Getting fit is often something on our goals for the year but starting can seem a little daunting, so we spoke to fitness guru Davina McCall about her own fitness journey and got a little inspiration and advice too!
What made you embark on your fitness journey?
It’s so weird. If you had said to me when I was pregnant with my second child, which is when I started trying to get fit, “in 18 years’ time, you’re going to be known for fitness and with some people, known for fitness more than you are for telly,” I would’ve just laughed. But I had enormous babies, like massive. The average baby weight is about 7lb 4. Holly was 8lb 12, Tilly was 9lb 11 and Chester was 10lb 2. I just make big ‘ens!
When I was pregnant with Holly, I looked kind of good, I looked kind of nice and after, I really didn’t bother very much with getting fit, because I thought “well, in a year I’m going to get pregnant and go again”. Luckily for us, we were blessed with being able to get pregnant quite quickly, so I thought it’d just happen again, and it did. But the second time I got pregnant, I remember looking four months pregnant when I was about eight weeks, and I thought, “Oh my goodness, what is going on?” Then I thought, “This might be my last kid, so I’ve got to try and at least look after myself and get a bit fitter for the birth. I’m going to reframe the way I look at fitness.”
Previously, I’d been a read-a-magazine-on-the-stepper-in-the-gym-type. Only when the rugby team came in did I put any effort in, because I thought, “Better look good!”. It was purely for vanity, but I was going to have two kids to look after now, I was going to need some energy. I looked up two trainers in my local rag and I said, “Could you come to my house?” Now I don’t think twice about going to a gym, but when I was pregnant with Tilly, I was probably the most famous I’ve ever been because of Big Brother, I was being mobbed everywhere and it made me quite self-conscious, so going to a gym for me was not a good option. I felt like everyone was looking at me, I didn’t know what exercises to do, I hated it.
I found these personal trainers called Jackie and Mark. Jackie was a gymnast, Mark a former marine, they were married, I literally fell in love with them both, and they trained me. I remember going to the BAFTAs about eight months after I had Tilly. I hadn’t lost all my baby fat, but I possibly looked better than before I had Holly. I was bigger but was more toned and had a better shape. I remember everyone going, “Wow, Davina!”, taking pictures, and I remember thinking, “What is going on?”. The next day the picture of me in the red dress was everywhere and I thought, “Oh my God, this is Jackie and Mark!”
About two months after that, everybody was asking, “How did you get fit? How did you do it? What did you do?”. I thought, “people want to know how to do this”. So, I suggested to my agent that I’d like to do a workout DVD and show people how me, Jackie and Mark did it. They’re very unique, I get two aspects. I get beasted by Mark and I get aerobics and gymnastics from Jackie. It’s a brilliant combo. My agent said, “I think it’s tacky, don’t do it,” but I went, “No, honestly, I really, really think…” and anyway, he did go with me in the end, and it was a big-selling workout DVD.
What are your favourite products to help enhance a workout?
I lay in bed this morning thinking for an hour, what is my hero product? What am I always saying we need to make five times as many of these? We make as many as we make of these because they just sells out everywhere in seconds everywhere, and that’s my weighted gloves.
I think the reason why they sell out so brilliantly is that they’re uber comfy. They aren’t too heavy, because if you’re going to wear weighted gloves for 45 minutes, it’s killer. These are so lightweight that you can wear them all the time, for walking, marching it out, for any kind of boxing programme, any kind of arm exercises. You can use your 2kg weights and add a little extra by wearing your weighted gloves if you want to go up half a kilo. They are so versatile and so good. I literally wear them non-stop, and we do them in the best range of colours so that’s my hero product, you’ve got to own a pair of weighted gloves, they’re amazing. For any women who say they don’t want to lift heavy weights because it’ll make them big, actually that’s not really true; it builds good quality muscle, but it won’t make you like Arnie.
I am a huge advocate of working out at home. I go to one class, a spin class, and I love that but everything else I do at home. You don’t need to go anywhere, and you can have a very, very small kit in your house, you don’t need a lot of stuff.A workout mat is nice, because you can use a towel on the floor, but if you’ve got carpet, there’s a bit of movement that happens with a towel that is quite frustrating so a mat is a really, really good call. What I really love about a mat is you can roll them up into a tiny thing, shove them under a sofa out of the way, no one will see.
The second thing is weights. Now, if you’re a newbie, I would go for a 2kg weight. 2kg weights are brilliant, I use them almost all of the time, sometimes 3kg, but I never go beyond that and that freaks people out. I just don’t need it. I do high reps, low weights. If you want to have versatility, you could go for the weighted tower where you get 1kgs, 2kgs and 3kgs, which is brilliant. If you only wanted to buy one set, I’d go 2kg, so you’ve got weighted gloves, 2kg weights and a mat. Then there’s resistance bands, again the easiest thing to slide into a drawer, and there’s so many great toning exercises you can do with resistance bands. Also, a fold-away bicycle for cardio. Amazing. Put it in your hallway cupboard.
The one last thing, again because its so versatile, is my Total Body Workout piece of equipment, which is like a seat and you can do arms and press ups, in fact there’s just so much you can do on there, and again, it slides away. It’s all about where you can hide your kit, and nobody’s got any space. It just needs to hide in a cupboard or slide under a sofa.
Why do you think exercise is so important for wellbeing?
Never before have we quite understood the correlation between exercise and mental health. The last year and a half have pushed most of us to our limits, even the most positive people. I really do feel like I’m a sunny person, but there were very dark moments in the last year and a half, and the thing that kept me going was a walk outside, or a quick 20 minute-half an hour workout inside. Walking outside and getting fresh air is very good for your mental health, but there’s something that happens when you do a class.
I think if you go online and do a class it’s like you’re with someone else, and what happens very rapidly, is you get to know all of those trainers on there so you can form some kind of bond. You know what kind of person they are; you get to know all their little ways and they become your friends. When we’ve all felt a bit lonely or a bit lost, joining an online class has been an absolute godsend, but of course there are the physical benefits. When we were unable to get out, you see the benefit from joining an online class and getting those endorphins up, the dopamine, the serotonin, all those lovely things that happen.
This is something that I don’t understand, why all governments around the world are not prescribing exercise and food a lot more?! If you want to boost your immune system, eat properly and exercise, look after your body, and your body will look after you. So, it’s mental health benefits and protecting yourself, in the best way that you can, from getting ill.How do you fit exercise into your busy daily routine?
Sometimes I really miss my day job. When I used to work at Models One as a booker on the men’s desk, there was a really reassuring thing knowing that I’d go to work at 9am, and I would finish work at 6pm. That was always lovely because if I wanted to work out, I’d get up at 7am, do my workout and go to work. I could do that four days a week, which is what I probably would’ve done. Now I could be working three nights a week, so I don’t want to work out in the evening – it’s definitely a case of working out in the morning. Sometimes it means setting my alarm for 6am and just doing 15 minutes.
This is why I love the versatility of online working out because you can choose the amount of time, you just go, “I’ve got 15 minutes, and this is all I can do”. Sometimes I’ll be doing it in my bra and pants. But it’s a question of when you’ve done a little something in the morning, you start your day on the right footing. You feel a bit smug. I do my workout in the morning and think, “Ha! I’ve done it!” You don’t need to feel guilty if you’ve just done 10 minutes. You’ve done 10 minutes more than someone sitting on their sofa, so well done. Anything you can crowbar in is good and will make you feel good about yourself.
Which workouts would you recommend for someone who’s new to fitness?
There’s a lot of beginner’s programmes on my app that I would recommend. I cherry pick the exercises that I want to do, but I have been going back to beginner’s programmes because I felt like I wanted to go back to basics. There are also some foundation exercises that are amazing for mobilising, that’s where I am at now – I need mobilising. If you are completely new, start with a beginner’s programme, it’s really gentle and my best advice would be if it hurts, stop, and go again the next time.
Don’t do anything that you hate. If you hate running, don’t start running, because you’re never going to want to do it and it’ll be a barrier to you enjoying it. If you love dog walking, do lots of dog walking and maybe get some weighted gloves or some ankle weights and add a bit of oomph to your dog walk. Find something you love and do that. Set yourself small goals. Do not set yourself an enormous goal of doing the London Marathon if you’ve never worked out before, because you’ll only beat yourself up. There’s something about an enormous goal that feels unachievable and makes you not even want to start working towards it, it’s too much. So set yourself small, achievable goals that make you feel good, not bad.