The former BBC Breakfast presenter and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! star, Louise Minchin, 53, chats to us about being out of her comfort zone, her fitness addiction plus how she conquered anxiety…

By Gemma Calvert (Images: Yona Photography)

‘Growing up, I played and loved every sport at school. I also used to swim competitively until I was about 14 or 15 when, very sadly, one day I looked at my body with my really strong shoulders and muscles and didn’t like it. Overnight, I decided to give up swimming.

‘In my mid-forties, I rediscovered my love of exercise and now swimming is my main sport. This past summer, I did a 13km swim so I’ve really come full circle with my fitness, and now my health mantra is “just keep moving”.

Louise Minchin: ‘In my mid-forties, I rediscovered my love of exercise. My health mantra is “just keep moving”.’

‘For me, it’s important to move every day. On a good week I’ll do one indoor and one outdoor swim, three runs of varying distance from 30 minutes to an hour, a couple of bike rides and yoga every other day, which helps me feel flexible and strong.

‘I’m definitely a glass half full, if not three quarters full, kind of person. I feel my happiest when I’m optimistic.’

‘I love doing a trail run in the Welsh hills near where I live or swimming in the rain! For me, it’s about being outside as much as I possibly can and feeling like a small part of our beautiful world. I’m possibly addicted to fitness. It’s changed my life and the way I feel about myself so much.

‘To me, good health is about waking up in the morning with my body feeling ready to go, not aching, not feeling tired, but feeling strong and ready to be active. I’m definitely a glass half full, if not three quarters full, kind of person. I feel my happiest when I’m optimistic. For example, if I go out for a run on a freezing cold day, I will always think I’ll feel even better when I get home and into the warm.

Louise Minchin: ‘Good health is about waking up in the morning with my body feeling ready to go.’

‘Triathlon has transformed my life. I took up cycling after taking part in a racing bike challenge with the BBC Breakfast team in 2012, then a friend saw me jogging in the village and invited me to do a triathlon.

‘I was 44 and even though I was a good swimmer, it was the first time I’d swum in a river. It was really challenging. I had a panic attack, which I later realised was because I couldn’t see my hands, the bottom or the end.

‘The bike race was so exciting and the 5km run was hard because it was the furthest I’d ever run. Thirty seconds after I crossed the finishing line with a stitch in my right-hand side and tears rolling down my face, I knew I wanted to do another one.

‘I’ve since moved from shorter sprint distance triathlons to extreme triathlons: a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride and a marathon in extreme environments including Chile and Norway. I’ve learned so much about myself.

‘When I’m in extreme heat, 12 hours into the day and feel I can’t put one step in front of the other, I think to myself, “I’m going to run to that tree and then decide what I do next”. Breaking things down into small chunks makes incredible feats possible, and I take that mindset into other parts of my life.

Louise Minchin: ‘I’m a Celebrity! was scary and daunting, but I looked at it as one big adventure.’

‘When times are really tough, I take a breath, look around and realise I can go on. It’s why I agreed to go on I’m a Celebrity! It was scary and daunting, but I looked at it as one big adventure. I get a buzz from going beyond my comfort zone and pushing my limits.

‘At 53, I feel empowered by doing extreme sports.’

‘In the months after the Patagonman Xtreme triathlon in Chile, I’d wake up, thinking, “Am I still buzzing?” Guess what? I was. The wave of endorphins didn’t just last for a few hours. It lasted weeks. It feels good to be going into my later years feeling strong.

‘My body has gone back to how it was when I was 15, just before I gave up swimming; I’ve got shoulder muscles and biceps and I’m proud of them now because it means my body can do things it couldn’t do before. At 53, I feel empowered by doing extreme sports because I look at my strong legs and think “On my own two feet, I can go a very long way”.

‘I’ve got scars from my training but I don’t care. I stopped running for a long time after snapping a ligament and breaking a bone in my foot. In the summer of 2019, I was preparing for the Norseman extreme triathlon. I’d trained for a year and after my last run up and down Snowdon, I tripped off the edge of a pavement, my ankle went over and I screamed in pain.

Louise Minchin: ‘I’m proud of my muscles now because it means my body can do things it couldn’t do before.’

‘I stopped running for three weeks, completed the triathlon plus another three marathons and then had to admit that it was not getting better. An X-ray and MRI scan confirmed I’d snapped my ligament and broken a bit of bone, so I had reconstructive surgery in December 2020. I now call it my super foot. It’s fixed and incredibly strong. I’m now running again and hope to run the next London Marathon, which I’ve never done before.

‘What I eat is crucial to training. Early on into my fitness journey, I didn’t eat much when I trained and
I lost a lot of weight. Looking back, I lost too much weight. What is wonderful about the amount of exercise I do is I pretty much eat what I like.

‘I eat good food and make an effort to eat fruit and vegetables plus enough protein to repair my muscles. After every session, I’ll have a handful of cashews or some cheese. My go-to food for energy replenishment, much to the horror of my family, is spoonfuls of crunchy peanut butter.

‘I’m not into faddy diets but have dieted before. After my ankle operation, I went on the 5:2 diet, which helped me shed the couple of kilos I put on from sitting on the sofa, watching TV and eating biscuits.

Louise Minchin: ‘The best place for me to be is in open water because I can’t look at my emails or social media. I love that mental break.’

‘I have a busy mind and I’m always making plans in my head and trying to work things out. Exercise gives me time away from those thoughts. When I’m running I just think about the run, look at the view and play with the dogs.

‘Since leaving BBC Breakfast, it’s been a quick readjustment and I feel much more energetic because of it.’

‘The best place for me to be is in open water because nobody can text me and I can’t look at my emails or social media. I love that mental break. In my downtime, I’m enjoying watching box sets.

‘Working on BBC Breakfast, the lack of sleep was tough. Even after 20 years, getting up at 3.40am felt hard and was always a shock to the system. When I was off work for my ankle operation and able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, I discovered my body clock is more suited to waking up late.

‘I’d get up when the programme finished at 9.15am and go to sleep late. I’m happy being up at 11pm, writing emails, reading a book or watching TV. Since leaving BBC Breakfast, it’s been a quick readjustment and I feel much more energetic because of it.

‘Turning 50 was quite significant because I’d previously thought I wouldn’t be presenting on TV at that age. When I still was, it was a personal achievement. Most people would celebrate their 50th birthday by having a party with loads of friends but I celebrated by doing an extreme triathlon, which was utterly brilliant.

Louise Minchin: ‘Turning 50 was quite significant because I’d previously thought I wouldn’t be presenting on TV at that age.’

‘The most incredible thing about ageing is confidence, not just in my body but in myself. I care a little bit less about what people think about me and that makes me feel emboldened. My goal for 2022 is to stay fit and get stronger. I’ll be spending more time in the gym, doing strength and conditioning work because that’s key at my age and being menopausal.

‘I’m also writing a book called Adventures with Super Women, in which I will recount how I did lots of different sports I’d never done before with amazing, strong women.’

Louise co-hosts the Her Spirit Podcast, interviewing women in the worlds of sport and business.

Click here for our exclusive interview with A Place in the Sun presenter, Laura Hamilton.