TV presenter Helen Skelton talks eco living, running marathons and raising two young boys
Having run ultra-marathons, cycled to the South Pole, tightroped over Battersea Power Station, and kayaked through the Amazon, I think we can all agree that Helen Skelton is more than equipped to handle the chaos of motherhood. Here, we catch up with the TV star and all-round superwoman ahead of her partnership Smart Energy GB.
What inspired you to get involved with Smart Energy GB?
For me, it was a no-brainer. Smart meters are just so easy; they’re something everyone can have in their home without having to think too much about it, and the more people who have them, the closer we get to attaining a more sustainable future.
The overriding thing to consider when it comes to climate change, particularly for parents, is that feeling of responsibility for the next generation. And I relate to that because I’m always outside with my kids, and I want them to have this green and glorious land to explore when they’re parents.
Is there anything you like to do to get your boys – Ernie, four, and Louis, two – to be more conscious of the environment?
We try to get the bus and ride our bikes whenever possible, so we’re not always using the
car. We’ve even changed the way we use our fridge, because I recently learned that it uses less energy when it’s fully stocked.
So, we always try to keep the fridge full now, even if it’s just filled with bottles of tap water. The shower is a bit of a running joke for us and we challenge ourselves to take shorter showers in the morning, and we try to shop at our local market, too, rather than big supermarkets.
It’s so important to normalise this kind of behaviour, so in time it just becomes instinctive to recycle, use less plastic and so on.
You’ve completed multiple sporting challenges over the years, including ultra-marathons and cycling to the South Pole, but obviously had to take a break when you became a mum. What was it like giving up your adventurous lifestyle?
Before you become a parent, the idea of having children is so overwhelming that it can feel like you’re reaching the end of something.
But I see being a mum as a totally different adventure. Yes, things change, and I don’t sign up to trips that are going to take me away for three months, which I had the freedom to do before. Now I just try to do things that fit in with Ernie and Louis.
Congratulations on running the London Marathon in April! What do you like to do to keep fit now you’re a mum?
Thank you! The marathon was actually the first event I’d trained for since having kids. I’d not run it since 2014, because it’s so hard to commit to any kind of training regime as a parent. I don’t have a strict workout process at all, and just try to go to the gym for a bit when I’m not working.
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What I’ve found is that it’s so much better when you get the kids involved. I only did the marathon because we went swimming once and saw these women training, and Ernie said to me, ‘Why don’t you get fit like them, Mummy?’ And I had to be like, ‘Er, I’ve actually done loads of stuff!’ It’s great for them to see me working towards something – they both get really into it.
Tell us about your second children’s book, Wild Girl, which comes out in September.
It’s all about getting outdoors and having incredible adventures. I wrote it for my boys, because they weren’t around when I was doing all these big challenges. And I feel like I need a record for the days when they tell me I’m not cool; I can show them, I used to be really cool!
It’s also a book that I hope will help young people believe anything is possible, and encourage them to back themselves more.
Is storytime a big thing in your house? Do your boys have any favourite books?
My two are book obsessed, mainly because they know it delays bedtime! They know that I’m never going to say yes if they ask to stay up and watch TV, but if they ask me to read them 50 books, I’ll be won over.
Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas and Oi Frog! are ones we read all the time, and Ernie is quite into Mr Stink.
Where do you like to shop for your children’s clothes?
My boys are a nightmare when it comes to clothes shopping; I never thought it was possible for a two- and a four-year-old to be so adamant about their fashion choices.
I like Small Stories and Wild Hearts Wonder, and Man Cub has really cute matching outfits for dads and kids. My friend and I have actually started our own range of children’s clothes called Toy Breaker, which should be out by September.
Any favourite interior brands for the boys’ bedrooms?
I shop a lot online for that sort of stuff. Wild Hearts Wonder has also some lovely bedroom bits; my boys have the ‘Wildcats’ wallpaper, which looks really cool.
If you’ve got time on your own, what do you like to do?
We have a puppy now, so we go on lots of dog walks, and that’s really therapeutic and peaceful.
And lastly, what’s the best thing about being a mum?
Everything! But most of all, the endless entertainment. Even when they’re being lunatics or having a meltdown, they’re both still so cute. My youngest had a massive strop the other day and he just looked adorable – he even put his little bottom lip out!
Helen Skelton, together with Smart Energy GB, is encouraging everyone to get a smart meter. Visit smartenergygb.org
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