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Running Feat meets... Louise Hazel


Olympian Louise Hazel surprised many when she announced earlier this year that she was retiring from international competition at the age of 27. The London-born champion heptathlete, who took gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, will now focus on a career as a personal trainer.

Here, she tells Running Feat why a lack of financial support influenced her decision to retire and how people can get abs like hers if they follow her plan, The Podium Effect…

louise hazel runningWhy did you choose to retire from the heptathlon this year?

The London Olympics was an incredible time for me and I’ve had a great career gaining a Commonwealth gold medal. Rio is another three years which is long time to keep training. I wanted to do other things and explore opportunities that could be equally as exciting and rewarding. It felt like this was the right time, even though some see it as a premature end to my athletics career. But it’s a personal decision and injury and illness came into the equation.

Had you stopped enjoying the training?

It was a combination of the structure of my training system, being based in Birmingham, and not having funding which all made it difficult for me to consider a long term future in the sport. That’s the reality of it. We talk about Olympic legacy but it remains to be seen for those athletes who didn’t medal at the Olympic Games. The onus is on us to create our own Olympic legacy. There are athletes out there like Greg Rutherford who has said he can’t get a kit contract. That’s a basic you’d expect for someone who has achieved an Olympic gold medal. It’s no surprise for me that there’s a struggle for funding in sport and I didn’t want that to be an on-going battle for another four years.

So you weren’t getting the support you needed to help you keep going to Rio?

Definitely, because the focus for Rio is now on the emerging talent. It’s difficult to keep going when you don’t have a means to stay on track. The heptathlon means training for seven events so it’s more than a full time job . You have to be at the track five hours a day. I would train twice a day, six times a week. If you can only fund that by getting a part-time job then you have to ask what you can achieve when you can only give it half your time. I had to be realistic. I lost my lottery funding and kit contract.

So your new career path will be more financially stable?

Yes, and it means I don’t have to run an 800m! I disliked that event as it hurt the most!

But you are planning to run a 10k (the Blenheim Palace 10k in October)…

I'll look to Mo Farah for some inspiration as I’m not a distance runner at all! I have always trained for power events not endurance so I'm anxious about it. I've got involved in the race for the British Heart Foundation as it is a fantastic cause that’s close to my heart as I lost my father in 2008 to heart disease. I want to help provide people with information about how to have a healthy lifestyle and a healthy heart.

How often do you train now?

I still train every day and I'm running quite often. I often join in with my one-to-one clients as I feel guilty if I don’t and it encourages them.

Do you still do track sessions?

No, not for the last month and I haven’t had withdrawal symptoms!

Do you have any other races planned?

Not yet but I have been approached to do a triathlon. I’m not great at swimming though so I might need arm bands!

Would you consider a half marathon or marathon?

I think even a half would be too far for me. I enjoy the fitness aspect though.

What tips would you give to someone who wants to get fit?

Grab a friend. Once you have someone you’re answerable to it makes it harder not to turn up and you can use one another for support. Set yourself a goal like a race or an event you want to look good for like a wedding or a holiday. Focus on progress not perfection, changes don’t happen overnight. Don’t give up, be resilient to get back in shape. It can be a long and lonely road but remember you are doing it for yourself. Remember the benefits it will have to your confidence and self-esteem, by training, you are basically investing in yourself.

louise hazel PE

Louise demonstrates one of the moves in her Podium Effect workout

Why did you decide to become a personal trainer?

People always ask me "how do you get your arms and your bum like that and how do you get your abs?" So becoming a personal trainer was my chance to inflict pain on other people! Now I have the opportunity to share the knowledge and tricks of the trade that made me an elite athlete. I hope I can be a role model and give people the information they need to better themselves.

Tell us about the Podium Effect...

It’s a 60 day nutritional and fitness plan that’s completely online - so it’s effectively a fitness DVD but streamed and available to you wherever you go. It’s a subscription service for £9.99 a month. The workouts are 30 minutes long (45 minutes with the warm up and down).

Who is it aimed at?

I wanted to make it so people have no excuse not to exercise. The main excuse nowadays is ‘I don’t have time’ and people can’t always afford to join a gym or to get a personal trainer. So I wanted to offer a solution to the average person to get them into fitness and kick start a new regime. It’s for those people who have tried the fad diets but they didn’t work. It's easy to use but effective. There’s no equipment. The first part of the plan is all body weight exercises so you can do it at home, you just need enough room to swing a cat so you have enough space to do moves like burpees.

How effective is it?

I’ve trialled it with numerous people and they have all had amazing results. Some lost 5kg in 26 days and 7cm around the waist. When I put the programme together I knew I needed to create a calorie deficient to ensure users will see results. The 30 minute sessions are high intensity but suitable for the average person. It took a long time to perfect but I got there. I designed it with the beginner in mind. The 60 day plan reflects what we do as athletes as we know what training we have planned for the next four weeks, so I wanted to give the average person access to something like that. People get out of the habit of exercising and I wanted to create something that takes the stress away. You can log into your account and away you go.

What does the nutritional plan involve?

I developed it with Kim Pearson who was my nutritionist in the build-up to the London Olympics. It’s a low glycaemic, low carb diet and is based on portion sizes not calorie counting. Having to count calories is just tedious and I wanted to create something that’s sustainable both in terms of fitness and nutrition. Having to monitor every bite you put in your mouth seems ridiculous. You just need to know the nutrients and foods you need to put in your body to stay healthy. That’s the information we are providing along with advice on portion sizes and details on the foods you should be eating and those you should avoid. There’s also recipe, snack and meal ideas so it’s giving people the information they need rather than dictating what they can eat. Dieting shouldn’t be a case of "today I’m just eating celery". It should be exciting and people should be able to look at a list of ingredients and create something tasty.

To subscribe to The Podium Effect®, visit www.thepodiumeffect.com