Jess Ennis-Hill: My Food & Fitness Regime

From getting the low-down on how a person works out to discovering how they maintain balance in their diet, here’s the latest instalment in our series where we ask industry experts to share the ins and outs of their weekly food and fitness regimes.

CREATED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH JENNIS FITNESS

As one of Great Britain’s most successful athletes, Jess Ennis-Hill spent years working with the best coaches and physios, and after retiring in 2016, decided to share her knowledge with the world. The result is the Jennis app – elite training made accessible for all, wherever you are on your fitness journey. From athlete to entrepreneur, Jess may seem superhuman, but Jennis sheds further light on the real, busy working mum behind the billboards, bringing science-backed training plans straight to your living room. Here, she tells us what an average day-in-the-life looks like – from how she fuels up to the kit she can’t be without.

To me, healthy means balance. It means being able to enjoy life – everything from your food to your exercise, but also having that element of balance. Being healthy is being free from fads or anything too restrictive.

I always start my day with hot water. I’ll have a coffee later in the morning with some granola, yoghurt and fruit – my go-to weekly breakfast. I drink lots of hot water throughout the day, too. At the weekend, we tend to have a later family breakfast. Andy (my husband) makes these bad boy burritos, which are delicious – we often have those for brunch, as well as lots of eggs.

You wouldn’t call me a supplement junkie. When I was an athlete, you had to be careful what supplements you were taking, so I would always err on the side of caution when I was competing. That mentality has stuck with me, so now I just take vitamins C and D and magnesium. I’ve been taking more vitamin C recently though, with everything that’s going on it’s important to be as healthy as you can possibly be. 

Portion control is so important. I used to a see a nutritionist when I was training to help me track body fat and support my nutrition to make sure my macros were on track, but now I love food for the pure joy of it. I never plan to be restrictive in how I eat. However, one thing I’ve taken from being an athlete is portion control. When you’re training twice a day, you need the fuel, whereas a non-athlete with a normal amount of physical activity doesn’t need the same volume of food that an elite athlete would. Having said that, I’ve never counted calories and never want to be in that mindset where I exercise because I want to eat nice food.

A HIIT workout is over before you know it but you still feel like you’ve worked hard. A session that includes lots of lower-body work is the best.

It’s vital to fuel your exercise. I don’t like to have a full tummy when I exercise so I make sure I’ve eaten at least two hours before I work out. If I’m exercising in the morning, I’ll always have my granola with yoghurt and fruit and make sure I eat my heavier carbs during the day so I’m always good to go in the afternoon.

Cooking is something I really enjoy. Trying out different dishes is so much fun, and for me, it’s important for my kids to see me cooking healthy food. As a family, we’ve recently been enjoying the odd takeaway, too, especially on the weekend. My favourite is an Indian or Thai.

I’ve always had a sweet tooth. I have something sweet after every evening meal, usually a couple of biscuits or a chocolate brownie. It’s always nice to have a treat at the end of a busy, active long day.

Switching off isn’t something that comes easily to me. I’ve always been a good sleeper, but I struggle to wind down in the evenings. I find writing down my thoughts and hashing out a to-do list helps, as do gentle breathing exercises. 

I work out four times a week. At the moment, I aim to run twice a week and do four sessions of Jennis HIIT circuits. Now the kids are older, I have more time on my hands, which allows me to fit this in. Before the pandemic, I would do my circuits in the evening when the kids were in bed. But now I’m working from home, along with my husband, we can tag team with the kids and get our work done, and fit our exercise in between. Over the last few months, there’s been more flexibility to exercise at different times of the day, and lockdown-induced activities we’ve been doing with the kids – such as bike rides and walks – have all counted, too. We’re so lucky to live close to the Peak District, and being out in nature has kept us all sane. 

You can’t go wrong with HIIT. A HIIT workout is over before you know it but you still feel like you’ve worked hard. A session that includes burpees, squat jumps, squat thrusts and lots of lower-body work is the best – you feel the burn and see the results. 

As an athlete, my body was my tool. But now, with no competition deadlines, I can enjoy exercise in a different way. I still push myself hard, but I enjoy it more.

It’s important to think about variety. When I was training, I loved the variety of the different events instead of focusing solely on one area – it’s so easy to get stuck in a fitness rut. With Jennis, we offer a variety of workouts that complement each other, such as HIIT, yoga, steady state sessions, strength sessions and running. One of the most common mistakes women make with their training is getting too comfortable with their routine and not pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. You need to mix things up to get stronger.

As you get older, flexibility becomes so important. When you’re doing lots of explosive sessions, it’s good to balance things out with mobility work. We recently added yoga to the app, which is hugely exciting. The classes are headed up by Lina Neilsen, an incredible 400m hurdler who turned to yoga after her own battle with injury. 

These days, I understand my body so much better. As an athlete, my body was my tool and exercise was my job – I always wanted to break my body to get better. But now, with no competition deadlines, I can enjoy exercise in a different way. As an athlete, there were always training sessions I would dread but now, I can pick and choose what I do and when I do it. I still push myself hard, but I enjoy it more now. Whether it’s going for a run with a friend or doing a Jennis HIIT session, I enjoy being able to switch off and relish that feeling of satisfaction once it’s done. 

It pays to think about your kit. Adidas’ Ultra boost trainers are my go-to as they provide the perfect level of support. We don’t realise how tight the arches of our feet get when running or doing circuits, so having a good trainer that supports your ankles and arches is important. Remember lots of fitness-related issues start in the feet.

It’s okay to take a rest day. This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt throughout my career. When you exercise, you feel you need to constantly push yourself, and you believe that’s the only way to get better. However, you can push yourself to breaking point and end up injured if you don’t factor in recovery – your body needs to rest to be able to adapt and get stronger. I love to have a long soak in the bath with magnesium and I also love my vibrating foam roller, which is great to use after a tough session, especially on the calves and IT bands. It’s so easy to forget how tight the body gets after running and HIIT and how much better you can feel after a good stretch. 

 

For more information visit JennisFitness.com. Your first 14 days are free; packages start from £14.99 per month.

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