GQ Heroes

Ross Edgley will unlock your potential

The real-life action man and best-selling author knows how to push your body to new extremes
Ross Edgley
James Appleton

Every night, Ross Edgley goes to bed asking the question, “Could I have done more today?” It ties into the fitness guru’s ‘Ikigai’ – the Japanese philosophy of reason for being. Given he’s forever doing wild things like swimming around the British Isles, helping Chris Hemsworth reach new athletic heights in Disney’s Limitless, or writing best-sellers like The World’s Fittest Book and The Art of Resilience, it’s fair to say he’s doing enough. But are you? Here's how to, Edgley-style.

Always mix up your workout

“Sometimes a training plan is what gets us off the couch but do not be afraid to deviate from that when you're actually in it. John Keeley, who used to be head of UK Athletics, had this brilliant phrase about training specifically: too often we're trying to apply a simple mechanical solution to what is a complex biological reality. A rigid training programme with reps, sets and rest time is the simple mechanical solution, but the complex biological reality is your body. Training will help you realise your potential, but it’s all about finding something that's specific to you.”

Motivation alone won't get you out of bed

“Discipline will: equipping yourself with the psychological tools needed to actually adhere to and implement what you know is good for you. I could write you the best diet in the world, with bitumens, minerals, monitoring, micronutrients and everything in the perfect quantities, but if you look at it and think, ‘That’s too hard to stick to’, it's useless.”

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You need voluntary discomfort in your life

“When people have everything and don't know what discomfort is, they're not suitably dopamine deprived, so life can just be a bit bland. [Ancient Greek philosopher] Epictetus says it’s all about doing something that sucks a little bit – because you'll be better off as a result.”

Find unique challenges

“When I was tying a tree to my Speedos at the start of a triathlon, everyone was like, ‘What a weirdo’, but what I find interesting is the idea of self-discipline for self-discovery. Anthropologically, that’s always been there through history, whether it’s going on a pilgrimage with the Yamabushi, or the Maasai hunting down a tiger.

“There are people who want to row across the Atlantic or want to run an ultramarathon, but what's been really nice is that a lot of people now seem to find these unique challenges. One of my favourites recently was a guy who decided to do a triathlon with 50 pounds of dog food on his back to raise money for a dog shelter that was closing down.

“I remember we once signed up for a 40-kilometre obstacle race in Sweden. When we finished we got a taxi across town and ran the Stockholm Marathon, because we wanted to put them both together – why not? I always encourage people who want to do a triathlon to do it with a tree, do it with dog food; just do something different.”

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Adversity introduces you to you

“Einstein said that, and it’s true. It’s completely relative, but it’s not until you're 50 miles deep into an ultra marathon, or rowing across the Atlantic, that you really find out what you're about. For me, it’s unlocking this ‘can do when you put your mind to it’ attitude – anything is possible.

“There's nothing worse, even as a beginner, than doing something and finishing it feeling you could have done more, because that's not fulfilling. You don't get a sense of eudaimonia. Happiness without fulfilment is failure.”

Your brain is a hypochondriac

“It's basically looking at all of this biological feedback and going, how's your muscle glycogen? Are you overheating? Are you dehydrated? Our neurotransmitters like electrolytes, so we need to replenish all of these things: if any of them are slightly out of whack, the brain goes ‘slow down’ or ‘stop’. But if you push through, you’ll realise you are far more powerful than your own mind allows you to believe.”

See Ross Edgley at GQ Heroes in Oxfordshire, from 19-21 July, in association with BMW UK. For more info and tickets, visit