Amar Latif and Anna Richardson interview for How to Get Fit Fast

HOW TO GET FIT FAST starts on Tuesday 27th February at 8pm

Your new series is How to Get Fit Fast. There are a lot of health and fitness programmes on at this time of year – why should people watch yours?

Anna: That’s a very good question. I suppose the answer is, if you look at myself and Amar, I am most certainly representative of the majority of the UK, i.e. pretty unfit, a little bit overweight, drinks too much, and really cannot be arsed to do a lot of the fitness. Amar, on the other hand, is a young, good-looking, handsome, fit young man. So you’ve got both ends of the spectrum, and we deliver information in a no-nonsense, believable, achievable way. I personally can get quite depressed in January looking at the glut of DVDs and new diet and exercise books and apps, and the Instagram posts that come out. For me, none of it feels achievable. Whereas with How to Get Fit Fast, it’s more of a case of “I know I can make a measurable difference to my body and get fitter, but without having to go down to the gym five-days-a-week.

Amar: Exactly. And we’ll show you how to do it in a very smart way as well, because everyone’s got busy lives. These things can really easily fall off the radar, because we have other priorities in life. So we explain how you can fit these things into your daily routine, and not take up any more time. It’s magic!

To be clear, this isn’t a diet programme, telling you that you can only eat kale and pickled beetroot, are it?

Anna: Yes, this is specifically focussing on fitness, as you say. However, it is really important to also recognise that in order to be slim, 80 per cent of it is diet, 20 per cent of it is exercise. But you’re quite right, the focus of this programme is trying to get people active rather than obsessing about diet. 

Amar: Yeah, this is about more than getting slim. It’s about getting healthy.

How would you describe your overall fitness? What do you do to stay in shape?

Anna: [Laughs] Amar, you can start off with this!

Amar: Okay, well, since we made the pilot last year, I’ve started to focus a lot on the things that we’ve been learning, and my body fat in the pilot was actually 24 per cent, and by doing the stuff that we talk about it’s now 18 per cent. It’s just by bearing in mind some of the tips and talking to the scientists. Tt’s what we’re doing here – we’re getting scientists to help us get to the truth. And we’re really busting myths. As someone who was moderately fit and interested in this sort of thing, I was surprised by a lot of what they said, and I’ve learned so much and applied that knowledge. It’s made a really big difference for me. 

Anna: For me, I am averagely fit, as confirmed by the scientists – if not slightly below average fitness. That was in the pilot. I’d like to believe I’m, fitter now, having done the series. As Amar said, it’s been fascinating to actually get hard scientific facts about what we’re doing, rather than conjecture. It’s preferable to looking at Instagram, and seeing a whole load of women with bikini bodies telling us that we have to do 1000 reps-a-day. That just doesn’t appeal to me. So I discovered LISS training – it’s the way forward. Forget about HIT training, it’s now all about Low Intensity Steady State, which is much more suited to who I am and my body type, in a way. So I now have a rescue dog, and Sue and I have to walk her for two-hours-a-day. And in this series, we show how walking is as effective as running, in terms of burning calories. And for someone like me, who tends to skip breakfast as well, if you walk or exercise on an empty stomach, you burn twice as much fat. That blew my mind. The other thing that really impressed me was working with Dr Cam Nichol, the Olympic rower, looking at the rowing machine. Usually it just sits in the corner of the gym gathering dust, or people use it as a warm-up instrument. In fact, it’s this magical wonder-machine that gives you a complete body workout, both aerobically and in terms of toning, because it uses all of your muscle groups. He was saying that for someone like me, who’s veryaverage, you’d only need to work out three-times-a-week, for fifteen minutes, and you will see a change in your body. That got me quite excited, it’s just the thing for a world where people don’t have the time to spend hours on end exercising.

Amar, you ended up on an Olympic tandem in the Velodrome. How did you find that experience?

Amar: It was such an incredible experience – it was so exhilarating. Initially, I wasn’t too sure – I was a bit anxious about the steep slope of the track – but with my tandem pilot, off we went, and we actually made it to the top. It was really exciting. Knowing that I had to keep pedalling, otherwise we’d fall off, kept me going. Having a motivation like that is really pretty effective. 

Anna: That’s really scary! So if you didn’t pedal, what would happen?

Amar: Basically, if you didn’t pedal, you’d fall down the track – especially on the bends, which are really steep. So my legs were burning, but I knew I couldn’t stop. It was an incredible experience. And I learned the techniques of how you should actually pedal. I’ve got a tandem bike myself, but it was a real surprise to learn that there was a better way to pedal, and to get the most out of cycling. I learned loads of stuff. If you cycle to work, you are, on average, one stone lighter than other people. That’s massive. We just don’t think how we can incorporate exercise into our daily life. It doesn’t take any more time. 

You also Joined in at a Tough Mudder – what did you make of that?

Amar: Events like that are really cool, because you plan it months in advance and start training, and you do it with a group of friends. It’s absolutely hilarious. We had so much fun in the mud, and you forget that you’re exercising, because it’s so much fun. 

Anna: I think that’s so important. You forget that you’re exercising. In order for exercise to be effective and fun, especially for me as a middle aged woman, it’s about forgetting that you’re exercising. Finding that one thing that doesn’t feel like a chore, and if you’ve incorporated it into your daily life – whether it’s cycling to work or walking the dog – it doesn’t feel like a big deal. 

Amar: A lot of people start the year making resolutions, and they’re often too ambitious. Nine out of ten people drop their resolutions, so what we’re doing is suggesting different options – there’s bound to be something here that will really engage you, and make you say “I can really see myself doing that.” It could make a lasting difference.

Amar, is it very important to you to get the message across that having a disability need not mean that you can’t exercise?

Amar: I suppose it’s one of the messages, yes. But disability or not, people have got all sorts of challenges in life, whether they’re blind or they’ve got busy workloads or whatever. But the number one thing is your health, and you should make time for it. For example, I run a travel company, and I lead people across the world. I need to be active, and I need to have energy, and if I’m not fit, I can’t do that. If we’re going to Macchu Pichu in Peru, or I’m on a cycling holiday or a canoeing holiday, if I’m leading the group and I don’t have the energy, that doesn’t work. So I have to be fit, so that nothing gets in the way of me doing my job. 

Anna, you’ve got quite a history of subjecting yourself to all sorts of things in the name of research. How did you find what you did for this show?

Anna: It felt very familiar, because, as you say, I have a history of immersing myself in various projects. But what I thought was very funny was that when I was first asked to present a show called “How to Get fit Fast” part of me thought “That’s amazing, they think I’m actually quite fit, how flattering!” Until I realised, after that first meeting, that no, it was just that I was a very average, middle aged, slightly overweight Briton, and that’s why they’d asked me to present it. So all of my illusions were absolutely shattered in that one moment.

You don’t need to fork out to join a gym, or get a personal trainer, do you?

Anna: No! That’s exactly the point, and actually I’m really passionate about that. It’s so easy to feel bombarded by photos of people at the gym, and people telling you that you need a gym membership. You don’t have to spend anything. One of the exercises I was looking at was callisthenics, which is using your own body weight to tone, rather than having to go to the gym and hire an expensive personal trainer and all the equipment. In terms of the exercises that I did, it was about cheap, easy, accessible and achievable.

Were you fitter by the end of filming? 

Amar: Yeah, the drop in my body fat is absolutely as a result of stuff I’ve learned making How to get Fit Fast. 

Anna: I have no idea what my body fat percentage actually is, but I’m currently standing in gym gear, I’m also exercising with the dog every day, and I’m very aware of my diet at the moment, I’ve given up alcohol, and every single day Sue and I do something, in terms of exercise, to focus on our health. So I would say that if I was tested again now, certainly compared to the pilot, where I was average or even below average fitness, I would say that now I am maybe slightly above average. Certainly, without question, feel much fitter. 

Have you started 2018 with any fitness resolutions?

Amar: My resolution in general is being smarter in everything I do, because last year was really hectic, and I was being pulled in all sorts of different directions. And my fitness suffered sometimes. So this year I want to incorporate fitness into my life without it taking up too much of my time.

Anna: Just to echo that as well, yes, I’ve made a resolution to absolutely focus on my health. Just before Christmas I had a high cholesterol reading in my blood, even though I’m a vegetarian. And my dad has a history of strokes and heart attacks. So it was a real jolt for me. I’m focussing very much ion having a plant-based diet, I’ve given up alcohol, and I’m exercising every day. And that includes being outside every single day, just to also exercise for my mental health. 

Being outside is good for the soul, isn’t it?

Anna: Absolutely. And I split my time between London and the peak district for precisely that reason. If I’m in London for too long, I feel toxic, and I think I behave in a toxic way. So it’s really important for me and Sue to get out as much as we can. Just being in green space is, without question, beneficial all-round. 

Amar: That’s so good that you know what you need, and that you can put it into practice. That’s fantastic. 

We all have our guilty pleasures and our Achilles heels. What are yours?

Anna: Food!

All of it?

Anna: yeah! I’ve written extensively about this. My addiction is food. And also alcohol. So I need to be very, very careful. If I see myself slip, I can understand what my triggers are. Genuinely, food is my problem.

Amar: Same here! Eating out and good living. What I’m mindful of is, instead of going for that dessert, I’ll coax my friend into sharing a dessert – you don’t need it all, just that taste. Halving a dessert, being smart about what I eat, having smaller portions, but still having a dessert. 

HOW TO GET FIT FAST starts on Tuesday 27th February at 8pm

February 21, 2018 7:39am ET by Channel 4  

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