Winning an Olympic medal is a once in a lifetime achievement for some and for some, a life-long dream. Retired UK athlete, Dame Kelly Homes won two Olympic golds in the 800m and 1,500m athletics in 2004, but since hanging up her competitive running shoes, she still keeps fit and promotes the benefits of a heathy lifestyle. The 45-year-old will be joining runners in Dubai at the Electric Run on Friday November 6, so we hit her up for some tips.
Do you run as much as you used to?
To be honest, no. I do a lot of CrossFit now as I’m not able to do as much running as I’d 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], where you are using your bodyweight to do exercise and push yourself to the limits.
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 into the gym and have a leisurely cardio session, but if you do that too often, your body will just become used to one type of exercise. To get fitter quickly, it’s better to work harder for shorter. I don’t have a lot of time these days so it works well for me.
But presumably you’re still a massive advocate of running to get fit?
Running is really good if you want to get fit and it caters for all fitness levels. However, it’s really important that you’re using the correct footwear. It sounds simple, but the wrong footwear will stop you getting fit the most, because you’ll get aches and pains. So don’t wear tennis trainers when running, for example, as so many people do.
What are the other benefits of running?
It’s great 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. Some people do it because they feel they want to lose weight, some people do it to get generally fitter and others 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.
Why is it so important for young people to get into sport and exercise?
There are so many parallels with sport and life in general, including losing and failing, picking yourself up and going again and challenging yourself. You also have to live a healthy lifestyle, taking food and exercise into consideration. We need to prevent unhealthy lifestyles in adults, and this starts with education and good practise from early on, so it’s ingrained in young people’s personalities. Obesity is a strain on the system and on women who want children. 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 for people in this situation is actually taking part. They’ve achieved something just by taking part and making the effort to go and do it. It’s not that they can’t exercise, it’s just a question of whether they are willing to. Don’t be apprehensive about getting fit. 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’.
Electric Run, from Dhs165 (before September 6). Meydan Racecourse, Nad Al Sheba, www.electricrun.ae (no number).