Magic Mike: The world’s fittest 67 year old?
When Dame Kelly Holmes asked to train with me at our Better Body gym in Sevenoaks, it was one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received. She says I am in “awesome shape’ and that in my sixties, I’m “probably fitter and stronger than a lot of us”. This, from a double Olympic champion! I was humbled. Am I the world’s fittest 67 year old? Maybe not, but I’d like to be an inspiration.
My 7 tips for being peak fit …
1Take up calisthenics
I recommend calisthenics – training using your body weight. It's great for mobility, which is essential for any age, but certainly as you get older. Without mobility any strength you have is not used to its full potential. The more mobile you are the less risk, I believe, of injury because you're not moving through one plane.
Calisthenics is good for engaging the mind – thinking about the moves and controlling everything, from the position of your hips to your knees. You might not get the exercise right first time so you're learning and stimulating your mind. Whereas, if you're sitting on a bench, pushing weights, you can just switch off and think about what you're having for dinner!
2Get into a Wim Hof cold shower habit
I read an article about the Wim Hof method and how good cold showers are for your immune system, so I started four years ago. I took a shower in my garden using the garden hose. (No, the garden isn't overlooked!) I tried a freezing one in my house shower but it wasn't the same. Being outside in nature makes it an amazing feeling, and the cold itself is stimulating and feels exhilarating.
It’s easy on a warm summer’s evening to take one, but to go outside in the winter when it’s snowing was challenging at first. Now I love the way they make you feel so alive. On a cold, clear starry night, looking up does wonders for your soul too. I have two a day – around 6am and 9pm. The evening one improves my sleep as that little chill inside after the shower makes you want to snuggle up more. Now I haven't had a hot shower in four years.
(Read our feature on Wim Hof here)
3Trek to Everest basecamp
I like to challenge myself. My action trips include the Shotover Canyon Swing in Queenstown, New Zealand (which, with 60m of freefall is the world’s highest cliff jump) and glacier trekking in Iceland. In 2016, I went with three mates to Everest basecamp. It was seven days' trekking of six or seven hours a day at high altitude with low oxygen levels.
We didn't take our clothes off for seven days because of the extreme cold, slept in a ‘teahouse’ and ate, basically, rice and lentils. The low oxygen levels make every move feel more difficult and we had headaches and muscle weakness.
I didn’t consider myself a spiritual person before but in the Himalayas I found not only the sights - an amphitheatre of mountains - but the absolute silence was breath-taking. Our guide was a yoga teacher so, as the sun rose, we would do half an hour of yoga which added to that spiritual feeling. Everest affected me physically, mentally and emotionally, and is an experience which will stay with me forever.
I see everywhere as a playground or gym. So I did shoulder presses and used rocks as weights. This is me on the edge of the rock face doing 10 press-ups.
4Don’t stop acting like a kid
I train by the saying, 'Never stop being a kid.' What I mean by that is that as children we always want to challenge ourselves. If we saw a wall we wanted to walk along the top, balancing. Saw a tree - we wanted to climb it. A scary fairground ride? Get on it now!
But as we grow up, most people stop doing things like that. For some reason I’ve never wanted to stop, I see everything as a gym and want to play on it. A forest, a beach - they are all places of adventure to me. In forests, there are trees to climb, hills to run up, logs I throw and sprint to pick up - all to increase mobility. It's the same on the beach with dunes to run up (I like Camber Sands) and running in the surf. It’s good because, as we get older, beach training has less impact on our joints. The sand adds to the difficulty of crawling on all fours, which I do, or even a sit-up. Great for the core.
I also have a young mindset, thanks to the fantastic friends I’ve made, and they're all 20 or 30 years younger than me. That's because of all the sports I do – it gives us a mutual interest to start a friendship. Being as active as I am has given me an amazing quality of life and continues to do so, as I’ve met such positive people. There is nothing that’s not positive about staying active.
5Run a marathon – or five
I planned to train for three months before my first London marathon in my thirties. Six weeks into training I broke my ankle and had to rest it for 10 weeks. I was training with the suck-it-and-see method anyway! So when the race date arrived I thought, well, I'll give it a go. I managed to compete it - in 3 hours and 20 minutes. So I was reasonably pleased.
Once you do a race like that you can always improve it so I thought I'll run it next year with specific training this time. Now I've completed five London marathons with a personal best of three hours, six minutes.
My tip for first-timer marathon runners is: The training will be tougher than the race. You deal with lots of lows in training but it means, on the day, you can deal with hitting that famous ‘wall’ even better.
They make me feel absolutely elated and also very emotional. I think it's because you dig so deep. I feel everything so intensely when I’m pushing myself so hard and the marathon definitely enhances that feeling. A marathon is a long dark ride. I've been to some dark places in them, as there's complete and utter exhaustion - mental and physical – but when I finish one, I finish on an absolute high.
6Step away from the processed foods
I've been asked is there a magic potion to keep me this fit at 67, but for me it's about consistency. I don't even use headache tablets – I just let my body repair itself whenever possible. I’m happy to try supplements. If I felt my body was lacking energy or substance, I would, but I don’t feel it is!
I balance my diet with protein, carbs and a small amount of good fats in oily fish, like salmon. I eat chicken but red meat just once a week, and as little processed foods as I can – I think that does the damage. I'll have a portion of chips once in a while though. I’m not a saint!
7Get ready for your close-up
Most people would think of a male model being 20-something so for me to be 67 and offering something a little out of the box keeps people surprised and keeps me on my toes. Modelling can be great for self-esteem, but also you have to be strong mentally because there is an awful lot of rejection. It’s not easy to land a job but when you do it’s a great feeling. I also like the spontaneity of it all as I’m given very little notice about any of the projects and you never know what you may be asked to do.
I’ve shot for Aloha and I’ve also gone naked for a car commercial. I was playing a rugby referee in a changing room and had to be naked as the day I was born. It was in front of all the crew, the other models and the make-up artists (all female) and more than 15 people. It was for a short scene of about 15 seconds. Of course, these scenes are never taken in one shot and this took about 10 takes. Great fun.
Train online with Mike now over on Live Now Fitness.
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