David Gandy is basically a real-life Bond character: he’s got the looks, the charm and his guilty pleasure is powerboat racing.
From a young age Gandy was very sporty, although for all the wrong reasons (“I’d usually get involved in sports to get out of school”, he tells us). As he entered his teens, he became more interested in nutrition and training, and his interest grew from there.
Nowadays, the model hits the gym between three and six times a week depending on his schedule and credits medium weights and supersets (where you do one set of exercise, followed by a set with a different exercise, without a rest between them) for his incredibly toned physique.
But his journey to get to where he is now hasn’t been without its setbacks - Gandy experienced rotator cuff injuries and back pain as a result of trying to lift the heaviest weights in a quest for the body he wanted.
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“I’m still learning at the end of the day,” he reveals.
We caught up over tea in the Langham Hotel about his fitness routine, finding motivation to work out and his one love: Dora.
Let’s talk about fitness - what does your weekly gym routine consist of?
When I’m not training for something, I’ll go three or four times a week. When I’m training for a campaign or, for example, Light Blue (the Dolce & Gabbana fragrance advert) then I’ll go six days a week. I’m also a lot more conscious of my diet when I’m training for something specific.
With my schedule, it changes every day. I’m a late night trainer, so sometimes I’ll be in the gym from 9pm onwards for 60-90 minutes. It’s quite a strange routine but sometimes that’s the only time I can fit it in.
As I’ve gotten older, I’m steering much more away from heavy weights. I learned the hard way by stupidly trying to push two reps with the highest weight I could and injuring myself. Now I’m much more about using lighter weights, doing supersets and getting the form a lot more correct.
Sometimes I’ll do a week of heavy training to shock my muscles and then I’ll change it back. I also switch up my routine out of boredom because doing the same thing all the time is very repetitive.
What’s your ultimate piece of fitness advice?
A lot of guys come up to me and say ‘I’m constantly working out but I’m not seeing the results, why is that happening?’ and I tell them to look at form and nutrition.
If you’re not eating enough protein then you’re not allowing the protein to mend your muscles.
You tear your muscles every time you train and mend them with protein, which allows them to grow. If you don’t have that after you’ve worked out, you’re not going to see the results.
It’s also important to have an intense 30 or 45 minute workout rather than sitting around doing weights and having lots of breaks in between.
What do you eat after a workout?
If I have time to make a meal then it’ll be lean chicken or turkey and salad or vegetables. Otherwise it’ll be a protein shake with a mixture of seeds, nuts and almond milk.
You obviously work very hard to maintain your physique. Have you ever felt self-conscious about your body?
Yes of course, that’s why I work out. I wanted to look a certain way and that’s why I hit the gym. I feel better from an energy point of view and because it makes me feel healthy and much more confident. It helps with my job obviously - if you’re in swimwear or underwear - but at the same time I do it just for myself.
People think I started working out for modelling, but I didn’t, I trained before that when I was at school and university. I didn’t have the body I wanted at the time so I worked hard to improve it.
What’s your approach to ageing and weight gain?
If you sit around, your metabolism will slow down and, the older you get, fat begins to retain on certain areas that it didn’t before - so it’s all about keeping your metabolism up.
I used to be able to change my body very quickly, for example if I was training for something, it would take two weeks to get in shape, whereas now it’s a four week or six week training regime to achieve the same results. But that’s ageing and that’s how you have to adapt to stuff.
It’s the same science at the end of the day, if you’re not getting the results you want you just have to train a little bit harder.
What are your thoughts on dieting?
The definition of diet fads is about changing your whole lifestyle. There are a number of pieces of the puzzle to put together and if you just do that for, say, eight weeks to get ready for a holiday, within that one week your body will pretty much go back to how it was before. It’s going to regain fat very quickly.
To me, it’s all about continuing a healthy lifestyle - everything in moderation. You don’t have to cut everything out. It’s also about being nutritionally aware of what you’re eating and, still, a lot of people are nutritionally inept in many ways.
It’s important to educate people. I haven’t eaten processed foods and meat for a good seven or eight years. The information is out there, you’ve just got to do the research. There’s no real excuse to not know what you’re talking about with regards to food.
You sound pretty healthy, do you ever eat biscuits?
I don’t generally eat them but, if I do, my family and I are fans of Rich Tea biscuits, which are actually quite healthy, and Jaffa cakes.
How do you motivate yourself when you can’t be bothered to hit the gym?
I think it’s important to always have a goal that will motivate you to go. For example, if you don’t want to run, book yourself in for a half marathon or a 10k in a few months time. That way you’ll be less likely to give up that run or convince yourself you’re not going to go today because there’s this idea in the back of your mind that you might make an utter fool of yourself on race day.
It doesn’t have to be running, it could be climbing a mountain, anything, you’ve got to prepare for it. It’s also kind of engrained in me to get up and go. I feel worse for not going to the gym. If I go, I feel motivated and energised.
Yes, it’s difficult to get down there sometimes but once I go I feel so much better.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you in the gym?
I split my finger open at the gym once. I dropped a weight on it and it split like a grape. Then I went up to the biggest trainer, he was built like a brick shithouse, and he almost fainted because of the blood. Now I have a funny-shaped finger.
Also, a guy shouted ‘man, you’re on fire’ at me the other day because I was training hard. I was like, ‘yeh!’ - it really motivated me. It was slightly weird, because we’re all very English and like to put our heads down and not talk to each other, but he just wanted to shout something at me and I thought, great! Although now if he doesn’t say that every time I’m working out I’ll feel like I’m not working hard enough.
Fitness has clearly been a big part of your life, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about your body?
I’ve learnt so many things about it. I suppose really it’s not pushing ridiculously heavy weights. If you keep doing that for 15-20 years, you get to a stage where everything starts creeping up on you - I’ve had two rotator cuff injuries, I’ve hurt my back from lifting the wrong way or doing squats. You’re less likely to get injured if you’re doing medium weights with supersets or drop downs.
How do you switch off after a long day?
I go to the gym, that’s my switch off. There aren’t that many people there, I put my headphones in and for once my phone isn’t bleeping at me a million times.
Apart from that I love taking my dog Dora for a walk. I’ve been doing that all my life, taking dogs for walks, and I absolutely love it. That’s my switch off time.
What’s your ultimate indulgence?
I race cars, which is a huge adrenalin rush. I love doing that. I’m also a fan of powerboat racing. Finishing a race, and the rush you get, is an amazing feeling and it’s totally worth the pain of doing it.
I don’t often tell people I’m doing it because agents, mothers (and everyone else) worry a little bit when you’re going on a speed boat at 120mph - I mean, you’re basically strapping yourself to a rocket. I often come back and then they ask where I’ve been and I show them the videos.
Your life is so busy. What’s your sleeping pattern like?
I’ve never been a great sleeper. Even when I was a child, I never seemed to need much sleep - I’d always be up super early and keep going throughout the day. Granted, I’m not the morning person I was but I’m definitely a late-night worker. It’s not unheard of for people to get an email from me at 2am. In the business I’m in, I have agents in London and New York. So when London stops, New York is still going and vice versa.
Also, after any exercise you feel so wired and energetic, so to come back home after the gym and try and sleep is difficult.
Finally, what advice would you give someone who’s just starting out on their fitness journey?
Don’t rush it. Also, try and aim for something.
A lot of it is trial and error. Some things work for people better than they do for others and it’s finding that happy medium of not being too pedantic about things like diet - again everything in moderation.
I see a lot of people in the gym doing the wrong weights, the wrong exercise or doing an exercise badly with a heavy weight. My advice to them is to get on YouTube and find out how to do it correctly. If you can afford a personal trainer, try one. It’s a good place to start. You don’t necessarily have to keep going back to them but it’s definitely a good starting point.
Another great thing is taking photos of your body throughout the process. Once a month, at the same time, take a picture and once you see that you’re making progress, it’s so motivational. Whereas if you don’t think you’re making any difference, you’re more likely to skip the gym.
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