Double Olympic gold medallist talks running, youth and the importance of health
Time Out Bahrain staff
Do you run as much as you used to? To be honest, no. I do a lot of CrossFit now. Just because of life taking over and time being of the essence, I’m not able to do as much running as I would like. And as age caught up with me I was getting a lot of pain in my calves so most of the fitness work I do now is in the gym. I love going to the gym and working hard for shorter periods of time. I also fit in a lot of high intensity interval training [HIIT] now and CrossFit-type work where you are using your body weight to do exercise and push yourself to the limits.
So why is HIIT beneficial? It’s sharp, short bursts of exercise. You only really have to do 20 minutes to get the effect and you can become a lot stronger through doing HIIT. This isn’t to say you can’t go in and have a leisurely gym session and do cardio but if you do it too often your body will just become used to one type of exercise. To get fitter quickly, it is better to work harder and for shorter. As I don’t have a lot of time these days it works well for me.
But presumably you’re still a massive advocate of running to get fit? Running is really good for you to get fit and caters for all fitness levels. However, it is really important that you are using the correct footwear. It sounds simple but the wrong footwear will stop you getting fit the most because you will start getting aches and pains. We all think about the speed we want to run at and our breathing patterns when running, but actually most of the effects, especially if you weren’t a regular exerciser before, are down to shoes because of the impact running has. Don’t wear tennis trainers when running; so many do.
And what are the other benefits of running? I think running is a great way to get you feeling good about yourself. You get a good sweat on and feel like you’ve actually done something, no matter at what pace you go.
Why should you get into running? Some people do it because they feel they want to lose weight, some people do it to get generally fitter and some people do it for competitive purposes. It’s actually very inclusive. It also helps in so many other ways – communication skills, teamwork, confidence and so much more.
And is it extra important to get young people into sport and exercise? Absolutely. It’s vital. There are so many parallels with sport and life in general, including losing and failing, picking yourself up, going again and challenging yourself. You also have to promote a healthy lifestyle with food and exercise. What we need to do is prevent having unhealthy adults, and this starts with education and ensuring young people have a healthy lifestyle so when they reach adulthood it is ingrained in their personalities. Obesity is a strain on the system and on women who want children. All the illnesses that come with obesity put a strain on families as well.
What would you say to someone who hasn’t exercised for a few years and is worried about doing it again, perhaps even embarrassed? Truthfully, the biggest thing is actually taking part for people in this situation. You’ve got a big tick and achieved something just by taking part and making the effort to go and do it. It’s not that you can’t exercise, it’s just a question of whether you are willing to. You will be apprehensive about getting fit but you’ll see lots of other people in a similar situation to yourself. I work with these people all the time and when they get involved in things such as runs they sometimes think people will be looking at them and judging. This isn’t true at all. No one cares and everyone is just pleased to see you taking part. If I see someone clearly overweight and trying to exercise I think ‘good on you’.