IN CONVERSATION WITH LORD SEBASTIAN COE
10 January 2023
Four times Olympic medal winner, a former Member of Parliament and current President of World Athletics - introducing committee member of The Club, Lord Sebastian Coe. From exclusive guidance on how to maintain fitness, to his proudest career moments and love affair with jazz, we share with you an insight into the life and career of one of the greatest athletes of our time.
BWell: on fitness, health and wellbeing
As a world champion in athletics, it will come as no surprise that our future members are fascinated by what your fitness and wellbeing routine looks like. Can you tell us how you have maintained fitness since retiring from professional athleticism?
When you are a competitive athlete your whole day is based around training and competition. In my case, I would wake up in the morning, run ten miles on the road, do a training session at lunchtime in the gym and then another in the evening. Your whole day is based around the training regime because that’s what you need to be the best in the world. The big shift for me when I retired was not that I missed the competition. Within two years of retiring I was a Member of Parliament so I went from a very focussed activity which was athletics, to a political environment which was 24/7. The biggest change was that my day was suddenly not built around exercise. It took me a bit of time to understand that the only way I was going to keep a moderate amount of health and fitness was to diarise the fitness aspect and so in my office, from many years ago and until this day, when I say I’m in the gym nothing else gets in the way.
So it is the commitment to routine that makes it all possible?
Yes, the advice I would give to people who want to maintain a health and fitness routine, is the routine itself. It’s really important. It can’t be: ‘I’m free on Friday and then I can’t do anything for a week and a half’, because a) you are not going to get the specificity you want b) you’ll probably just get frustrated and c) if you start doing it in indiscriminate batches you’ll probably get injured and hurt.
For some of us work and relaxation are separate things, but it sounds like fitness has been both your career and your escape from other demands in life. How do you switch off?
It’s true, it’s fitness. It is the ability to go out and run, or lift weights in the gym like I did this morning here in Monaco with my son. It's a great way to start the day.
"Your whole day is based around the training regime because that’s what you need to be the best in the world."
BYou: on your career and who shaped you
You must get asked this all the time and we can’t imagine how you begin choosing just one, but what has been your proudest career moment?
I think giving the opening ceremony speech at the London 2012 Olympic games because we had embarked on such a journey before finally reaching that point. We campaigned for two years to win the election to host the games and ultimately won by four votes. It was a challenge, but we accomplished it. After that, we got to enjoy the enormous privilege of welcoming the Olympics back to London and seeing the extraordinary impact of the Paralympic games. On top of that, I had the pleasure of working with a team of fantastic people throughout the experience. For me, those moments and years are far more important to me than anything I did individually in my sport, I think they had a far bigger impact.
Through all of the incredible experiences you’ve had, you must have also met some incredible people. Who is the most inspiring person you have met?
I have to say the most inspirational person I’ve ever known was my father, he was my coach and he choreographed my career from playground to Olympic podium. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. He was a massive stickler for the importance of education so nothing in my sporting life was ever at the expense of school or university. He recognised that sport is important, but quite ephemeral. The groundwork he laid as an athlete and in education for me played a huge part in the other things I have been able to do in life and my success beyond the track.
Looking to the year ahead, what are your ambitions and priorities?
In my personal life, I want to maintain exercise and stay close to my family. As president of World Athletics we have a big year coming up with the World Championships in Budapest, during which time we are also anticipating some difficult economic headwinds, political complications and divisions worldwide. My big challenge for next year is continuing to grow the sport, whilst also navigating those choppy waters. In all the organisations I’m working in, I’m working out where the fault-lines sit and triaging those risks, understanding mitigations, keeping teams together during a cost of living crisis and making sure my staff maintain their work/life balance. My role here isn’t just about sport, it’s about encouraging people to be kind to each other during what will be a tough couple of years.
"'We got to enjoy the enormous privilege of welcoming the Olympics back to London and seeing the extraordinary impact of the Paralympic games."
BWild: on fun, on adventure, and on doing what you love
"The first thing I will always look for in any new town is the local jazz club."
Away from work and fitness, do you have any hobbies? What do you love to do?
I like to travel, it’s not always possible, but I do go to some really interesting places. In any new town I will always try to go to a national gallery - I’m not a painter or expert, but I love art galleries and have enough of an understanding to derive pleasure from that. And the first thing I will always look for in any new town is the local jazz club. I’ve moved houses because of the size of my jazz collection, I probably have 300 books on jazz, 7,000-8,000 records, I broadcast occasionally on Radio 2 and Jazz FM, I’ve written about it - that’s my thing. If I have time out, I'm more than likely at home listening to music. Jazz is important, but I also like classical music. We’re always focused on exercise and health, but having interest in your life is also what’s good for your mental wellbeing.
"We’re always focused on exercise and health, but having interest in your life is also what’s good for your mental well-being."
The Club: on where to spot Seb Coe next year
What are you most looking forward to using at The Club when it opens next year? We expect the gym, but we won’t make assumptions!
You will indeed find me in the gym and very inevitably on the treadmill! I’m sure you’ve invested in good cushioned treadmills for ageing limbs, and I also like the free weights. I’m looking forward to it very much. Lady Bamford - and the Bamford family in general - are great friends, and I have total respect for what she has created and the social conscience she has brought to The Club.
And one final piece of advice for future members and their fitness journey?
Some might say I don’t like swimming, swimmers might say they can’t stand running. I don’t think fitness is ever about dress sizes or belt notches, it’s about finding something you like. The great thing about The Club gym is that there will be really good qualified people to give thorough advice. I would advise any member to sit down with the instructors who are there and make sure that when they set their objectives there's ambition and stretch, but it’s not unrealistic. It’s not just about being physically fitter but also about taking care of your mental wellbeing.
"The great thing about The Club gym is that there will be really good qualified people to give thorough advice."
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