For the latest Nicolas Alexander Q&A, I sit down with inspiring fitness junkie and all-around good-guy, Michael Jennings.
As someone who loves their health & fitness, I am always on the look-out for individuals who can not only inspire me to get stuck into my own workouts every day but also teach me some new and usable stuff.
I first came across Michael on Instagram and immediately became a keen follower of his, thanks to his easy-to-follow, sweat-filled, no-bullshit workouts! But once I looked a little closer, I realised, Michael was much more than just someone who posted killer workout videos.
Michael is someone you can easily relate to thanks to his genuine, honest and upbeat personality. You quickly find yourself cheering him on through his own fitness journey, which in turn, motivates you to get stuck in and grab life by the balls as well!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Ipswich, a town in Suffolk which is roughly a 2-hour drive from London. There’s not too much going on there, but it gave me plenty of open space and parks to run about and play football with my mates.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I used to change what I wanted to be when I grew up on a regular basis! I think my parents heard it all - fireman, marine biologist, movie director – never did I mention the fitness industry though.
Do you have a special talent that not many people know about?
Annoyingly I have no special talents to report!
Top 2 biggest/proudest moments/achievements from 2018?
My proudest achievements from last year would be personal and career-wise.
Making the cover of Men’s Health for the August issue (alongside Arnie!) was pretty cool. Seeing it on newsstands at the airport and supermarket was a great feeling.
I’d also say running my first half-marathon at the Great North Run. It was a special moment crossing the finish line, especially when I never really enjoyed running in the past.
Personally, buying a house with my girlfriend was a huge achievement. Never did I think at 24 I’d be on the housing ladder, but I’ve always been pretty good at saving money so that helped a lot.
Best self-help/business/motivating/life-changing book you have ever read?
Ah, there are so many great books I’ve read lately – I love personal growth and development books based around optimising your life. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is incredible, as well as The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes.
I’m currently reading Why We Sleep by Professor Matthew Walker, which is pretty game-changing for re-assessing the importance of sleep.
Your favourite podcast?
I love a good podcast, too! How I built this with Guy Raz is awesome as it finds out from CEO’s and industry leaders how they took their business from zero to multi-million-pound companies. I also really like the Joe Rogan Experience.
What is your current job and what do you love the most about it?
My current job is Fitness Editor at Men’s Health magazine in the UK. It’s a great gig and encompasses my background in journalism with my passion for health and fitness. I meet the best in the fitness game and get inspired by them and their work ethic.
What inspires/motivates you?
I’m motivated by setting myself a fitness goal, following a programme and then smashing that goal. It’s such a great feeling when you accomplish something you put your mind to and give every last ounce of sweat and dedication to achieving.
I’m inspired by seeing and hearing the stories of high-achievers in health and fitness and putting in the same work ethic and drive to hopefully inspire others myself.
Do you have a role model or a mentor that you admire or learn from?
I don’t really have a role model or mentor I learn from as such. What Joe Wicks (the body coach) has accomplished I think is amazing in health and fitness and I’d love to emulate. Also what Jamie Oliver has done for healthy eating in schools. I want to help as many people as I can see the power of living a healthy, active lifestyle.
Do you have a mantra or daily reminder that you try to live by?
I don’t have a mantra as such but I do always say ‘win the morning, win the day’. I love to get up and make my mornings productive. Whether it’s going to the gym, getting a healthy breakfast, reading or simply speaking with my family.
I also love the attitude of ‘hard work is so often the answer and the question is so often irrelevant’. Everything in life requires hard work. If it doesn’t, it’s not worth it.
When did you discover your passion for health & fitness? Why do you love it?
Growing up I was always really active and played so many sports. Football, tennis, swimming, basketball, rugby (at university). I started going to the gym in high school to get bigger muscles (like most of us!), but I really discovered my love for fitness and health at university. I had a bit more spare time and found a love for working out, as well as taking a closer interest in the food I was putting in my body.
Outside of training, what do you like to do for fun?
I love to train, or at least move and exercise pretty much every day, but otherwise I’m a pretty simple guy. I love food and like to go out and try different eating places with my girlfriend or go to the cinema with her.
Top 3 tips or general advice for someone looking to start their own fitness journey for the first time or maybe looking to get back into it after a long time away?
My top three tips for someone looking to get started would be:
1) Just get started! You’ll never regret a workout. You’ll look back in a couple of months’ time so glad you got started. Talk is cheap, take action and do something.
2) Don’t go super intense straight away – set smaller goals every day, whether it’s just hitting 10k steps a day, or working at 3 times a week.
3) Do what you love. Comparison is the devil, don’t do something because someone else is or tells you to. Find an activity you love and stick to that – whether it’s swimming or strength training.
Top 3 tips or general advice for someone who is maintaining a solid level of fitness and works out regularly, but is maybe feeling a little stale and not seeing the progression they would like? (What can they look to do to take it up a gear?)
Understand that EVERYONE goes through dips in motivation for training and that is totally OK. Find your why. Why do you want to work out and get better – what made you get started?
I would say find a programme that interests you and commit to it. Having structure to your workouts so you know as soon as you step in the gym you know exactly what you’re going to do is really important.
In terms of training protocols, I like the acronym K.I.S.S (Keep it simple stupid). Go back to basics with minimal kit like bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups and dips. You can never go wrong with these and they always provide a great test.
Use workouts structures like AMRAPs and EMOMs for serious intensity. That’s either performing as many rounds as you can of a group of moves or performing a certain amount of reps or calories burned of a move ‘every minute on the minute’.
Favourite and least favourite type of training?
My favourite type of training would have to be bodyweight strength workouts. So like I mentioned before, a circuit of pull-ups, press-ups and dips mixed in with some kind of cardio like skipping or a sprint. You build muscle and burn serious calories – the best of both worlds. Although it has to be said, I LOVE a good arms sessions bodybuilding in the gym.
My least favourite would be a spin class – just go and ride a bike outside!
What is the one thing you would recommend people add to their health & fitness program that you think most do not think of or do, but that you believe would be most beneficial?
I guess the one thing I’d add to most people’s programme is intensity. I see so many people just sitting around in the gym lifting weights every 5 minutes or so. The same 3 sets of 10 reps! When I’m in the gym, I’m working pretty much non-stop. If you think you’re working hard, you can always work harder… I’m telling you!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and by whom?
My dad always tells me ‘Michael, remember the 5 P’s! Preparation and practice prevent poor performances. I think that’s pretty spot on!
If you could do a group workout with 3 people dead or alive who would you choose?
That’s a great question! It’s probably like most people: Arnie, The Rock and Rocky Balboa.
Go-To “no rules/I don’t care how many calories it has” meal?
Oh, there are so many! Breakfast would be a massive stack of pancakes topped with syrup, bacon (and some berries). Then it would be a large meat pizza or a great curry or Chinese (to be honest I love an all you can eat buffet haha!) Dessert would definitely involve doughnuts, then a tub or ice cream.
Favourite holiday destination you have been to and why?
I loved when I went to Aspen in Colorado. Everyone cares about their health and fitness with morning hikes and loads of activity throughout the day, but in the evening they also like to kick back, eat great food and relax. It’s so chilled.
That’s why I think I’d love Los Angeles and Sydney too (but I haven’t been to either yet!). Somewhere with great workout spots, amazing places to get fresh food and awesome beaches to chill.
One place/country you have not been to yet, but are desperate to visit soon and why?
It needs to be somewhere with great workout spots, amazing places to get fresh food and awesome beaches to chill. That being said, if I had to pick one, it would probably be Los Angeles. Not sure I’d want to come back though!
Beach or pool?
Tough one – I’d say the pool (just). I can’t be dealing with the sand getting everywhere. Although, a quiet sandy beach with clear blue sea (which isn’t too cold!) would be hard to top. I loved the water in Ibiza!
What are the 4 items you have to have in your suitcase when travelling?
- Skipping rope
- Pair of trainers
- Pair of Birkenstocks
- Funky pair of swim trunks
Best go-to holiday workout that can be knocked out in less than 30 minutes and requires no machines/weights?
My favourite holiday workouts would be:
*Your age in chest to floor burpees to start (e.g for me, 24 reps) then…
10 rounds of:
20 air squats
30 double-unders or 50 single skips
* Then your age in burpees to finish.
100 resistance band bicep curls
Every time you break perform 15 close-grip press-ups
What are your goals for 2019?
- Sleep 8 hours every night
- Read my book every day
- Do at least 30 minutes of exercise every single day of the year (it can be just walking on rest days)
- To make my new home with my girlfriend amazing.
- To try and reach more people and help them get fitter. Push the #MOVEWITHMICHAEL movement!
- Complete a boxing fight, run a sub-20-minute 5k, complete an Olympic triathlon and swim more.
For those of you not already following Michael, I thought I would end this Q&A by sharing with you a few of his workout videos on Instagram. Whether you are a beginner looking to get your fitness journey started or a seasoned gym-goer, Michael offers an array of awesome workouts with easy to follow instructions.
Be warned these are not for the faint of heart! But trust me when I say, the challenge of completing Michael's workouts is super addictive and highly rewarding.