Levison Wood grabbed all of the headlines earlier this year when he completed walking the Nile - which was a 4,000-mile trek.
He has now been named a Discovery Ambassador for Virgin Active and we caught up with him to chat about the new role and how he keeps himself in tip-top shape.
- You have been appointed the first ever Discovery Ambassador for Virgin Active, so what is the role all about?
The new Virgin Active Discovery Lab is a team of health and fitness experts advising on new exercise programmes and classes throughout the Clubs. My role is about bringing a sense of discovery to the project and helping to inspire people to find new ways to stay active and motivated both physically and mentally.
I'm going to be tapping into my experiences of physically and mentally preparing for my expeditions and introduce what I've learned into the Discovery Lab to give a fresh perspective and to help develop fresh fitness ideas.
- How and why did you choose to get involve?
I believe that anyone can discover new ways to stay active no matter their level of fitness, their age, or where they live. It's about being brave enough to try something new and not getting stuck in a rut; finding out your own limits and testing them. Virgin Active is the perfect platform to encourage people to do this and it has always been a leading innovator in the fitness industry, so it was a natural partnership.
- So many of us would like to be more active than we actually are but life quite often gets in the way. So what tips would give to people to help challenge themselves physically and mentally in their everyday lives?
The hardest thing about change is getting started and taking the bold decision to do something in your mind can often be the biggest barrier. I find that once people have made that mental leap it's actually much easier. Once you're set on your goals I always say make them manageable, so break them down into bite size achievable chunks. This will help you stay motivated for much longer.
- How do you keep in shape in your everyday life, when you are not training for a 4,000-mile trek?
I'm a naturally very active person and I'm always looking for new ways to keep fit and mobile, you rarely see me off my feet! When I'm not training for a 4,000-mile trek, you can often find me swimming laps in my local Virgin Active swimming pool or doing some high intensity interval (HIIT) training.
But more than anything I love being in the outdoors, so a long walk in one of London's beautiful parks and woodland is one my of my favourite ways to stay fit and active.
- You have just finished the major challenge of walking the rive Nile - an astonishing 4,000 miles - what made you want to undertake such an incredible expedition?
Before I walked the Nile, I'd done some pretty memorable challenges in places like Madagascar and Iraq, but they all felt fairly small and very contained and about a month long. I wanted something that would top all of these things and push me to my absolute physical and mental limits.
4,000 miles is a remarkable feat of endurance through tough terrain and soaring temperatures, so how did you physically prepare for this challenge?
It's actually very hard to train for 4,000 miles! My preparation was focused on getting an excellent base level of fitness and making sure that my body was in the best physical shape possible. Of course, there was plenty of walking before I left, but I also made sure to build my core strength and flexibility so my body could withstand the varied terrain whilst I was there.
You burn a lot of calories walking four thousand miles; I actually lost around two and a half stone on the expedition, so eating a varied and healthy diet before I left was essential.
- I saw much of the documentary series that followed you for the expedition and it was one of difficulty, danger, and tragedy as well. How would you describe the whole experience now that you have had some time to reflect on it? Was it more of a challenge than you expected it to be?
Physically it was the hardest thing that I had ever done, but I was sufficiently prepared for that. It was mentally much more of a challenge than I expected it to be and I had to overcome death and civil war. It's very hard to prepare yourself for those things, and very hard to predict how you'll react when they happen.
- You were very reflective about the things you had seen and experienced during your time on the expedition did you learn anything about yourself during this time?
Yes, that everyone has weakness and limitations. I also learnt to be patient and to enjoy my own company - there were some long days out there!
- A TV series followed your expedition and there is a book as well, so how have you been finding the response to what you achieved from the general public?
It's really quite overwhelming. Writing the book, I had no idea how well it would be received, but the response has been great. People, especially British people love adventure and discovery and if we can't do it ourselves then next best thing is to watch someone else.
- Finally, what's next for you? Is another adventure on the horizon?
Yes, but its top secret, so my lips are sealed!
British explorer Levison Wood is Virgin Active's new brand ambassador and a founding member of the Discovery Lab, a collective of Virgin Active fitness experts that are committed to helping members discover new and exciting ways to stay active. www.virginactive.co.uk/discoverylab