When I was young, some of my friends joined a basketball club and I went along too. I was not very tall and I was very skinny so I was really rubbish at it!
What I did fall in love with from day one though was athletics. My earliest memory of it is from a kid’s athletics camp I went to when I was 12. I had a go at all the disciplines and I also met some really great people who have remained friends for life.
My parents were always incredibly supportive when it came to athletics, but it was my Grandad who was my number one fan. He took me to competitions, and he even gave me little incentives along the way to motivate me to do well.
When I was 15 I went to my first international competition in a GB vest and that was when I knew I wanted to become a professional athlete.
I never could have imagined where that dream would take me – all the way to a home Olympics in London. It was a truly surreal experience walking out into a full stadium on the first morning of the heptathlon. Usually at a major championship the morning sessions are empty, but the crowd in London was roaring! Throughout the two days of the competition the crowd was amazing and the noise and energy really lifted me.
Leading a healthy and active lifestyle is something I have always known. I know how important it is, it gives me so much energy and I feel it helps me get the most out of life. I also really want to inspire others to be active and healthy, which is why I’ve teamed up with Vitality to create VitalityMove, a new running and music event series that aims to encourage people to exercise by making running fun.
I know how hard it can be to lead an active lifestyle and it’s more of a challenge for me now that I am retired. So I have started going out for short jogs with my friend Hannah as training for VitalityMove, I do yoga with my sister Mel, and my husband Andy, and I do circuits and weights in the gym.
The most recent addition to my schedule is parkrun. My husband regularly runs at Sheffield Hallam parkrun and normally I go along with my son Reggie to cheer daddy on. As someone who is really keen to encourage as many people as possible to be active in some way, I just love how inclusive and welcoming parkrun always is.
On Saturday it was my turn to try it. 5k is a long way for an 800-metre runner, so the combination of Paul Sinton-Hewitt pacing me and the typical parkrun atmosphere sweeping me along was a huge boost.
My advice to people who are just getting into running or any type of physical activity is to set achievable goals – don’t try to do too much too soon. Follow a schedule and team up with friends if you can. It is so much more fun doing activity with other people.
For most of us, fitting in exercise around work, family and socialising can be difficult. What works for me is building exercise into my schedule at the start of week. Put it in the diary like you would a meeting and try not to let anything supersede it.
This is one of the reasons I think the whole concept of parkrun is brilliant. It’s at the same time, same place every week, and if you do miss one then it’s there for you again the very next week.
For my family, Sheffield Hallam parkrun is perfect because as locals we know lots of people there. The challenge now will be negotiating with my husband as to who runs and who looks after Reggie!
Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
Click here to read more about parkrun UK’s landmark partnership with Vitality.
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