Swifty Scooters fitness – interview with Alex Lawson, Personal Trainer and Swifty Fitness ambassador. HOW the kickboxing champion and Personal Trainer got into scooting, WHY commuting with his SwiftyONE adult scooter beats the car and bike in London, and how it compares to running or cycling as a form of active travel.
As a fitness professional and an avid Swifty rider (pushing 2000 miles to date!), Alex Lawson talks to us about the long-term benefits of this unique action of kick-scooting and which muscles are engaging in this lower body workout.
Hello, I’m Alex Lawson, Personal Trainer and Fitness Trainer in London. I work in Kensington and Chelsea and Islington. I’ve been teaching now for 22 years. I started off with kick-boxing initially and became a high-level amateur and professional athlete.
Hi Alex, you’ve been using scooting as part of your commute for some time now, how did it all begin?
Alex: “In June 2015 I had stopped driving into London, I had been using my car to get around from west London to Central London. Every week I was getting some sort of parking violation or parking ticket, I was spending god-knows how much in parking bays. And then I took to road cycling, I thought, “I’ll give this a go, it’s great for fitness as well, but it’s not great for your chances of living a long and healthy life, not on London roads anyway! Within the year, year and a half, I had three near death experiences. One through careless riding on my own behalf, and two through no fault of my own. So it’s safe to say cycling didn’t work out for me. My wife did the research and found a scooter. Can I mention that I initially used a kids/adult micro scooter? Then of course on my birthday, I woke up and unwrapped this box, and there it was the SwiftyONE. As usual, my wife had done the diligent research and come up with what’s ultimately been a major addition to my professional working style now.”
So with the Swifty, you use this every day for your commute, could you describe a typical day?
Alex: “Bright and early wake up, I actually live on the south coast now, I still commute all the way up to London. I scoot to the local station, Hove or Brighton, and then I will board the train, it folds up just like a Brompton, very tidy. Come off at Victoria, and generally scoot from Victoria to either a Chelsea or Kensington location. I teach out of three or four gyms within the central London area, and I also teach personal training in the parks or peoples home locations, so I will zip around from place to place.”
People often ask us ‘why choose a scooter over a bike?’, but road danger isn’t the only factor which made you switch to a scooter was it?
Alex: “So with the bike, it was ok because you can get around, but it wasn’t always convenient. Problem one was that you had to use the roads, you cannot go on the pavement, which of course you can with the Swifty. Problem number two is that you have to find an appropriate place to park your bike, lock it up. With the Swifty, fold it up and take it into the clients' house, piece of cake!”
As a fitness professional, and scooter rider, what are the fitness benefits of scooting?
Alex: “As far as the fitness benefits are concerned, if you compare it with two other modes of rapid [active] transport, you’ll be looking at running and you’ll be looking at cycling. I feel scooting offers a lot more. Still, there are other places to get a full holistic training program in, you would need to work through other plains of motion as well [ie. upper body], but certainly scooting will offer more [than running or cycling]. For me, if you work through a mobilization phase, a bit of cool down and stretch after scooting (especially if it’s more than 500 metres) that’s something that can have long benefits for the whole of the lower body. So it’s more of a compound workload for the lower body as opposed to just targeting a couple of muscle groups.”
So which muscle groups are we using for scooting?
Alex: “Looking at the main power driving muscles, within the body so you’re looking at the quads on the front of the leg. The hamstrings, that posterior chain is engaged a lot more throughout scooting than it would be in cycling. With cycling you generally don’t get to lengthen the leg completely, especially if you’re in the clips. With scooting you can drive forwards, you’re working all the way through that sagittal plane, driving your leg forwards and backwards. The hip-flexors get the chance to be liberated. With cycling you generally keep the knee in front of you, with the hip-flexors you get the chance to open them by [moving] forwards and back. It puts different workload on the glutes as well. So you still work the glutes and quads which is great, but I feel you get a little bit more range of motion through the hamstrings [by scooting]. The calf, the upper calf, the gastrocnemius and the soleus at the lower base of the back of the calf, certainly get a higher work load as well. “
Do you have any top tips for those who are just starting out to use scooting as a fitness mode?
Alex: “The key factor is trying to make sure you’re used to doing it on both legs. Most of us have bias in either the left or right foot and we have a dominant leg. That’s fine I get that. For me, it took about a week before I started to distribute it more evenly. I’m still at a slight bias for my left leg to drive, but it’s about 60-40% but that’s manageable for me, but you certainly don’t want to be 90% on one and 10% on the other.”
Of course, the other key factor is that there’s obviously no saddle, you have to stand – how does this impact on the body?
Alex: “Most people spend a lot of time hunched over computers or hunched over a cooker or whatever it is we spend a lot of time in the flexed position, so you do have that added bonus of being nice and upright with the shoulders back. This builds strength in the back and core as you ride and balance which is essential for long term physical well-being.”
Can you talk us through a basic warm-up to do before a scoot?
Alex: “Certainly starting off I would encourage you to mobilise the major joints that are going to be activated. Start off with the ankles, a bit of ankle rolling, flexing and extending. A bit of knee bending and a few light midway squats. Also give the elbows a bit of a roll out, especially first thing in the morning you probably haven’t activated the arms and get the wrists rolling up and down. When I start in the morning, unless I’m super late, I’m not going to go explosively as fast as I can. I’ll take a minute or two to get the muscles used to the activity, and then once the first hill gets there, then yeah, I’m a little bit more prepared. Two to three minutes is normally enough and then once you feel the heart and lungs catching up a bit. It normally takes 7-10 minutes to get the cardiovascular system really fired up.”
Which Swifty do you ride?
Alex: “I have the SwiftyONE MARINE, it’s the top of the range one. It’s probably the present I’ve most enjoyed receiving over the last 5 or 10 years. Once again I mention my wife, she’s researched it and bought it for me. So I was really pleased to open it up this Christmas. I’ve already done many many miles on it. It’s beautiful. It runs so beautifully. I know there’s a lot of expertise put into the design and engineering of it. It’s lighter as well so it’s easier when I do have to carry it on and off public transport.”
How many miles have you done on the Swifty?
Alex: “Well it’s got to be a minimum of a thousand! I was working it for about a year and a half, five days a week where I was doing anywhere between 5 and 10 km a day, sometimes only just to the local shops with a rucksack on, take a km there. I reckon I’m over a thousand comfortably and I’m moving in quickly for my second thousand and I hope to get that by 2019. No doubt.
Thank you Alex Lawson PT for taking the time out of his day for this interview – we thoroughly enjoyed it. Follow Alex on Instagram @alexlawsonfitness