He recently left London for a calmer life by the sea in Margate. We talk to TV presenter Ayo Akinwolere about breakfast preferences, how the French do mornings, music to listen to first thing and the dream weekend…
Ayo Akinwolere, 34, has been a TV broadcaster for 12 years. He started as a Blue Peter presenter many years ago and now hosts TV programs, and writes. He set a word record five years ago for swimming across the deepest stretch of ocean in the world. Last year, he created a project called the Swim Challenge as a way of trying to get more ethnic minorities into swimming. He recently left London for Margate, and he’s single.
What time are you up in the morning?
Most mornings I’m up around 6.30am, depending on what I have to do in the day. I started realising that there wasn’t enough time during the day to get everything done, so decided to start waking up a bit earlier.
And what time have you usually gone to bed?
Bed-time varies depending on what I have to do the day after, or whether I’m out and about. I recently moved to Margate, life by the sea is a lot more chilled than being in London. My bedtime is usually around 11pm/12am – as opposed to 1/2am when I was in London.
What’s the minimum amount of sleep you need each night?
I’ve been known to have two hours and do a live show or a pre-record. I suffer from insomnia sometimes and find it hard to switch off as I’m always thinking of things I want to do or different points of attack for my career. It shows you just how resilient the human body can be at times.
What wakes you up in the morning?
The endless tasks I have to get done. I often set reminders the night before on my phone and wake up to a list of admin/home improvement tasks I need to get done. Oh, also the need to earn a living and actually make some money to survive – that both keeps me up at night and wakes me up in the morning.
How do you feel?
I usually feel quite good in the morning, I love it. Especially if I wake up to the sun shining.
Would you describe yourself as a ‘morning person’?
Yes Yes Yes.
What do you first do upon waking?
It varies, I’m always thinking about food before going to bed and the moment I wake up. I have to eat something in the morning (unless I’m doing exercise – I hate running or swimming on a full stomach). First things first, though, stick on the radio. The day has to begin and end with either music or the news.
Do you incorporate exercise into your morning routine?
Exercise is very important to me, for my mental health and also just because I can’t sit still. I’m not into gyms but I love sport. I actually love doing stuff by myself. I live literally a five-minute walk from the ocean, so much of life these days is dictated by the tide. I’ll put the wetsuit on and go for a solitary swim. There are various WhatsApp groups for sea swimmers here so it’s quite a nice community. I’m either running or swimming in the morning – they say the camera puts on 10 pounds, I have that in my head.
Tea, coffee, juice, other…?
A hot beverage in the morning is essential. I’ve lived in the north of England and worked in France a lot, both of which have inspired my morning routine.
All my mates from Lancashire and Yorkshire would always have a brew (cup off tea) ready for me in the mornings when we lived together and that has kind of stuck.
Then I used to film a show in France called Fort Boyard and our french crew would really prioritise on breakfast, especially coffee and freshly squeezed juice. I’ve really taken that on. I always have fresh oranges and grapefruit in the flat and start the day with freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit mix – trust me you need this in your life, so so good. The ritual itself is something I look forward to – brewing a coffee and squeezing fresh juice brings me a tiny bit of pleasure.
What’s for breakfast?
Learning from the French again, I like a good breakfast – depending on time. As I live on the south east coast, I can usually only squeeze in a slice of toast, some fruit and a coffee before I get the train to wherever I’m working.
If it’s a chilled morning, I’ll always have some scrambled eggs on toast with avocado etc then a brew/coffee and freshly squeezed juice.
More and more, though, to get my daily fruit and veg intake I usually have berries, some soya yoghurt and granola with the brew/coffee fruit juice medley. I believe in starting the day right at least. I can’t imagine my life without something in my belly in the mornings.
How long do you spend getting ready?
I’m a 15-minute shower-and-get-dressed kind of guy.
I have a strange routine whereby I blast out of my speakers one of my favourites tracks: Truth by Kamasi Washington. It’s about 13.5 minutes long, so if the track has ended and I’m still not fully dressed and showered, most likely I’m going to be a little late. It’s also a really beautiful and jazz number with a good inspirational feel to it, it usually sets my day up well and puts me in a good mood with a smile first thing in the morning.
How do you choose what to wear each day?
Ah this is a tough one. I usually think about it the night before so I can be as efficient with my time in the morning as possible. That being said, I always seem to be late because I’ve lost a sock or something. I quite like clothes and looking presentable is something that’s been drummed into my head by my parents since I was a kid.
When not presenting, do you work from home?
Does anyone seriously and efficiently work from home? I struggle with it as I’m easily distracted. I have to go somewhere to do work most of the time. It’s hard in Margate, as it’s such a small town and you’re bound to bump into someone you know. When I’m in London, I take myself to the British Library and when I’m in Margate I usually get on the train to Canterbury which is about 30 minutes away and plonk myself in my favourite cafe. I mentally have to be somewhere else to get work done, because I know I’ll be disappointed in myself if I went home and hadn’t got anything done.
The routine changes dependent on whether I’m writing an article, reading scripts or doing admin. I’m not one of these people that sets themselves a working day. Funnily, I get more work done after midday if I’m not on location. I like to savour the mornings listening to podcasts and news and most importantly music. I might also get a few errands (of which there are usually lots) done before I sit down and do work.
What do your weekend mornings look like?
The ideal weekend if I’ve not been out the night before (sometimes if I have, too) would be to get up around 9 or so, do some excursive (run/swim/tennis/football) all weather dependant, make myself a good breakfast, play some records as I don’t do that enough, and usually watch and read news I’ve not caught up on during the week.
I think I’d like a dog at some point. A dream weekend morning would then include walking the dog on the beach with a coffee in hand – you get the exercise and the morning brew all in one! Puuurfic.