He was a member of the winning team in the 2003 rugby world cup, took part in the 2013 series of Strictly Come Dancing and won Channel 4’s series ‘The Jump’ last year, so we think it’s fair to say that Forever’s F.I.T. Ambassador Ben Cohen knows a thing or two about fitness! We spoke to him last month at our Success Express event in Birmingham to get the low down on how he stays fit and what tips and advice he would give to others on succeeding with their fitness goals...
I’m a huge fan of circuit training when I’m in the gym and alternate every other day between doing circuits and going on a long run. A typical circuit workout session for me would be focusing my exercises on upper and lower body strength in equal amounts. I tend to take twelve different exercises and break these up into three sections. I’ll also do interval sprints in-between each one on a treadmill at sixteen kilometres an hour on a four percent incline for thirty seconds-to-one minute at a time.
I like to exercise six days a week for thirty-five minutes a day. I don’t like being a slave to the gym – it’s not what I live for, but it is something I have incorporated into my lifestyle and it works well for me that way. I don’t like to spend hours messing around in the gym either – I get in and out by using my time in there as effectively as possible.
In a gym, I love to do circuit training, but when I’m outdoors you’ll find me going for a six-mile run.
I think I’ve always had a natural ability when it comes to being active due to my build and upbringing, but I only really got into competitive sport as a twelve-year-old and that’s when I got into rugby by accident! During rugby season, rest is just as important as training hard as it gives your body the chance to grow and repair. When you play sports at a professional level, it is your job to do this very precisely and listen to the experts and follow their advice.
There are lots of times when I’m just not in the mood to exercise, but my main motivating factor goes back to my rugby days. My edge in professional rugby came from being extremely fit rather than skilful, so that was always a huge motivating factor for me – I needed to train hard to be at the top of my game. I also find that when you don’t exercise it’s hard to get motivated, but when you exercise regularly your body releases endorphins and you feel great after training – I try to remind myself of this when I need that extra push!
For the past five weeks I’ve been following a vegan diet, which I’m really enjoying and I particularly like the exploratory aspect of it. After falling ill recently with sepsis, glandular fever and pericarditis, I’ve really felt the urge to reassess my diet and lifestyle, despite thinking I was fit and well beforehand. The biggest motivator for me was that glandular fever symptoms can last from six months up to a year, and for ten weeks after contracting the virus I felt desperately lethargic and had no energy. I would turn to really sweet foods for an instant energy boost but then I realised I needed to sort my diet out in order to aid my recovery, so I stopped eating sugar-laden foods for a quick pick me up. I’m very aware of how powerful diet can be in terms of aiding recovery, and this is a priority for me right now. My energy levels have soared since being vegan which really helps to support my fitness schedule. I don’t intend on being a vegan forever, instead it’s a three-month plan and I will re-evaluate it after that.
That’s easy: to be healthy right now, to enjoy spending time with my young family, and to lay the foundations down now for a future of good health. It’s good to go and enjoy activities that you don’t need to train for, i.e. playing a casual game of football or rugby, or running around with my kids in the garden. It also makes me feel better if I’m in good shape and it’s a great reward for the effort you put in.
This is really down to the individual and what their own personal goals are, but I would say to start gradually. You don’t need to commit to a year’s gym membership or splash out on all the latest designer gear. Being active costs nothing and it can easily be incorporated into your daily lifestyle by things like going for a power walk around the block and making healthier food choices. I like to listen to audio books whilst I’m out running or walking as it allows me to switch off and keeps my mind off exercising when I’m starting to lag!