Dame Kelly Holmes

An Olympic gold medallist in the 800m and 1,500m, founder of a charity that mentors disadvantaged children, and a bona fide dame! We ran with Dame Kelly Holmes MBE last week, and we managed to grill her for some fitness and running advice along the way.

1. Dame Kelly's advice for fitness noobs

People remember all the bits they hated about sport at school, but they haven’t tried all the new fun ways there are to get fit

I come across lots of people who hated sport at school. The thing is they remember all the bits they hated, but they haven’t tried all the new fun ways there are to get fit nowadays.

While lots of people know they need to get fitter and want to get fitter, they don’t know how to start. I always say the best way is to have a goal – it can be as small or as big as you want.

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A lot of people say their motivation or goal is to lose weight but what they actually mean is they want to decrease body fat. Muscle weighs more than fat so, as you get fitter, you may actually find you weigh more.

Finding an activity you enjoy is the key to staying motivated. Working out with other people is so important too. You can encourage each other and keep each other going – not everyone can afford a personal trainer after all!

Some people are put off going to gym classes because they’re worried about looking foolish and not knowing what to do. But you have to remember. everyone in that class was new once. The longer you put off starting it, the longer you’re going to be that ‘new one’.

2. Dame Kelly on her own fitness and training

kelly holmes olympic gold

People say to me ‘Would you still be able to run the 800m like that’ and I say Nooooooooooo, I trained my arse off for that!

People say to me ‘Would you still be able to run the 800m like that’ and I say Nooooooooooo, I trained my arse off for that! Now I just keep fit.

Since I retired from athletics its nice to be able to do sport and fitness with friends. I enjoy cycling and duathlons. I enjoy going to the gym, HIIT training, circuit training, bodyweight training. I do spinning classes and body pump classes as well, because I like working out with other people. My goal is just to keep fit. Most people assume I’m going to be, so that’s my main motivator.

I’d do circuit training, weight training, aqua running in the pool with a buoyancy aid, long steady runs, hill training, track work, speed endurance…

I took part in some duathlons last year. It’s taken me a long time to enjoy taking part in races and competitions. I didn’t take part in anything for years because I thought everyone would expect me to be so good, but I don’t train like I did before.

For middle distance running you’ve got to have speed – so that’s strength, stamina and power – and you’ve got to have endurance. And because you’re in lanes with other people and being barged from side to side you’ve got to do a lot of strength-based work as well.

I was training six days a week, twice a day. I’d do circuit training, weight training, aqua running in the pool with a buoyancy aid, long steady runs, hill training, track work, speed endurance… I really enjoyed the variety.

3. Dame Kelly's advice for runners

Dame Kelly Holmes running

Fartlek training is the absolute key to getting your fitness levels up quickly

Lots of people say to me I do a 5k in this time and I can’t get it any quicker. The reason is because they do the same paced runs all the time.

Fartlek training is the absolute key to getting your fitness levels up quickly. You can do it very easily by going on a run, seeing lampposts and saying I’m going to do strides [a burst of controlled speed] between one and two, jog to the next one and then sprint to the one after. So you’re getting your heart rate up and down really quickly.

In a race you’ll have adrenaline on the start line so you’ll run faster when you start, then you’re dodging people and weaving through them, while at the end you might start sprinting for the finish line, but most people never train like that. Fartleks are a good way to train for the variants of a race.

Planks engage all the small muscles that we neglect but are important for stability

Strength training is important for runners and working on core stability is key. Planks, side planks, and other plank variations engage all the small muscles that we neglect but are important for stability. When you’re running you’re hitting the floor over and over again and all that force is going through your body so you need to strengthen it.

The reason a lot of people neglect core and bodyweight work is because it’s slow. People think ‘Oh, I’ve only got 30 minutes, I want to sweat so I feel like I’ve had a workout’. But you need to strengthen your core so that you can do the other workouts. Do it while you watch TV – every advert break do some squats, some press-ups, a plank.

4. Dame Kelly on not giving up

Charlotte Thomas and Dame Kelly Holmes

I wasn’t academic at school. I felt stupid, a dunce, but as soon as I did sport people took notice

You can’t just fail and then give up. You need to work out why you failed and what you can do about it. When I joined the military as a driver I wanted to be a physical training instructor but I wasn’t very good at team sports because I’m no good with ball skills.

The first time I took the test I failed. They said if you can’t throw a ball or dribble a ball then you can’t then instruct hockey, football, netball… So I put myself on all the courses you can imagine to upskill myself. I passed my next test and was a PTI for six years.

 Sport put me on a level playing field with people when I was younger. I wasn’t academic at all so I felt stupid, a dunce, but as soon as I did sport people took notice. You need to find what makes you feel good and running and sport made me feel good.

Dame kelly holmes

Dame Kelly Holmes led us on the #IntelSmartPB run across London, where we experienced the heart-rate monitoring SMS Audio BioSport earphones, powered by Intel.