You’re now one of the elder statesmen in the England Rugby team. Have you started to plan what you might do after you finish playing?
I’ve already set up a couple of businesses within the fitness sector which I will continue to run, as well as hopefully moving into TV and radio. I plan to enjoy what I have now for as long as I can, but I made my peace a long time ago with the fact that playing rugby won’t last forever.
You’re already a UK franchisee for functional training brand F45. What drew you to it?
I tried F45 in the US when I was over there on holiday. I found the circuit-based training really engaging and fun – all the kind of stuff I would use to get fit for rugby. The class-based system works incredibly well and caters for everyone’s needs.
I think people are crying out for a results-based group fitness programme that’s never the same, is fun, interesting and most importantly absolutely delivers on what it says it will. That’s what F45 is all about and why I’m so delighted to be involved.
I’m looking to open two F45s initially – one in London, as the flagship for the brand in the UK, and one in the Midlands. I’m also looking to open up a number in partnership with some other rugby professionals. Sadly, finding the perfect site takes a long time, but we’re getting close to some great venues in London, the Midlands and a few other key locations.
You’re also writing a cookbook. Tell us more.
I’ve already written a couple of no-nonsense fitness and rugby books, and my latest book is due for release fairly shortly. It’s called Perfect Fit and it’s a very detailed, comprehensive book about training, fitness and nutrition. I’ve written every one of the 100,000-plus words myself and am excited to see people’s reactions.
Following on from this, we’re releasing a specialist cook book introducing people to the basics of nutrition. Inspired by professional sportsmen and their eating needs, all the recipes have been specifically developed and written for those who want to train effectively and properly, explaining how you correctly fuel your body to maximise your training efforts. Aside from being incredibly tasty, all the recipes are very simple and quick to make.
I’m really excited about this project as nutrition is very important to me. I want to persuade people that it’s not hugely difficult to eat properly and well.
What general nutrition advice would you offer to people?
Always look down at your plate and imagine it’s a pie chart. If you want to stay in shape, then the biggest section should be taken up by a good protein source such as fish, chicken, meat, nut butters and so on. The next biggest section should be vegetables. Try to get as much variety and colour as you can onto your plate.
The last section should be a source of carbs. Aim for single ingredient foods – products that don’t have any additives or preservatives – like brown rice, sweet potato and real potatoes, but not fries or crisps.
You’re an ambassador for Meridian, which produces high protein nut-based products. Why did you want to get involved?
Protein is essential for our diet, general health, immune systems and building muscle. Sadly it’s an area that’s overlooked by many people, because there’s a huge lack of education when it comes to diet and protein.
People favour carbs and fatty foods over good, healthy food because the former have deliberately been made cheap, tasty and are readily available. Not only that, but people seem to think that eating well means eating bland food. That’s complete nonsense, as the recipes in my cook book prove.
How do you plan to stay fit when you leave rugby?
Being a professional sports person, I’ve lived every day staying fit, so I can’t imagine I would really change much from this mindset. With the F45 gyms we’re opening, I will be a regular gym-goer. I’ll also continue to do the many other sporting activities that I do, such as boxing and jiu jitsu.
I sometimes use technology to complement my training, but I’m not obsessed by it. My Apple watch is my go-to device, and I also use MyFitnessPal to track all my food. I imagine I’ll use these devices more often once I’ve given up playing though, as I won’t have all the benefits of the amazing support mechanisms around me that I do now.