Mark in the gym

People used to look at me and assume I’m this big burly fella who is confident when inside, I wasn’t happy at all. The gym has helped me through everything.

It’s quite common in the fitness world to be subject to judgement, particularly those who go the extra mile to sculpt and shape their bodies. Not often do we consider that beyond the layers of skin we see before us, there is a level of commitment, dedication, motivation and determination that is driven by an individual’s personal story. A story we may never know.

No matter what level of fitness or aesthetic look someone has, when you see someone in the gym, have respect that something deep within them, something you may never understand, is pushing them to succeed with a personal goal.

If you’re a regular at our Brighton gym, there’s no doubt you’ll recognise Mark Jenkins. Day in, day out, there is no stopping this guy, putting in an hour of cardio every day as well as doing classes or weights. Excuses? No such thing. From mental health struggles to smashing goals every day, Mark deserves to be recognised as one of our YEAR I SUCCEED ambassadors.

We caught up with him to find out more about his unfolding fitness journey at Underground Gym.

What inspired you to start?

I was going to ZT gym about 8/9 years back and used to do the Thai boxing class there. One day, I woke up to discover I had a trapped sciatic nerve, which put me out for three weeks and stopped me from training. Once I stopped exercising, I was affected in a big way mentally and physically and never really found the motivation to keep up with it anymore.

2018 was a really shit year; my dad was ill. He had a few health problems and this really sent me under. I suddenly decided I had to take control of my life and get myself back on the right path, so I joined Underground Gym.

How often do you train and who/what have you found most useful for your progress?

I train every day. I always try to go straight after work so I don’t get home and become side-tracked. I have one PT session a week with Tamir Sharpe. I do Sara’s powerlifting class every week and in just one session, I learnt amazing form for my deadlift, which has completely changed how I lift. I’ve also felt a big difference in my back with the Up Your Rom class. The range in my squats has improved as well as my shoulder mobility. I’ve had a slight fear about training with a dodgy back as I don’t want to put it out, but these classes have helped to adjust my form and lift heavier. 

What’s your usual gym routine aside from the classes?

I am not a great fan of running so I get my cardio done on the spin bike or with the battle ropes and punch bag. Evenings, I usually do at least an hour’s cardio and then mix up the weights, training different muscle groups every day. No rest days, I’m at UG every day. 

What do you enjoy the most?

Loving the progress, it makes me feel so much better physically and mentally. The social side at UG has played a massive part in it all, everyone has been so supportive and encouraging. The UG team go above and beyond.

Who are your mentors?

Tamir, I’ve known him from back in the ZT days and consider him a good friend. Tamir has been a real inspiration over the years, and always goes above and beyond, sending me texts regularly. He often calls and whenever he sees me in the gym he comes over and says hello. He is always encouraging me.

What have you found has created the best results for you so far?

Mobility and nutrition have played a big part as well as ensuring I do daily cardio and weights. This combination put together in the right order has worked amazingly.

What’s been your greatest achievement so far?

I’ve just hit a PB of 535kg on the Leg press and 110kg with back squats at 10 reps and deadlifts at 5 reps. My recovery is so much quicker than it used to be! I’m feeling a lot healthier and mobile.

Someone saw my UG YEAR I SUCCEED video on Instagram and told me I had inspired him to go to the gym. The guy had a bad shoulder and knee and decided to push himself thanks to my story. Confidence-wise this has been amazing. People used to look at me and assume I’m this big burly fella who is cocky and confident when inside, I wasn’t happy at all. The gym has helped me through everything.

Do you stick to a special diet for this type of training?

BCAAs, protein shakes to help with muscle repair, but I try not to take pre-workout. I am also working with Amplified nutrition on one of their personalised meal plans. I prep all my food myself.

What are your main goals for this year?

Continue the weight loss as a personal goal and for health reasons and carry on gaining muscle and shape. 

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Still committed, in good health, and inspiring others to take this journey.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to start?

Take the first step – just get in the gym. It can be intimidating, it’s loud, the weights are slamming down, there are big guys in there… but the whole team are so encouraging and supportive. Get to know everyone, don’t let your head obsess over being judged, just socialise. I highly recommend joining the classes. They’ve given me a lot more confidence to focus on what I am doing, meet new people, and feel a bit more relaxed in the gym environment.