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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Interview: Levison Wood

He recently walked the length of the Himalayas for a TV series, and he’s now working with Virgin Active to add a sense of adventure to the gym. Kate Cracknell finds out why

By Kate Cracknell | Published in Health Club Management 2016 issue 3
Wood wants to inspire others through his expeditions / PHOTOS: TOM McSHANE
Wood wants to inspire others through his expeditions / PHOTOS: TOM McSHANE
Exercise has to be about more than just going to the gym and doing weights: you need to be focused on a goal

Your background is as a journalist. How has that morphed into becoming an explorer?
Actually I don’t think anything has fundamentally changed. I’m still doing the same thing I was when I was in the army and indeed after I left: undertaking expeditions in remote places as an expedition leader, guide or photographer. The only real difference is that now I’m writing about it and it’s documented on TV – first with my Walking the Nile series, and most recently with Walking the Himalayas.

I’m still not entirely comfortable with the term ‘explorer’ if I’m honest. I generally call myself a writer or a photographer over and above anything else.

What led you into this career path?
As much as anything, I think my motivation was an anti-motivation: I really wanted to avoid having to sit in front of a computer at a desk all day long. In the process, I’ve found myself in the very privileged position of having a vocation that allows me to travel and see the world.

What were the highlights and low points of your latest adventure in the Himalayas?
The highlights included spending time with nomads in Afghanistan – that was really incredible. Meeting the Dalai Lama. Seeing the Tigers Nest Monastery in Bhutan and going to Everest Base Camp.

But there were some low points as well. For starters, I was involved in a major car crash. But it was also things like seeing Nepal in such a state of turmoil in the aftermath of the earthquake, with riots and border closures and fuel strikes and all the rest of it – seeing places in trouble. That casts a shadow.

You’re now part of Virgin Active’s Discovery Lab. Tell us about that.
The focus has been coming up with ideas to appeal to those who wouldn’t ordinarily go to the gym for the sake of it. Exercise has to be about more than just going to the gym and doing weights: you need to be focused on a goal.

We’ve therefore been looking at how we can get people interested in taking up a new activity: they might want to do an ultra-marathon or a Tough Mudder, for instance. But if they look at that finishing line from the outset, it will seem too hard and they’ll be put off.

My suggestions to Virgin Active have been the same principles I use when I plan and train for my expeditions: you have to break the task down into bite-sized chunks, with achievable goals along the way.

We’re also taking those principles and looking at how we bring them to life in the clubs. For example, Virgin Active now offers Muddermaker classes to prepare people for a Tough Mudder. We’ll be creating more courses and programming for people who want to train towards other events, and Virgin Active is also looking to develop altitude studios, which I’ll work with them on.

This all sounds quite niche – suitable for already fit people?
Actually I think what I’m doing is quite accessible to most people. First and foremost, it’s about encouraging them to try something new. I’m not going to try and drag anyone off the sofa, but if people have that internal motivation, if they’re willing to get up and try something new… Those are the people I want to try and motivate.

After all, anyone can go for a walk. Even in my TV expeditions, I’m not doing anything that requires technical skills. Anyone who wants to be fit and healthy can aspire to do what I do. You just have to be willing to get started and to train until you reach a certain level.

And that’s my ultimate aim: to inspire people through my expeditions to show that anyone, whoever they are, can train and prepare for even the highest goals. The hardest thing is getting to the starting point. You have to prepare and you have to work hard to get there, but it is achievable – and it’s achievable for anyone.

Will you try anything new yourself this year?
Yes. Normally my fitness regime is pretty basic – jogging, circuits and the occasional swim. But I’ve never been a great swimmer and that’s something I want to change, so I’ll definitely be doing more swimming. Also, while I obviously do a lot of walking, I don’t stretch off as much as I should. I know I need to be more flexible, so I’m going to take up yoga. It’s not something I’d ever considered, but I did it in the Himalayas and being in places like India and Nepal where people do yoga was fascinating.

So I’m going to try a few new things this year and see where that leads me. I’d encourage others to do the same.

How do you think gyms can broaden their appeal?
I think people who don’t go to the gym are scared of the concept. They’re overawed by the idea of walking into a big building full of machines they don’t recognise and don’t know how to use. People don’t like to seem ignorant.

But when you go to a gym, nobody’s actually looking at you or what you’re doing – they’re concentrating on their own regimes. So just go in there, ask questions if you need to, but don’t be scared of doing what you need to do. If you’re overweight, get on the machines and lose a few pounds. If you need to build muscle, pick up some weights and do just that. Don’t be intimidated by the gym as a concept. Look at it simply as a vehicle to allow you to achieve whatever your personal goals are.

I think gyms also need to make themselves more welcoming and friendly – places people can go with friends, hang out afterwards, where there’s a community atmosphere and loads of fun things going on.

What’s next for you?
There are a few ideas up in the air, but nothing’s fixed yet. I’ll always want to travel and be in wild, remote places. I won’t necessarily walk everywhere, but I don’t think I’ll ever stay still in one place and not travel.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Exercise has to be about more than just going to the gym and doing weights: you need to be focused on a goal / PHOTOS: TOM McSHANE
Exercise has to be about more than just going to the gym and doing weights: you need to be focused on a goal / PHOTOS: TOM McSHANE
Don’t be intimidated by the gym as a concept. Look at it simply as a vehicle to achieve whatever your personal goals are / PHOTO: TOM McSHANE
Don’t be intimidated by the gym as a concept. Look at it simply as a vehicle to achieve whatever your personal goals are / PHOTO: TOM McSHANE
Muddermaker classes at Virgin Active prepare people for Tough Mudder
Muddermaker classes at Virgin Active prepare people for Tough Mudder
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/920813_335553.jpg
Find out how explorer Levison Wood is working with Virgin Active to motivate members
Levison Wood,Levison Wood, Himalayas, Virgin Active
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features

Interview: Levison Wood

He recently walked the length of the Himalayas for a TV series, and he’s now working with Virgin Active to add a sense of adventure to the gym. Kate Cracknell finds out why

By Kate Cracknell | Published in Health Club Management 2016 issue 3
Wood wants to inspire others through his expeditions / PHOTOS: TOM McSHANE
Wood wants to inspire others through his expeditions / PHOTOS: TOM McSHANE
Exercise has to be about more than just going to the gym and doing weights: you need to be focused on a goal

Your background is as a journalist. How has that morphed into becoming an explorer?
Actually I don’t think anything has fundamentally changed. I’m still doing the same thing I was when I was in the army and indeed after I left: undertaking expeditions in remote places as an expedition leader, guide or photographer. The only real difference is that now I’m writing about it and it’s documented on TV – first with my Walking the Nile series, and most recently with Walking the Himalayas.

I’m still not entirely comfortable with the term ‘explorer’ if I’m honest. I generally call myself a writer or a photographer over and above anything else.

What led you into this career path?
As much as anything, I think my motivation was an anti-motivation: I really wanted to avoid having to sit in front of a computer at a desk all day long. In the process, I’ve found myself in the very privileged position of having a vocation that allows me to travel and see the world.

What were the highlights and low points of your latest adventure in the Himalayas?
The highlights included spending time with nomads in Afghanistan – that was really incredible. Meeting the Dalai Lama. Seeing the Tigers Nest Monastery in Bhutan and going to Everest Base Camp.

But there were some low points as well. For starters, I was involved in a major car crash. But it was also things like seeing Nepal in such a state of turmoil in the aftermath of the earthquake, with riots and border closures and fuel strikes and all the rest of it – seeing places in trouble. That casts a shadow.

You’re now part of Virgin Active’s Discovery Lab. Tell us about that.
The focus has been coming up with ideas to appeal to those who wouldn’t ordinarily go to the gym for the sake of it. Exercise has to be about more than just going to the gym and doing weights: you need to be focused on a goal.

We’ve therefore been looking at how we can get people interested in taking up a new activity: they might want to do an ultra-marathon or a Tough Mudder, for instance. But if they look at that finishing line from the outset, it will seem too hard and they’ll be put off.

My suggestions to Virgin Active have been the same principles I use when I plan and train for my expeditions: you have to break the task down into bite-sized chunks, with achievable goals along the way.

We’re also taking those principles and looking at how we bring them to life in the clubs. For example, Virgin Active now offers Muddermaker classes to prepare people for a Tough Mudder. We’ll be creating more courses and programming for people who want to train towards other events, and Virgin Active is also looking to develop altitude studios, which I’ll work with them on.

This all sounds quite niche – suitable for already fit people?
Actually I think what I’m doing is quite accessible to most people. First and foremost, it’s about encouraging them to try something new. I’m not going to try and drag anyone off the sofa, but if people have that internal motivation, if they’re willing to get up and try something new… Those are the people I want to try and motivate.

After all, anyone can go for a walk. Even in my TV expeditions, I’m not doing anything that requires technical skills. Anyone who wants to be fit and healthy can aspire to do what I do. You just have to be willing to get started and to train until you reach a certain level.

And that’s my ultimate aim: to inspire people through my expeditions to show that anyone, whoever they are, can train and prepare for even the highest goals. The hardest thing is getting to the starting point. You have to prepare and you have to work hard to get there, but it is achievable – and it’s achievable for anyone.

Will you try anything new yourself this year?
Yes. Normally my fitness regime is pretty basic – jogging, circuits and the occasional swim. But I’ve never been a great swimmer and that’s something I want to change, so I’ll definitely be doing more swimming. Also, while I obviously do a lot of walking, I don’t stretch off as much as I should. I know I need to be more flexible, so I’m going to take up yoga. It’s not something I’d ever considered, but I did it in the Himalayas and being in places like India and Nepal where people do yoga was fascinating.

So I’m going to try a few new things this year and see where that leads me. I’d encourage others to do the same.

How do you think gyms can broaden their appeal?
I think people who don’t go to the gym are scared of the concept. They’re overawed by the idea of walking into a big building full of machines they don’t recognise and don’t know how to use. People don’t like to seem ignorant.

But when you go to a gym, nobody’s actually looking at you or what you’re doing – they’re concentrating on their own regimes. So just go in there, ask questions if you need to, but don’t be scared of doing what you need to do. If you’re overweight, get on the machines and lose a few pounds. If you need to build muscle, pick up some weights and do just that. Don’t be intimidated by the gym as a concept. Look at it simply as a vehicle to allow you to achieve whatever your personal goals are.

I think gyms also need to make themselves more welcoming and friendly – places people can go with friends, hang out afterwards, where there’s a community atmosphere and loads of fun things going on.

What’s next for you?
There are a few ideas up in the air, but nothing’s fixed yet. I’ll always want to travel and be in wild, remote places. I won’t necessarily walk everywhere, but I don’t think I’ll ever stay still in one place and not travel.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Exercise has to be about more than just going to the gym and doing weights: you need to be focused on a goal / PHOTOS: TOM McSHANE
Exercise has to be about more than just going to the gym and doing weights: you need to be focused on a goal / PHOTOS: TOM McSHANE
Don’t be intimidated by the gym as a concept. Look at it simply as a vehicle to achieve whatever your personal goals are / PHOTO: TOM McSHANE
Don’t be intimidated by the gym as a concept. Look at it simply as a vehicle to achieve whatever your personal goals are / PHOTO: TOM McSHANE
Muddermaker classes at Virgin Active prepare people for Tough Mudder
Muddermaker classes at Virgin Active prepare people for Tough Mudder
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/920813_335553.jpg
Find out how explorer Levison Wood is working with Virgin Active to motivate members
Levison Wood,Levison Wood, Himalayas, Virgin Active
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Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: EMS personal training: shockingly simple
People's fitness goals are extremely diverse – ranging from an elite athlete focused on the next goal to someone who dislikes all activity due to chronic back pain.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active bolsters Everyone on Demand and enters second year with five new partnerships
Everyone Active has signed a number of new deals which will see the operator strengthen its digital product offering, Everyone on Demand.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Being active helps Parkwood Leisure customers save the NHS £16m
Parkwood Leisure, one of the UK’s leading public leisure facilities operators, helped prevent more than 7,000 cases of stroke, dementia, depression and type 2 diabetes in 2019, saving the NHS £16 million, a new social value report has shown.
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Company profile: Core Health & Fitness
Core Health & Fitness offers the commercial health and fitness club marketplace an unmatched portfolio ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Merrithew™ - Leaders in Mindful Movement™
Merrithew™ enriches the lives of others with responsible exercise modalities and innovative, multidisciplinary fitness offerings ...
Supplier Showcases
Supplier showcase - Gympass
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Fitness equipment
Octane Fitness: Fitness equipment
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
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Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
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Property & Tenders
Welwyn Garden City
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Property & Tenders
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Lilleshall Sports Academy
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Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
13-14 Oct 2021
Online,
Diary dates
01-03 Feb 2022
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
07-10 Apr 2022
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
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