Winning gold at the Olympics was just the beginning for heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill. We catch up with her about being a mum, maintaining fitness, and a whole lot more.
Since picking up her first senior competitive medal in 2006, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill has had many life-changing moments. During her athletics career she took home an impressive haul of medals, including heptathlon gold at the London 2012 Summer Olympics and silver in the same event at the Rio Games in 2016. Jessica’s life changed in the years following her 2013 marriage to long-term partner, Andy Hill. They had their first child in 2014; in 2016, she retired and a year later a second child arrived. Then in 2019 she launched Jennis, a subscription health app that allows you to focus on fitness, as well as prenatal, postnatal and hormonal health.
Last year life changed again, this time not just for her but for people all around the world as governments enforced lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. I caught up with her to find out what life is like now and how she’s been keeping fit in and out of lockdown with two kids at home.
What have you been up to since retirement?
I retired in 2016 after the Rio Olympics and spent a few months really enjoying being a mum to my two-year-old-son, Reggie. I also continued my ambassadorial work with Adidas, Vitality and Santander, with all my roles focusing on sharing my love of being fit and healthy. In 2017, I had my little girl Olivia and I realised that juggling home life with work and trying to stay fit and healthy was a whole new challenge.
I feel I’ve been so lucky to have had an amazing team of people to help me achieve the incredible levels of fitness that I reached, and that so much of what I learned is ingrained in me. This is why I made the decision to launch my own fitness business with the needs of women at its core. Setting up Jennis took a lot of time and energy but is something I’m super passionate about.
What are your top tips for staying fit and active?
Have a routine — maybe a time of day that you exercise — and plan what you’re going to do. Even during lockdown, when we were able to go out just once a day, for me that was a walk with my children — usually a slow walk with lots of exploring, so my exercise was home circuits for quick bursts of intense exercise.
Despite their young age, do your children take an interest in sports and exercise?
My children see me and Andy exercise a lot and they often join in. For them it’s all a bit of fun, but as Reggie gets older he’s getting increasingly competitive.
Did becoming a mum change your approach to exercise and diet?
Becoming a mum was different each time. With Reggie I was still a competing athlete, so my training changed to more intense, short sessions and my diet was still that of an athlete. When I had Liv, I’d retired and now had two children. I had to make exercise a feature of my week. I have to schedule time into my diary and work with Andy to make sure we both get exercise time. Being a busy mum and not competing has meant I’ve had to change the way I eat. I can no longer eat whatever I want but now I simply think a little more about portion size. I’m a believer in moderation — nothing is off limits food-wise.
What inspired you to create Jennis?
Jennis focuses on women, and as a mum of two who’s trained all her life I wanted to share some of the lessons I learnt from my elite performance team — whether that’s how to care for your body as you grow a baby or how to deal with disappointment and stress. Throughout life we all deal with so much, and having a place that can help us harness the positive benefits of keeping fit and healthy is something I believe I can create with the help of another great team of people.
Why did you want to dedicate so much of it to women and prenatal and postnatal health?
Having had two babies and two very different pregnancies and postnatal journeys, I wanted to start by sharing some of the simple but really effective exercises that my physios created for me for my first pregnancy. I religiously followed the prenatal and postnatal plans they devised and was able to win a World Championship gold medal in heptathlon based on 10 months of training. I dug these exercises out for my second pregnancy and again used them as the basis for my fitness journey.
Jessica Ennis-Hill’s fitness app Jennis Fitness is available to download globally on iOS and Android for £14.99 per month.