Tess Daly: ‘Daily yoga helps me stay calm – I’d never be able to switch off from my to-do list without it’

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  • Mentally, it's a non-negotiable for the presenter.

    When I catch up with Tess Daly over Zoom, she’s just got back from a shopping trip with her two daughters, Phoebe, 16, and Amber, 12.

    She’s delighted that her youngest is finally into what she calls ‘retail therapy’ – “it’s just lovely,” she laughs.

    We spend the next thirty minutes chatting about her lockdown, current work commitments – she’ll be presenting this year’s Strictly Come Dancing for the seventeenth year in a row alongside co-host Claudia Winkleman, and has also just signed an ambassadorship with Artelac eye drops – and day-to-day routines, health hacks and non-negotiables that keep her grounded amid a hectic work schedule and filming commitments.

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    Tess Daly chats her go-to health and wellness hacks

    Tess Daly’s health and fitness: ‘Daily yoga is a non-negotiable’

    A: Tess, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. What have you been up to?

    T: Well, today I took the girls shopping – a little bit of retail therapy, which was lovely. My 12 year old’s finally into clothes shopping.

    A: We’re keen to hear all about your health and fitness – I know you’ve been a Women’s Health cover star twice. Tell me a bit about what a normal week in workouts looks like to you.

    T: I have a trainer that I work with – Sam Shaw of Lemon Studios – who trains me two or three times a week. We do bodyweight circuits and weight training, too. He helped change my outlook on fitness – before it felt more like something that I had to, rather than wanted, to do.

    Having someone physically in the room to help motivate you – well, you haven’t got any choice but to crack on with it.

    He’s brilliant because he boosts your exercise motivation by making you feel like you’re motivating yourself. It’s really helped me on my fitness journey – I’m stronger now than I was in the past.

    When I worked out on my own, I’d get to the gym but not really know how to use equipment properly. I’d be watching the minutes tick by. In my head, I’d be saying, hey, can I leave now? Have I done my penance?

    Under his guidance, I realise that I’m actually really strong. I feel better. He’s shown me the ropes, if you like, and changed the way that I workout.

    I’ll also hop on my running machine at home maybe two times a week – I only need twenty minutes, and I do one minute on, one minute off – a minute of walking and a minute of running at pace. It’s good for getting the heart rate up.

    I know if I didn’t mix my workout routine up, I’d end up skipping sessions.

    I also do yoga pretty much every day – even if it’s just for fifteen minutes or going through a few of the poses, it helps me to stretch out the day. It’s good to calm the muscles, calm the mind, and also keeps you flexible.

    A: Yoga is great for setting in your mind and calming your energy, isn’t it?

    T: Isn’t it? When I do yoga, I feel like I’m kind of coming home to myself. As a woman – or in my experience, anyway, I’ve spend I’ve spent most of my adult life looking after everybody in my life.

    We’re all natural caretakers, aren’t we? Those around us, we nurture by nature. We all know how important health is but we’re all so busy. If I’m not driving my children somewhere, I’m cooking for them.

    If I do take the time to do yoga, even just ten minutes in the morning or last thing at night before bed, I feel better. Sometimes I just get on all fours on the wrong side of the bed and I’m start doing cat-cow. You’re stretching and you’re doing something lovely for yourself before you go to bed. It’s just a wonderful and it makes you feel so relaxed.

    It’s almost like a little ten minute vacation in your mind and in your life. Everything stills and slows and you can always feel the benefits as you breathe deeply.

    You’re like, okay, this is what I needed. To bring this back to myself now. I find it so beneficial for both my mind and body.

    A: I think you’ve tapped into something our readers are always so conscious of – time constraints.

    T: You know, as a Mum, I’m really busy. Sometimes I’m like, oh my gosh, how do I fit all in? But even ten minutes is enough.

    You can do it online. You can do it on your iPad or your phone. I just stick my phone on the shelf or a chair wherever and I’m off. That’s what’s so wonderful about so many of these online tutorials. I love Yoga with Adriene – she’s the best.

    A: I love her. She’s great, isn’t she?

    T: She’s got such a lovely, soothing voice. I find it very calming. I also love that she has a class for basically anything. If you’ve got sciatica or a stiff neck from driving, she’s got a ten or fifteen minute class designed for that which will make you feel better.

    Take ten minutes and your body will thank you for it, without doubt.

    A: She’s my favourite. Did your workouts change over lockdown down, did you have more time to workout? 

    T: Yeah – I definitely had more time. We sorted out our home gym – it’s mostly a dumping ground and filled with [husband Vernon Kay’s] American football memorabilia. We cleared it all out and made space for the gym equipment – I got really into it because it was something I could do at home.

    Once I’ve got my workout in, I feel like I’ve done something that’s useful towards day. The day tends to roll off a lot more smoothly for me if I get a workout in, particularly post-yoga.

    We also did lots of walking as a family – we had such delightful weather.

    I did up my exercise a little bit because I was conscious of being at home and just at my fridge door all the time (laughs).

    Tess Daly fitness

    A: Did food become a big focus for you over lockdown? 

    T: Food became a big focus for all of us. While I do love eating healthy, I am fond of a naughty treat as well. I’ve got such a sweet tooth. I love cake too much to ever give it up. We do lots of baking in our house.

    I believe in eating everything in moderation. Deprivation doesn’t work for me because I really enjoy my food.

    I’m a foodie – I love food. It’s just part of life for me. It’s one of life’s joys. Moderation for me means eating healthily, not depriving yourself of treats, whether that’s a chocolate bar with your four o’clock cup of tea or fish and chips on a Friday night. I believe in letting yourself enjoy treats in moderation and doing whatever feels sensible for you. I never overeat, but I never deprive myself either.

    A: Often if you deprive yourself, you then end up eating more of the it anyway, right?

    T: That’s it. It becomes a mind game. I can’t get into those kind of mind games because I worked in the fashion industry before I was in television and I just thought there was just too much of it going on. I thought, this will never suit me, and deprivation is never going to be the key to happiness.

    A: What your favourite treat?

    T: Ooh, it’s got to be Green and Black’s milk chocolate. That’s my idea of heaven, with a cup of tea.

    A: Did lockdown teach you anything about yourself?

    Definitely. Training one-on-one over Zoom with my trainer taught me that I needed that motivation. Otherwise I would have found something else on my to-do list to do instead that I’d convince myself was more important than my own workout.

    I realised how much as human beings we want interaction. We need it, whether it’s with our peers or friends or family. Those were just things we lost.

    I also think we need routine. For me, knowing that I had a workout scheduled in at certain times in the week hugely helped me. I thought I wouldn’t like routine, as I’ve never worked a nine to five job – I’ve only ever had a freelance working life. But I realised I needed it more than I thought because we no longer had the routine of school runs or picking the girls up.

    Having plans to look forward too is also so key – I didn’t realise how important having plans to look forward too are. Whether it’s dinner with friends or a cocktails on a Friday night, it’s just not the same on a computer screen. For me, that’s what I missed the most.

    A: Did you pick up any lockdown hobbies or new skills?

    Me and my youngest learnt to use the sewing machine and she started to knit herself – although I don’t have the patience for knitting. We also did lots of art together – she’s very artistic.

    We also spent lots of quality time together and did lots of baking together, too. We cooked lots of things from scratch – pizza, sushi, cannolis and more.

    A: Making sushi is so fun, isn’t it.

    T: We love it. You know the younger ones won’t be into the raw fish but you can do it with avocado, tinned fish or veggies.  It’s a fun and really healthy dinner.

    A: Before you shoot off – what’s your daily non-negotiable? What are the two or three things you do every single day that have a huge kind of impact on your health and well-being?

    T: I try to move my body every day. Whether that’s a stretch or session, I do it for my fitness and for my mind. Yoga at the end of the day really works for me to stop my mind racing and going over all the outstanding things on my to-do list. If I don’t, then becomes this huge thing and keeps me awake.

    Doing yoga every day makes me feel calm and serene. Mentally, that’s that’s non-negotiable for me.

    I love cooking healthy meals at home. I really enjoy it and know it can nurture you from the inside out. It’s also important for the little ones, to provide these bodies that we’re helping to grow with nourishment.

    I’d love to see them eventually making healthy meals – I think what you eat affects everything from your overall wellbeing, to your mental health.

    I’m big into gut friendly food – it’s always been an interest of mine. I do a lot of research into it because I’m hugely interested in the benefits of the food we eat. Food is medicine. A decade ago we didn’t even make the connection between health and mental health. It honestly blows my mind.

    Meal prep is key – I try and cook healthy meals in advance, like turkey burgers or sushi made from whole food ingredients. They may not sound healthy, but when you’re cooking them at home, they can be.

    Sitting around the table to eat dinner together is also a non-negotiable for me – it’s when the family comes together and we get special time with the children. That’s where they normally open up and we get to see what’s happening in their lives. It’s really important for me to sit around the table once a day at least.

    Lastly, I’m really hot on my beauty routine. I drink loads of five to six cups of water a day and always look after my skin, moisturising and hydrating it daily. I always wear sunscreen – that’s non-negotiable. Lines and the sun damage will last forever. My Mum taught me to look after my skin, and so it’s always been my philosophy.

    My eyes also get really dry from all the Zoom calls and studio lights, and so I love the Artelac eye drops. They’re so hydrating.

    A: Quick fire round. What’s your go-to breakfast?

    T: Greek yogurt with berries, blueberries and some honey and a little bit sprinkle on top of fibre. I eat exactly the same breakfast most days and love it.

    A: And your go-to heathy dinner?

    T: We always eats lots of green vegetables – my daughter’s favourite is my soy broccoli. I sautéed broccoli in a pan with with asparagus or maybe some green leaves and toast them all with some fresh garlic, a squeeze fresh lemon and soy sauce. Add a tiny bit of water and it makes this gorgeous, delicious sauce.

    We also love a sweet potato turkey cottage pie. Wow. You can make it with white potatoes but for some people, they hurt the gut – it depends on the individual.

    I’d happily be vegetarian. I eat chicken and fish sometimes but I often make a veggie version of dinner for myself. I think eating less red meat is probably better for all of us and better for the planet, as well.

    A: What’s your favourite current podcast or book that you’re reading or listening to that you want to shout about?

    I’m halfway through The Vanishing Half and it’s brilliant. I also love Gabby Logan’s podcast, The MidPoint – she’s a really close friend and I just think it’s so clever.

    For more information on Artelac eye drops and how dry eyes can be prevented and treated, visit Artelac on Amazon here.

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