Levison Wood teams with Virgin Active for Discovery Lab

The health club chain Virgin Active has announced TV star and British explorer Levison Wood as the first member of their new project – The Discovery Lab.

Before Wood became a face of fitness, he was an Officer in the British Parachute Regiment. Then in December of 2013, he began the first ever expedition to hike the length of the Nile in its entirety from Nyungwe Forest.

The star of Channel 4’s Walking the Nile has partnered with the fitness giant to inspire people to be more adventurous with their time, both inside and outside the gym.

The Lab was created by the head of fitness at Virgin Active, Andy Birch. It was created in the notion of bringing adventure and innovation to the gym from previously unusual places.

The Discovery Lab will include products and classes developed by local health and fitness experts. One of tho programs being developed will reflect Wood’s mental and physical preparations for his adventures on Walking the Nile. Wood has been working closely with the fitness experts of Virgin Active to make sure the program is authentic and reflective of his personal training on the show.

In addition to helping develop programs, Wood is set to help the fitness chain develop their first ever Altitude Studio. This studio is dedicated specifically to helping people to train for performing demanding activities at higher altitudes – like hiking or rock climbing. The Altitude studio is set to open this summer.

Levison Wood has been working with the chain’s innovation and fitness team, including James Trevorrow (master of movement), Gillian Reeves (Groupex Guru) and Hugh Hanley (Super Trainer). By combining their ideas and concepts, the partnership has already produced some truly innovative fitness programs.

The first program to take shape in The Discovery Lab was the ‘Mudder Maker’ class. This class began appearing in Virgin Active clubs in May, and included a circuit of 11 obstacles designed to mimic Tough Mudder events while improving strength, stamina and agility.

In addition to classes, the Discovery Lab will be available through social media and Virgin Active’s digital platforms. They will offer trends, tips and advice throughout the program’s duration.

Verge were lucky enough to sit down with Levison to chat about the Discovery Lab and what adventures Levison has coming up himself.


Could you tell us about how you got involved with the Virgin Active Discovery Lab and what sort of Background of fitness brought you there?

Well it basically came around as a result of a partnership with Virgin Active and the sharing of the same vision, ideas and principles about what we hoped to achieve. My role is to try and inspire people through my philosophy of travel to try new things and experience new adventures. Going to the gym is not a scary place, it can be a whole new adventure for people that want to try new things, like going to a new class or just trying something a bit different. That’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve!


What components do you think about when you’re in the Discovery Lab and trying to come up with a new fitness class?

I try and apply the way that I prepare for my expeditions, whether it’s a long walk down the river or something completely different, in a more home-based environment. Not everyone can afford to take 9 weeks off and do a big exhibiton, but everyone can have their own goals to achieve whether that’s doing a race, a marathon or something like the Tough Mudder. It’s good to use the gym as your environment to train or that, I suppose that’s how my experience comes in handy, how I apply that.


Do you think it’s important to have some sort of a goal with fitness?

I think it certainly helps to have something to focus towards, if you have an ultimate goal you can then break that down into tangible chunks and have something to work towards, being able to measure your progress a lot easier.


Do you have any advice for people who are bored of their workout regime but want to keep up their fitness?

The key thing is to not be daunted by it, don’t worry too much about the end goal. Break it down into day to day, smaller goals and build on that gradually. Some thing is better than nothing, so just getting to the gym is the first thing!


Do you have any advice for people who would like to go on the bigger expeditions that you’ve done?

Again, it’s all about training and preparing, along with saving enough money to go on these adventures. Do your homework, a lot of the time it actually takes longer to prepare and plan a big trip than it does to actually take the trip. It’s about being disciplined, putting in enough hours of research and homework, and not giving up.


What is next for Levison Wood in 2015? What’s coming up in the Discovery Lab?

I’m working on a number of projects, all of which is to see what we can continue to do to promote the idea of discovery, adventure, and exploration within the context of the fitness industry. What that means is coming up with new and innovative ways to get people to try new things. Whether that’s new types of equipment or a different kind of class, it’s all about changing it up.
I’m going on a big expedition, so I’ll be away for the next few months, I’m not currently allowed to say where I’m going, but there’ll be another book soon so you can read all about it then!

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