Bear Grylls on Battersea & fitness goals
Be Military Fit… with Battersea’s Bear Grylls!
Looking to get fighting fit in 2021? Don’t let lockdown 3.0 keep you from reaching your fitness goals… Look no further than Battersea’s ‘Born Survivor’ and multi-award-winning adventurer who knows a thing or two about staying alive’n’kicking… he’s even managed to ‘Escape From Hell’!
Angela Sara West chats exclusively with Bear Grylls about lockdown fitness, his exciting exploits and brand-new Explorers Camp, swapping his houseboat for an historic Power Station pad, his message of hope, and how home-schooling’s among his biggest adventures…
He’s survived tsunamis, sharks and sky falls, and been nearly knocked out by boxing champ Anthony Joshua… This avid adventurer’s also led record-breaking expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic, and conquered challenges for countless charities planetwide. From the Discovery Channel and National Geographic, to NBC and ITV, he’s hosted more extreme adventure TV shows across more global networks than anyone else in the world, garnering gongs and accolades galore.
Not only is this Battersea-based legend a top TV host, but also honorary Colonel to the Royal Marines, the youngest-ever Chief Scout, and a no.1 best-selling author to boot. ‘Born Survivor’ Bear Grylls simply thrives on living life on the edge, empowering household names on epic escapades and entertaining us at home as he goes, teaching us how to tackle our fears and live life to the full.
While the world’s leading survival expert’s off shooting action-packed pursuits, his familiar face fills billboards, graces our screens, and the covers of magazines like GQ, who voted this ardent adventurer among their 2020 heroes.
Despite saying celebs make him “more nervous than snakes”, the TV adventurer’s helped numerous famous faces face their fears on his hit survival shows… He’s spent ‘Wild Weekends’ with Stephen Fry, Miranda Hart and Jonathan Ross, been quad biking with Banstead-bred David Walliams, jumped out of helicopters with England footie coach Gareth Southgate on a ‘Mission With…’, while ‘Mission Survive’ pushed Michelle Collins, Nick Knowles, Neil Morrissey and Alex Scott to the very limit, and saw courageous Vogue Williams tackle Earth’s deepest jungles alongside Mike Tindall and Dame Kelly Holmes, described by Bear as “a trio of champions!”
Bear’s also been ‘Running Wild’ with Hollywood heavyweights, including the “incredible” Julia Roberts, the “indomitable” Kate Hudson and Britain’s own acting legend Kate Winslet, along with Wimbledon tennis ace Roger Federer, spicy Mel B and a candid Cara Delevingne.
Awe-inspiring around-the-world adventures have even seen the fearless survivalist receive a surprise call from the White House asking him to take former US President Obama trekking through the Alaskan wilderness to highlight climate change whilst he was still in office (described by Obama as “one of the best days of my presidency!”)
“Never Give Up!”
Bear’s passion for adventure began at early age. “My biggest inspiration is my dad, a former royal marine commando and always an adventurer at heart,” he tells me. “My earliest adventure memories are of climbing with him on the sea cliffs around the Isle of Wight, where he first taught me the fundamentals of adventure; keep moving towards the mountain before you, even it is scares you, respect and humility mean more than wealth and status, and above all, never give up.”
Having mastered the martial art of karate, and busked at uni with James Blunt (who knew?!!), Bear became a soldier in the British Special Forces, serving with 21 SAS and honing his skills.
Mud, Sweat & Tears…
Along with the triumphs, there have, of course, been failures, with lessons learned from a fair few narrow escapes and near-death experiences, yet he keeps going, in constant search of adventure, enjoying the friendships made along the way.
Bear’s biggest challenge? “Probably a parachute failure whilst in the military… I had a freefall accident whilst serving with the British Special Forces in Southern Africa. A canopy failed and I broke my back in three places,” he explains. “I spent 12 months in and out of military rehabilitation in back braces and hospitals, and it taught me the simple lesson that life is fragile and that if we are lucky enough to survive, we have to get out there and grab life with both hands! Gratitude and humility are hard-won lessons, but the wild teaches them in spades over time.”
Undeterred, the determined soldier pushed himself through intense rehab to get back on his itchy feet and climbed Ama Dablam in Nepal, a Himalayan peak which one of his heroes, celebrated mountaineer and explorer Edmund Hillary, once described as ‘unclimbable’. Just 18 months after his back-breaking fall, Bear reached breath-taking new heights when he became the youngest Briton ever to summit Everest, achieving his childhood dream at just 23 years-old.
Bear’s Big Show challenge
As for indoor challenges, among his hairiest was starring on another famous SW London resident’s popular BBC programme – ‘Michael McIntyre’s Big Show’. “Handing over their mobile ‘phone is just about the bravest thing a celebrity can do, so why not play it with the bravest celebrity of them all?” said Michael before Bear passed him his to take part in the infamous ‘Send To All’ mobile ‘phone game. Michael then reached out to all of the world-famous risktaker’s contacts, asking if Bear could parachute into their gardens… naked! The audacious adventurer subsequently vowed his revenge on Mr McIntyre…
What lights the fire in death-defying Bear’s belly? “Life is all about that tenacity and dogged determination to keep going despite the overwhelming odds. This is the key for any survival situation, as well as for life in general,” he says. “I’ve had to work hard all my life at goals, and that has kept my inside ‘effort’ muscle strong and trained. It was my late father who inspired me to keep going, have big dreams, and to see failure as stepping stones to success.”
Bear also broke a world record by hosting a high-altitude dinner party at a table suspended at 25,000 feet in freezing temperatures of -50C. All in aid of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and The Prince’s Trust, wearing full mess dress he saluted the Queen as he skydived back down! Who would have thought this unstoppable thrill seeker didn’t have a head for heights?!! How did it feel to be appointed OBE in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to young people, the media and charity? “Standing on the shoulder of giants…” he says.
Battersea boat life
From Buckingham Palace to The White House, the ultimate adventurer’s own SW London home is actually a boat, moored on the Thames in Battersea, where he lives with wife Shara and their three sons, Jesse (another fearless daredevil, who’s following in his father’s footsteps), Marmaduke and Huckleberry.
The appeal of life afloat? “Waterways are great for wellbeing, connecting us to nature.” The fact that their houseboat previously belonged to a Polar explorer sealed the deal for the adventurer, who has converted the 100-year-old barge into a luxury family haven with electricity and water supply, plus all the mod cons.
Proud boatowner’s Bear’s extensively renovated his “rusty old boat”, creating three bedrooms and a bathroom, replacing the roof with a flat deck to create a large, open-air space complete with canoe, barbecue, swing, pull-up bar and weights, a hammock and outdoor bath, while Shara’s worked her magic on the interior.
BAFTA-winning Bear’s also an adventurous cook, and the popular TV star can be spied sailing up the river on his inflatable tender to shop for ingredients at his local supermarket. The family loves life on the water and messing about on the river, enjoying swimming and alfresco adventures afloat and being a part of the houseboat community. What’s more, they have a privileged view of London from a totally different perspective.
A Bear in Battersea Power Station!
Making the leap to dry land, the TV presenter’s now purchased a more ‘orthodox’ pad, a short stone’s throw away from his riverside abode. He’ll soon have the keys to a brand-new, off-plan, edgy apartment on ‘terra firma’ in Battersea’s most iconic building on the bank of the Thames.
“Yes, we bought a place in the Power Station recently and love the spirit of the place,” Bear tells me. “There’s such good history to the area, and it’s incredible to be actually within the old building itself! They have worked so hard to create a brilliant dynamic community there, and we feel privileged to be part of it.”
Rumours are rife that Sting and his wife Trudie will be among the action enthusiast’s neighbours there, and they’d better watch out when there’s a Bear in town… Ever the showman who’s well known for his crazy, daredevil stunts and seemingly-impossible feats, despite obtaining all appropriate permissions in advance, the Hollywood-style pyrotechnics used to project flames onto Battersea Power Station for one of Bear’s abseiling exploits for a Discovery TV show proved so realistic, local firefighters arrived after onlookers mistook the projections for a real fire!
Bear and Be Military Fit launched last September’s National Fitness Day at the Battersea building in partnership with UK Active and Europe Active, with the initiative aiming to get people “more active, more often”. Millions joined in, with local clubs and community groups holding virtual and physical activities while Bear live-streamed a workout from the jetty in front of the Power station.
YOU TOO can Be Military Fit!
In 2018, Bear Grylls Ventures and NM Capital bought and re-branded British Military Fitness (the pioneer of outdoor group fitness classes inspired by military-style workouts in public parks and outdoor spaces UK-wide) as Be Military Fit.
The idea was born on the film set of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ back in October 1998, with classes bringing a taste of army training as an innovative outdoor fitness offering, in contrast to the controlled environment of a gym, bringing group fitness classes inspired by military-style workouts to public parks, outdoor and urban spaces UK-wide. Boasting a special rich heritage with military personnel and veterans, Be Military Fit (BMF) is run and owned by mostly veterans. Bear reveals he trained with the leaders in outdoor and military methodology-based fitness before joining the Reserve SAS, and will always be grateful for their encouragement and support that helped him achieve his fitness goals.
“I first trained with BMF many years ago before joining the military and have always loved their ethos and the fitness community that has built up around BMF,” he explains. “It was also their focus on outdoor fitness which I believe in, and this has always been a big part of my own training routine. Outdoor training gives me a chance to disconnect with the world and breathe some non-gym fresh air.”
Billed as ‘the world’s best outdoor workout’, BMF offers cutting-edge training programs, now both online and outdoors with safe, social-distancing BMF-20 protocols to inspire everyone to get outside and active and achieve their fitness goals, with a focus on community spirit and teamwork. The community-led classes cater for all abilities, age groups and all from walks of life, whatever your starting point. Exercises vary from circuit training, military activities and sprints, to relays, team games and weekly workout challenges. Going beyond fitness, members not only hit their health goals, but also have fun, feel part of a community and build lasting bonds; all great for mental health.
Time to toughen up!
Improving the nation’s health and fitness during these challenging times is crucial, and BMF will be launching a National Fitness Programme on behalf of the NHS in the coming months. With more and more of us living sedentary lifestyles, this fitness fanatic says the world has become soft, lost the old-world skills and it’s time to toughen up!
“There is something very empowering about the BMF ethos and outdoors community that clicks with so many fitness enthusiasts who want to empower their day,” says Bear. “And the fact that BMF is veteran run and owned is important to many of us, and former service personnel can always train with us for free – an important factor for me as an owner of BMF.”
With Bear on board, BMF’s new mission is to “Get the Nation Fit for Life” through its renowned military-style fitness workouts in the Great Outdoors, before taking BMF and its values worldwide. Bear aims to take the business to a whole new generation, including kids and families, knowing that, “when we train together, we train better and more consistently.”
All-new Explorers Camp
With a prolific portfolio of Bear Grylls Survival Academies already established worldwide, October 2020 saw businessman Bear launch the world’s Bear Grylls Explorers Camp on the UAE’s highest mountain. “We’re so proud of our new Bear Grylls Explorer Camp,” boasts Bear. “It offers a huge variety of survival courses which train you in dynamic, hands-on techniques.”
From just half-day courses covering the ‘Bear’ necessities, to a few days learning practical life-saving skills and attitudes, such as resourcefulness and how to be calm under pressure, the Camp is suitable for all abilities and ages (between 8-70), and affords accommodation in the form of recycled, redesigned shipping containers.
“We decided to launch the world’s first Bear Grylls Explorer Camp in Ras Al Khaimah because of the Emirate’s identity as the adventure hub in the Middle East,” Bear explains. “With its diverse landscape and majestic mountains, Ras Al Khaimah offers a thrilling blend of adrenaline-packed activities that perfectly suited our objectives with the Camp.”
He says Ras Al Khaimah is the perfect place for action and adventure. “The Camp’s unique placement on Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest peak, has proven to be an ideal location in which to challenge adventurers with its stunning mountainous terrain.”
What’s in store for hardcore adventurers? “I really encourage those keen for a real challenge to try the 24- and 48-hour courses. These can be pretty gruelling, and are designed for guests looking for more demanding and physically-taxing challenges. However, no previous technical knowledge is required, and we’ll also teach you skills such as how to make a fire in the wild and build emergency shelters, navigation, sourcing water, some remote medical trauma, rock climbing and how to survive extreme weather.”
This unique venture disrupting the fitness industry looks set to put people through their paces. “The nature of the courses obviously varies from the camp’s UK counterparts, which operate in wet, cold conditions, whereas the Bear Grylls Explorer Camp set within the Wadi offers a tough, dry desert environment. But the principles of survival are the same; we aim to empower our guests and students with survival adventure skills that one day could save their life. Above all, we love to see everyone smiling and having fun, proud of their achievements with us, having faced a few fears and having to think smart around how to tackle the challenges.”
With many people rethinking their lifestyles and embarking on new adventures to make the most of life following such difficult times, is Bear seeing a surge in interest in his courses? “Yes, and the more online we all become, the more we find people longing to engage in more outdoor activities. Stepping out of your comfort zone into a new and challenging task can help us all grow and thrive. That’s why we truly believe that the Bear Grylls Explorer Camp is the perfect place to step out of your comfort zone and really push yourselves to the limit, in a safe, empowering environment.”
Appointed the youngest-ever Chief Scout to the UK Scout Association in his mid-30’s, Bear is now among the longest-serving Chief Scouts in history, and has since been made the first-ever Chief Ambassador to World Scouting, empowering youngsters to speak up and take the lead, and ensuring opportunities to develop life skills.
“It’s been an absolute honour,” says Bear. “My belief in the power of Scouting to unite and empower started as a young Cub Scout nervous of my first adventure away from home, and that belief has continued to grow throughout my adult life.” He says his eyes have been opened to the vast potential and power of how Scouting can truly change and inspire. “Scouting instils leadership skills, a love for nature and the outdoors, and teaches young people how to help others in need. This is why I am so incredibly proud to be a champion for this worldwide force of young leaders.”
Keeping those amazing Scouting adventures alive, the spirited star’s worked alongside Prince Harry and fellow famous Scout Ambassadors including astronaut Tim Peake, record-breaking explorer Ed Stafford, Paralympian Ellie Simmonds, and Surrey’s Steve Backshall and his Olympic gold medallist wife Helen Glover to enable all kids to experience adventure and learn life skills, changing young lives for the better.
“The Scout Movement is an amazing global family of 50 million young people united through a set of shared values, creating positive change in the world… an organisation made up of millions of unsung volunteer heroes, all helping young people in their local communities to live boldly and with eyes open to friendship and adventure,” Bear explains.
Lockdown – The Great Indoors challenges
Never without a back-up plan, Bear teamed up with the Scouts to create the Great Indoor Initiative challenges and activities, including lolly-stick catapults, origami and designing and making hot-air balloons, to fend off boredom for stir-crazy kids stuck indoors during lockdowns.
Best-known as an adrenaline seeker, Bear’s also bit of a yoga fan, and has also been playing it safe at the piano during lockdowns. “I’m skipping the lessons and learning by feel… and it isn’t pretty! It looks more like I’m attacking a survival task!” Not forgetting another important mission. “Oh, and home schooling… now, THAT’S been an adventure!, he says.”
How does he look after both his physical and mental health during the lockdowns? “I try to train every day with our veteran-run business Be Military Fit, which has been amazing to see take off.” During the second lockdown, I was preparing for getting back out filming ‘Running Wild’, which we managed to do.”
All for charity…
Proud to support The Prince’s Trust, Bear has also worked with Prince William and Tusk to protect communities and wildlife worldwide, and champions the good work of the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity, SSAFA Forces Help, Global Angels and Shark Trust, while time spent working with Epsom-born ‘Star Wars’ actor Warwick Davis raised funds for the charity Little People UK.
A celebrity series of ‘The Island’ (now renamed ‘Treasure Island’) in aid of Cancer Research UK’s Stand Up to Cancer campaign, meanwhile, saw Bear cast away celebs, including Martin Kemp, Iwan Thomas, Jo Wood, Thom Evans and Surrey-born James Cracknell, on a remote desert island, where tough love blossomed for ‘TOWIE’ star Lucy Mecklenburgh & ‘Corrie’ actor Ryan Thomas.
Next up for Bear? “We’ve recently set up a learning and development company called BecomingX, helping people realise their potential,” he reveals. And there are bountiful big names on board already, including legendary ‘Friend’ Courteney Cox, Channing Tatum, Victoria Pendleton and magician Dynamo.
“We’ve made some truly incredible films with some of the most inspirational and iconic people alive, and they all say the same thing – that it’s things like resilience, courage, kindness, humility and building winning teams that have really made a difference to them,” Bear tells me. “The truth is that none of these attributes are consistently taught in schools and rarely even in businesses. If we can help millions of people to get out there and achieve great things, then the world will be a better place for everyone.”
A message of hope…
With his optimistic mindset and motto, “Courage, kindness and never give up!”, does Bear have a message of hope and positivity for readers for 2021? “I think lockdown has been so difficult for so many, and I do feel lucky that I’ve been able to spend quiet time together as a family and listening to the world as we reset globally. I hope we emerge as a kinder, humbler, more united world.”
After some #BEARspiration? Bear shares his top lockdown fitness tip!
“I think the world really adapted as best it could in 2020, and being active has helped so many of us through the hardest months,” says Bear. “My family and I train most days together through BMF’s ‘At Home’ online programmes, which are a great anchor to help us. Looking ahead, I hope we can eventually get back to community training in parks up and down the country.”
For motivating group training sessions with a purpose, you can reap the benefits of BMF training outside in various green spaces around SW London and Surrey, including Battersea Park, Clapham Common, Tooting Bec, Woking Park, Guildford’s Stoke Park, Leatherhead’s King George V Park and Nonsuch Park in Cheam.
Located at the foot of Battersea Power Station under Grosvenor Arch, Bear’s new BMF URBAN Training System offers all-round intense fitness training to revolutionise your workout routine. At the helm, General Manager Gary Wardle’s an ex-member of Team GB, a national taekwondo champion who has competed in semi-pro MMA competitions. Gaz is guaranteed to get you stronger, faster and fitter than ever with a training philosophy of ‘Train Hard, Live Easy’ derived from BMF’s military heritage. With BMF’s cornerstones of strength, movement, intensity, balance, control, technical excellence, nutrition and recovery, here, you’ll be trained to ‘Always Be Prepared’, ready for life’s challenges, making you more resilient, robust and strong.
Discover more about the World’s first Bear Grylls Explorers Camp at www.beargryllscamp.ae
Experience BMF for 7 days for just £7 (outdoor) or 7 days for £19.99 (Urban), whilst also having access to online training through BMF AT HOME: www.bemilitaryfit.com
To find out more, visit www.beargrylls.com
© Angela Sara West 2021 @angela_sara_west