Gains for self-made athletes

What’s the link between sports success and money spent?

Some sports are expensive from the get-go. If you see ponies, laser boats or 125cc go-karts on your kids’ wish list, it’s a red flag. That’s the firing shot for a lifetime of sports expenditure.

Other sports require specialist venues. Many parents drive thousands of miles to keep their kids involved in watersports, snowsports and some arena sports. Race experience counts for a lot!

Finally, we’re at the mercy of advertisers. Children engaged in super accessible sports like football, basketball or running are always told that upgrading their trainers or buying a certain fitness monitor will give them that edge.

I am not going to lie, there is a link between wealth and health. But first, never forget that fitness is free.

Self-made athletes

The most achievable fitness for a self-made athlete is strength and conditioning at home. There’s amazing gains to be made with a pair of trainers, a wall and a box!

Running: Used for speed, strength and stamina.  See Running as fitness tool.

A solid wall and/or a box:  A wall does wonders for your upper body strength. Check out the video links for wall walks, handstand push-ups and their variations at the end of this article.

A pull up bar and an elastic band: the king of upper body strength. Videos on variations below.

A soft mat: Push ups, sit ups, mountain climbers, lunges, etc. It is genuinely an almost infinite list!

Mix all these elements in as many ways and combinations as you can imagine. Play with them and don’t be discouraged by initial disappointments. Use an easy option and go very fast for cardio conditioning, or work slower and harder for strength.

You can get stronger and fitter than you ever imagined without using heavy weights. Especially if you are a teenager, it is extremely important to develop coordination, explosiveness (that power you use for jumping high, throwing far and pushing fast) and agility before moving on to the next stage.

Don’t get me wrong: weightlifting is an amazing tool for sport performance and general physical improvement. The drawbacks are that the kit might cost a few hundred pounds, and you need space to store and use your barbells or dumbbells. But most importantly, if you want to undertake highly skilled movements, you need a coach.

Your coach makes the difference

I have skin in this game as a fitness coach, but you’ll have to trust me when I say that the real difference between an amateur and a pro is made by the coach and the coach-athlete relationship.******
A good coach is not interested in how much you pay per month. In fact, the best coaches I ever came across worked for free in my youth basketball club, way before I played professionally. The club was funded by donations to keep kids off the streets. His social motivation aside, he developed my coordination, stamina, agility and power with literally nothing more than a concrete pitch, cones and a ball. *******
A coach will make your muscles and your mind greater (see Sport is the bet which always pays off). They will spot every tiny mistake, break down drills and strategies, periodise your training, get you competition ready or just super fit. And all of that, I promise, without the need of specialised gear!


Wall walks
Handstand push ups
A slightly easier variation on a box
Assisted pull ups with resistance band


*Even-Esh Z. (2014) The encyclopaedia of underground strength and conditioning. 1st edition. Little Canada: Dragon Door Publications.

**Oncescu, J. (2021) Families, Sport, Leisure and Social Justice. 1st Edition. London:Routledge.

***European Government (2014) Leisure activity by nation.[online] available from:

****Gomes-Sentone R., Lopez-Gil J. F., Caetano C. I., Cavichioll F. R. (2019) ‘Relationship between human development index and the sport results of Brazilian swimming athletes.’ Summer conference of Sport science – Alicante, 20-21 september.

*****Rodrigues D., Padez C., Machado-Rodrigues A. M. (2018) ‘Active parents, active children: the importance of parental organized physical activity in children’s extracurricular sport participation.’ Journal of child health care, 22(1), 159-170.

******Short S. E., Short M. W. (2005) ‘Role of the coach in the coach-athlete relationship’, Medicine and sport – The Lancet,366, 529-531.

*******Wootten M., Wootten J. (2012) Coaching basketball successfully. 3rd Edition. Champaign: Human Kinetics.

Further Reading

Turgut M., Yasar O. M., Sunay H., Ozgen C., Besler H. K. (2018) ‘Evaluating aggression levels of sport spectators’, European Journal of Physical Education and Sport science, 4(3).