Outdoorsy presenter Helen Skelton tells how a family tragedy shifted her outlook and why her love of fitness has nothing to do with abs
Losing two cousins who were really close to me altered my perspective on life massively. One didn’t even get to the age I am, and nowadays I’m just grateful for every extra year I chalk up on earth, and enjoy life as much as possible.
It means I definitely don’t ‘sweat the small stuff ’. My elder cousin was in her 30s and had breast cancer, and my other cousin died in a tragic accident in her mid-20s. We’re a close-knit family and it was traumatic for everyone.
I know being an open, honest, outspoken person gets me into trouble all the time, but I don’t know how to be any other way. Sure, sometimes I think, ‘Why did I say that?’, but at the end of the day, it’s all a game really. People getting wound up about me wearing a pair of shorts and say it’s affected my getting a job is just plain silly. I thought I looked nice, while my family and friends just laughed and said, ‘Helen, you’ve always worn weird outfits, what’s the fuss about!’
Frankly, you’re heading down a dangerous path if you take seriously what people say about you, and I don’t read most of it. I believe in a great saying — ‘Don’t wish life away, and don’t look on it as forever’ — and when life’s stressful, I think of that. Come on, you’re signing up to boxing not ballet, and basically to hit someone in the face! If I hadn’t fought like I did and given it everything, it would have been disrespectful to the sport and all the effort my trainer put into me. I got a black eye, my husband found it difficult to watch and cried, but he was proud of me and I did my best. I wouldn’t do it again but I loved every minute of the experience. I’ve been active and dedicated to health and fitness since I was 15 years old, but I don’t do it because it’s good for my backside, my abs or to look good. I do it because I enjoy it and get a total buzz out of it. I’m five foot two and never weigh myself and never follow a diet, and off-screen I hardly wear make-up.
I’ve been lucky to experience so many challenges: The 78mile Namibian Ultra Marathon, kayaked the Amazon, cycled to the South Pole, run in the London Marathon.
Our garage is full of every type of sport equipment — skis, mountain bikes, road bikes, boxing gloves, skipping ropes, kayaks, kites. I work out in there regularly and I’m always up for trying a new sport.” GLAM GIRL: We only married in 2013 — so ask me the secret in 10 years time! Marriages and relationships are not all plain sailing but we approach it like team work. Rich is the best dad. He’s the ‘sugar police’ when it comes to their diet and insists on routine, whereas sometimes I’m anything for a quiet life, so we’re a good balance. Our house is chaos usually, as Ernie (3) and Louis (1) are so close in age and are the definition of wild at times. For the time being, we’re not having any more, but I wouldn’t say no one day. We’ve just had to buy the biggest bed as they end up sleeping with us every night. We laugh about the idea of ‘date nights’. I can’t even fit in time for a hair colour, so how do people find time for those? I don’t take mental health lightly. Being aware of what makes you happy is a really good thing. I’m much better and happier when I’m outside near green spaces, so I spend a lot of time outside — walking, wandering, getting fresh air — and that keeps my head in check. Countryfile’s the ideal job for me, even though some moments have challenged my calm — like getting splatted in the face by a cow pat, and being trapped in a rubber dry suit when I was seven months pregnant and having a group of total strangers try to wrestle me out of it!
Getting enough sleep, exercising and spending quality time with my family and those who are precious to me is key. I’m learning Reiki, a healing technique, and I practise on my husband and the kids but hope to become a trained Master of it eventually. Spending time with my kids and Rich, and I love my work in the crazy world of television. I love the variety of live television, entertainment and sport, and my dream would be to cover the Olympics in Tokyo.
What’s so rewarding is helping with a campaign: P&G and Sainsbury’s #HelpUsHelpThem campaign raising funds for The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland.
It’s really important to help reduce the stress and anxiety of service people and their families across the armed forces community, who are vulnerable and in need. It’s for all sorts of people, from serving soldiers to those who’ve been medically discharged, or relatives of those who’ve died. There couldn’t be a more deserving cause. I feel guilty because I love my friends dearly, but I’m a terrible friend and regularly pull out of lunches, birthday parties and meetups. We’re really good in this generation at stretching ourselves in all directions and doing things that we think we ought to do, but every now and again, you’ve got to say no to stuff. With the boys and working all over the country, I literally can’t do everything. Helen Skelton is supporting P&G and Sainsbury’s #HelpUsHelpThem campaign, raising funds for The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland. From now until November 20, Sainsbury’s shoppers can buy selected P&G health and beauty products, including Oral B, Olay, Gillette and Pantene, in store or online and trigger a donation. 1 pack = 1 donation
Helen Skelton, and (above) with husband Richie and their sons