'I've hit a sweet spot in my 40s... my kids are more independent, my parents are in good health and my career's going great'
Fun-loving presenter Sara Cox talks to Gabrielle Fagan about keeping active and why she's totally fine with getting older
Bubbly, witty, Bolton-born Sara Cox got her first break on Channel 4's The Girlie Show in the Nineties then rose to fame on The Big Breakfast - but it's on radio where she's made her biggest mark, attracting 7.8 million listeners during her stint hosting the Radio 1 Breakfast Show in the early-Noughties.
Now, the 43-year-old mum-of-three - she has daughter Lola (13) from her first marriage to DJ Jon Carter, and Isaac (9) and Renee (7) with her advertising exec husband, Ben Cyzer - presents Sounds Of The 80s on Radio 2, and in May moves to hosting her own show four nights a week. She's back on screen too, hosting BBC Two's Back In Time For Tea. So yes, things are busy!
Here, Cox tells Gabrielle Fagan about her work schedule, feeling the fear on horseback, and her attitude to ageing ...
How do you keep fit?
I think exercise is crucial for mental health, because it ramps up the feel-good hormones. I run a couple of times a week, walk my dogs, and go to really punishing gym classes. Our garage is kitted out with a rowing machine, a TRX suspension training kit, and a yoga mat, and I do half-hour sessions when I can.
Recently, I've been training for a rowing challenge for Sport Relief, in a BBC team racing ITV. It's been pretty gruelling.
My real passion is horses. I've ridden since I was a child, but it can be dangerous going very fast on a half-ton animal with a brain the size of a sprout! It was very frightening in 2013 when I came off a horse and broke my collar bones, chipped my femur and jarred my neck. As I fell and saw the ground whizzing up to meet my face, I thought, 'What sort of state will I be in after this?'
I resolved then for the sake of my family to be more cautious. I get scared even now sometimes when I ride, but I'd never give it up. I'm debating about getting my own horse, as a reward for getting a weekday show on Radio Two, which I'm thrilled about.
How do you juggle your career and family life?
It can be a bit manic. Currently, I'm wishing there were a couple of extra hours in the day because it's super-busy. I'm doing a lot of telly work - a new show, Love In The Countryside, which will be shown in May.
I cover for Chris Evans on his Breakfast Show. In May, I start my own weeknight show on Radio 2, from 10pm to midnight, which I want to have the liveliness, humour and music of a breakfast show. As we're in the West End, close to theatres and music venues, I hope actors and comedians and musicians will pop in after their performances for chats. It means that for the first time in 14 years, I'll get my weekends back. Until now, I've always worked Saturday, Sunday or Friday nights.
I have a great help - my husband's fantastic and takes the strain if it's really busy, my in-laws are nearby and brilliant, and I've got a part-time nanny.
How would you describe yourself?
When I got The Girlie Show 22 years ago, I never dreamt then that I could eke out a career just by being myself and trying to make people laugh, so I feel very lucky.
I'd describe myself as loyal and, I hope, a good friend. I'm also good at staying calm. I live in the moment and try not to wish my life away, because time whizzes by and I aim to appreciate where I am right now.
When I look back, I can honestly say I don't really have any regrets, apart from a couple of perms and definitely the odd dress!
How do you feel about ageing?
I don't have any problem with being in my 40s. People are obsessed with asking women about being in their 40s, but I don't see the same fascination for asking men in their 40s, like Ant and Dec, about it, which is weird.
I think it's an amazing decade and I'm in a really good place. I feel I've hit the sweet spot. My kids are a little more independent, my parents are in good health and my career's going well.
As my mother-in-law told me: 'Your 40s are a great time - before bits start to drop off or give in to gravity and your children are still reasonably nice to you!'
The only difference I've noticed in myself since being 40 is that I've been diagnosed with presbyopia (when the lens in the eye stiffens and thickens with age, which makes it harder to see things at close range). I struggled reading small print, then I discovered Acuvue Multifocal Contact Lenses. I pop them in and can totally forget about my vision, which suits me because I'm so active. I wouldn't feel as confident in glasses.
Would you consider cosmetic work or Botox?
I think in 10 years' time, there's going to be such amazing advancements, and that's when I'll probably have a crack at something. I'm never going to say never.
My only action so far has been growing my fringe over most of my face - Zoe Ball and Claudia Winkleman are doing that as well - but I haven't injected anything into it so far.
I like the theory that wrinkles are a story of all the fun you've had and the life you've lived, and you can lose something by flattening them all out.
What couldn't you live without?
To me, it doesn't feel like home unless there a couple of furry creatures knocking around under your feet. I love dogs, as I grew up with lots of them on my dad's farm.
We've got two Maltese terriers, Beano and Dolly, and a kitten, Watson. Beano goes to work with me at Radio 2 and sits under my chair. The BBC had to do an assessment on him to make sure he was safe, because obviously you can't just take in something like an Irish Wolfhound or a Komodo dragon. Imagine Tony Blackburn eaten by a huge lizard - that's not happening on my watch. It's actually a bit like a Kennel Club at the BBC - lots of presenters take pets in.
Sara Cox has presbyopia and is a brand ambassador for 1-DAY ACUVUE Moist Multifocal Contact Lenses, which have been designed to correct presbyopia and enable you to see near, far and in-between throughout the day