Staying active: Olympic athlete James Ellington through the ages
Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can focus on for your health. From managing your weight, to improving your state of mind and overall fitness – the benefits of staying active are well known.
And this is the case no matter your age. Whilst motivations and activities may be different through the years, from the moment you take your first steps through to your teenage years, adulthood and elder years, the need to stay active relates to all.
Olympic athlete, James Ellington, talks us through how his experiences and mind-set of leading an active lifestyle has changed over the years – considering nutrition, his body and recovery, his motivations, his challenges, mental benefits and his general feelings towards an active lifestyle.
How have your attitudes towards nutrition changed through the years?
Like most children, I assume, nutrition wasn’t a focus for me as a child as I simply had the food provided to me. I had no real awareness of how important what you put inside your body was for your health and growth. It’s something you learn to understand as you get older and it’s great to see more education around nutrition starting from the younger years.
As I grew up, I was already leading an active lifestyle so I did follow a fairly balanced diet but indulged in more treats than I do now.
Now as an adult, I’m well aware of the importance of nutrition – for both leading a healthy lifestyle and to support my career in athletics. Variety is key. I still have a day or two during the week when I eat what I want but I remain very conscious to make sure I get all the vitamins and minerals my body needs even on those days, through the food and drink I consume and with the help of Lifeplus products.
The physical body and recovery
Have you seen a difference in your body and recovery over the years?
As is the case with a lot of people, when you’re younger, you feel invincible and seem to bounce back from any fall, scratch and setback with no worry. So as a child, recovery was something I didn’t pay much attention to at all.
As I’ve got older, into my teenage years and adulthood, I started to have more of an awareness and made a conscious effort to stay on top of my flexibility – especially my passion for a career in athletics was ever-growing. Stretching is an activity that is often ignored but improves flexibility – it plays a huge role in aiding recovery post-competitions. Physically, as I’ve got older, I’ve had to focus more on recovery in order to deal with the demands on the body. That’s why I now prioritise my time on activities I previously wouldn’t have considered, for example, finding time for a sports massage around my training and for life in general.
Motivations to stay active
How have your motivations changed over the years?
Health means everything to me and has done so from my teenage years so that’s always been my main motivation to stay active. My passion for the sport of athletics and my potential as an athlete continues to drive me to lead an active lifestyle – and it has done so from a young age as this career was always a childhood dream.
Which challenges have you encountered over the years?
I’ve had a life of tough roads and hurdles in my way but no matter what age I was, I’ve always managed to overcome them with a strong, positive mind-set that has only grown and evolved through these setbacks. My most notable challenge is the road traffic accident I suffered in 2017 which sent me back to my childhood, where I had to learn how to walk again. Even when I was forced to lead a non-active lifestyle, my determination to get back to activity was stronger than ever.
As you get older, it’s these experiences and setbacks that shape who you are as a person. Whilst the challenges may have been tough at the time, I look back on them now as learning opportunities.
Feelings towards an active lifestyle
Have your feelings towards leading an active lifestyle changed at all?
Personally for me, I will always train and be active – it’s never been just about performance. My overall health and fitness takes precedence over performance. As I’ve got older and mental health has become more of a prevalent topic, I’ve recognised even more so that living an active lifestyle can help anyone, at any age, to feel fulfilled and support mental wellbeing.
Mentally, the biggest change for me was the amount of pressure and expectation, which any sportsman will experience the more levels you progress in competitions, and even at specific moments i.e. just before major championships. Self-belief is critical in helping to deal with this and especially after my accident, I like to break down my goals into smaller ones so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Sleep also goes hand-in-hand with mental and physical wellbeing and its importance is often overlooked. I’ve recognised its importance from when I was a child until now.
Overall my feelings haven’t necessarily changed towards an active lifestyle. I would say that the various factors that can impact and support an active lifestyle have become more and more apparent to me as I’ve got older.
Whilst attitudes, motivations and even frequencies change over the years, the importance of its presence at all ages is key. Explore our ‘Life stages’ tag in our Wellness Centre to see the benefits it brings for all ages.