TV presenter, radio host and keen adventurer, Helen Skelton is one of Britain’s best-loved icons. Women’s Fitness catches up with the star to chat about her love of the outdoors and secrets to success
You don’t need any dancing skills to keep in step with Helen Skelton. For her bubbly personality and endless energy is so infectious, it’s difficult not to catch up. And it comes as no surprise that, for someone who walks and talks (a lot), she is most certainly the cream of the crop, both on and off the television.
From her BBC 5Live radio show and stint on Strictly Come Dancing, to being a mum-of-three and avid adventurer, Helen Skelton seems to take everything in her stride. And that is all down to what she describes as having a good family support around her and being happy in her career – one that has made her such a well-known and much loved household name.
Helen Skelton started her presenting career at Newsround before landing a dream role at Blue Peter, which she co-hosted between 2008 and 2013. Since then, she has been the face of numerous shows – perhaps best-known for being the presenter of Countryfile and, most recently of course, the runner up of Strictly Come Dancing. However, the 39-year-old, who was raised on a dairy farm outside of Cumbria, is most at home working on her hit Channel 5 show On The Farm, where she celebrates all things farming.
When not working, Skelton is known for having an adventurous streak, which has seen her take part in numerous extreme challenges for charity, including kayaking more than 2,000 miles along the Amazon River, and cycling 500 miles to the South Pole, both for Sport Relief.
Helen Skelton really is the Fitness Queen. From her beautiful home in the Lake District, she opened up to us about life on and off camera…
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Where does your passion for adventure stem from?
‘Being adventurous is in my blood. It is all about making the most out of every opportunity thrown at me. As a kid, I played outside a lot and learnt it was good to make up your own activities and games. It stems from that, I think. Having always been someone who has been physically active, I’ve always felt the need to be adventurous as a way of putting my energy to good use.
‘I have been lucky enough to take part in many sports adventures for charities and, for me, being able to complete a 2,000-mile kayak trip along the Amazon for Sport Relief in 2010 is still the best thing I ever did. It was life-changing’
Have you always loved fitness and exercise?
‘I seem to be one of those people who has so much energy, which is helpful as, with three kids under the age of eight, trust me, I need it! When I exercise, I find I am so much calmer and a better person all round – I’m not someone who cares about achieving a peachy bum or the perfect body from it, but my brain gets an excellent workout and that is what is far more important to me.
‘I have always mixed up my fitness routine, though, so I go through phases of doing things like netball and Zumba, to running with a child in a pram, to HIIT sessions with the kids. Also, I adore cycling, and always take the kids on bike rides. I am lucky to be living in the countryside as it is the best way to get around.
‘We eat fresh food ,and I make hearty, healthy meals. Living in such a green area means I get to grow vegetables, too, which is something I have continued to do since lockdown.’
You have had an incredible career. What is the secret to your success?
‘I have always taken everything I do one step at a time, and never focused on the bigger picture. Take my job on Strictly, for example. Of course it was very overwhelming to do, but I absolutely loved it – the highs and the lows. It was a very gruelling show to be a part of, but the fact I managed to be in the right mindset really helped me a lot. I’m also very lucky that my parents provide such an amazing support, so they were there to hold me up. And having that good network enabled me to focus on the job and get through the shows week on week.
‘Also, having a dance partner in Gorka Marquez was great, as together we were both very efficient in training and getting the dance moves done. At the end of the day, we both just wanted to be at home with our kids. We learnt how to balance our time together by not partaking in small talk, as we had our little ones waiting at home for us.’
On the subject of kids, do they get to watch you on the television?
‘My kids don’t care about what I do; they just know me as Mummy! And the same goes for the set of best friends I have had since my school days – they don’t see me as someone in the spotlight. In fact, someone recently stopped me in the street and asked for a photograph with me and they laughed as they know me for me, not someone off the telly!’
How do you stay grounded?
‘Firstly, I have such great support around me that nobody would ever let fame get to my head. Secondly, filming On the Farm is my happy place as it really is like a home-from-home. Being brought up on a dairy farm, I feel so grateful to get to do a job I know so much about and am so passionate about. I also get to do shows like BBC Morning Live, for which I got to work with my amazing friends including Gethin Jones and Kym Marsh, so we all have each other’s backs. It’s just a job at the end of the day, which I am lucky to do. It just happens to be a public-facing job, so people recognise me.
‘I’ve learnt that you get out of life what you put into it – and that is my life motto. That is why I embrace every opportunity that comes my way.’
Helen Skelton’s tips for a happy workout
- ‘Try to do your workout outside so you get the benefits of the fresh air and being in nature.’
- ‘Always try to work out with a smile on your face.’
- ‘Mix it up a bit by trying different types of exercise.’
Helen Skelton’s steps to de-stress
- ‘Go to the driving range and hit some golf balls!’
- ‘Have a punch bag at home.’
- ‘Go on a hilly bike ride, as it forces you to pedal hard to get to the top, and then you can breathe out and release the stress as you go downhill!’
For more details on Helen Skelton’s BBC 5Live radio show, visit bbc.co.uk
Words: Suzanne Baum | Photography: Kevin Peschke | Hair and make-up: Michael Richmond | Fashion direction: Karen Jones Russell. All @Representedby.Me