A member since Gymbox first opened its doors in 2003, Yogen Naidoo is now also one of our martial arts instructors. I caught up with him in order to find out more about his obsession with fitness, and why the hell he’s still a member.
First of all, what inspired you to get into fitness, and to join Gymbox?
Fitness is something I’ve always grown up with. I’m from South Africa and was doing karate from the age of 5, and I’ve played different sports like volleyball, cricket, rugby…When I came to the UK on a working holiday I hadn’t trained in two years and I’d put on loads of weight, so I started training again. Then I met a professional bodybuilder and a friend of his. They used to work across the road [from Holborn Gymbox] and when Gymbox opened up we got a tour by David Cooper and Richard Hilton [Gymbox founders] - David Cooper’s the one who actually signed me up.
It’s been 14 years – why the hell are you still a member?!
Because Gymbox is the most amazing place! You can go to work and have a shitty day, and if you go straight home you’re never going to get the same kind of feeling you get after going to the gym...After doing one class here, I feel so rejuvenated. I come away buzzing.
And since I’ve been here, everyone’s been great.
The thing about Gymbox is the people; they’re always friendly, always willing to help.
How have you progressed from then till now?
I used to do weights. I went from 86 to 96, 96 to 120 [kg]. Then I went into MMA, that’s where my passion is. I got into MMA through Jess Liaudin, who’s now at Shepherds Bush. Jess taught me MMA for 2 years, two private sessions a week. He’s still my coach on Mondays. Then I met Philip Tieu: Philip was calling me to do Muay Thai for 8 years. Every day he said “when are you coming?” I said “tomorrow, tomorrow” [laughs]. Philip’s brother Matty got me into combat conditioning [before I started Muay Thai]. I now teach that as well, and MMA conditioning.
I did 10 lessons [of Muay Thai] with Philip Tieu and went to Thailand for 16 days with Matty [and Team Tieu] …Since I’ve come back I’ve been in Muay Thai 5 days a week.
I still do 2 classes a day here, just about 2 and a half hours a day, 5 hours on a Saturday.
You’re now one of our combat instructors; what’s your favourite part of being an instructor at Gymbox?
When you see people transform, that’s amazing…In my combat conditioning class I have regulars there and I see them all do the technique fantastically - no cheating, and I think “wow, that’s great”.
Is there any specific genre of music you like to workout to most?
There’s a guy called Richard Lee who DJ’s on a Monday here [Holborn], he has some really funky remixes. When the music comes on I tend to kick faster, punch faster.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
My guilty pleasure is a smoothie from Itsu called veg cleanse! It’s made of avocado, spinach, kale, coriander…
That’s a guilty pleasure!?
[Laughs] Well, if I get anything else it would be from the Japanese place around the corner from me. We go there quite a lot!
Do you have a fitness or sporting hero, if so, who?
It has to be Muhammad Ali! And if you become a martial artist it’s always Bruce Lee – I grew up with him on my wall.
What’s your favourite thing about Gymbox?
The people, it’s definitely the people. I know everybody here!
How would you describe Gymbox to someone who’s never been?
I always try and get people to come here – I say it’s the best gym ever!