Author, actor, podcaster, presenter, YouTuber, mother, wife; Giovanna Fletcher wears many hats but she still manages to squeeze in time to prioritise her own health and wellbeing. We caught up with her for a chat to find out how she copes with the juggle, what motivates her to exercise, and also why (and how) she’s on a mission to empower other parents.
How are you finding 2022 so far?
I’m back on stage [Giovanna is starring in 2.22 A Ghost Story at the Noël Coward Theatre, London] after injuring my ankle at the start of January. It happened mid-scene, and I put one foot over the back of some French doors and my ankle rolled. I heard a crunch and then the pain was unbelievable! Luckily, my character was supposed to hurt her knee in that scene anyway so it seemed very fitting to have that moment in the play! I’m still wearing an air boot but other than that it’s business as usual.
Do you have any fitness goals for this year?
I do group treks every year to raise money for breast cancer charity, CoppaFeel! The first trek I’m doing this year is going to be on the Pembrokeshire Coast, in June, and I fully expect to be completely fit and able by that point. The second CoppaTrek! is in November in the Saharah Desert. The treks are just so incredible and they’ve become a massive part of my calendar each year.
We can all get a bit lost in the pressures of everyday life but the amazing things about the treks is being somewhere new, outside, seeing nature, being together where you can create bonds that are so special. Lots of people in the groups form lifelong friendships. As soon as you get on a trek all your inhibitions disappear, walking along, the words come tumbling out of your mouth and it can feel like therapy sometimes.
What is your training routine like?
The treks give me focus. I do lots of walking, but where I live it’s very flat and hard to train for hills, mountains and undulations so I do other cardio and strength work, too. I have some weights at home, which the kids keep stealing! Strength training is important for me because I have hypermobility in my knees. I like to keep it varied; I enjoy the Fit! App and I just got a VAHA Mirror, so as soon as my foot is healed, I’ll be doing classes on those. I like to mix up my workouts because it keeps it fun. I went through a phase of running 3-4 times a week and it was great – well I hated it at first but finishing a run makes it all worthwhile! The trick for me is to listen to a podcast to take my mind off what my legs are doing. If I get obsessed with one thing, I’m going to fall out of love with it at some point, so it’s a case of mixing things up.
How do you make time for yourself?
It’s really difficult. There are certain phases of my yearly calendar when it gets trickier, like when I’m writing it becomes harder because I feel like every second in that day counts. That said, sometimes going for a walk is the best thing I can do. But I definitely have a sense of when I finish a book I’m so out of sync with my health and fitness, and then I rejoice in being able to have that time of getting back into it. It’s that thing of being a working mum as well, it’s like, these hours are allocated to work, then I need to get on with it because the other hours have got to be with the kids. There is that constant juggle, but ultimately, I know that when I do take that time for myself, I feel much better. When I was running a lot – just taking that half hour for myself – afterwards the pressures that were there before were still there, but it felt like they were sitting a few inches above my shoulders rather than weighing me down. My whole view on fitness now is completely different to when I was growing up. I grew up it a time when fitness was all about punishing your body and getting thin, whereas now it’s all about mental health for me. That’s how I approach fitness; it’s nothing to do with the aesthetics; it’s all about the knock-on effects it’ll have on my mind which enable me to manage life better. It helps me creatively as well. I know how important it is to get it in but I also know that the reality is sometimes I don’t fit it in and I’m very aware of that. What helps me is finding things I can do in the home, like when Tom [Fletcher, Giovanna’s husband] is working, I can do a workout at home when the kids are asleep. ‘Me time’ has felt a bit indulgent. Or, people think that ‘me time’ is with the kids or family, but it’s not, you’ve got to switch off and take some time that’s purely for you. It is so beneficial and it’s not selfish. It’s all about figuring out what you like doing and what works for you and your mental health to be the best version of you.
What’s a typical day for you?
I like to get a workout done early. If I wait until the evening there will be other things that get in the way. Whereas, if I prepare for it the night before I know what I’m doing first thing. My kids leave for school at 8am so if Tom’s doing the school run, the best thing for me is to do some exercise then and I can still be at my desk ready and showered by 9am. That feels like I’m making the best of my working day, too. Exercising in the morning gives me an extra buzz of energy for the day ahead. Working out at lunchtime and showering in the middle of the day seems odd to me! Working out in the evening, I feel like I’m starting from a place of lower energy. Having said that, Tom and I went through a phase of doing workouts together in the evening after putting the kids to bed, which felt really nice actually. Winter workouts in the evening feel different. When it’s dark I just want to snuggle up on the sofa and watch Succession. Whereas in the summer it’s a very different vibe.
Has tom inspired you to take up dancing since his stint on strictly?
The biggest thing for me is seeing how much he enjoyed it. It’s great in life to set yourself different challenges. I think it surprised him how much he loved the whole process. Before Amy went on the tour, they were both still getting together and going through old routines or she was showing him other dances that they hadn’t got around to doing on the show. It’s lovely that it’s just released a new passion in him and new enjoyment. I loved our Saturday mornings when he’d show me part of their routine and I’d try to do it with him.
When was the last time you pushed yourself to try something new or out of your comfort zone? I’m sure there was a lot of that during your time on I’m a celebrity, get me out of here…
Yes, there was a big element of the unknown. I’m a massive fan of the show and I knew what the Australian one looked like but we didn’t know what it was going to be like in the castle. You can think you know what an experience is going to be like when you’re on the sofa watching people do it but it’s actually very different when you’re in there. The days felt like weeks! But I absolutely adored the whole experience. I felt grateful for being there and I just wanted to make the most of every part of it. I wanted for us all to remember what it was: a TV show.
It’s just fun, let’s not take it too seriously. I thought, this is the safest way I’m ever going to do anything like this, like abseiling off the side of a cliff with Shane Ritchie harnessed to me! There were certain parts that were emotional, like missing the kids. But, moping around missing the kids wasn’t going to change anything. I thought, I could either let that take over and hate the experience or just make the most of the fact that I’m there and just enjoy it. I tried to put everything into perspective.
What else are you working on this year that you’re excited about?
I’m very excited about the first ever Happy Mum, Happy Baby Big Get-Together happening over two days this July! Over the past couple of years, we’ve had virtual events but this year we are finally putting it on in person – we’ve been planning it for two years. It’s at London’s Billingsgate which is such a beautiful venue. Parents can get together for workshops, chats, shops and more. There are going to be lots of inspiring workshops covering topics including sleep, nutrition, mealtimes, behaviour, and also things like returning to work and the financial aspects of motherhood. I want it to feel like a great big hug. I want people to come along and have the best time and leave feeling empowered and know that they’re not on their own and they’re doing a great job. I think that’s the hardest thing about motherhood, when you feel like everyone else is getting it right and you’re the one that’s failing in some way. But that’s just parenthood and you’re not failing at all – the fact that you feel like you’re failing is because you care and love your kids. In terms of parental mental health, as we all know, we’ve got to keep talking and be there to support each other. I want it to be fun, I want it to help and be useful and make a positive impact on people. I’m going to be bouncing around, I can’t wait!
What does healthy mean to you?
Healthy means the actions that you take to feel like the best verion of you. It’s being aware of how you’re feeling and what little tweaks you can make to make sure you’re feeling your best.
How do you switch off and unwind?
Tom and I love to sit on the sofa and watch something on TV in the evenings. It’s nice to completely switch off, just being together and zoning out. Another big one for me is nature – if I’m outside I instantly feel my worries slip away.
Any advice for your younger self?
Don’t worry so much! Don’t stress about what other people think of you, whether anything makes sense, just keep pushing forwards. It’s easy to get so consumed with a five- or 10-year plan but life doesn’t work like that. It’s about taking opportunities when they arise, working hard to make those opportunities happen, and getting excited about the things you’re doing.
Can you tell us something that people might not know about you?
I really like playing the drums. I’m not very good! Harry Judd taught me how to play a bit about 15 years ago. When none of the kids are in; I quite like sitting down and bashing out a rhythm.
When can you be most yourself?
Around family; you can absolutely relax and just be you and be accepted fully.
Game-changing wellness hack?
Seeing fitness in a different way. I did the Vitality 10k three years ago, inspired by Bryony Gordon, and I realised that running is so good for your mental health. The impact it has had on me mentally has completely changed my outlook to fitness.
Favourite midweek meal?
I’m Italian so I love pasta! I add different vegetables to use up what we’ve got.