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Who will be the next James Bond? It's the question on everyone's lips as Daniel Craig prepares to bow out with his fifth, as yet untitled, instalment, the 25th in the series. It could be Idris Elba, who has denied rumours, Tom Hiddleston, or current favourite Richard Madden. Yesterday Prince Charles briefly entered the running, though it regrettably turns out he's merely in line for a cameo.
Whoever it is, the eighth Bond will have a lot to live up to, considering Craig's most iconic moment, the Casino Royale beach scene, revealed an enviable middle-aged torso that doesn't appear to have left him. Whether Elba (46) or Madden (33), they'll have their work cut out.
While most men in their thirties are more concerned with staving off beer bellies, one fantastically fit couple believe chiseled Craig-like abs needn't be consigned to youth. Jo and Luke Gray, founders of Living Retreats, have spent over two decades training A-listers, from pop stars to actors. They know a thing or two about keeping customers in top shape well past their 50s – Prince Charles, take note.
"Basically, it's the whole package," says Jo, who takes care of nutrition and sports psychology. "It's not just what you do exercise-wise, but what you have to eat, getting sleep right, reducing stress, taking the right supplements to enhance your nutrition, making sure you have enough water."
A key tenet of the Grays' process, available in an online 12-week programme called Living Eighty Twenty, at regular retreats, and in a northwest London studio, is that small tweaks can go a long way. "Our mantra is 'make one small difference to your lifestyle, and a huge difference to your life'," Jo explains. This could mean going to bed at 10 instead of midnight, or drinking two litres of water a day.
But the most important tools in the quest towards a James Bond body are working out and eating. Luke takes care of the physical training aspect of the business, and admits it's not easy to look like Craig who, at 51, is fit as ever.
"You want intensity, but not necessarily for too long," Luke explains, partly because those in their 40s and 50s are more susceptible to injury, with far slower recovery times. "On the movement side, we do a fusion of exercises. We will have weights, which I like – they offer a really hard, edgy muscle.
"But I like functional, too. It means you tend to use your own body weight a bit more. We like chinning and pull-ups, because they work the core and the upper body. You get nice arm definition and a lovely back. We'll do flexibility [such as yoga], which is key as it offsets injury. I fuse that into a workout."
Luke admits that, for all the importance of working on the body, it's nutrition that's most crucial. Get your food in order first, and the rest will fall into place. That means cutting down on booze and eating a healthy, balanced diet throughout the day.
"My ethos is not about chicken and brocolli – who wants to eat that rubbish," asks Jo, rhetorically. "It might be good for you but you're not going to enjoy that. I'm a foodie, and I believe it should look good, taste good and be good for you." Chicken tandoori skewers with quinoa are on the menu, or haddock with ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice mix.
Luckily, however, there's room for a little leeway in the Living Eighty Twenty plan. "Eighty per cent of the time you're on the programme – eating well, exercising. Twenty per cent of the time you allow yourself to have a day off," says Jo.
The following is 40 minutes' worth of exercises. Whether you can do it all in one go and every day depends on fitness levels.
Beginners should stick to one or two per day and work up to all five. A fitter person can manage them all.
1. Pull-ups (equipment needed)
One of the finest exercises to create upper body strength – James Bond would use it to perfect his favourite pastime of holding onto helicopters or on ledges of a building.
Chin-up bars can be found in gyms and parks or even set up at home. Biceps, lats and core improve rapidly. Pull up with either a close grip reverse, or wide over-grip. For elite performers, a weighted vest produces wonderful width of back and fantastic definition.
This is one of the toughest whole body functional exercises, and can be done inside the home, the gym or even outside. James Bond might use this technique to avoid detection while crawling under double-beam active infrared sensor detectors.
It's a moving exercise which keeps the body off the ground using arms and legs alternating forwards.
3. Long jumps
These are multiple double-footed plyometric jumps, which are great for strength and definition, and encourage your fast twitch muscle fibres to promote an explosive part of fitness – think 007, jumping from rooftop to rooftop.
The landing part is the most crucial – the feet should be flat, the knees bent and parallel, and the head lifted.
A fantastic body weight exercise. Straight arms support the whole body weight and by bending the arms to 90 degrees and back up to a straight position, it enables you to build huge power in the triceps, chest, front of shoulder and core. Using a weighted vest takes you to an elite level.
5. Box jump
Whether long jumps or high jumps, they deliver the best results. Your landing must be safe – knees parallel and legs bending upon landing. Using a plyometric box (there are various heights available) gives huge strength in the thighs, buttocks and cardiovascular system.
Here's a typical day on a Living Retreat (the regular programme is less intensive). For further information and recipes, see the Living Eight Twenty website.
"The purpose of this food plan is not only to create muscle tone, but also to strip off the fat to reveal the toned muscles," says Jo Gray. Drink two litres of water with fresh lemon each day.
7am: A banana or teff [an East African grain] porridge with berries.
8.30am: Frittata with smoked haddock and spinach or Anglo Indian scrambled eggs (see recipe above).
11am: Green juice (lime, kale, baby spinach, red apple, granny smith apple, water, ice).
1pm: Baked fish with herbs and lemon or power pot with teriyaki salmon.
Mid afternoon snack
4pm: Stuffed avocado or chicken tarragon lettuce cups with homemade houmous.
7pm: Masala chicken skewers (recipe below) or haddock ras el hanout.
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