How does an intrepid explorer stay fit and well, sometimes against the odds? Levison Wood lets us in on what it takes to walk the Nile, scale the Himalayas and recover afterwards…
Want to be more adventurous? Take a leaf out of Levison Wood’s book. A former Officer in the British Parachute Regiment (so pretty fearless to start with), Lev has travelled to and worked in over 90 countries, many of them far off the beaten track and relatively precarious, in terms of both terrain and politics. Most well known for his ‘Walking The Nile’ and ‘Walking The Himalayas’ TV documentaries, Lev doesn’t shy away from a challenge, and his expeditions have seen him complete the first ever successful walk across Madagascar from coast to coast (he’s big on walking), climb mountains in Iran and complete scientific research projects in Burundi, to name just a few of his feats so far.
Given the fact that he covered over 4000 miles walking along the Nile alone, how does he maintain both his fitness and composure, and what health obstacles does he face both on his travels on home soil? We quizzed the explorer, photographer and author to find out...
Get The Gloss: What's your overall approach to health, fitness and nutrition?
Levison Wood: I do my best! That’s honestly probably as good as it gets. I try to live as healthy a lifestyle as is possible. Sometimes that’s quite difficult, which seems off seeing as I spend half of the year walking, but the reality is that in a lot of the places I go to, you can’t just walk into a supermarket and grab a nice salad. You can find yourself stuck eating a lot of crap for days on end!
It can be a real health issue, for instance in many places in Africa it’s hard to come across bottled water. You either do what the locals do and drink water that isn’t clean, or the only thing that you can get hold of is a can of coke. So in parts of Africa I lived on Coke and unhealthy food for weeks. When I’m back home I try to eat healthily...
GTG: How much is fitness a priority in your life?
LW: I try to maintain a base level of fitness by going out for a run a couple of times a week and I swim whenever I get the chance. If I’m training for a particular expedition I’ll focus more on what the goals are. I’ve been in recovery for the past 12 months because I broke my shoulder so a lot of the stuff that I’ve been doing has centred on that. That’s where the swimming comes in! Otherwise my fitness routine is pretty ad-hoc. I don’t have a single, overarching lifestyle mantra.
I was in the army, and obviously it was very important to be fit. As a soldier, there will be times when you really need to use that fitness on a practical level, but it’s also about setting an example. If you’re leading a group of soldiers, you need to be the fittest one there. You’re the boss. I’ve kind of taken that attitude forwards and maintain a level of fitness. Obviously I’m ten years older than when I was in the army, and though you’re not going to keep up with the 22 year old racers anymore, there’s no excuse not to be as fit as you can be. It’s about finding time and being disciplined.
GTG: How do you in squeeze fitness and training around a busy schedule?
LW: Squeezing in training is difficult, there’s no doubt about it, especially when you’re living in a city like London where there’s lots of distractions and always something going on. There’s usually something every night for me, whether that’s doing a talk or attending an event. It’s tough but I’m lucky in the sense that for a lot of the year I’m away and doing some kind of exercise naturally, even if that just consists of walking. People can really underrate the value of walking. You’re not necessarily doing exhausting cardio, but if you walk 20-30 miles a day you’ll definitely lose weight, develop muscle and improve your general, all-round strength!
GTG: Do you have any tips on how to juggle (and enjoy!) a hectic lifestyle and deal with stress?
LW: Making time for yourself is important. You need discipline to do that, but also an element of fun. You’ve got to do what you enjoy. Not everyone is fortunate enough to do a job that is also their passion. If you can then you’re very lucky, and I consider myself very fortunate to be doing what I do. If you’re not in that position, you need to factor in time to do stuff you enjoy.
GTG: In a typical week (if there is one!), what is your workout schedule, and why?
LW: In a week I’ll walk whenever I can. If I can avoid getting on the tube, I will! I’ll walk between meetings, and I’ll probably cover on average two or three miles just as part of my daily routine. On top of that, if I get the time to either go for a 40 minute jog or spend half an hour at the swimming pool then I will. That’s really all I get in! It’s not always that much, but I think even half an hour every few days keeps you ticking.
GTG: What's your personal mantra? What motivates you?
LW: The fear of getting a real job! I worked hard not to have a job. I’ve spent a lot of time in the army, set up a business and have certainly taken a lot of risks along the way to do what I’m doing now. People think it’s easy, and that I’m on holiday all the time, but it’s not quite that simple. My philosophy is ‘take risks and be open to new ideas’.
GTG: What would your advice be for anyone looking to take on a daunting challenge?
LW: The hardest thing is getting to the starting point. Overcome that, and the rest is easy!
Levison features in Clinique For Men’s #BehindTheFace campaign for September 2016, which promotes men pursuing their passions with the aim of inspiring more men to embrace and expose their real hopes. Keep an eye out for a video featuring Levison on clinique.co.uk