Behind The Gram: PAUSE Meets Terroll Lewis

By May 16, 2019Featured, Features

Terroll Lewis

Talks fitness, fatherhood and mental health.

Photographer: Jake Hately // @jakehateley
Styling & Interview: Johnson Gold // @johnson_gold
Wardrobe Stylist: Jen Eleto // @jenelectro
Asssistant Stylist: Lucas Pacary
Featuring: Terroll Lewis // @terrolllewis
Location: BlockWorkOut, Brixton

The Difference of a Decade

Ten years ago, Terroll Lewis was in a very different position to where he is now. Fresh out of prison and hitting a roadblock at the simple task of visiting the gym – an idea sparked that would be the beginning of a promising venture for the London native. Sitting down in his now renowned gym, PAUSE caught up with Terroll on all things business, grooming, fitness, mental health and the ups and downs of modern day life.

Tracksuit: Blood Brother, Shoes: Nike Air VaporMax Plus via JD Sports

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name’s Terroll Lewis, I’m from Brixton, South London. Coming from a very troubled background, troubled upbringing, but it’s moulded me into who I am today. I started this block workout, which I’m doing now which is Brixton Street gym, about 10 years ago, in August.

Is this your gym?

Yeah, this is my gym. So 10 years since I’ve started this whole idea of using your environment to train, not only just relying on the commercial gym or weights or machines but using your environment, using exercise not only for the physical but for the mental as well. This is my meditation and it’s definitely been part of my growth as the days and weeks and months have gone by.

How old were you when you started this?

When I was nineteen. I never had money in my bank account to go to the gym.

So you didn’t have money to go to the gym, but you managed to build a gym?

2009 I came out of prison, and when I came out of prison I went to one of the commercial gyms in Brixton, can’t say their name, but went there and I tried to get a gym pass for the day, and they said I had to pay direct debit. Bear in mind I’m from the road, I’m from the streets I don’t know what direct debit is, I don’t know what a bank account is, I used to keep money under my bed.

Me, hearing that I was like “cool I can’t get in this gym, I’m just going to go on the estate and train.” So I remember I went Argos and bought a little couple of dumbbells, but that wasn’t really doing it for me so I went to this kind of abandoned playground and I just used the swings and all the apparatus around me just to do pull-ups and dips. I did a YouTube video and it got thousands of views and I was just thinking sh*t, people are actually interested in me just trying to get muscles.

This was all in 2009?

2009. It became my temple, my place of meditation, my place of getting to know myself. I felt like I was in prison again and it was me, the bar and no worry. But when I left that I went back to the estate, I went back to the craziness on the estate and what not.

I used that place as meditation and it grew and grew, we started the name Block Workout because we were training on the block and using the environment. Made a Facebook Page, started to get a bit structured with it, started doing little classes which are like a pound donation to get involved, and we used to do this in the parks all around Lambeth like Clapham, we used to do Kennington Park and Brockwell Park in Herne Hill.

So we used to do it in all these parks and people just used to come and get involved and my whole aim of this was that, not everyone can get a direct debit like I couldn’t get when I came out of prison, so that’s what I had in mind – if I can’t get into a commercial gym, there must be loads of other people who are struggling and they need this meditation to keep them focused. I said it was my meditation time to stay focused and work on myself, and I was working more than just the physical side of me but I was building my mindset and I’m here today. I’m interviewing with you guys.

Do you mind me asking why you went to prison?

Just some miscommunication, something crazy but I’m innocent that’s why I’m here today, so I’m glad I sorted out the case.

How has Brixton or South London in general shaped you as a person?

Brixton, South London we’re coming from the rubble man. We come from a very broken place, broken home, and every single step is a building block. As long as we’re not taking backwards steps into where we’re coming from, then that’s progress. They say don’t mistake movement for progress, the progress is in your mind.

That’s the progress you need first and Brixton has been the foundation of me, the foundation of everything I built, to be honest, and the streets, the trouble, all of the negative stuff, it moulded me. I’m the same exact person as who I was before but with different values of life. I left the streets because I wanted a future, not because I was under pressure or scared of anyone. I was active in a lot of bullsh*t growing up, obviously as a child of gangs and all that type of stuff, but I wanted a future, I wanted to do some normal sh*t. I wanted to go and ride horses on a Tuesday afternoon, I wanted to have tea and crumpets, you know what I mean, I wanted to do some normal stuff like that and now I’m doing it. I’m a Brixton boy riding horses that’s mad, but we’re doing this stuff so, slow progress better than no progress. It starts in the mind.

So you obviously founded a gym, and then you also have your own YouTube channel as well, tell me about your career and how that’s shaped your growth in life and in general?

To be honest, everything is in line with what I do, it’s not out of my way. I’m not going to say yeah I own a trainer company, that’s not really my thing, but fitness, cool I got the gym, and I got a beard so I started beard products. Then I started to open a juice bar in Brixton, a vegan juice bar.

Are you vegan?

No, but I just love vegan food. Everything I do stems from the fitness side of things, from working out in the playground to owning a gym, then me growing a beard and starting my own beard products.

How do you stay motivated to go to the gym? I think that’s a big question for most people, where do you get the motivation from?

Life throws different things at you, from my training at that kid’s playground with no worry to having to pay bills and pay rent and sign leases and stuff like that, it’s a big change. I can’t just do pull-ups and dips now, I’ve got to find a balance between the marketing, the PR, looking after the brand, nurturing the brand – this is a baby. I’ve got to look after all of these babies and feed them, and change them and have to grow them. You’ve just got to do it, just go for it.

How often do you train?

Pretty much every day.

Do you think everyone has to train every day?

No, a lot of people mistake training for running up and down, sweating. It’s not just about running up and down and sweating but, it’s about training your mind, that’s the place. Before anything physically, you have to first acknowledge a strong mind is going to help you in the long run, an open mind. I used to hate waking up in the morning early, but I knew that I was missing out on so much in the morning, I used to complain that there weren’t enough hours in the day, but I was getting up at like 1/2pm.

So what I started doing is I started going to the shop, which was like half a mile down the road, every single morning at 7 am to go and get a paper. On my life, I never used to read a paper. Seriously, so that kind of set in my mind, I used to go down and get a paper every morning and then just grab a juice.

Then that turned from me walking up and down to get that in the morning, to me walking up and down drinking a coffee in the morning, to me starting my day in the morning. To me actually jogging to that shop and jogging back in the morning. It became a normal routine, like brushing my teeth, it never became a chore, this was something I needed to do on a day to day basis. And like I said I wasn’t a fan of going to the gym and going “alright I’m going to do four sets of this, four sets of that”, that’s not life, you have to be a bird, you got to be free, I hate when I feel like there’s pressure, or anything controlled.

Coat: Gloverall, Trousers: Nike, Shoes: Nike Air Max 720 via JD Sports

Give us three tips to workout losing weight this summer?

Short, sharp interval training, I do a lot of sprints so sprints, then walking, sprints, then walking, 30-second sprints, 1-minute walk, people do that around the park you can do that with your headphones in and just stay away from all the bullshit they got out here.

I don’t eat pork, I stay away from the red meat, but then I also stay away from a lot of the vegan products, there are a lot of processed vegan products. It’s just about learning what’s right for your body, every body’s different, but one thing I will say is to stay hydrated, that plays a massive part.

Drink a lot of water and put the right stuff in your body and feed yourself the right stuff in your mind as well. It’s not just physical stuff like what you eat but it’s also what you listen to, the conversations you have, the people you hang around with, what you do on a day to day basis, so it’s definitely important to work on both, the mind and body. That’s how you’re going to lose weight.

Tracksuit: Blood Brother, Shoes: Nike Air VaporMax Plus

Looking at your journey, you’ve moulded yourself into an entrepreneur basically from when you were 19, going to the gym and finding out how it works and figuring out how to do it yourself, that’s grown you into an entrepreneur now.

I like the word jobless.

Jobless? You’ve got a job though!

I’m jobless in terms of society, I like the word entrepreneur but I think it gets thrown around too much. I want to start a program called Jobless where we nurture these entrepreneurial minds, especially young boys coming from the streets and transfer that energy into projects or dreams they may have.

I just started a new company called The Mantle, and it’s a safe space for young men and men to come and speak about different things, like us as men we brush things under the carpet and we tend to do that all the time because “I’m a warrior, I’m going to move forward I’m going to push through it” mentality and we push things under the carpet and we don’t heal. Life becomes a stumbling block because we’re dealing with these issues and these problems.

You’ve spoken about depression publicly online, a lot of men don’t open up about this. What made you be so open about it?

For me, I just have to say I’ve got a platform for a reason, and I think if I can open up to speak about certain things, I can encourage others to speak more as well and not hold in these thoughts. I’ve been on the verge of even committing suicide, and the only thing that changed my mindset about that was the news about my daughter coming, that changed me as a person.

That’s where the idea coming up with an event to talk about the struggles men go through or the conversations we don’t have, and I thought we really need to have more meaningful conversations as men, and if I have this platform, it’s not just to look good and stroke my beard, it’s to encourage and give back. Where I’m coming from, we don’t talk about things, we just get on with life, but there’s a lot of people that need, they just a conversation, they need someone to say you know what, even if it’s just one person, just to talk to someone about some real sh*t.

Literally, just talk, just have a conversation, a real conversation that you’re going to leave with something from that conversation. It’s impactful in you, it’s life changing conversation, there’s a lot of empty conversations and people just talking for the sake of talking, and time you don’t get back. You don’t get time back, people buy certain microwaves to speed up the time of cooking the food, it just shows time you don’t get back, so look after time it’s precious.

Do you feel social media, especially Instagram is a good thing or a bad thing?

Social media can help you to swim, but it can also drown you as well so you have to find the balance. Keep your head above water but don’t go underwater too much or you’ll die (laughs) you have to be careful.

Why do you say that?

It can, people can look at my journey on social media and you will see the ups and downs. I’m glad I’ve been through a lot of the stuff I’ve been through over the years through social media, I knew I was able to handle it because I’ve come from such a broken place.

People like me only know how to survive. But, like I said it, can come to a breaking point where you do break and no matter what conversation or no matter what person you speak to, you’re already stepped off the cliff so you have to be careful when you get to that point, you definitely have to speak about your problems to the right people and open up to the right people and people who really, really want to see you grow as a person.

Social media now is just “what can he do for me” or “what she can do for me” or, “what can this brand do for me” or “what can this influencer do for me”, but what about the conversations “have you eaten today?” “how was your sleep last night”, real conversations that we don’t ask, like “how are you as a person?”

We’re losing touch with our human self a lot now, because everything’s becoming so digitalised, and it’s about how fast you can grow and how fast you can get there. There are positives and negatives, but balance is important.

Exactly, I don’t stay on there too long, I do what I need to do. I got all the brands that we work on there so you do have to go on social media for these things, it’s the world we live in today, but I don’t focus too much on there. I’m in the physical world should I say, I do a lot of stuff behind the scenes that is not on social media, I just find a balance, balance is key.

How do you feel having a public social relationship online?

Everybody’s different, I would never take back having a public social relationship, because it’s part of my journey, and like I say life is like a game, you got checkpoints, and then you’ve got the end of the game, some people’s gonna be in your life for checkpoints.

You have to appreciate and be thankful for the good times and the bad times because that’s moulded you into who you are today moving forward. So yeah, definitely, if people want to share moments on social media as well as save memories, some people have photo albums, some people have vlogs.

So that was my photo album, the vlog, the memories, so it plays a part in your life so if people want to share that, so be it, but for me, doing that again on social media, I don’t know.

Tracksuit: Blood Brother, Shoes: Nike Air VaporMax Plus via JD Sports

Is that a no or a yes?

You never know, you never know what could happen but right now, my vlogs are about all the progress that we’re making, all the positive stuff that we’re doing. There’s a lot more important stuff than just focusing on one thing, there’s so much stuff that we’re doing, got my little girl coming, she’s going to be on my vlogs, you’re going to see her, you’re going to see some really good stuff man.

This is your first one?

Yeah this is my first one, I’m excited to learn and I’m excited to grow as a person, so I’m looking forward to it.

Do you think it’s changed you bit already, has it made you grow as a man?

It saved my life, there were suicide thoughts in my head, like literally sitting there looking on my phone for the nearest train station. And I remembered in that week I got that phone call, “you’re having a baby” Like wow. It was just like everything changed, my ‘why’ changed, my ‘why’ to wake up in the morning changed, my ‘why’ on life changed, and those suicide thoughts or that depression, anxiety thoughts became so like, they were just a dark cloud that came out of nowhere.

Where do you think that was mainly coming from?

Past. Not dealing with certain things in the past in my mind. And a lot of stuff like literally bullsh*t that I didn’t heal from, as a person. Even being on the streets, I lost a lot of friends, I lost a lot of family members, and me just coming from where I’m coming from, I pushed that stuff under the carpet, and it affected me in the long run. As well as these army vets need their counselling, our young boys from the street need counselling as well.

So important. Especially with young black men they think you’re already strong so you don’t need support, but everyone is human and everyone goes through the same emotions. How do you think we can all help each other online to improve mental health?

Support more in general, support genuine organisations that really, really, really want to see a change and an impact. There’s a lot of organisations that haven’t got the social platform, which is sad because a lot of them are doing some amazing work, but they’re just not getting recognised, they haven’t got the charity status, they haven’t got the direction or mentoring that a company needs to have.

From starting my own charity, we work with youth who are in crime and gang members, working with them trying to steer them away from the streets before they get into the streets, and we’re working with full-blown gang members who are in the street, so it wasn’t overnight, there were so many hurdles that I had to jump, so many blocks that came in my way, like the council and government going “what’s going on here?” They didn’t know what I was doing.

I was getting 100 young boys in a park around 3 pull up bars, they didn’t understand what that was but now they’re all supporting everything that we do. We just signed a new lease for the building which is just across the road there, and that’s three times bigger than this place, it’s got showers, changing rooms, we’re going to have studio rooms, spin classes, we’re going to have spin classes in Brixton, that doesn’t even make sense, we’re changing the game, we’re hood friendly.

This gym is a blessing it’s changed so many lives, it’s made such an impact not just in Brixton but in the whole of the world, we’ve got people from all over the world coming here, we’ve got people coming on holiday and then saying they have to do the Brixton Street Gym. This place is an iconic place now, they do tours in Brixton now, and they always come in, they take out their phones, it’s sick. This place, it’s breaking barriers, in this gym we’re all one. If you’re white, you’re black, you’re Asian, we’re all one. It’s breaking all of that down, we’re all human beings, we’re all growing, we’re all on a path of growth, this is home, this is home. Literally.

Any last pieces of advice for people out there struggling with their mental health?

Meaningful conversations. Opening up to the right people. Training, working out and having a juice after. Have a Naked Juice, trust me it helps, after a workout. Trust me, try it out.

Try and identify the trigger points. Soon as you feel like there’s something – there’s been points on my life where a certain feeling has come over me, and I literally just start running, literally just start running. By the time I do that, up Crystal Palace, round Crystal Palace, wherever, that sorts out my head. I’m racing against the white guy that’s running with all his gear and I’m in my Nike trackies but I can do this as well we’re gonna ride it together. It’s stimulating my mind, sometimes you just got to go and do it.

Follow terroll lewis on Instagram

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