Footballer turned sports presenter Alex Scott MBE chats to H&W about finding a lockdown routine and the life lessons she’s picked up on the way
We’ll warn you now, Alex Scott’s lockdown routine may put yours (and ours) to shame. From learning Spanish to making soups, she’s really packed a lot in this past year, as well as holding down her usual presenting jobs on BBC Sport and Sky Sports. It’s not really a surprise though, considering what a dedicated sportswoman she was and the strict fitness routine she once followed. Alex has had a career many could only dream of, playing for Arsenal’s women’s team, as well as making 140 appearances for the England national team and representing Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics. Since retiring from football in 2017, she’s turned her talents to presenting, with credits including the 2020 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, and she took to the dance floor with a spot in Strictly Come Dancing’s 2019 line up. We caught up with Alex to discuss what fitness means to her, the future of women’s football, and the advice she’d give to her younger self.
How have you dealt with life in 2020 and the lockdowns?
I think, like many people, life had its ups and downs in 2020 – especially during lockdown. I live alone so concentrated on having a routine as much as possible. This involved running, working out on my Peloton bike (which I love), making soups, Zoom calls with friends and learning Spanish! It’s really important for me to keep busy. I am in the very fortunate position of being able to work online via Zoom meetings, and in Covid-safe studios for broadcasting. It’s an honour to work in broadcasting at a time like this – whether it’s Sports Relief, Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY), The One Show or my football presenting – I think trying to bring some joy and entertainment into people’s homes is much-needed. That said, it’s always important to be open and honest and let people see when it may not be all smiles. Like everyone, I’ve struggled.
What would you say health and fitness means to you?
It’s naturally a huge part of my life and has been for years as a former professional athlete. While now my health and fitness regime isn’t scheduled daily as it used to be, it remains crucial in terms of my physical and mental performance. Going for a 5k run every other morning is a new thing for me, I would have never done that before as part of my training but I am loving the little challenge it is giving to try and improve my personal best each time I do it. It gets me in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. I also do Peloton classes three to four times a week. I would say Peloton was a life-saver for me last year as it allowed me to exercise most days and connect with friends through the bike and fun workouts. Because of my ankle injuries from football, I can’t really pound the streets everyday, so doing the bike workout helps. For me, health and fitness is an essential and it’s something I will always prioritise as it benefits me in every single part of my life.
How have you looked after your mental health this past year?
Fitness is a big part of my mental health – simply put, it makes me feel better, it helps get my mind set for a productive day, and it allows my brain to switch off from work. It lets my mind be in the present and focus on what I need to do to get through the run or bike class I am doing. I love listening to music or a podcast while I’m running. I’ve always been vocal about the benefits of therapy and that is now a constant part of life for me. Therapy has helped me immensely. I went straight from retiring from one profession straight into the pressures of broadcasting in the public eye – learning techniques, and finding that balance to ensure my mental health takes priority has been important. And of course – friends and family – there’s nothing that cheers me up like drinks and laughs with the girls; that’s therapy in itself!
What life lesson has been hardest to learn?
That’s a good question! The quote I live by is from Billie Jean King: ‘pressure is a privilege – it only comes to those who earn it’. It’s so true. Every time I feel even a little bit of pressure, or nerves, I remind myself it’s a privilege to be challenged and do the job I do, which I love. A lesson I have had to learn is knowing when to let people know I need some help. I always thought I was strong, tough and independent so had to deal with things alone but that’s not true – I can be all of the above, and have the ones around me that love and support me help take the load, because they want to. That’s been a crucial learning for me, to accept help.
What does your daily routine look like?
After I’ve got up and gone for a run, I will usually have a juice (I love Jason Vale). I will then usually shower and jump straight on Zoom calls and meetings with my team, sponsors, or my colleagues in the Government task force for youth sport. After a couple of hours, I will get ready for work. My broadcasting roles vary, so one day I might be filming for my BBC documentary on mental health, the following I will be in Manchester presenting a football match, followed by The One Show the next day. It’s really varied, which I love. I’ve always said that being able to do different things and roles helps me grow as a person and learn. Once home from work, often late, I will either have a glass of wine or cup of tea (as I did dry January, which I have to say was a whole new challenge in itself!), catch up on phone messages and watch a Netflix documentary to wind down from work – it usually takes a few hours as the adrenaline is pumping!
What was your time like on Strictly?
Oh wow – I can’t begin to explain how much I loved it! It really was a show I always wanted to do and never for a second believed I would, because I thought I was not ‘celebrity’ enough, I was just Alex. But every single week I think the public saw me growing in confidence – my favourite moment of the series was dancing to Beyoncé’s Run The World (Girls) in Blackpool. Everyone has a ‘moment’ and I think that was mine. Everything about that dance and the words and the power just represents everything I stand for, so it was more than a dance. Dancing really changed my life – football cage and used to pretend that cage was me at a World Cup, so when that dream actually comes true and you don’t have to pretend any more, it’s a pretty special feeling (insert big emotional smile here).
Why is it so important to you to bring more female representation into sport?
It’s important for representation to reflect society – women are a huge part of society, sport and football. It’s crucial that young girls and boys can switch on their TVs and open magazines and see themselves represented. The impact that will have on future generations can never be overstated. The talent of the future will be exceptional if we continue to recognise how important representation is.
What do you think the future of women’s sport looks like?
The future looks bright! While we have a long way to go, we have made so much progress already, especially in recent years. Bigger sponsors are noticing and investing in women’s sports, which shows there’s increasing appetite for it. Views are up on televised games, more than 11 million people tuned in to watch the England women in the semi-final of the World Cup on BBC, pre-Covid ticket sales were up for women’s professional games, and not just football. Shining a light on women’s sport will continue to be my personal and professional goal.
There are a lot of statistics that show that young children, especially girls, aren’t as active as they should be. How do you think that could be tackled?
Sport should be fun; exercise can be enjoyable. It’s up to teachers, us as professional athletes and others to think of ways to tackle this issue. Youth sport is something that I feel incredibly passionate about, so watch this space.
How do you feel about being a role model and do you have anyone you look up to?
My role model is my mum – she is such a strong, selfless, incredible woman and I am incredibly proud to be her daughter. Taking my mum, nan and niece to get my MBE with me at Buckingham Palace is up there as one of my proudest moments. If I’m honest, it feels strange to me when people talk about me as a role model, but I will always show people the real me. No human being is perfect – I struggle, I find things tough, but what you will always see is that I never give up.
Eyes on the ball
What do you eat in a day?
A typical day will involve a Jason Vale juice for breakfast. I don’t juice because I am on a diet or trying to promote anything, it’s just something that works for me and I enjoy them. I think that’s so important to anyone reading this – you have to find what works for you and your lifestyle, there’s no one rule for everyone. I have a homemade soup for lunch and a healthy dinner of chicken or salmon and vegetables. I tend to indulge at weekends though, and when out for dinner with my friends – I love great food and cocktails!
How do you destress after a busy day?
I listen to music or podcasts, read books and watch Netflix. I love getting into a good series, it really helps me wind down from my fast-paced life.
What exciting things are coming up for you this year?
I hope 2021 is a better year for everyone, I really do. I am so fortunate to still have a busy year ahead. I’m filming some exciting projects with the BBC, I will be across sporting tournaments with the EUROS and Olympics – all huge bucket list moments in my broadcasting career. For me, Children in Need and presenting SPOTY were incredible moments last year, so fingers crossed I can be involved again!
How do you deal with negativity on social media?
I used to find it very hard, which has been well documented. Therapy helped me find my own coping mechanisms and naturally, as time goes on, you get older and more experienced and you deal with things better. That’s a natural process and I’m glad that with time comes growth. I also understand that there is a whole load of people that also write to me positively, and that gives me energy and life. I’m going to keep going and not let anyone wipe this smile from my face.
Do you have any advice you’d give to your younger self?
‘Keep going Alex’. It wasn’t easy, it was tough at times and my path wasn’t always clear. But with sheer passion and determination I made it through each stage. I can’t wait to see what life brings me next. I’m someone that always loves a challenge and to prove to people that I can when they say I can’t. You will never find me sitting in my comfort zone, as I have such a passion for what I do and I will never take it for granted.