Former England rugby union captain and current Harlequins flanker, 6ft 2in Chris Robshaw is the epitome of raw power and sporting prowess. As he gets set to return after injury, he tells us about his fitness journey and the joys of… making coffee.
You’ve just about recovered from a serious injury. It must be frustrating to be out of action for so long.
Yeah it was. I dislocated my AC joint which was sore and has about a 10-week recovery time. I’m now on week eight but I think the most frustrating thing is that I did it just before the Six Nations — that’s a competition you want to be playing! But it has allowed me to focus on getting my body back into shape and repair lots of other little niggles.
And what’s your routine been like while you’ve been recovering?
Early on it was just time at home—after an operation you need the swelling to go down, so it’s a lot of icing and watching Netflix! The week after that, I gradually got some movement back. The week after that it was three leg sessions a week, and some bike work. In the last two weeks I’ve been on upper body weights to try to put some bulk back on. And I’m back to running because you need to run and get out there playing.
You have a rugby build, obviously that requires a specific training regime – does any of that go against your natural body type?
After this injury, I lost a bit of mass in my shoulders and upper body and the boys we’re like: “What’s happened to you? You’ve faded away!” I did fade away a little bit, so I know that I do need to train, eat lots and keep on the supplements. But I am pretty much built for rugby. Maybe that’s been because I played it a lot as a kid and did certain weights to help that.
And what do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t playing rugby?
Maybe a barista. I own a coffee shop. I set it up with two of my best mates from school. We saw an opportunity and thought, ‘Why not give it a go?’ I try to keep busy with other things. If I’m just rugby focused I get bored and burn out. It keeps me mentally stimulated. The boys always take the mick out of me, saying: ‘You own a coffee shop but your latte art is very poor!’
I saw on Twitter that you attended the Women’s March in London, too.
Yeah. Camilla [Kerslake, a classical crossover singer and Robshaw’s girlfriend] was singing. It’s silly that in this day and age we still have to push for women’s rights, for LGBT rights. [It’s great] if someone in my position can make the next generation think differently, be more open-minded. We’re lucky enough to be [in a society] where most people are pretty liberal and open-minded but there are still people out there who aren’t. If you have a son or a daughter you’d want them to be treated equally, wherever that is in the world.
You have a reputation for amazing stamina but you also have a stacked rugby physique. How do you negotiate that balance between muscle mass and cardiovascular health?
I’ve always been one to work hard on cardio, right from going out for runs as a kid. In today’s game, I know that if I have a good cardiovascular fitness I’ll be able to perform for those 80 minutes. But like you say it’s about balancing it with a certain weight. Even if you’ve had a knock during the year you still have to eat and train [as if you’re playing] so that might be a post-workout shake or one of the Maximuscle bars you caught me eating when you arrived!
Which supplements work best for you?
The Maximuscle Promax powder works well for me, that’s my standard protein whether it’s first thing in the morning or after a training session. That’s what you need to replenish your muscles or give you those extra calories in the morning. I eat a lot of the Promax bars too, they are good as a little snack and then the final one is probably omega oils. I’m not a big fish fan so for me to get those good fats and oils into the body is key.
There are a lot of myths in the fitness industry, what would you say is your biggest myth buster?
There are no shortcuts. Even as players we find out the hard way that there are no shortcuts to getting fitter, stronger and bigger. I think people are always looking for an easier way but it’s putting the time in the gym, doing the weights programme, going out for a run or a cycle. In life in general we all want things pretty easy don’t we? But you’ve got to work hard if you want to be successful in whatever walk of life that might be. I don’t think there are many secrets in life it’s just hard work.
Chris Robshaw is a Maximuscle athlete and was speaking following the launch of Maximuscle’s new product range that includes raw ingredient powders, bars and tubs. maximuscle.com
Photography: Markus Bideux
Styling: Nick Byam