Hey everybody, my name is Nicholas Elorreaga. I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself and what’s happened in my life that brought me to where I am today, writing this website.
During the first 15 years of my life, I was very inactive. When I say inactive, I mean ‘never played sports, rarely did much outside, literally grew up on the computer every almost all day every day’ inactive. This was in large part due to the fact that I was homeschooled until I was 12, so it was easy to spend almost all my time at home. When I finally joined school I was terrible at every sport we’d play in PE and that made me feel even worse! Being so uncoordinated that I couldn’t catch a ball or run, and so immobile that I couldn’t even get my arms over my head more than a pitiful mock-nazi salute was very demoralising! Another consequence of my extremely sedentary childhood, is that by the time I hit age 14-15 and I started to really care how I looked (because GIRLS, right?) I noticed that I was so skinny you could see my ribs, and I had what seemed like every postural issue under the sun. I was very camera shy during this stage so there are very few pictures of me showing me at my skinniest and the fullest extent of my postural issues, but I’ve managed to find this picture of when I was 15.
This picture used to be something I was very ashamed of because I used to think I looked so ugly and couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror most days. I’ve now gotten to a place where shame has been replaced with pride over how far I’ve come, and I am accepting enough of myself now and in the past to share it with you all. Hopefully this gives some perspective, as this picture was taken after I’d already started trying to gain weight.
A Unique Setback: Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
Now, of course the extremity of my postural issues, immobility and many other issues I suffered and continue to suffer from are not due solely to my extremely sedentary childhood. I was also born with a condition known as ‘Ehlers Danlos Syndrome’, Hypermobility type. This essentially means my joints are naturally incredibly unstable and my body is super susceptible to all kinds of musculoskeletal injuries.
Long story short, my body isn’t great at making collagen, and as a result my tendons and ligaments (read: the stuff that typically holds you together) are very weak, overly stretchy and don’t do their job very well. As a result, my muscles have to do the job of both muscles AND ligaments. Needless to say, when muscles are weak from 15 years of inactivity, they don’t do such a great job either.
In short, as was explained by a specialist I once say, I was so immobile (couldn’t reach past my knees in a toe touch, and the aforementioned pitiful mock-nazi salute as my best attempt to raise my arms overhead, as two examples) because my muscles had to essentially ‘lock up’ in order to prevent me falling apart like a jenga tower since they weren’t strong enough to do it passively.
This paired up with my habit of 10-12+ hours a day sitting at a computer almost every day led to all my postural issues. I had a very forward head (‘nerd neck’ as some call it), very bad kyphosis, rounded shoulders and a sunken chest, (upper back was rounded like an angry hunchback), anterior pelvic tilt (my butt permanently stuck out like an instagram model), overpronation/flat feet AND my feet turned out like a duck. I was essentially a living example of all the most common postural dysfunctions to an extreme degree. I only wish I had a side view picture of myself back then to show you fully. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve effectively managed these issues and can say I have ‘good posture’ most of the time, but it’s a constant battle!
On top of all this, the excessive laxity in my joints and my reliance on my muscles to hold my joints together has meant that over the years of training, I have had more injuries than I can count to my shoulders, hips, knees, wrists, elbows, back and ankles, and have had to learn the hard way what it means to train effectively and safely as an individual with EDS.
Discovering Calisthenics and Getting ‘Strong’
In the summer of 2013, I stumbled upon this video and I was completely dumb-struck. At first, I had trouble believing it wasn’t fake! From that video I discovered about the world of calisthenics. Other movements like handstand pushups, and human flags completely mesmerised me. I really wanted to be the person that could do all these things, but 15 years of sitting inside, TV and video games worked against me. It hurt my wrists to do a plank, I was obviously too inflexible to raise my arms above my head so handstands were DEFINITELY out of the question. I hurt my knees every time I tried to squat. It was hugely demoralising not being able to do what was considered to be the most basic exercises out there, but I stuck with it.
Over the weeks, months and years I got stronger and more musclar. In the initial few years, all I really cared about was how strong I was. My posture and mobility were just as bad as ever by the end of my 2nd year training, and I often pushed myself too hard and accumulated many injuries that still bother and limit me to this day. All I cared about was being able to do a muscle up, or clapping pushups, or anything that made me look cool.
I was burning the candle at both ends and at some point it was clear to anyone but me that the way I was training was not sustainable. That became abruptly clear to me one day in early 2015 when I was attempting a bar trick on a pullup bar and I fell a good few feet directly onto my hip. One trip to the A&E later and I was happy to learn I hadn’t broken my pelvis, but had badly bruised it and was on crutches for several weeks. The injury itself was short-lived, relatively speaking, but the shockwave of force that traveled through my body on impact resulted in countless other issues that plagued my body for years following.
After this literal and figurative shock to my system, I spent almost a year being depressed, as one of the other issues as a result of the injury was a 5 month long issue with my knee that was so bad I couldn’t stand up out of a chair without the full help of my arms. For over a year after I was able to stand up again, I still could not do any lower body exercise without reinjuring my knee. Eventually, I got the dysfunction of atleast my uper body somewhat under control and ‘strength’-wise I was back to where I used to be in that respect but I was still boneheadedly fixated on being strong and muscular at the behest of my fragile ego, and the continued sacrifice of my joint health.
I achieved many of the things I initially aimed to do, (muscle ups, back and front levers, good progress on the planche) and my body had visually improved massively but following another injury, and another, and another, etc. I soon broke down and had to begin to re-evaluate the way I train.
Since then, my training and the focus of my personal learning and research has become focused primarily around joint health, prehab, mobility and making sure my body is working in optimal condition. I spent too long fighting my body and ignoring it’s cries for help. Nowadays my strength training routine is comparatively very simple and not as flashy. By necessity of how I treated my body in the past, a lot the old things I used to train are now simply inaccessible for me to train safely. I care less about how I appear to other people, and truly just want to be healthy and TRULY strong, in every sense, not just the outwardly impressive but inwardly destructive way I was for so long.
I have made monumental progress on many of my injuries and dysfunctions. My body is still very much a work in progress; I’m still far from my goal of being fully functional, strong, and holistically mobile, but I have come very far.
Using the expertise I’ve gained from my own years of experience, research and current my undergraduate degree course in Sport and Exercise Science, I’ve created this website and my youtube channel as a medium through which I can share my knowledge about calisthenics and the human body and help others to overcome or prevent some of the obstacles I’ve suffered through since beginning my own training.
I would like this website to be a resource for not only everything relating to bodyweight training/calisthenics and associated disciplines, but also about prehab/rehab, mobility, eventually weightlifting and even general lifestyle wellness in the future.
Thank you for listening to my story, and I hope you find this website useful!
Current Work and Qualifications:
- Studying an Undergrad Degree in Sport and Exercise Science at University of Bath
- Certified L3 Personal Trainer
- Certified Sports Massage Therapist
- Author/Creator of Nick-E.com
- Creator of Nick-E.com Youtube Channel
- UKCC Level 1 Assistant Olympic Weightlifting Coach