Susannah Taylor speaks to the Olympic gold medallist and Strictly star about dancing, make-up for the gym, and those abs…
On Strictly Come Dancing
GTG: How hard is the training in Strictly compared to your usual training?
VP: It’s more mentally fatiguing than anything: it’s so hard to remember all the steps. We’re training 4/5 days a week and it’s very tough on the feet as you have to train in high heels and they kill me.
GTG: Do you like the dressing up part?
VP: Yes I’m loving all the outfits. I get to dress like a princess! When you’ve spent so long in Lycra and tracksuits
it’s a welcome change. I’m the one saying to the stylists "Give me more fringing!”
GTG: How will you keep fit after Strictly Come Dancing now that the Olympics is over?
VP: I’ll be back in the gym as quickly as possible – I’ll probably go about three times a week. At the moment, although I’m dancing, I really miss that feeling of pushing myself to the limit and it makes me feel uncomfortable not doing the exercise I’ve been used to doing.
GTG: What exercises will you do in the gym?
VP: I’m used to doing a lot of free weight training and whole body weight exercises. I love all the old school exercises such as pull-ups and press-ups.
GTG: As for cardio, how much cycling will you do post-Strictly?
VP: I’ll always ride my bike for fitness. I like to go out on the roads for 1-2 hours near where I live in Wilmslow. There are rolling hills which I love as it gives me something to focus on.
GTG: Everyone wants to know how to get those incredible abs.
VP: Firstly you need to have low body fat – if you have low body fat then you’ll see your abs. A lot of this is down to diet. My body fat is 15 per cent which is low for a woman so I wouldn’t recommend getting that low. I also do lots of core stability exercises such as [the yoga position] the plank and exercises that use the lower body to tone up the stomach. I use medicine balls and I think there are so many great ab exercises you can do on a Swiss ball!
On health and nutrition…
GTG: What was your food intake like when you were training for the Olympics?
VP: I would eat a lot of protein – sometimes I’d also have three protein shakes a day to keep my muscles up. I’d also eat lots of fruit, veg and of course carbs, lots of brown rice. It wouldn’t matter how many carbs I ate as I was burning them off. It’s important to get the balance right when you’re exercising – if you don’t eat enough of the right foods then your body won’t look lean, but if you eat too little you won’t get the effect of the exercise.
GTG: Do you take supplements?
VP: When I was training I’d take up to four fish oil capsules a day to keep my immune system strong and recovery process at maximum levels. Now, if I was feeling run down I might take supplements to ward off illness, but I feel you don’t really need them if you are eating the right foods.
GTG: How important is rest when you’re doing exercise?
VP: Rest is absolutely essential. Effectively when you exercise you are damaging your muscles, and you need to feed them with the right nutrients too to help them recover and grow. If you don’t eat or drink the right things post-exercise then you might as well not exercise as you’ll be back at square one.
GTG: How do you keep your immune system strong?
VP: I have manuka honey with lemon in hot water if I feel I’m coming down with something. I also make a mean smoothie. I add berries banana, manuka honey and fresh apple juice to this wonderful machine called the Kenwood Smoothie 2 GO Maker (£22.49, johnlewis.com ).
On beauty in general
VP: I am a serious beauty junkie – when I get a magazine I start at the back. When I was training, using body products, make-up and treatments was also the only treat that wasn’t detrimental to training…I couldn’t eat junk food.
GTG: Do you wear make-up to exercise?
VP: A bit yes. I might wear Giorgio Armani’s High Precision Retouch concealer, £25, selfridges.com and ByTerry’s Touche Veloutee under the eyes, £35, uk.spacenk.com . I also love Max Factor’s Masterpiece Mascara, £9.99, boots.com , which I think is better than any expensive one. For a healthy flush I love Bobbi Brown’s Pot Rouge, £18 in raspberry, www.bobbibrown.co.uk and Lucas Paw Paw on lips, £4.75, pawpawshop.co.uk .
GTG: And when you’re not exercising?
VP: Giorgio Armani’s Designer Lift Foundation, £39, which has very light coverage, and Eyes to Kill Intense Eyeshadow, £26 armanibeauty.co.uk
GTG What skincare do you use daily?
VP: Elemis Tri-Enzyme Resurfacing Face Wash, £29, leaves my skin feeling super-clean. I also love the Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, £79, which smells amazing and the Papaya Enzyme Peel, £29.50 (all timetospa.co.uk ). For eyes, I it's Lancôme’s Absolue Eye Premium βx Cream, £60.
GTG: How do you keep your hair looking good if you’re training?
VP: I use Pantene’s 24 H. Frizz Fighter, £2.60 ocado.com , which helps when I’m outside training or sweating lots.
GTG: Which products do you really rate?
VP: I’m a huge fan of Neom, especially their Organic Body Scrub, £32. When training I can have up to three showers a day and it’s really important to look after my skin or it can get quite dry, so I then follow it up with Complete Bliss Organic Body Lotion in Moroccan Blush Rose, £25, which leaves skin like silk.
VP: I go for regular Tri Enzyme resurfacing facials at the Elemis spa near where I live in Wilmslow – you can
really see the difference afterwards. I also love the fact that it’s a British brand, timetospa.co.uk
GTG: Who is your favourite designer?
VP: Without a doubt Stella McCartney. Everything of hers just hangs really well on me – even if it’s just a pair of trousers, they are always amazing and in incredible fabrics.
On her worst ever beauty mistake
VP: I had a dreadful half blonde tiger stripe look when I was about 20 which seemed like a great idea at the time. I looked like a skunk!
On her first beauty product
A Rimmel black eyeliner that I drew round and round my eyes and made them look really small.