Laureus Academy member Sir Chris Hoy talks life after competition, keeping in shape in his forties, and the cycling stars to look out for at the Tokyo Olympics.

Q&A with Laureus ambassador Sir Chris Hoy Men's Fitness UK

Photo: Simon Hofmann/Getty Images for Laureus

Men’s Fitness: Sir Chris, you’re at the Laureus World Sports awards in Berlin with the likes of Michael Johnson, Boris Becker, Alessandro Del Piero and Marvin Hagler – what’s the purpose of this organisation?

Sir Chris Hoy: “The Academy is part of the Laureus foundation, which aims to improve the lives of children around the world through sport. To become a member you need to be an athlete who’s achieved a certain amount in your chosen field. I was nominated when I retired and inducted, which was a huge honour for me – just looking around the room at the calibre of my fellow academy members here is just astounding.”

MF: You mention retirement, how have you managed to replace the buzz of competitive cycling?

CH: “I thought that when I retired I was going to have lots of time to potter around doing pipe-and-slippers, but it’s just been incredibly busy. I knew I’d always need something to really get my teeth into to replace the competition and I’ve found that with motorsports.

“I started racing cars in 2013, to keep my competitive juices flowing. I started at novice level with the aim of doing the Le Mans 24-hour race – I’ve done that and I’ve just done a dream job series driving all sorts of different cars.”

MF: Does all the driving mean that those Gold medal-winning fitness levels have taken a backseat?

CH: “Not really. It’s just trying to make the most of the time I have in a day. Even in half an hour I can still get a huge amount of gym work done. It helps that I built a gym in the garage of my house – plus I’m an  ambassador for PureGym which gives me 24-7 access to  a gym when I’m working around the country.

“I make sure I do something every day. It’s funny: it’s not so much that I notice the aches afterwards, it’s more that I notice when I haven’t done any gym work. I get lethargic and grumpy. I need the physical and mental lift.”

MF: Speaking of lifts, how has your gym training changed since you hung up your cleats?

CH: “I push myself pretty hard still but I enjoy lifting heavy now, which I couldn’t do before. When I was cycling I had to minimise my upper-body mass to be as light as possible, with all my power in my legs.

“Now I do a lot more upper-body drills and a lot of compound moves – they’re the best use of my time and give the best results. I enjoy benching, doing deadlifts, cleans and pull-ups – which I never used to do.

“I’ve built my upper body strength – which has been fun, doing new stuff – and now I just keep topping up. I find you can maintain strength much more easily than your anaerobic capacity or your aerobic fitness.  You just have to be consistent.”

MF: With the garage now converted into a home gym, does that mean there’s no more room for the bike?

CH: “Ha! No, the bike is still very much a part of my life and my fitness routine. Squats are still my go-to exercise for building and maintaining leg strength. I’m still doing around 90 per cent of what I used to do for legs when I was cycling, and I’m aiming for a post-career personal best.

“If I’ve got a couple of hours spare I’ll head out on the bike up to the Peak District to make it quite a tough ride. If I’ve only got an hour then maybe I’ll head out on the flat lanes through Cheshire. It depends on time – plus I’m a fair-weather cyclist these days so if it’s absolutely chucking it down with rain I’ll do a session indoors on the bike trainer. I tend to do most of my riding now on the indoor bike, because I can get so much done – it’s a very time-efficient way to keep fit.”

MF: We’re in an Olympic year, so from a cycling perspective who should we be looking out for in Japan?

CH: “The British Team has consistently performed at the highest level every four years and they’ve really shone at the last three or four Games, but I think it’s getting tougher and tougher now to dominate the way they have. Other countries have been raising the bar at different events.

“I think consistently the British women’s endurance squad has been the one to the beat. Laura Kenny is the one to watch, alongside Katie Archibald. They should be favourites for Gold in the Team Pursuit.

“Also Jason Kenny, if he wins a single medal of any colour that will give him more medals than me. At the moment we’re both joint as the most successful British Olympians of all time. Another Gold medal will elevate him beyond me and he will have more medals in total than anyone else. That would be massive for him and Great Britain.”

Twenty years on, Laureus is still inspired by its Founding Patron Nelson Mandela’s words, “Sport has the power to change the world; to unite people in a way that little else does.”

Words: Rob Kemp