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'For me exercise is more enjoyable now, there's no pressure'

Fancy working out like former Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill? The mum-of-two tells Liz Connor about the inspiration behind Jennis, her new fitness app

Jessica Ennis-Hill working out
Jessica Ennis-Hill working out

By Liz Connor

Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill is a formidable athlete. I knew this from watching her storm to victory at the 2012 London Olympics, but it becomes all the more apparent when I meet her in the flesh.

At the end of pulsing, squatting and crunching our way through a 30-minute circuit of high-intensity aerobics, I'm red in the face, puffing for breath and struggling to stand up straight. Meanwhile, she hasn't even hasn't broken a sweat.

I'm going head-to-head with the Olympic athlete to test out some of the workouts from her new fitness platform, Jennis. The app and website offers at-home workouts inspired by the exact training Ennis-Hill did when she was being coached for the heptathlon.

Similar to Chris Hemsworth's Centr and Kayla Itsines' popular Sweat app, the guided workouts are broken down into quick and manageable videos for people who struggle to find time to get to the gym, or simply prefer an efficient workout at home.

There are programmes to appeal to different fitness levels, so anyone can get involved, whether you're a regular gym-goer or just starting out. Her approach to training has changed, now that she's a mum-of-two, and this is reflected in the workouts.

"When I was an athlete, I was training twice a day on most days. It was pretty intense, but now I exercise in a completely different way," explains Ennis-Hill (33). "It's not about trying to reach a particular goal, or trying to make my body function in a certain way any more. It's about enjoying exercise and making it work for my life now."

Amazingly, she says it only takes three workouts a week to maintain her trademark abs. "I take elements of what I did as an elite athlete and I put them into my training plan now. I do a combination of circuit workouts, which I've included in the app, a bit of running and some weights."

After swapping the track and hurdles for home workouts, her goal now is to help people exercise smarter, not longer, using effective and targeted exercises so you can squeeze in workouts around a busy schedule.

"It's just been really nice to create something completely from scratch," she says of her new platform, which also offers general wellness, nutrition and mental health advice.

Ennis-Hill is also really passionate about her gentle pregnancy and post-birth plans, that help guide new mums through the often confusing landscape of pre and post-natal fitness. She offers access to the exact workouts she followed during and after her own pregnancies, with son Reggie, who turns five in July, and one-year-old daughter, Olivia.

"When I became pregnant with Reggie, I didn't really know the right exercises to do. I had no idea what was and wasn't allowed. I have to admit, I hadn't even thought about it," she confesses.

"Luckily I had my physio, Alison Rose, to guide me through the whole process, which was great because I didn't know about all these really key little exercises that you have to do after giving birth, to switch on all the muscles that relax when you're pregnant.

"I'm lucky to have had great support and guidance and that's what I wanted to put into the app - to help other women find all of the right advice and exercises to do after giving birth, rather than rushing back into running or doing dynamic exercises," she adds. "I wanted to make the journey really smooth, so that they can find their confidence in exercise and enjoy that special time."

When Ennis-Hill returned to athletics in 2015 after having Reggie, she surprised the world by winning another World Championship title. To this day, she still holds the current British national record holder for the heptathalon.

She eventually retired from athletics in late-2016, after Rio. Now, Ennis-Hill, who lives in Sheffield with husband Andy, is busy with commentating duties, as well as being an Adidas ambassador and full-time mum.

Looking back on her competing days, she says: "When you train full-time for a massive chunk of your life, it becomes a bit of a chore because you're always working towards a goal. It's tough, especially when you're facing injuries. When I retired, I just had a complete switch-off from exercise; I just didn't want to [do it] at all.

"That urge came back really quickly though, where I wanted to run and exercise - but it's more enjoyable now, because there's no pressure with it," she continues. "No one's going to be watching me run up and down the hill in the woods near my house, or in my living room. I just enjoy it now and it makes me feel good.

"I do feel like I took it for granted slightly though, just having the luxury to go and train for two or three hours, twice a day. I do look back at those days and think, 'Wow, I had the opportunity to keep fit, compete and travel around the world'. I miss certain elements of it, but my life is so different now and I have different things going on - like my two amazing kids. I wouldn't have it any other way."

So would she encourage her children to follow in her footsteps? "I'd definitely encourage them to get involved in sport, whatever sport that might be," she says. "Reggie does enjoy going down to the track and trying all the events, but I wouldn't force them or actively encourage them into athletics.

"I suppose I want them to find their own route into sports, if that's what they want to do - and that might be something completely different to what I've done."

Her favourite memories of her time on the track were winning an Olympic Gold at London 2012. "It was like nothing I'd ever dreamed of," she says with a smile. "Equally, I'm so proud of when I came back and won the World Championships after having Reggie though, I just never imagined that I'd be able to do it in that space of time."

Fancy working out like former Olympian Jessica

Ennis-Hill? The mum-of-two tells Liz Connor about the inspiration behind Jennis, her new fitness app

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