James Haskell and wife Chloe Madeley dance together

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As the nation opens up, James has partnered with neighbourhood app Nextdoor to encourage Britons to continue practicing the hobbies they developed during lockdown, and to share them with others in their community. James has attempted new hobbies himself over the past year, such as cooking and DJing.

As a former successful rugby player, James has always been passionate about food and exercise.

The 36-year-old even released a cookbook with Omar Meziane in 2018 called Cooking for Fitness: Eat Smart, Train Better, which he said he enjoyed “trying to put really healthy recipes together”.

But over lockdown, he started to experiment more with cooking food on the BBQ, and finding delight in creating recipes to share with his wife, Chloe Madeley, and their friends.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, James said: “Nutrition has always been a massive part of my life. Cooking and food have always been things I’ve really had to care about in my career as a rugby player.

“It’s barbecuing that I’ve been into, but not really having the chance to do. But now, at home, I’ve been trying to be creative, and my wife and I have been having these theme days.

“Ibiza days and French days, and all sorts of different things. I cook fresh fish on the BBQ, or meat on the BBQ, and get really competitive in terms of how good I can be.”

James added he perfected a chicken wings recipe that he shared with members on the Nextdoor app.

Cooking became a hobby he enjoyed, and one he believes other people could find enjoyable and “relaxing” too.

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The former rugby star said: “I don’t have anxiety, but I know that people say cooking and exercise really help with your mental health.

“Cooking and exercise are absolutely brilliant – the methodical nature of cooking, the creative nature, the flavours.

“And exercise too – exercise gets you out, gets you fit, gets you healthier, and health is wealth in the current world we live in. And all of them are great for mental health.”

James went on to explain which foods he prefers cooking on the BBQ, saying: “I cook macaroni cheese and lamb koftas.

“My favourite recipe is my chicken wings recipe that takes 20 minutes.

“It’s really simple. You get uncooked wings from the supermarket, cover them with mustard, and even if you don’t like mustard you won’t taste it, and cook them until they’re up to 75 degrees.

“That’s a key tip – cook everything to temperature and not time.

“Then I put a Buffalo sauce or a BBQ sauce on them. They’re absolutely amazing.”

James also recommended any BBQ lovers to invest in a meat thermometer, saying: “They’re only about £10.

“There’s no risk of food poisoning, no risk of anything. And if you cook stuff to the perfect internal temperature, it tastes amazing and has all the juices and the flavour.”

James highlighted the importance of a balanced lifestyle, such as knowing how to take care of your body, how to eat healthily, and how to do exercise, but also knowing how to have fun and “enjoy life”.

He said: “I have a very balanced life in terms of I understand what I’m eating.

“Sometimes I want to indulge, sometimes I don’t. I train quite a lot of the time, I try to look after my body.

“I cook extremely healthy food all the time, as well as let my hair down and enjoy myself when required.”

To let his “hair down”, James explained he enjoys “wine, tequila, whiskey”.

“I don’t drink very often, but when I do, I enjoy myself and I’m sensible,” he said.

“I smoke a cigar every now and then. I fully enjoy myself.”

James added: “Eating sensible at times, looking after your diet and making sensible choices, is important. But life is also meant to be enjoyed.

“So if you understand what you’re putting in your body and how you’re doing it, you don’t have to be hugely restrictive.

“We need to move away from stupid and ridiculous diets, and unfortunately, it’s a part of our culture.

“We need to have a better understanding of knowing how to enjoy life, and to relax, but also to go ‘oh I’m going to eat perfectly from Monday to Friday, and then one night I’m going to let my hair down, and then I’m going to tighten stuff back up again’.

“Because you’ve only got one body. And that’s what people forget – you’ve only got one body and if you don’t look after it, once it’s broken it’s not going to fix itself unfortunately.”

James Haskell has teamed up with neighbourhood app Nextdoor to encourage people to pick up a new – or revisit an old – hobby this summer and use them to reconnect to people in their local community.
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