We talked with Gergo Jonas in December, 2019.
👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hey, my name is Gergo Jonas, people just call me Coach G. I’m from Hungary, but I’ve been living in the UK for 11 years now. I’m a strength & conditioning specialist, working at PureGym Brighton Central as a personal trainer where I train athletes to increase their performance, and people who want to transform their bodies.
Time flies! I remember when I came here in 2008, I only had a backpack, it was raining heavily and I didn’t speak the language. The first place I lived was in Brighton and I fell in love with the city immediately.
I used to play competitive basketball until my late teens, but due to injuries, I had to hang up my shoes and focus on recovery.
I tried other sports and martial arts, but I realised that if I wanted to stay injury-free, I had to start weight training. I started to lift weights, first at home then at a local gym.
I always had a problem with my weight. Basketball helped a lot keeping my body-fat low, but after I stopped playing and kept eating the same junk as before, I started to gain a lot of weight.
Parties and alcohol didn’t help either so I decided to change my life completely. I was 28 when I stopped drinking alcohol, fixed my diet, and started serious training.
I lost 30 kilos and have managed to keep it all off since then. I started building up my physique and people began to ask me for advice. I knew that I wanted to help them do the same.
I’ve become a PT (personal trainer) and established my business at PureGym. I worked for my certificate as a sports nutritionist and as of last year, I’m a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
I’ve been following a plant-based diet for more than three years now and trying to set an example for those who want to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle without sacrificing performance in their sport.
I also run a small clothing business called, AesthEthic Culture. It’s an ethical, environment-friendly brand, using organic cotton and bamboo. You can find more info on my website at TrainComplEat.com/clothing.
I believe that to achieve the best physique possible we have to workout using various techniques that incorporate strength, bodybuilding and conditioning training, combining the benefits of all styles.
But as I always say, you can’t out-train a poor diet. With a customised nutrition plan, you’ll finally see the results you’re looking for. You don’t put low grade fuel in a F1 racing car – why treat your body less than the best?
In the journey of transformation, mental fitness is a must. You have to train your body and your mind, too. I always strive for more knowledge, seeking new techniques and improving my skills so that I can pass these on to my trainees.
Lately, I’ve become passionate about wake-up drills and resetting the body for optimal performance.
I’ve just finished my course on the RPR System. I wrote an article about it if you’re interested.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
I train in blocks. This means I use a certain period (usually months) to train certain aspects, like a strength block, hypertrophy, explosive power, etc.
I’m currently following a four-day split:
Day 1: Deadlift and upper-body
Day 2: Legs and conditioning
Day 3: Upper-body
Day 4: Olympic lifting and legs
When I’m not lifting weights, I usually run or do some kind of cardio. If I run, it’s tempo running, staying in the orange zone, means my heart rate is between 140-160 BPM.
I track my heart rate when I train. I like to collect as much data as possible to see how far I can push myself. Also, I’m experimenting with a lot of things as a coach, so I can apply it to my athletes. Things like how to recover faster between sets, bringing up the intensity without sacrificing form, etc.
I write my own programmes depending on the goals I want to achieve. In winter, I like to focus on moving more weights and getting stronger, while the other half of the year is a lot of activities outside, basketball and overall staying athletic.
My pre-workout ritual is pretty simple:
- Two-300 ml black coffee half an hour before the session;
- 10 minutes warm-up just to break a little bit of sweat;
- Two to three build-up sets to get into the working sets and sipping my pre-workout supplement.
My warm-up is based on the workout:
For leg day, for example, I like to do leg swings and lunges (bodyweight); for upper-body I would use a band to fire up my rotator cuff, shoulder dislocations, push ups, and some banded rows.
I go heavy on the main lift (deadlift, squat, bench) and lighter weights on the accessory exercises. Again, this depends on the season, I might do more bodybuilding style, close to failure, or supersets, giant sets if I was more focused on conditioning.
Nowadays, I love the ski machine for interval training. It’s like a rowing machine just standing. I do 20 seconds max effort and 40 seconds break for 20 rounds. Great for the lats and shoulder mobility. Also, you are standing, which is always more athletic than sitting.
I like to finish my training with incline-walking to reset my nervous system and kickstart recovery. Slow beats help to relax too. I usually eat in the first hour after my workout. Yoghurt, banana, oats and protein powder do the work for me.
At the moment, my cardio regime is simple. It cannot interfere with my weight training. If I have the time/effort, I do some running after lifting, but it’s secondary. Deadmill sprints and ski rows are awesome for that.
I do keep a training log, too. I plan for a year. I schedule the blocks first, then the workouts.
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
I think the first mistake people make is that they never show up at the gym! They come up with excuses like they’re tired, they don’t have time to go, they’re injured and so on. They need to realize that there is NO bad workout but just a missed workout.
If you show up at training, you’ve already won. There is always something to work on. If you are tired, do a light session, work on technique; if you are short on time, do a circuit; if you are injured, well work on it, stretch, mobilize, strengthen weaknesses.
The second most common mistake I see is that people don’t have a plan. They just walk around the gym, looking for free machines, and if the lat pull down is occupied, they just go to do abs or bicep curls.
When I’m tired or distracted, I just pull up my workout and I know where to go, what to do, how many times, how many kilos, I just literally have to be like a robot and follow the plan.
Once you create the habit of moving your body, it’s just that: A habit. You just gotta do it so it’s part of your routine.
Also, if you train for health, you understand that you’re taking care of your body in the same way that you brush your teeth in the morning to take care of them — you go to the gym/park to stay healthy.
Performance is different. You need guidance and progressive overload. This means that every time you show up you need to improve something. This could be strength, size, endurance, flexibility, whatever your sport requires.
You need to be patient, dedicated and smart. Don’t get injured, the longer you can stay in the game, the better you’ll become.
Everyone has time to train. You make the time.
I have had a lot of injuries from basketball. Unfortunately, these keep recurring and holding me back from doing heavy lifts, BUT I see this as an opportunity to come up with new techniques, improve myself as a coach and help other people who need rehabilitation.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My training is going well, according to the plan. Thanks for asking! Minor injuries here and there but I can work around them.
I’m not an athlete. I’m a coach. I love sports and training but my main goal is to learn and improve so I can be a better coach. I like to see clients doing better than me!
Obviously, I train different kinds of athletes from marathon runners to cyclists, tennis players, football players, swimmers and fighters. They are much better in their sports than me, but they can still be improved, and they do improve. I’m really proud of them.
My goal is to learn more and teach more. Hopefully, I’ll be able to open my own facility one day. I’m also planning to publish a book!
In terms of training, getting and staying strong is the only way to feel young. Sedentary lifestyles make us weak, cause joint pain, contribute to diabetes, and inflammation leading to restricted mobility, which tremendously decreases the quality of life.
So improve your strength to prepare for the rest of your life. Also, mobility is really important, so I always make sure that I incorporate prehab/rehab exercises to my training routine. I use moves from yoga and physiotherapy. I think they’re very useful in the long run.
If I had the knowledge I have today, I’d have started strength training earlier to avoid injuries. I don’t think there is an age limit for that.
Calisthenics/yoga is a great way to strengthen the body as a kid. Even if they don’t choose a gymnastic career later, it gives a very strong base for any other sport in the future, and for a healthy lifestyle in general.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I mentioned before that avoiding injuries is half the battle.
Superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are amazing players, and the reason why they can achieve all-time records is because of longevity. They never have to miss a game, let alone an entire season, so they can keep getting better, scoring points, collecting rebounds and assists.
Bryant has been in the NBA from 1996, and he never had a career stopping injury until 2013. That’s 17 years! Seventeen years of non-stop playing. He retired in 2016, after 20 years in the NBA.
The first thing is to become strong. If you can’t do a bodyweight single leg squat, you shouldn’t start barbell squatting. I know there are arguments around this, and mobility can be an issue here, but there is always a way to adjust an exercise.
Still, start using your own body first before touching the iron. Can’t do a full push up? No bench press! There is a reason why people can’t get into positions. They’re weak. Most injuries occur because of imbalances, weaknesses in the kinetic chain, or a muscle overworked.
Second is overtraining. Or probably under-recovery is a better phrase.
Sleep enough and sleep well. This is usually between seven to nine hours per night in a cold and dark room.
Eat your vegetables! And eat a lot! Getting your daily vitamins and minerals is crucial for performance. Then make sure you eat enough calories. Once you’ve got those, you can start looking into macronutrients.
If you didn’t achieve the two above, don’t train! Staying up all night and sleeping only couple of hours? Congrats! You have a day off from the gym. Didn’t have time to buy food? Now you have — skip the gym, go shopping, prepare your meals for tomorrow.
If you’re already injured you can still work around it. Of course, this depends on the situation — tendon injuries take more time to heal, for example, so you need to try and avoid more inflammation. Ice helps me most of the time. Deep heat for warm-ups can be another option.
Rest is the smartest solution but it is the hardest to do sometimes. What I usually do when I’m injured is I try to focus on something else.
Do more legs if my elbow hurts and do rehab on the upper-body. If squatting hurts your knee, walk/run on incline treadmill. There are so many exercises to choose from to stay strong or keep the muscles we have already built.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I follow a whole-food plant-based diet. No animal products and minimally processed food.
I’ve been vegan for more than three years now. My reasons are ethical, environmental and health-focused. It’s hard to separate the three.
We know that a plant-based diet is suitable for everyone at all stages of life, and if we can get healthy and strong on plants, why should we support animal cruelty? No animal has to suffer because I like to go to the gym.
I think Albert Einstein said: “More the knowledge, lesser the ego. Lesser the knowledge, more the ego”. It took me time to understand what he meant.
I don’t track my calories daily anymore. Although I do check on it once every three months, just to make sure everything is on point.
My diet is pretty boring. I can eat the same food every day, and I usually do. This is one of the reasons I don’t have to track it.
Breakfast: Oats, banana and protein powder
Snack: Coffee and banana
Lunch/Snack: Yoghurt and berries
Dinner: Veggies and Beans
If I’m bulking, I eat more rice, potatoes and have more sweets probably!
My supplements are:
B12, Vitamin D and Iodine daily. I think these are most likely a must for everyone, not just for vegans, but especially for them.
- Citrulline Malate
If you just want to pick two, get creatine and beta-alanine. Extra beneficial for vegans. For more details, check out my Supplement Guide for Athletes.
I drink coffee and pre-workout about 30 minutes before my session.
I don’t do cheat days. That’s just doesn’t make sense. In the winter season, my calorie budget is bigger so I can have a chocolate or something on top of my regular food.
I don’t really have cravings anymore. If I do, then I know that my body lacks some nutrients like carbs or salt.
I also never go below 10% body fat. I did it in the past but it’s totally unhealthy and it hinders performance.
There are some exceptions, and some people are naturally walking around with 7% BF, but if you feel weak and tired all the time you probably went too far. Training should be energetic.
I use Bulk Powders for performance supplements. I pick up the rest in the local eco shop.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
Check out these books:
- Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz if you’re an athlete or coaching athletes
- Strength Training for Sports is a good fundamental material as well;
- Supertraining by Yuri V. Verkhoshansky.
- I also have a copy of The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s a classic.
- Coach Zahabi for MMA/Fighting content (Tristar);
- EliteFTS for Powerlifting/Strength Training;
- PJF Performance for Basketball Training;
- Juggernaut for Weightlifting/Powerlifting;
- Zack Talender for Olympic Weightlifting;
- Joe Rogan for Various Topics.
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
Educate yourself. It doesn’t matter what part of your life you want to improve, you have to get smarter. Or, at least, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you!
If I go to a room and I feel that I’m the dumbest, I know that I’m at the right place because I will learn something.
I can’t give generic fitness advice as everyone is different: A bodybuilder trains differently from a basketball player; a swimmer has different needs than a gymnast. Although one thing is common, they’ll all see benefit from getting stronger. There is no such thing as being too strong.
Learn the basics like squat, deadlift, bench, pullup, lunges, shoulder press. Every other exercises are just a version of these main compound movements.
Learn how to run and jump properly.
If you don’t know how to do an exercise or what that exercise does to you, then Don’t Do It! Hire a coach, or read on the topic you’re interested in. Make sure you understand your training programme.
Sports will teach you great things other than fitness. You can learn discipline, persistence, team work, and a strong mindset.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
Yes, I’m taking clients now, mainly in the morning slots. I prefer to train people in the morning. I noticed they are less distracted than after work. They’re fresh and can perform better than later in the afternoon.
My niche is increasing athletic performance and body transformation. So if you want to get better in your sport or you’re looking for body recomposition, then don’t hesitate to contact me.
I’m based in Brighton, UK. You can find me in PureGym Central for personal training.
For online coaching, vegan nutrition plan, and workout programmes go to my website:
Three months is the minimum you’ll need to adjust to your new programme, but I suggest to plan for at least six months. Learning new skills are never quick. Think how much time you would need to learn a new language or learn how to drive.
I know, people who are new to weight training, afraid of getting big and “bulky”. Getting big is not easy. It requires hard work and countless hours (years of training), a very specific diet and good genetics help, too!
Lifting weights will make you strong and confident. Nothing to worry about being “muscly”.
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
On my website: TrainComplEat.com
My Instagram: @gergo_jonas
My Facebook: @traincompleat
My Youtube: Train Compleat