We sat down to find out what keeps Charlie feeling healthy, happy and motivated.
Tell us about your history with fitness and health
My mum loved to walk everywhere – and she also was a big aerobics fan (it was the 80s!), so she would take me to her classes. I loved dancing around at the back and joining in with all the Lycra clad women!
My Grandad was also extremely fit – he was a policeman and a rambler so would take me on incredibly long walks. Even at the age of 5, he would march me on 5-mile hikes! I absolutely adored it though, chatting away to my Grandad and taking in all the surroundings. It’s probably because of this that I had such a passion for the great outdoors and physical activity from a young age.
I did a little bit of ballet but I was tall and gangly and always felt awkward – and then I discovered running at the age of 11. Firstly it was just something I loved to do at school, and then I joined a running group and raced all through my teenage years. Training and fitness became a huge part of my life, but as a teenager I didn’t even think of the physical benefits. I just was addicted to how it made me feel – my confidence soared and it released pent up tension and emotions.
I raced at a fairly high level through college, then I trained as a PT and fitness instructor, working as one all the way through University. I loved seeing people feel completely uplifted after training – plus it paid for me to do my degree!
I haven’t stopped since. Fitness is part of my daily routine, just like brushing my teeth. I’ve boxed, done martial arts and run 10 marathons so far. I did an Ironman in 2015 and a few crazy challenges including running to and from 40 football clubs from the North to South of England for charity. And 2016 is shaping up to be even crazier!
What’s your training regime like?
It varies, depending on whether I’m training for a race or not. If I’m not training for something specific I train around 4 times a week and whenever I have time, I run. I travel quite a bit with work and always take my running shoes wherever I go – it’s the best way to discover a place.
If I’m training for an event, I cater my training towards that goal. I always do strength work, normally once a week, and sometimes do Pilates, cycle and swim.
When you don’t feel like training, how do you motivate yourself?
I try to focus on what it is I’m trying to achieve. We all have a goal, no matter how big or small. I also know how good I’m going to feel after I’ve trained, so I don’t give myself a chance to talk myself out of it. I often put workouts in my diary so I know I’ve made the time – then there’s no excuse!
What’s your diet like?
It varies – I eat well but if I want a treat, I’ll have one. For breakfast I have granola and yoghurt and fruit, or egg soldiers, my favourite! Lunch is fish, salad, avocado, rice, chicken, all sorts really – and for dinner I have fish and vegetables or meat and loads of veg or salad, sometimes with rice or sweet potatoes. When I’m training a lot, I up my protein with recovery shakes. I snack on nuts and fruits.
What’s your favourite way to indulge?
I love popcorn and could eat crisps without even taking a breath! I’m not into sweet foods, although I do like traditional desserts like crumble and custard. I love food and the tapas way of eating, where you pick at loads of different tastes. I also adore spicy food like Indian and Thai.
What food couldn’t you live without?
Oh this is hard! Steak or popcorn.
What workout couldn’t you live without?
Running – I would go insane without it!
How do you spend a rest day?
This is one thing I’m not very good at – I often have to force myself to rest as I’m naturally prone to running around and keeping busy. When I do rest, I like to be with friends and eat delicious food, go on walks, read, write, watch films, and listen to music and dance.
What does the word ‘healthy’ mean to you?
Healthy to me means being active, fit and strong. Eating well – not dieting but eating healthy, fresh foods. It also means being happy and feeling good about yourself – being healthy is about your mind AND body. It’s about feeling full of energy and a passion for life.
What makes you feel healthiest?
Nothing beats a good weights session – I always feel so strong and empowered. Running outside makes me feel really healthy, especially in the sunshine in a beautiful location, like by the sea. Any sort of physical activity makes me feel healthy! A good balanced meal with fresh fish and loads of spinach will do the trick too.
What’s your foolproof strategy for reducing stress?
Going running – for me it isn’t just a physical thing, it’s a big stress release. It’s time where I have my own head space and a chance to gather my thoughts. I’m a big believer that any form of physical activity where you can really let off steam is great for reducing stress – whether that’s running, boxing, weight training.
What’s your foolproof strategy for increasing energy?
Running and weight training again! I feel full of energy after I’ve done Olympic lifting sessions – so much so that it makes me feel like I want to run! I also feel increased energy after running. I have more energy on days that I do any sort of exercise, really.
In your opinion, what’s the most underrated element of health?
Sleep and stress relief. Mental health is so important but less talked about, but physical health leads to good mental health. Sleep is the one thing that we’ll all skip too often – I’m so guilty of it. I’m trying to change that though, as it’s such an important time, when the body gets a chance to repair itself.
What’s one thing you wish people did more of for their health?
Exercise! It’s worrying how little people actually move – even just walking somewhere, especially young kids. We as a society have become so sedentary and this needs to change. I think schools should put more emphasis on exercise and change the structure of how they deliver PE, because it’s still so traditional and puts so many kids off. I don’t mean we need more PE lessons, but perhaps schools could do a 15-minute run before or in-between lessons, or even introduce yoga into classrooms. It would start to change our attitudes toward exercise, while boosting productivity. This should also be introduced to the work place. It’s so important.
What mantras do you live by?
Control the controllable – this is a great thing to say to yourself when it comes to doing an event, like a 10k or a marathon, but it also applies to everyday life. It means, don’t fret or concentrate on things that are out of your control, only focus on the things that are.
Who do you look up to?
So many different things and people. I look up to those breaking boundaries and speaking out to make change for the better. I look up to my mum who I’m very close to as well as incredible athletes like Chrissie Wellington and Nicola Adams. When I was a teenager I used to really look up to Kelly Holmes and I was always reading Muhammad Ali books.