We caught up with Rudimental frontman Leon Rolle during festival season to discuss how he stays fit and healthy on tour, and how he’s hoping to inspire others with positivity.
Originally from Hackney in East London, Leon is an established musician and DJ best known for being the frontman for MOBO and Brit award winning UK four-piece Rudimental. He’s also a talented footballer who recently played in Soccer Aid and set up a penalty and assist for Usain Bolt. In fact, Leon has a huge passion for sport and health and fitness. Even when he signed to Black Butter Records with Rudimental in 2011, he still managed to find time to play semi-pro football and live an active lifestyle.
Now, Leon’s main aim is to push himself to his absolute limits but also motivate and inspire others to find the strength and encouragement to unlock their potential, particularly the younger generation, to have the motivation and confidence to get into sport and fitness, be active and achieve their personal goals.
Leon explains how he understands there is a terrible inactivity crisis in the UK and a lack of young people playing sport, and how he wants to educate and mentor young people on the need to be active, using his profile and influence as a musician and expertise in the sport and fitness industries to do so. The question is, how does he do that as well as touring the planet? BESTFIT went to find out…
As well as being a key part of Rudimental you’re also massively into sport and fitness, so tell us a bit about how a typical week shakes down for you. You play football, so presumably you work gym around that… and work, and parenting?
If I’m at home I’m usually up between 4am-5am doing a 5k run, which is followed by sprints. I incorporate these with a circuit, consisting of a lot of bodyweight exercises like pull-ups variations and press ups, which I mix with some resistance work with weights. I like to try and keep my training as varied as possible and do something new every day, especially because I get a bit bored just weight training.
How seriously do you play football these days? What fitness requirement is required?
Last season I managed to play for Braintree Town, the league below League 2. The fitness requirements were demanding and consisted of two-hour sessions, made up of speed training, agility and tactical work. This was then combined with us often having a mid-week game. Unfortunately, with my gruelling schedule as a performer and touring with Rudimental, it wasn’t really sustainable for me. Continuing as a semi-pro footballer would require training three evenings a week, with a game on the weekends, which often clashes with gigs!
Presumably having played to a decent standard you’ve always been conscious of the importance of fitness and nutrition?
Fitness and nutrition is key to maximise performance. Top athletes are always looking for that extra 1% in performance. Although I’m not a professional athlete I’ve always wanted to train like one and push myself as hard as I possibly can. In order to be able to really push yourself, you need to make sure your fitness is always adapting to your physical needs and your nutrition is on point, from everything you eat to drink. Nutrition is by far one of my weakest areas in my training, though usually no fault of my own. When you travel as much as I do, getting your hands on the right foods can be very difficult. When I’m at home I always maintain a strict diet, watching my calories and cutting out the alcohol.
And your fitness regime must be different when you’re away and on the road?
As well as finding it difficult to find the right foods touring, finding the facilities to train in the arse end of nowhere can be difficult to find. This is where your imagination comes into play, you have to be creative with what’s around you. Bodyweight exercises can be very useful in these situations as you don’t need any equipment.
Festival season must be a real challenge, going from one place to the next and god knows where?
The best part about my job is being on stage and making the music, the traveling from destination to destination I hate. Most people have this perception of me because of the way I am on stage, the truth be known is I get incredibly homesick and I’m nothing like my stage persona.
You must burn a chunk of calories on stage? Fitness must be important to you as an act… to have that energy on stage?
Yeah, being on stage especially with me having to hype up the crowd when I’m away from my keyboard. I once wore a heart rate monitor on stage in a live 90-minute show and I burned 820 calories. I definitely earned myself a pint after that show.
Being the band’s frontman wasn’t always part of the plan, was it?
Our second gig was Radio One’s Big Weekend in Hackney in 2012 – and the first one was the day before. Things were a bit of a nightmare, with gear not working. Plus we didn’t know what we were. Were we half DJ, half live? What is our show? At that gig I was meant to be behind my keyboard, at my station. But people only really knew one song – Feel the Love – we’d come out of nowhere, and fast. So I took the mic to just say something, to keep the vibe going. And people dug it. And from then on it was a case of: this is what we need to do.
Health and fitness appears to be far bigger for those in the music business than it used to be. Have you noticed a change? And have you always been into staying fit on tour, or have previous tours been more hedonistic?
I can only speak for myself but personally I find exercise as a brilliant mental release and the time I can really take for myself. Fitness and training on tour is a way of mentally staying focused and allowing some time for me. I’ve certainly seen a massive shift in the industry. In the last four decades in particular there was a much bigger party scene. I think people in general are now more engaged with healthy living and leading an active lifestyle and this is apparent in the music industry too. There is so much information and insight out there on the importance of living a balanced lifestyle and the need to look after yourself and people seem to recognise that now more than ever before.
You’re always been into health and fitness, but now you like to train like athletes. When did you start applying this level of training to your regime?
It has always been a big part of my life and key interest and social media has given me the platform to hopefully inspire and motivate others. I just hope that by following me, people will feel somewhat inspired to take up physical activity and understand that even with my demanding regime, it is achievable to stay active.
You like to act as a mentor in both music and acting etc… do you do the same when it comes to fitness and if so, how?
I think I do this by promoting a positive mind set. I never claim to be a PT, although I’m addicted to drawing on knowledge from fitness professionals in order to enhance my own performance. I also love to be challenged, and taken out of my comfort zone.
People hear the nickname ‘Locksmith’ and think: ‘He must open up doors.’ And that’s what I’ve done, have always done, for myself. The Locksmith is a bit of an unsociable person, a loner. But at the same time he’s an opportunist – he wants to open up any door for himself that he can. And he’s focused and won’t stop until that door is open. I did that with the kids I mentored, and tried my hardest at football. It’s not just about opportunities for me – it’s opening things up for people I rate and respect.
What’s the highlight of the tour calendar for you… any certain event or venue?
Has to be Ibiza. We have a residency at Ibiza Rocks every Thursday with a line-up that we have curated, so we have invited our friends from the likes of Anne Marie, Stefflon Don to J Hus to come and play. It’s a mad vibe.
Locksmith aka Leon Rolle is working on a campaign to motivate and inspire people on the importance of exercise and to get physically active. Please see @theycallmelocksmith for more information