and your flexibility, it will go away. That’s not something I had to think about as a young man, but it’s definitely something I’m thinking about in my middle age.”
Brad started getting back into training when his son was a year old with Mark Lauren’s You Are Your Own Gym and then he went through Convict Conditioning. Though he enjoyed both programs, he found his progress stalling due to growing aches and pains throughout his body. That’s when he found GMB and our wrist conditioning video on YouTube.
After working with that for a while (he still uses the routine daily!) Brad checked out our website and was inspired to start with our rings program after reading the case study we’d done on Sami, a fellow climber.
With the help of the structured programming of Rings One, Brad worked hard and got himself not just back in shape, but in even better shape than before.
He shared that he’s now “climbing better than I was climbing at my peak level before my children were born and I now only get to the climbing wall once every two weeks, as opposed to 2-3 times per week before my kids were born. The Rings One program has definitely helped in that respect.”
An Unusual Solution to a Common Problem
Brad found himself in a very common situation when he decided to make a change. More often than not, people get busy and have trouble staying active once they have kids. But Brad found a solution that worked for him and allowed him to improve beyond what he ever thought possible.
Like many of our clients, Brad was surprised by just how challenging rings training is, and how, especially in the beginning, “rings seem to have a mind of their own.” But looking at Brad’s journey with the rings, it’s clear how his dedicated practice over the course of 9 months paid off.
The biggest challenge Brad ran into before starting R1, though, was an issue many people think is insurmountable: Where to hang the rings? But Brad found a creative solution.
“Living in Scotland we don’t always have consistently nice weather to train outside, and with a baby in the house finding the time and space can be tricky. It needed to be close and it needed to be warm and dry. I hung them from a doorway pull up bar for a bit, then a longer bar spanning an indoor hallway but neither of these were ideal. I settled on hanging them in our garden shed which doesn’t have a lot of overhead clearance or heat but was the best option. It was close, and it was dry.”
Once he got past his obstacles and worked through Rings One, Brad put on muscle, built strength and skill, and saw dramatic improvement in his climbing abilities.
“Rings are a fantastic strength tool and they’re a lot of fun to use as well. The moves are cool and it requires a lot of precise movement and focus, concentration.
Like rock climbing, it requires so much more than just strength. It requires discipline and focus and mental acuity and body awareness and balance and flexibility–so many things need to come together in order to successfully perform some of these movements. That kind of training appeals to me so much more than just sets and reps.”
One key feature that distinguishes our programs from some others is that the goal is never to just “workout” but to engage in your training as best you can in each particular day–both mentally and in regards to skill level.
That approach resonated with Brad and he achieved levels of strength and skill he never thought possible as a result.
What Brad Accomplished With Rings Training
When he started Rings One, Brad “wasn’t too worried about being strong enough at first. In fact I was hoping it would be hard. I got what I wanted. I got the muscle-up, but I still struggle with the shoulder stand.”
But his biggest accomplishments weren’t even just the specific skills he got–though he mastered many skills through his training. Here are some of his bigger accomplishments:
Consistency With Training
After completing his first run-through of Rings One, Brad decided to go through the program again with the Level B (intermediate) programming before moving on to Rings Two, our advanced rings training program.
“I think the most surprising thing about training with the rings is how fun they are. It’s not like a typical training program where you’re just trying to crank out a bunch of reps. It’s much more playful and movement oriented. I’ve stayed with the program for 7 or 8 months and have no intention of stopping. Most days I’m psyched to train and get up on the rings.”
Brad stuck with R1 for a full 28 weeks (14 weeks at Level A and 14 weeks at Level B). This commitment and consistency with the program led him to great progress and performance on the rings.
New Perspective on Training
Brad’s accomplishments on the rings are impressive, without question, but he’s focused on using his new levels of strength and skill to be there for his kids, not just today or tomorrow, but for the long haul.
“I don’t ever want to lose the ability to move in ways that are important to me, whether it’s playing with my kids, climbing with my wife or lifting groceries from the boot of my car. When I first discovered GMB on my fitness reboot, I was immediately drawn to the idea that fitness isn’t about being the biggest or the strongest or looking jacked or whatever but rather being able to move your body in ways that are meaningful.
Training with R1 has been incredibly satisfying in that regard and I started out to get fit, but I keep at it because it’s really fun.”
Brad is proof that, no matter how many responsibilities you’re juggling, taking control of your health and improving your fitness levels will actually help you do the things you love and be there for the people that matter to you.
Take Care of Yourself So You Can Take Care of the People You Love
There’s no way around it—life’s responsibilities do make it harder to prioritize training. All that “fitspiration” nonsense about not making excuses is way off the mark. These challenges are real, and most of you will face them at some point, if you haven’t already.
The key thing to think about, though, is what will allow you to keep up with those responsibilities better.
Not everyone has the same answer, of course. But for many people, including Brad, training and keeping their bodies healthy and functioning optimally allows them to do the things they need to–and want to–better.
And that’s really what it’s all about.
Rings One worked well for Brad because he could work on building the strength and skill that he wanted to at home, rather than going to a climbing wall. That meant he could still be present for his family while gaining control of his health and setting an example for his kids.