WOW HYDRATE ambassador Ant Middleton, special forces veteran and chief instructor on Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins, reveals how to face fear, prioritise positivity and create a fitness routine that’s built to last.
The key message in your Mind Over Muscle audiobook is about the power of a positive mindset – is that something you learned out of necessity in the military, or have you always been driven by positivity?
“It’s something I’ve always had. I would say, if anything, my earlier days in the military sucked the positivity out of me – it was quite a negative time. But once I found a way to turn those negatives into positives,
I managed to excel.
“When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is make sure I’m in a positive headspace. It sounds cliché, but it’s the way I live my life.
“So I make a conscious decision every morning to look for positivity: something that just makes me smile and feel good about the world. I capture that moment and use it to get the day off to a good start.”
How can the rest of us develop positive mindsets of our own?
“You’ve got to be honest with yourself, and you’ve got to make a concerted effort to think positively. For example, I like to look at a situation and ask myself, is it positive or is it negative? If it’s negative, you’ve got to approach it with a positive mindset, because that’s the only way you’re going to counter a negative situation.
“On the other hand, once you’re in a positive headspace and a positive situation arises, you’re on cloud nine!”
From your 15-year career in the military, to climbing Everest and spending 60 days at sea, you’ve encountered and overcome more perilous situations than most people could even imagine. Does fear ever come into play?
“Fear is what challenges us. I love fear and I’ve learned to embrace it. A lot of people have one fearful situation in their lives and it’s so horrific that they don’t revisit it. But if you stay in a safety bubble, you don’t experience what’s on the other side of that fear: challenge, growth and evolution.
“Fear is simply your body priming itself to step into the unknown, and once you accept that and take the step, you’re going to learn something about yourself.
“I’m attracted to fearful situations, because I know how to flip fear to my advantage, whereas a lot of people are trapped by it. But everyone’s fears are different, so you have to find it within yourself to find the answers. If you can learn to manage your emotions and embrace your fear, you become limitless.”
You’re perhaps best known for SAS: Who Dares Wins. Every person who goes on that show comes out of it with lessons learned and valuable experience gained – why does it help people find out so much about themselves?
“Through hardship and suffering you find out what you’re really made of. You find out your inner grit, your inner strength, your inner steel. At the beginning of my military career, I remember putting weight on my back – 20 or 30kg in a rucksack – and coming last in the pack. You took that off my back and I was front of the pack, but after two years of struggling with the weight someone said to me, ‘Ant, you’re just not cut out for heavy lifting – you should think about another career.’
“That made something click in my head: someone telling me I should quit after two years of hard effort made me want to do it even more, and literally overnight it all changed. The next time we went out I was near the front of the group.
“I always say to people, you’ve just got to keep at it. A lot of people give up at the first, second or third hurdle – they get out the queue and try something else, then five years down the line they realise they never should have given up and join the back of the queue again. It’s all about self-belief, not letting other people or situations define you, and having the perseverance to stick at something through the good and the bad.”
What does your weekly fitness routine look like?
“For the last few months during lockdown, I’ve been running 10km most mornings and then doing some kind of circuit in the evenings. So at least an hour and a half of hard, physical activity every day of the week, apart from Sunday.
“I’m quite old school in my approach, in that I’ll base every workout around a push, a pull and a squat exercise. If I’m doing a full-body circuit I’ll include a shoulder exercise, a chest exercise, a back exercise, an arm exercise, a core exercise and a leg exercise.
“However, for the big muscle groups – chest, back and legs – I’ll often dedicate an entire session to those. I normally go quite high reps, so anything from 15 to 20, and I’ll do 4 to 5 sets of every exercise. I don’t train to get bigger, I just want to maintain, and I also want to be able to keep this up by the time I’m 70, 75 years old.”
Do you have any advice for maintaining fitness from home with minimal equipment and not a lot of space?
“Movement is so important. Just build up a sweat – whether it’s in your front room, your kitchen, or out for a walk. Even if it’s playing the kids, anything that gets you up and moving – and that’s enjoyable enough to do regularly – is going to benefit you mentally and physically.”
Getting in shape is as much about eating right as training hard. Do you pay much attention to nutrition?
“As I’ve got older, I’ve realised just how important nutrition is. That’s why I’ve teamed up with WOW HYDRATE, because without the right hydration you’re going to fall short. As a youngster, you can kind of push through dehydration and feeling rough, but as you get older you realise just how important this stuff is.
“Good hydration also keeps your mind sharp and helps you think a lot clearer, and WOW HYDRATE’s drinks are scientifically proven, sugar free, and contain everything I need to be putting into my body at this specific time in my life.”