Matt Roberts interviews James Haskell
How long have you been in the business?
We have been in business for three years.
Tell me about your history with fitness and health – did you come from an active family? If not, what drew you to it, and how did it become something you now do professionally?
I have been a professional rugby player since the age of 17, so Health and Fitness has been my life for the last thirteen years. I am always being constantly asked about my body, my fitness regime and diet over social media.
For a long time I answered all the questions in person and in detail. However I was spending so much of my limited free time responding individually to similar sorts of questions. I suddenly had a Eureka moment and decided to properly share all the unique insider knowledge and unique experience I had gained, through a blog.
Aligned to this I was of course privileged to have worked and trained with some of the best coaches, trainers and conditioners in World Rugby. Like Warren Gatland, Sir Ian McGeehan, Michel Cheika, Shaun Edwards to name but a few.
So I started writing blogs almost daily, developing and expanding upon the topics people had kindly written to me about.
In time the simple blogging website grew ever popular and in time evolved into something else.
Finally the momentum, interest and traction grew to such a level; I decided to turn it into a business. Although we now have our own Award winning supplement range, online training books, guides and YouTube channel. The over-arching principle of the business has never changed. It is still primarily focused on helping people to understand about Health, Nutrition and Fitness.
What’s your training regime like – how often do you exercise and what do you do specifically?
Everything I do is focused around making me a better player. That includes my training programme. I currently do two weights sessions a week. These are lower body and upper body sessions. They would both have a strength focus, as opposed to size building.
In terms of rugby training I do four rugby sessions a week. Each session lasting about one hour thirty minutes.
The sessions range from light conditioning games at the start of the week, to full-on rugby sessions with contact, in the middle of the week, to a light session the day before the game.
I would also look to do a fitness top-up, some speed work and I always make time for some additional rugby skills sessions, post training.
When I was younger I would often do more than the programme I have suggested. However as I have got older, I have realized that less is more for me. I have also appreciated taking rest is an important as training. I was trying to do too much, which was having an effect on my rugby.
I can’t imagine you struggle with motivation, but when you don’t feel like training, how do you get yourself to the gym?
I think of a couple of things to help motivate me when I am tired or perhaps not as enthusiastic to training as I should or would like to be.
The first thought is whilst others are resting, I want to be working. Seeking those vital few inches they talk about, as well as going the extra mile to get the best out of my career.
The second is more simplistic, I use music to help inspire and motivate me. I find putting on emotive tunes always makes me want to train.
What’s your daily diet like?
I work very hard on my nutrition and always have done. I like to leave no stone unturned in this regard, as in my view nutrition is probably the single biggest factor and ingredient in the overall mix.
I have always sort professional advice and currently work with two leading and cutting edge experts in this field, Glenn Matten and Aiden Goggins.
I eat around four to five meals a day, along with my very own greens powder [Elite Vita Greens] which I have as a shake which I take every morning. I take a protein shake after training.
The make up of my macros per meal is:
200g protein, 300g of carbs with unlimited vegetables
Supplement wise, aside from my Greens, I take the following;
My pre-trainer Hades.
What’s your favourite way to indulge?
For a quick “fix” I love pizza and when able, I enjoy a glass, maybe two, of fine single malt whisky.
In truth I am a big foodie. So always love to eat out at the best places I can find, if at that moment I am not worried about my diet.
What food couldn’t you live without?
I couldn't live without sausages.
What's your fitness philosophy?
My fitness philosophy is very simple. Training and diet are not rocket science and shouldn't be seen as such. Fitness and nutrition should be made accessible to everybody. As already said my ambition, business and social motivation is to try to deliver professional level advice, broken down to whatever level the individual is at.
I also believe you have to be dedicated and work hard to get what you want. Sadly there are no quick fixes or miracle solutions. If there are, then I have yet to find them!
What workout couldn’t you live without?
I always have to do leg weights. I don't think I could function without doing them in some form or another.
I always try to squat and as a complimentary exercise; focus on my posterior chain, executing something like a Romanian Dead lift or Glute Bridge.
How do you like to spend a rest day?
Rest days, what are those?
I don't actually get much down time, what with running James Haskell Health & Fitness. My media work, my passion – being a DJ. As well as extra things to help my rugby, such as physio, massage and MAT.
However if I do get some time off, I like to chill out and watch movies. Or go for a coffee somewhere and relax
What does the word ‘healthy’ mean to you?
It means living life to the full, but equally in a way which respects the body you have been given. It means letting your hair down, but in moderation. It doesn't mean eating brown rice, cold fish and vegetables for every meal.
What makes you feel healthiest?
I feel my healthiest when I am training at least four to five times a week, eating properly and well and going to bed before 10.30pm.
What’s your foolproof strategy for reducing stress?
The best way I have found to reduce stress, is see whatever is stressing you out as a small piece in a puzzle. You should never look at the whole picture as it can become too daunting. Just see things as individual tasks and go from there. As you start ticking things off one by one you start to feel better.
I also find listening to good music, eating well and making sure you get a good nice sleep all ways of getting over stress.
What’s your foolproof strategy for increasing energy?
Rest and sleep play a massive role. I need minimum 8 hrs sleep. I also believe in a multitude of recovery protocols for example hot and cold baths, massage, mobility work and MAT (muscle activation therapy)
Diet is huge as well, making sure you eat the right amount of carbs.
In your opinion, what’s the most underrated element of health (eg, sleep, flexibility, stress relief, etc)?
Rest and mobility are things that are never really talked about. It’s always about what to train and what to eat.
What’s one thing you wish people did more of, when it comes to their health?
I wish I did more stretching, yoga and mobility
Are there any mantras you try to live by?
I have always believed in a couple of things, which although a bit cliché have proved to be solid bedrocks for me.
The first is “What you put in, is what you get out”
The second one I learnt from my Father – “You can lie to everybody else but you can’t lie to yourself”
Who do you look up to, and why?
I respect a few people in different fields. Sport wise I would say Richie McCaw Tom Brady and Floyd Mayweather. Their dedication, attitude and success are clear to everyone to see.
Outside of sport, I would say people like Dr Dre or Jay z. They weren’t born with a silver spoon but have taken everything they do to the next level and as a consequence made fortunes out of it.