The best-selling British author, explorer and photographer who has documented some of the most dangerous and lesser known corners of the world. To celebrate his new series Arabia with Levison Wood, he shares some of his top health, fitness and lifestyle tips…
Q. How do you train and keep yourself fit? Has your previous military training inspired this at all?
A. Absolutely! Physical fitness is vital in a military career. From the outset at RMA Sandhurst, you’re a victim to physical tests on a weekly, if not daily, basis and if you’re not fit enough, you’re not only letting yourself down, but your fellow cadets, so you stayed fit. The training I received in the military instilled discipline, which has helped me to maintain my fitness since leaving a full-time role within the army.
However, the nature of my work now, and continuous ‘life on the road’ makes having a ‘routine’ very difficult, particularly a training routine, so yes, it varies hugely day to day. I try to keep fit all year round, and will ramp it up just before I go on a trip, so I’m prepared for whatever physical challenges I might encounter on expedition.
When at home in London, I tend to work out as much as I can during the week. I get bored of repetitive exercises, so I mix up my training between weights, swimming, running and yoga. At the weekend, you’ll catch me in an outdoor boot camp-style class in Battersea Park. I’m very lucky to have such a great green space right on my doorstep in the city, so I take full advantage of it, rain or shine!
Q. How do you stay motivated and push through periods of lagging motivation for exercise or healthy eating? What are the driving forces behind your achievements?
A. We’ve all experienced that inability to get out of bed and work out in the morning when the alarm beckons. I find that in busy times of work I also lack the motivation to put my laptop aside and exercise, even though I know that it will do me, my body and my mind a lot of good.
Normally what it takes is a quiet word with myself, to remind me how great I’ll feel post-exercise, and that’s enough to encourage me to put on my kit, get out the door, and break a sweat. It’s all in your head at the end of the day!
I find that working out with my mates really helps, as my fitness journey began in the army, training as a team. It also brings out my competitive side, meaning I push myself harder when with others, particularly as I tend to train with friends from the army who are all still in great physical condition, so I’m forced to work hard.
Q. What is your inspiration or purpose and how does exercise and nutrition add to your life, whether you’re writing or filming a series?
A. This last year was my first year without an expedition since I walked the Nile in 2013, so it gave me plenty of time to reflect on my inspiration and purpose. My inspiration is fulfilment in everything I set out to do, which includes living a fit and healthy lifestyle. I’ve found over the years that the fitter and healthier I am, the happier I am, thus the clearer my mind is, and the more work I get done.
I’m working on three new books at the moment, which involves a lot of sitting down and screen-time. I therefore appreciate how important exercise is to ensure I get outside and get fresh oxygen pumping round my body, as not only does it stop me from getting cabin fever, it also feeds my brain and energises me, so my days are more productive as a result.
The same goes for eating well. If I’m eating nutritionally (and drinking less alcohol) I’m sleeping better and find myself more able to work longer days, and still make time for my social life. I’m not obsessive, as I know that’ll do more harm than good, so I listen to my body and if it wants the odd beer, or piece of cake now and again, then I won’t let anything stop me! I call it conscious eating.
Q. Any secret eating tips you suggest others follow for optimizing performance?
A. There are no real secrets to my eating habits. I eat three meals a day, ensuring I get my daily fix of protein, carbohydrates and fats, and I’ll allow myself a treat every so often. I’m aware of how hard I’m training each week and fuel my body in correlation.
It’s not a tip, but I’ve become more environmentally conscious in my eating and have recently decided to stop eating red meat in line with the climate crisis. There are so many incredible meat alternatives on offer now, so I just wanted to encourage anyone thinking about doing the same; it hasn’t hindered my training at all, and I don’t miss it. Ultimately, we’ve all got to do our bit in reducing the amount of C02 in the atmosphere, so giving up beef is one easy way to do it.
Arabia with Levison Wood is out now on DVD & Digital Amazon: https://amzn.to/2mA0Lou