I came to Leeds to study at Leeds Beckett University in September 2011. Having done calisthenics since my mid teenage years in my home country Bulgaria, I found it shocking the city didn’t have any outdoor fitness playgrounds. At least, I wasn’t able to find them at first. It took me more than a year until I came across the horizontal bars in Bramley Fall Park. I was so happy I wanted to cry, and pulling myself up on the bar felt like holding God’s hand. Few months later, I finally found a proper calisthenics playground at Norma Hutchinson Park in Chapeltown.
Prior to that, I exercised at kids playgrounds such as the one in Hyde Park (Woodhouse Moor Park). I adapted to training at such unusual locations and really enjoyed it when I finally stopped worrying about what people thought of me. I even remember the place where I did my first workout in Leeds, just a few days after moving into Woodhouse Flats student residence hall. I was walking around the area desperately looking for a pull-up bar until I saw a low horizontal branch. I tried a few pull ups but it wasn’t ideal and I felt awkward especially when students stood looking through the windows. Nevertheless, I stayed and did some more sets. Calisthenics was in my blood and I wasn’t prepared to give it up.
One day, I got so inspired I wanted to show others how to exercise outdoors, as an alternative to going to the gym, and began making tutorials about basic bodyweight exercises that could be practised at any playground for children. Unsurprisingly, no one really cared and I get it. Kids playgrounds are not designed for adult strength training. They are free only when it’s cold or raining, and most people don’t even associate bodyweight exercise with building muscle.
My training entered a new phase after I graduated and moved out of the city center to Adel, four years after arriving in Leeds. My girlfriend got me gymnastic rings as a Christmas gift and I began working towards the ring muscle up (excuse my form in the below video). A year later, the break dance society I was part of closed and I decided to focus purely on calisthenics, skills training in particular. Up to that point, I was more involved in break dancing and saw bodyweight training only as a way of conditioning my upper body for dancing.
I met my first few calisthenics pals when I joined the Leeds Bar Warriors in mid 2015. It was great pleasure training with like-minded people at least once a week, usually on Sundays in Chapeltown or Bramley. We motivated and learned from each other. It was a real blessing that lasted about 3 years until the group fell apart. In the winter of 2015, I also joined a gym for the first time in my life (Xercise 4 Less on Kirkstall Road) in order to stay dry and compliment my calisthenics with some weight training. I bought a belt for weighted pull ups and a pair of portable parallel bars. I began taking my rings and parallettes to various parks when the weather was nice. I also became a vegetarian that year.
In the summer of 2016, I started running calisthenics classes in Meanwood Park. It was a rewarding side job which I loved doing for three consequtive summers until I moved to Armley in June 2019. I helped people build strength and endurance with bodyweight exercises on gymnastic rings, parallettes and parallel bars. I even obtained a Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing and a First Aid at Work certificate.
Presently, my training is more consistent than ever and my passion for calisthenics keeps growing. I’m learning new skills and improving old ones. I’m hoping to unlock the full planche, front lever and iron cross before I get old. Although there’s plenty of valuable information out there, I also intend to produce more educational content for my friends and followers from my perspective as a tall vegetarian practitioner.