Recently, there were standing ovations for ABBA in Rotterdam during their concert at the ‘Ahoy’. Despite the fact that they have to perform almost every evening during their European tour, the show of the quartet is a dazzling succession of hits. Especially Björn Ulvaeus is tireless. To Privé, he revealed the secret of his remarkable physical and mental fitness: jogging. And he was even willing to show his daily exercise routine. Exclusively for Privé, he ran 25 rounds on the athletics track.
Twelve o’clock sharp, ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and I meet in the hall of the hotel. Dressed in a blue jogging suit and shoes of the same colour, a towel around his neck, one of the four ABBAs is walking up to the shiny black Mercedes that’s waiting to take us to the athletics track where Björn, exclusively for Privé, will demonstrate the secret of his fitness: jogging, ten kilometres long.
During the dazzling show that ABBA brings to the stage night after night on their European tour, it was already unmistakable that the 34-year-old Björn is in great physical shape. During the concert, the guitarist of the world famous Swedish foursome is jumping around the stage as if he was a fly. He mounts the stairs, that are part of the stage design, like a hind, just as quickly he gets down from them and then dances across the entire stage again.
For two hours straight, because the ABBAs don’t allow themselves any break during the show. After the show, I asked him directly how he is able to cope with that, night after night.
“When you wait for me at the hotel tomorrow at twelve o’clock, then I will show you how I do it. I will then demonstrate my exercise routine, that I’ve been doing faithfully every day for the past five years and that keeps me fit and slim.”
On our way to the athletics track, we stop for a while in front of a sports store. The chauffeur is being sent out with the mission to buy a stopwatch and a headband (to avoid transpiration getting into the eyes).
When we resume our ride, Björn tells about his exercise programme that he’s been executing faithfully ever since the success at the Eurovision Song Contest. He says: “When we play concerts and stay at hotels, I feel the need to let off some steam. I can’t wait around in some kind of room until we are allowed to get up on stage. That’s why I decided five years ago to really stay in shape. But in an easy way. And that’s jogging. You don’t run really fast, but it isn’t walking either. When you jog, you can clear your mind. You are able to straighten yourself out. From the beginning, I’ve always jogged ten kilometres. I started at an easy pace, later on I went a little faster. And now I jog at the same pace every day. I loose as much bodily fluids as during a concert. When I’ve jogged, I feel completely purified, all the dirt is getting out of my pores and I think it enhances my musical achievement as well. I really feel fulfilled.”
At the entrance of the athletics track, the Swede is being welcomed by the supervisor. With pleasure, Björn lets himself be shown around the catacombs of the stadium. He says to me: “Actually, I don’t think it’s any fun to jog on an athletics track, because then I have to run rounds of 400 metres time and time again. I’d rather have a territory where I can run straight ahead without any turns.”
During his jogging, Björn holds a stopwatch in his hand to keep track of his own time. Twenty-five rounds long, I watch ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus pass me by. He runs a total of ten kilometres in less than an hour. Afterwards, he looks toned but not really tired. He says: “That’s because I’m able to determine my own pace. I know when it gets to much. Then I take some more time for a round and when I feel I’m up to it, I speed up again. That’s the ideal situation for me.”
At my question why not all ABBA-members have an exercise programme like this, hit composer Björn Ulvaeus smiles mildly and says: “For the time being, no one wants to jog with me, but I don’t really mind, as long as I am keeping fit myself.”