Jonny Wilkinson wearing a red polo shirt smiling at the camera
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The Jonny Wilkinson interview: “Diet is a big opportunity for us all”

There are certain words that come up again and again in association with Jonny Wilkinson. Simply Google the legendary England fly-half and you’ll see what we mean. ‘National hero’, ‘renowned’, ‘precision’ and ‘prolific’ appear the most often. But there’s another word to add to the list, and it’s one that may surprise you: ‘kombucha’.

You see, Jonny Wilkinson has been on a journey of discovery over the last few years. He has reconsidered everything he thought he knew about nutrition during his playing years, and revolutionised his approach to diet and health. The result? No.1 Living, a range of healthy drinks full of antioxidants and live cultures that includes the aforementioned kombucha.

We were keen to hear more – after all, who doesn’t want health insights from a rugby superstar? – so after Jonny paid a visit to two David Lloyd clubs to talk about No.1 Living, we caught up with him. From advice on finding fitness motivation to the importance of holistic wellness, this is what he had to say.

When we are struggling to find our passion I have found that the best play is to start with absolute self-compassion.

Jonny Wilkinson

How has your approach to nutrition developed since your time playing professional rugby?

For my entire professional career I was intensely focussed on exploring my capabilities on the rugby field as a rugby player. I was missing a more holistic, balanced understanding of the whole of who I was. As such I missed out on a great deal of my potential. True potential belongs to health before fitness and belongs to our being before our doing.

I was consuming too much artificial and processed food, not enough variety, a shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables. I wasn’t particularly aware of compassion or quality in farming and didn’t really take enough time to prepare my meals, nor was I conscious enough of the opportunity to really engage and become one with the process of eating and building a well-functioning body and full experience of life.

Your drinks are based on the ‘living diet’ – what is that?

A living diet involves prebiotic fibre and probiotic bacteria. It’s something my wife and I discovered when she was training to be a nutritionist – the idea that these bacteria are immensely important in the functioning of pretty much all the body’s systems and processes. We are composed of far more bacteria than we are of human cells, and maintaining a good amount of and diverse range of these bacteria really makes a difference. We can do this by ingesting living foods and drinks like No.1 Living drinks that are probiotic rich. We can also take in a varied range of foods that feed different strains of bacteria already present in the body, keeping them thriving and able to do their thing.

Wellbeing is a limitless adventure into the unknown of what we are really capable of and who we really are. It is the most important thing in life as it forms the basis of the connection to our joyful true nature, connects us to our planet, to others and to our infinite potential

How much do you think diet can affect performance – both in terms of fitness and overall wellbeing?

Jonny Wilkinson wearing a red polo shirt opening a bottle

Our bodies are simply a result of all that we have eaten and how we have digested and used this energy. After about 7 years we can say that not one old cell remains from our old body. We are brand new, and this new body is constructed solely from our food choices over that period.

This means that what we eat, how we feel about what we eat and how we eat becomes the basis of our cells, organs, bones, muscles, veins and therefore also the basis of our quality of movement, thinking, and sensory interaction with life.

In other words, diet is kind of a big opportunity for us all.

How did you go from brewing your own kombucha at home to developing the whole No.1 Living range?

It has been a long enjoyable journey and has depended massively upon having an amazing team of people around me. As with all ambitions, there has to be a big ‘why’ that forms the mission statement. For us this is about making as big of a difference as possible to people’s health and the quality of their lives.

After that, every decision has to hold up to that vision. The authenticity and integrity of our manufacturing process is key and will not be compromised. The way we connect and communicate with our consumers through taste, price and our design and messaging determines whether we can become truly accessible. And finally, the packaging we use has to be fully ecologically sustainable and constantly striving to leave this planet in a far better place than how we found it.

It’s not always easy to stick to a healthy lifestyle – what advice do you have for keeping motivated?

For me the secret is finding your own personal ‘why’. When something really matters to us, we will do it. When we can see and feel improvement we will continue doing it. Our ‘why’ might keep changing and this is absolutely great, but ultimately the desire to uncover even more of what life has to offer, to get more years in your life and more life in your years, and to create and follow excitement is hard to beat as a great ‘why’.

When we are struggling to find our passion I have found that the best play is to start with absolute self-compassion. Compassion already contains passion and this sense of self-worth always inspires creativity and spontaneity which soon reveals all kinds of opportunities.

How can someone develop a strong mind-body connection, and will that affect their performance?

The strong body-mind connection, for me, comes from stepping outside of the analytical mind and its comfort zones. Reactivity – whether it be fear, anger, judgment, apathy or anything else – is simply the limited old us telling this unlimited ‘now’ us how to live our lives.

The way to step out of this compulsive cycle is to explore things like breathing, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, self-compassion, gratitude, patience, therapy and other healing practices, and to do so without any insistence upon what they should be doing for us and when. This open mindedness contains more than enough space for the intelligence of the body to start revealing itself in a beautifully experiential manner.

What are the most important small changes you’d recommend to someone who wants to make their lifestyle healthier without a total revamp?

There are two possibilities in every moment: stressing and healing. Healing simply means relaxing, acceptance, passion and excitement and recognising self-worth. This is also known as gratitude. I try to become a bit more aware of when I am stressing and ask myself, “Can I relax and still do what I need to do?” The answer is always yes if I am open to facing my vulnerability. I seek the opportunity in every situation and the beauty in every person I meet, and finally I remind myself of what I am grateful for as often as possible.

Some flowing exercise, a fresh diet including vegetables, fruits, lots of water (and some No.1 Living products too!!), some deep breathing and solid sleep really goes a long way too.

How do you think people in their forties and beyond should approach fitness?

Balance and a bigger picture approach is perfect for all ages, it just seems like we might be a bit more ready (not always and there is no right or wrong) to subscribe to a more flowing, efficient way when we are in our forties.

The secret to youth, in my eyes, has nothing to do with age but actually to do with how many assumptions you are holding onto and how fixed these conclusions have become. Inspiration, impulse, spontaneity, adventure and exploration belong to us all at any time, it just depends if we are prepared to do something different and step out of our self-defining habitual cycles.

How do you relax?

By recognising that letting go and relaxing is the secret to revealing more of my performance, my joy and my potential. After this it becomes more of a question of how do you choose not to?

We’re delighted to feature the No.1 Living range in selected clubs as part of our delicious Clubroom menus – find out more about food and drink at David Lloyd Clubs.

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