MF meets the former heavyweight champ to talk lockdown fitness, family workouts, and getting boxing back on the bill.
How’s lockdown affected your fitness?
“It’s changed things. At the moment I’m not doing any heavy lifting. But what I am doing is more HIIT sessions: 35 to 40-minute bodyweight sessions with my son, Cassius. He’s 12, he’s off school from the Tennis Academy he attends, where he’s used to playing and training for four hours a day. It’s been great for us to have each other to train with.
“We’re doing a lot of bodyweight work: crab crawls and different variations of press-ups and sit-ups. We do a lot of core work, too: planking and squat jumps. We just blast them out and really try to get some good, quality numbers going. We do three-minute blasts with one-minute breaks – just like in boxing.”
So keeping fit with the family is important for you?
“For sure. I also teamed-up with British Military Fitness and have been doing a lot of stuff on their Zoom platform, leading workouts for their members with Cassius beside me. That’s been a great motivation as well.
“Exercise in my household has always been very important. I’ve always done my press-ups in the morning and planks before I go to sleep. It’s something I did as a youngster and I see that a lot of kids are now starting to do a little bit too thanks to the likes of Joe Wicks.
“It’s great. It gets them into a good routine and that’s the key to successful fitness – forming great habits. For half an hour a day, at least, you need to get the blood flowing.
“This lockdown has got has got people realising that you don’t have to go to a gym to get fit. It’s made it clear that there are two types of people: those who have used it as an excuse to pile on the pounds and drink way beyond their regular alcohol consumption, and then there’s those who’ve done the polar opposite. I’d recommend using lockdown as an opportunity to make positive, lasting changes.”
You’re not missing the heavy lifting at all?
“If I’m in a gym and there’s an Olympic bar I’ll do some deadlifts, I’ll do a few squats, I’ll do some bench press. I can’t right now, but I’m not fussed. Instead I’ll put Cassius on my back and do some press-ups! Or I’ll get him on my shoulders and do some squats.
“You can find ways to exercise without a gym – especially if you’ve got someone else there with you. I’ve maintained a good shape, without any way weight training.”
How much of that good shape is down to good diet, too?
“A whole lot, but it’s simple. It’s stuff I’ve always known, like if you’re eating 5,000 calories a day and you’re only burning 2,000, you’re going to get fat. It’s not rocket science. The key for me has been looking at food and asking, ‘Where has this come from? What will it do to me?’ Does it grow from the ground, or on a tree, or does it run around a field? If it doesn’t do any of those, should you really be eating it?
“In short, try not to eat processed food. Investigate the provenance of what you’re eating. Is that beef pumped full of steroids and growth hormones, or is that chicken battery farmed? Always look at what you’re consuming and ask, ‘Is this the best I can have?’
“The fact that people aren’t eating in restaurants at the moment and are being forced to cook from scratch is a good thing. In my life, whenever I’ve looked at my worst it’s been down to my diet – and whenever I’ve looked at my leanest and my healthiest, it’s been when I’ve been super tight with my nutrition.”
Sticking with nutrition, tell us about this virtual dinner party you’re hosting.
“It’s through Gousto, which delivers ingredients to the door. I’m cooking a mushroom risotto and by registering at tablefor1million.com I’m part of a massive dinner date that’s also an opportunity to donate to the Trussell Trust (the UK Foodbank charity).
“They’re hosting a virtual dinner party and inviting one million people to tune in and join myself, radio host Nick Grimshaw, comedian Catherine Ryan and Paloma Faith, the singer. It should be a real fun night – this Friday at 8pm.”
The dinner party conversation will no doubt touch on boxing – how do you see the sport recovering from coronavirus?
“Boxing will recover the way it always has. As a sport it’s been knocked down before and got back up. It may well have to adapt, but since the original David and Goliath story it’s done that.
“The UFC has started back in the States and there are a few big boxing events scheduled in Miami, which is really good news. We’ll follow suit when the British Boxing Board of Control deems fit.
“There’s some creative thinking going on. Eddie Hearn’s managed to work an angle where he can put a boxing ring in his back garden and stream a fight. I’m all for that. I’m all for getting these young fighters out of their homes and back doing what they were born to do.”
Visit tablefor1million.com to join David Haye’s Virtual Dinner Party at 8pm on Friday 22 May
Interview: Rob Kemp