Exclusive interview with Ant Middleton, as he reveals his day to day training routines and how he gets in shape for his Channel 4 TV series such as SAS Who Dares Wins and Mutiny. We have a behind the scenes glimpse in what it’s like to be on a small ship, starving and following Captain Bligh’s story, joined by a carpenter, a doctor and some specialist sailors. We also get an exclusive into Ants forthcoming series Escape.
What is a typical training day like for you?
I don’t train to a level of fitness like I used to in the military. That was my life, I used to train and train and train for the battleground, so there’s a reason behind it. We would push and push ourselves to the extremes to simulate war, you know we’d push ourselves to the extremes because when you’re at war you never know how long a mission’s going to last, you never know how long a fire fights going to last, it could last an hour, it could last 2-3 days, so we always push ourselves to the extremes. But now that I’m in Civvy Street and have got to juggle a family, and a new career, I sort of maintain. So again this box is ideal for me because it’s literally the basics, the bare essentials that I need to maintain what I’ve got, and then I just dilute it or build it up according to what task I’m doing next. I’ve got a survival task coming up, so I’m going to be tamping the stuff down, really building up knowing that for 10 days to 2 weeks I’m going to be surviving off the land and losing weight, so my training depends on what project I’m doing next.
I do a lot of maintenance stuff now, so a lot of swimming, a lot of running, and a lot of military circuits, core stuff, stability and I need the fuel to tick me over.
How do you fit it in with a busy family life? Is your wife a gym widow?
My wife moans that I’m not there, but I can train anywhere. You give me a square metre and I’ll train the square metre. I’ll do press ups, I’ll do hand stands, press ups against the wall, I can do whatever needs to be done, sit ups. There’s no excuse not to workout. There’s always, even if it’s 10-15 minutes in the day and you literally blast it, you blast your body, you’ll come out as good as a workout that you’ve dragged out over an hour.
I’ll always find time, there’s never an excuse you’ve always got that time in the day to work out, I don’t care who you are, how busy you think you are. Trust me, at the moment there’s no one busier than myself, especially with five children, a wife, media, interviews, PR-ing, my life is just one constant roller-coaster at the moment, but I’ll always think right I’ve got an hour here, I’ve got 30 mins here. I even do it in my clothes sometimes, I’ll be at home and I’ll bang out 5 sets of 20 press ups, quickly and I’ll change positions. I’ll put my legs up on one, I’ll do commando press ups, just different types. 20 boom, get up shake it off, another 20 and that’s literally done in 5 minutes. In my head, even though I’ve got such a packed out day, in my head I’m maintaining my body, it’s pumping those endorphins out and it’s making me feel good. It’s making me feel ‘I’ve done something in that day’. There’s no excuse, it’s a military mindset
Mutiny – how important was your nutrition when it came to surviving the endurance?
I love endurance, I’m a keen mountaineer. Endurance is key for me. When you think of the Special Forces, we carry an extreme weight over extreme distances, so endurance is key and nutrition is key.
During Mutiny we had just under 400 calories a day. If you’re going to endure or you’re looking at an endurance task which this was, 2 months plus, then this is where the psychological game comes, this is where the healthy mind set comes in rather than the physical. It’s all about sustainability, how am I going to sustain myself with 400 calories a day over 2 months. It’s just boxing clever. It’s the reverse effect of not pushing yourself, but doing enough to keep yourself agile, keep yourself sane, and keep the body parts moving. During Mutiny I put myself straight into that survival mode, I didn’t exercise, but I did arduous exercise when I needed to. Like climbing up coconut trees. People don’t realise, but climbing up the coconut tree sapped all my energy, that was after 40-59 days at sea.
What’s your typical diet like?
I just eat as healthily as I can, I put the right products in my body e.g. omega oils, vitamins, but I do something I can maintain. A lot of people are up, down, up, down. I try and keep on a level that I can maintain that I’m happy, but I’m also healthy. It won’t engulf my life. I think it’s really important, especially as someone with a family and a career that takes me everywhere, I don’t let it swallow me up. When I say I’ve got a life, I mean I don’t sweat if I have to go and grab a sandwich or something. I’ll grab brown bread, and chicken with no mayonnaise. For me, I can maintain that. Being on the move I just pick carefully with what I eat. I don’t go OTT, with it, but I definitely eat healthy, I would say I’m a healthy eater. Sometimes, especially doing survival, with Mutiny I put on 10kg! I was just eating steak after steak after steak, jacket potato, mash potato, I just put on 10kg for it and I didn’t suffer as a result, it’s preparation. It comes hand in hand, there’s no point being super fit if you’ve got a shit diet, and there’s no point in having a super good diet and then not exercising on it. You’ve got to find that happy medium. But if you’ve got the time and you’re a professional athlete then crack on, but for the everyday fitbox, urban, eat as healthy as you can. But don’t fluctuate, it’s the worst thing. They get to their goal and they think, right that’s me done I can go out boozing etc. I don’t drink that much either, I’ll have the odd glass of wine when I’m out with my dinner, but I don’t have a beer in the fridge. I’m not a big drinker.
Do you have a favourite cheat meal?
I do like a burger, a healthy burger. I go to a gourmet burger bar or burger restaurant where you’ve got the proper meat, but then you’ve got the bread and the sauce. If I’m at home and it’s a Sunday then I’ll say to the wife, let’s have an Indian or Chinese. I certainly won’t have them every day of the week, but it’s important to have that cheat day as well. It helps with the maintenance, if you go right don’t be too fucking fussy with having a cheat day once a week. But yeah, I like to get tucked into a nice burger.
Are there any supplements you rely on?
I like my post workout supplements, my whey protein. I’m quite religious on my oils and my vitamins. I was brought up in a culture where people rely too much on a pre-workout. It’s nice to have if you’re feeling lethargic or need a little boost, but for me personally I don’t like to rely too much on a pre workout. I like to make sure that I’ve eaten correctly and I’ve got the right fuel in my body for whatever task that I’m doing. I don’t like that spike and that boost.
If you can train anywhere in the world, where would you train?
I like to train in altitude, I used to work in South Africa with Johannesburg being one of the highest cities in the world. It just made me feel alive. You can almost feel your lungs half full when you start training, you go out for the first couple of runs knowing that I’d be dead in my bed for a good half an hour to an hour after. But I do enjoy coming back and smashing whatever is put in my way. Being a keen mountaineer as well, altitude training – there’s just something about the lungs that I like. I like to just be able to expand my lungs, get more air in there, more oxygen circulating around the body, I’ve just got a thing about altitude. I like to keep my lungs clear. It’s tough, it’s hard to acclimatise and you have to get past that initial shock of breathing in and taking nothing in. But once you’ve acclimatised and after a good couple of weeks of training, you start massively feeling the benefits.
If you could train with anyone who would you train with?
I’m a big fan of MMA, I like the explosiveness of it. People think you’re flat out for 5 minutes, but it’s not, it’s about knowing when to use your energy, knowing when to rest, knowing when to use that explosive movement, it’s very technical and it’s psychological as well. Not only do you have a physical battle, you’ve got a psychological battle as well. It’s outwitting the enemy as well.
I’d say I’d love to roll around with and have a bit of a grapple with Conor McGregor. It’s like a game of chess really isn’t it, what’s your move, what’s your next move. I like having that psychological aspect to the physical challenge.
The new show ‘Escape’ – what’s involved?
I can’t give too much away at the moment, but Escape I’m filming all summer. From mid-May to mid-September on and off. It’s five episodes, in five different locations and five different environments – so jungle, dessert, Arctic, mountains. There’s going to be all sorts of elements in there. What I like about it is that’s it’s not only a survival project or task, but it’s an ingenuity task too. I’m going to be the team leader, I’m going to lead the project and these guys have to come up with a plan to build something to get out of that hostile environment to escape to safety basically. What’s going to be so interesting about it, is that we’ve got these highly technical engineers, highly technical geniuses, but they’re used to the comforts of having a full workshop, being able to use their minds only. But here we’re going to tap into the psychological side of being able to do that whilst under extreme pressure, whilst surviving off minimal rations, whilst surviving the elements of the environment. To see under extreme pressure and duress whether they can still function at psychological level as they do at their comfort zone. It’s got an element of survival, an element of willpower, an element of ingenuity, also that seed of doubt. These guys are so used to succeeding, putting them in that situation where that seed of doubt about whether they will be able to cope and work in these environments with the elements that are imposed upon them. To see if it eats away at them or if they can get a grip of it and get through it. It’s a really good twist and I’m looking forward to it.
In September/October time I’m filming series 3 of ‘SAS Who Dares Wins’, which will be in the mountains, so a bit of altitude which I love. They’ll have more of an operational feel, so Afghanistan/Iraq pressures in the middle of nowhere. Isolate them and see how they cope.
It’s an exciting time, a busy 2018 but I’m going to stay true to who I am.
How are you preparing?
I always do something to prepare myself. For the survival shows, it’s about putting on healthy weight. Unnatural weight goes very quickly, on Mutiny the 10kg went within a week and a half, two weeks, so it’s putting on that weight that’s not too much fat, a healthy fat, a slow burning fuel, an endurance fat. I’ll be putting on a little bit of weight as I’ll be bouncing from episode to the next. By episode 3, 4 or 5 I’ll be feeling the pinch.
You have lots of Tattoo, do they have special meanings to you?
My tattoos are all old school tattoos, they’re timeless. They’ve come in fashion and they’ve never gone out of fashion. I’ve got a ship with an anchor that represents me travelling the world, they’re all sort of military tattoos. I’ve got the old swallows, and the lucky horse shoe and again it just symbolises luck and stuff like that. I’ve got a soldiers grave tattoo which is an old rum bottle, that’s what they used to say a sailors or soldiers grave, once you’ve finished in the military a sailor or soldier would drink themselves into an early grave as you can see by the skull. Then I’ve got some tattoos that fit in, the majority are military tattoos. I’ve got a little frog here, which only people in the know will know it means I was a frogman. A frogman is from the special boat service, so if someone from the SBS saw this they’d know. A discreet tattoo but it symbolises I am a frogman. I have a cut throat razor on the neck which symbolises that I live on the edge and I’ve diced with death a few times. It’s when I felt my most alive.
I’m planning on getting more, it’s just finding the time to get more. I don’t like to just get one tattoo here, I like to book in for a full day session, an 8 hour session. I’m a glutton for pain, for my right sleeve and right chest I was in for three days, one after the other, 8 hour sessions. I wouldn’t do that again!
The most painful one was where you have the bend from the forearm to the bicep, just on the inside of the arm there. It was quite painful but I just block it out and get on with it. It’s a challenge against myself, when the pain comes I’m like ‘man up’.
They’re a part of who I am, they tell a story, I still to this day love every single one of my tattoos, I wouldn’t change them, I’m just going to add to the collection as I do more stuff. I conquered the military and got to the highest peak that I could get to. Now I plan on doing that in what I do in the survival world, the media world and in Civvy Street. I won’t stop until I’m at that peak, I’ll probably never get to my peak because I’m one of these people who keeps going and going. I won’t do anything by halves.
Do you think anyone can do a survival show?
I like to push people. I get a lot of satisfaction out of letting people see their potential. Seeing where their limits lie, seeing how far they can push themselves. The minds a powerful thing, it’s a mind-set. Don’t get me wrong, you need to be physically fit, but if you’ve got that mind-set where you believe in yourself, believe in your capability to deliver, it’s astonishing what you can achieve.
What’s your biggest fear?
Failure, but I’m at a stage where I’ve accomplished so much that I’m happy with my skin. That’s why my shows are so different, I’m happy to strip myself down to my bare bones and go this is me. Throw whatever you can at me, that’s what motivates me. With SAS I talked the talk, but with Mutiny I walked the walk.
If you could have a Super power what would it be?
If I could have any superpower, I’d want to be invisible, there’s just something about that stealth, moving with guile, undetected. I suppose that comes from the military, I was a royal marines sniper and sometimes I wish I was invisible.