Sunday 25 September 2016

'I don't ever want to hear the words 'fat' or 'skinny' from my children'- Model and actress Vivienne Connolly on the importance of keeping her family fit

Model and actress Vivienne Connolly is used to staying in shape for work, but when it comes to her kids, teaching them about health and fitness is a way of life. The mum-of-two tells Joanna Kiernan why she's on a mission to keep her family moving

Published 05/07/2016 | 02:30

Model and actress Vivienne Connolly
Model and actress Vivienne Connolly
Dark chocolate
Vivienne and her Maltese-bichon frisé cross, Charlie
Spaghetti bolognese
Waldorf salad
Greek yoghurt with berries
Wild Air Run
Gaelforce West
King of the Hill race
Pulse Triathlon aquathlon
Race 2 Glory
Quest Achill

Even after more than 20 years in showbusiness, model and actress Vivienne Connolly admits she has to dig deep to motivate herself to workout. "I get bored very easily. Absolutely everybody has days when they really don't want to do anything at all, even people who are mad into their fitness.

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"I always find that the very day you don't want to do it is actually the day you really should do it. If you can trick your brain you are halfway there.

"I always say to myself 'Okay, I'll just go out and do five minutes' and when I put my trainers on and get out there it's much easier to keep going," says Vivienne, now 43.

Since her early modelling years, fitness has been a constant fixture in Vivienne's life, and these days the mum-of-two adapts her regime to include family fitness adventures.

Vivienne Connolly keeps fit with her daughter Katie Dunne (7) and son Ben Dunne (12) at the launch of Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder obstacle course. Photo: Brian McEvoy.
Vivienne Connolly keeps fit with her daughter Katie Dunne (7) and son Ben Dunne (12) at the launch of Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder obstacle course. Photo: Brian McEvoy.

"Fitness really ties into modelling," Vivienne explains. "You have to be in shape, but I also studied a lot of different courses when I was younger because I was afraid, as I really didn't know how long modelling was going to last.

"So I became a fully qualified fitness instructor when I was 21, and in that you learn obviously all about physiology, anatomy, nutrition and that knowledge has really stood to me over the years," Vivienne says.

"It gave me a very healthy approach to diet and thank God, it also meant that I never got into any of those fad diets because I just did not believe in them; they did not make sense to me.

"I will try new types of training all the time. I might do a 10-week course of Pilates or yoga or something new in between," Vivienne explains.

"I like to train in the morning. It sets you up for the day and you have more energy and motivation, but I do have to trick myself into it a lot."

Consistency is key for the Carlow native.

Vivienne and her Maltese-bichon frisé cross, Charlie
Vivienne and her Maltese-bichon frisé cross, Charlie

"It's not about how long you train per session, it's about making it a habit," she says. "I decided recently that I was going to do a half-an-hour of exercise at the weekend. I used to do nothing at the weekend so I really see now the difference in my shape because my body doesn't store fat for as long.

"I used to train three to five times a week and I have upped it now to four or five days a week; just because I am getting that bit older," Vivienne explains. "I am 43 now and you do notice your body starting to change shape."

However, Vivienne is not into what she terms "mad cardio". Instead she likes to jog and does two strength-training sessions each week in the gym, as well as a bootcamp class on Wednesdays.

"At the weekend I will generally do something active with the kids," Vivienne says. "There is this little bike rental place at the Phoenix Park and I will take the kids there and we will rent a couple of bikes. They have their own bikes and it might sound ridiculous, but getting their bikes from my house is a hassle as there is a dangerous road, so we don't bother, we just go in and rent a couple of bikes and that doesn't seem like exercise, it is fun."

Being a fitness role model for her children, Ben (12) and Katie (9), is something that Vivienne is extremely passionate about.

"I am conscious of keeping the kids active because I think it really stands to you in life and has a knock-on effect in absolutely everything that you do; in how clear your mind is, the way you think about food, the way you look after yourself, your motivation in life, your goals, absolutely everything.

Vivienne Connolly
Vivienne Connolly

"I don't ever want to hear the words 'fat' or 'skinny' from my children. I just want them to be strong and healthy. So I always try to explain the importance of them eating good food and exercising because if you don't explain it, they won't realise."

This is one of the major reasons why Vivienne is supporting the Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder, the ultimate kids' adventure course, which is being run in conjunction with the adults' Tough Mudder event at Loughcrew Adventure Centre next weekend.

"You just can't have one approach with kids when it comes to health and fitness; it has to be all encompassing with a lot of fun incorporated," Vivienne explains. "My kids are very into keeping fit and healthy because we have always done fun and active things with them for years, so it has been very natural."

Vivienne Connolly with her son Ben age 11 and daughter Katie age 8 in the Phoenix Park getting ready for the Great Pick Run for Breast Cancer Ireland which takes place on August 29th. Picture: Arthur Carron
Vivienne Connolly with her son Ben age 11 and daughter Katie age 8 in the Phoenix Park getting ready for the Great Pick Run for Breast Cancer Ireland which takes place on August 29th. Picture: Arthur Carron

And keeping herself fit is as much for her children's benefit as it is for Vivienne's.

"Ben will say to me sometimes 'mum I'll give you a race!' or sometimes if I can't get to the gym I might be skipping at home and Ben will try and beat me and see how many more skips he can do," Vivienne laughs. "So I have great motivation."

However, Vivienne is keen to keep a balance.

"I don't own a deep fat fryer," Vivienne says. "But if the kids want to have the odd takeaway we will go up and get it in Macaris and do it properly. I don't deny myself things either; I think if you do that you will just start to crave them more and more.

"I love going out to eat and I love my wine at the weekends and even though I work out, I am like any other woman," Vivienne adds. "You go up and down, if you have a weekend when you have a lot of stuff on, you could very easily put on three or four pounds. So I always get back to it on a Monday because I know how good I feel when I eat healthily and exercise, not just physically, but mentally too."

* The Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder obstacle course for kids aged 7 to 12 will take place at the Loughcrew Adventure Centre in Meath on July 9 and 10. For more information see fruitshoot.com/minimudder/Ireland

Vivienne wears: Jumper, Zoe Jordan, Havana. Shorts, Topshop. Photo: Kip Carroll.
Vivienne wears: Jumper, Zoe Jordan, Havana. Shorts, Topshop. Photo: Kip Carroll.

A day on Vivienne's plate

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Breakfast: Greek yoghurt with berries, walnuts, coconut, goji berries and a little agave syrup and a cup of coffee.

For the rest of the day then I will drink herbal teas, my favourite is the Pukka tea with liquorice and cinnamon.

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Lunch: A Waldorf salad (a mixture of lettuce, apple and celery) with salmon, basil and some avocado.

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Dinner: The evening is a bit different for me because I am cooking for the kids and I will do the usual dinners like spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and shepherd's pie. If I am being good, I will have the shepherd's pie without the potato and have a salad instead, but sometimes I will just eat the same as the kids.

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Favourite treat: Every week I buy a bar of the dark Lindt chocolate with strawberry pieces in it and I will have just a piece after my lunch each day.

- Words by Joanna Kiernan

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