Double Olympic champion

DOB: 19 April 1970

Place of Birth: Kent, England

Occupation: Running Legend

We welcome Dame Kelly Holmes as a 'do' Pioneer. If there is a better example of someone extolling the virtues of natural fitness then we would like to meet them. Dame Kelly won double gold for Team GB at the 2004 Athens Olympics, ruling the world over both the 800m and 1500m distances. After retiring from elite competition, she still connects to her true self through regular exercise, loving the challenges of a run, a gym session or bike ride just as much as ever. Although the intensity may have subsided the passion to 'do' remains undiminished. As a committed advocate to the health and soul benefits of physical exercise, Dame Kelly is an inspiration for us all and a daily campaigner for sport in the community.

"You only die once, but you live every day."

Post-Rio 2016, has the country ever been more energised by sports than right now?

We are in a perfect era for sports at the moment, having 2012 and what that brought to us as a country and now the follow-up being even bigger is amazing. The ongoing success in many sports will inspire lots of people and not just the new generation. Anybody who can do something will be inspired. Today 12 years ago I won my first gold medal and here we are [right now] with 67 medals for team GB after Rio.

"I wasn't academic at school and sports made me feel good and alive. I just wanted more of it."

Can you relate to the passion embodied in all the athletes taking part in the Olympics?

Yeah I can relate to the passion, the history and to what it takes to reach the top. When people see it on television they see just that one moment and that one moment has been pretty good for Great Britain, but for those who came 4th and 5th it has [likely] been the worst day of their lives. [Then again], you could have gotten a bronze medal and it can be like a gold to you. If you look behind the scenes, you see every day of an athlete's journey – the tears, the highs, the lows and the hard work – the whole process of becoming an Olympian happens every day. On that day you have to do it and it is just doing what you have trained for.

"I wasn't academic at school and sports made me feel good and alive. I just wanted more of it."

When did you get the first urge to get down that running club and get running?

Sometimes it just takes one person to inspire you to do something. [As soon as] I started athletics I was hooked. If you find something you are good at, something that fits you, then you want to get out there and you want to be better. For me this happened at age 12 and 6 months later I was English schools champion at 1500m. I loved it because I was achieving something. I wasn't academic at school and sports made me feel good and alive. I just wanted more of it.

How do you feel when everything is working well?

You feel like you are floating when you are in the zone. 2004 was the first year in 7, that I didn't have an injury. When I ran the 1500 meters at the Athens Olympic Games. It was like being in a tunnel of your own and when I finished it was like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

"People need to hear the message that it is not just the physical, it is about how you feel inside."

You still run today, so how do you feel now compared to the feeling you used to get when you competed and how do you set yourself free?

I like keeping myself fit and i work fitness into my everyday life. Going for a run still makes me feel free. I also enjoy taking my bike out and going to the gym. It's just something about working hard and then enjoying the after effects of a good workout. Exercise and sport is on our doorstep these days and when I exercise it certainly brings me freedom. It's like an escape from the real world when I step out there.

Do you enjoy working out now more than when you competed?

It is a totally different thing. When you are an elite athlete you are consumed by everything; sleeping habits, eating habits, training, emotional things, Physio. It could be a relaxation day but every minute of that day is still part of the training. Even when you love what you do, not every day is enjoyable. Now I can enjoy it because I can choose what I want to do and when I want to do it. I like that feeling. I am a person who likes a bit of structure and it is good to have a goal. It is good to train for a goal, but equally just going to the gym or for a run with music on is something I never used to do.

What do you think sport is doing for the people?

Sport can empower you and it can help you feel better about yourself and give you focus. I met a lot of people over the years doing sports because they love it and the level that they get to is incredible. The amount of time they are giving to their training is amazing and they will maybe never be elite sports people but for their level they are being the highest they can be and for me that's amazing.

Do you see the same passion in everyday runners as in the top level athletes you have met?

Yes! I love people's passion and no matter the performance level the passion seems to remain. I can see the happiness on the face of someone who does a park run just as I can see it on an athlete beating her own time. For the athletes it is more about the focus and commitment that comes with the passion, but the passion and drive is the same in the everyday runner and the athlete.

How does training make you feel now? Does it recharge you?

Definitely. It's important for people to have exercise as part of their routine. It recharges you without a doubt and secondly it clears your mind. You always feel good once you have done something. Training can be really hard when you push it, or it can be fun and relaxing. I don't want to come to a point where I can't do something. I always believed I can do whatever and that's a trait some people have and if you have that trait you have to do something with it. For me it means I have to have a challenge. I have to keep myself fit as it keeps me feeling good and motivated. I like pushing myself and the best thing about exercise is that you can do it anytime and anywhere. Even if you put 20 minutes in, no one can say they have no time to train. 20 minutes of something hard is as good or even better than an hour of something where you're just messing around. I don't like not having a routine of fitness but when I am really busy I have to be content with 10 minutes. I try 3 or 4 times per week to do a really good hour but the times when I am travelling I can't. Just 10 minutes can make me feel re-energised or refocused.

How much do you think being active and finding your passion helps the body and soul?

All of it; mind, body and soul is really important. I think actually most people need to hear the message that it is not just the physical, it is about how you feel inside. I did a bike ride recently and I felt so free. The wind was blowing and I was working hard, looking out into the environment. I just felt so engaged with what I was doing; working really hard but equally feeling amazing. When I finished I felt like this was one of the best things I have ever done as I felt so free and I will always be looking for a new challenge. People say you only live once. Well that's wrong; you only die once and you live everyday. I have achieved some goals in my life like being in the army for 10 years, which was a dream, being Olympic champion which was a dream since I was 14, starting my charity that has now been going for 9 years, which is a massive achievement. Now I've got to go for my next goal.

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