Hundreds of millions of people around the world are stuck at home during lockdown. While you may long for the gym, the lack of one is no excuse to let your goals slide. Look no further for inspiration than Iraqi asylum seeker Alex Tyronne, who has been stuck in Hong Kong for six years, and has lost 44kg.

“First of all, you need the will; second, enthusiasm; third, commitment; and fourth, to act is much better than to talk,” he said. “Do not give an excuse by saying, ‘I have no money to go to the gym, to get a personal coach or do this or that’. Even if all the gates are locked against you – if you want it, fight for it.”

Tyronne speaks from experience. He has faced countless locked gates since arriving in Hong Kong in 2014. He has had his application for asylum blocked three times, and has not heard from the system since his last review in 2016. He said it is because he does not have documents proving he is Iraqi, which he left behind when he fled, but he has shown other documents and proof of family in Iraq that the courts will not consider.

“Everyone knows what was happening in Iraq in 2003, they know I came from a real war zone. I don’t have to tell you any incident in Iraq, you know what happened when the US invaded. It was a serious war, a lot of crazy stuff,” he said.

Alex Tyronne on the plane to Iraq in 2014, before his transformation. Photo: Handout

He had two particularly close calls that prompted him to leave in 2010. Firstly, a run-in with the US army, then with the Iraqi army. Tyronne’s cousin was shot and he was injured. “So I just fled. There was no choice. There was no guarantee to save my life, I had to leave my country. I can’t describe my feelings, how much I miss Iraq, the longing for family. I can’t describe wanting to see them face-to-face,” Tyronne said.

Unable to afford a gym, Alex Tyronne works out on his roof with makeshift equipment.

First, he went to Turkey, then tried to sneak into Europe with a smuggler via Greece, but was caught by the Turkish army. They tried to deport him back to Iraq, but he managed to get to Hong Kong instead.

With the stagnant refugee system here, he was – and still is – unable to work. He stayed at home all day, with nothing to do but drink and smoke. “I felt angry, sad, helpless, desperate,” he said.

In 2017, Tyronne decided to take his fate into his own hands and get in shape. But he could not afford a trainer, a gym membership or any advice about nutrition. He failed to improve his health despite numerous attempts, but eventually, after months of watching YouTube videos, he amassed enough knowledge to get in shape.

Iraqi refugee Alex Tyronne went from 110kg to ripped by working out on his roof.

Now he is in great condition through working out alone in his flat.

“I smile a lot now. The way I think about people and what I have done in life, my patience has got much better,” Tyronne said. “I used to get angry with nonsense things. But now I think they are nothing.”

Everyone is different, he said, so all gym programmes have to be unique to you. Here are some of the ways he maintains his health, aside from his tough workouts:

Iraqi refugee Alex Tyronne (right) misses his life in Iraq, but in Hong Kong he went from 110kg to ripped.

  • Drink a litre of green tea over the course of the morning. Tyronne prepares it the night before and puts it in the fridge to cool it. He drinks it to hydrate, boost his metabolism and prepare him for his workout.
  • Tyronne drinks coffee so he can hit the weights with gusto. He drinks two cups in the morning, hot, between his breakfast and morning snack, which he eats at least 30 minutes before his workout. Then he has an iced cup just before a weights session.
  • Tyronne has fruit right after his one-hour workout to replenish his muscles. Then he flexes the muscles he trains to bring more blood for recovery and growth.
  • Switch off your data. Do not be a gym-goer glued to your phone. All your focus should be on the workout.
  • Use music for motivation and even some spoken word tracks to push yourself during weightlifting. If you are working out at home, though, use headphones in consideration of your neighbours.
  • Before bed, Tyronne drinks honey and lemon. He chops up the lemon peel, adds it to the drink and eats it last. This helps with his metabolism.