Three fitness tips from Olympic gold medallist Sally Gunnell

Olympian Sally Gunnell
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 30 November 2020
It was great to sit down and chat with Sally Gunnell about fitness tips, the power of positive thinking and how to use that little voice inside your head to your advantage.

Sally has achieved some brilliant feats – I remember watching her on TV when she won gold in the 400m hurdles at the 1992 Olympics, and in 1993 as she broke the world record.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Her time remains in the world all-time top 10 and is still the British record. She inspired a whole generation to believe that anything is possible if you work hard enough.

She has just started working with Tempo, a fitness nutrition supplement company, who started its business journey with a Virgin StartUp loan. I’ve long believed that there are many great ideas out there that just need a little help to get started – and Tempo is yet another great example of this. The team saw there weren’t any nutritional fitness supplements aimed at the over 50s and solved this problem by creating a product that caters to the (only slightly!) different bodies that over 50s have.

I have always been fascinated with how your way of thinking can impact your life. I’ve always given things a go, believing with unshakeable optimism that things will work out if you put the daily work in, whether it is business or fitness or attempting flying balloons around the world.

I asked Sally what role taming her brain has played in winning medals and training at the highest level. She said: “It blew me away how powerful the mind is and what we can achieve in whatever we’re trying to do in life - and how quickly we can talk ourselves out of it once the pain comes in. We always have that voice in our heads – are we going to listen to that voice? What I had to do is say ‘no, you are good enough, you deserve it’.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve recently completed the Strive Challenge, which included a 100km cycle up some very steep hills.

The difference between the people who quit and the people who stick with it – it mostly comes down to what you tell yourself and whether you can conquer the little voice inside your head. As Sally said, it’s amazing what the body can do when the mind is focused.

Sally told me how her training routine now is much more geared around her mental health. She joked that she wouldn’t get over many hurdles these days, but she does see huge benefits for her wellbeing when she does regular exercise. She said the biggest thing she has learned is that it doesn’t have to be high intensity or a huge training session, but it does have to be every day. It’s the same reason why I start my day with exercise. I find it hugely motivating and it is such a positive, natural mood enhancer.

Finally, I asked her for three tips for anyone who would like to start out on their exercise journey but doesn’t quite know where to start.

She said: 1. Find something you enjoy – if you hate running, don’t do it. You’re more likely to stick to it if you enjoy it.

2. Do it with some buddies. Doing it on your own is hard and it can be much more enjoyable when you have someone to do it with.

3. Stick to a plan. Set yourself a challenge – it gives you something to focus on. Give yourself enough time to train for the challenge and follow a programme. She writes everything down and ticks it off as she makes progress.

Thank you for the brilliant chat and the tips Sally, and it’s great to hear that there is another list-writer out there! I would never have achieved anything if I wasn’t keeping track and keeping myself challenged.

You can find out more about Tempo and Virgin StartUp on their websites.