Health

Thursday 21 August 2014

Samantha Mumba on keeping up the LA grind

Tanya Sweeney talks to Samantha Mumba about staying in shape, life in LA, home comforts and her comeback tour

Samantha Mumba training at Body Byrne Picture: El Keegan

According to this week's news reports, singer Samantha Mumba is keen to have babies in the next few years. Something, alas, that has come as news to her.

"It's so funny when people you know are like, 'I see you're starting a family now'," she laughs when I ask if she plans to be an active mum-to-be. "I've been doing some press (for her tour and single) and I guess it's the question that gets asked. 'You're married now, when are the babies coming along?' It's definitely something I'd hope would be in my future and I think I would feel very blessed if and when it happens, but for now I really don't know what the future holds."

Currently in the throes of a nationwide comeback tour, putting her feet up is likely to be the last thing on the singer's mind. In fact, she is back with guns blazing ... and a very different outlook on her stop-start career.

"There'll be no dance routines on stage this time round," she smiles. "You'll never find me dancing on a stage again. Right now, it's just me and a really great live band. There's a lovely vibe, and I know people will expect to hear old stuff, but we've given those songs a new twist."

As she begins the latest incarnation of her music career, Samantha is keenly aware that she's no longer the lithe, bouncing pop prodigy she was in the late '90s and early Noughties.

"God, I was a scrawny teenager," she reflects. "I'm 31 now, and I swear that the second I turned 30, all of a sudden, stuff started sticking (on my body) where it hadn't stuck before. I had to seriously work hard for the first time."

Owing in part to strenuous dance routines, Samantha always had a gym membership down the years, but like most teenagers, was able to 'eat crap' without too many repercussions on her health.

"Whenever I was home, I was going out with friends, eating crap and drinking, so it all tied into that," she recalls. "When I slowed down, I think there was a point when I was about 22 that I put on a little bit of weight. But because I was so skinny as a teenager, I got those curves and believe it or not I felt better about myself. But it was never hard to lose weight I'd put on."

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However, old habits die hard. Now based in LA with her husband (policeman Torray Scales), and her young stepson Mason, Samantha admits that coming home to Dublin poses something of a special challenge to her wellbeing efforts.

"Let me tell you, the McDonald's here is better than it is in the US," she enthuses.

"And my mum has been doing a lot of cooking and spoiling. When you come home to Dublin for a few weeks, you end up having all the stuff you can't have at home (in LA). Brown bread, sliced pan, batch loaf ... I'm dying to have a crisp sandwich."

Regular transatlantic travel also has a way of messing with best laid plans: "When you're travelling on and off planes, it's so easy to eat crap," she admits. "But by now I've been doing it for so many years that the travel doesn't stress me out anymore. I have airports I'm familiar with, and I never eat plane food, so I'll know to get a sandwich in O'Brien's at Dublin's Terminal 2, and take that on the plane with me."

By her own admission, she was barely home in Ireland a week and knee-deep in Taytos and other home comforts when she called upon trainer Paul Byrne: "I remember emailing him in a panic and going, 'I have to stay on track with the fitness or I'll go mad!'"

When Samantha is in her hometown of LA, she manages a workout four or five times a week; here, she goes three times a week.

"The thing about my trainer here (Amanda Kelly in Bodybyrne) is that she will push me," explains Samantha. "I'd not be overly keen on doing circuits on my own. But I've learnt new things from Amanda; like getting into a push-up stance with your legs wide and lifting weights is a good way to work your back muscles. She's very strict with me, but sweet."

As a Billie Barry stage school student, Samantha was always involved in dancing and theatrical goings-on as a child. Then as a teenager, her biggest passion became boxing.

"I watch it any time I can and to this day it's my favourite sport by a mile," she says. "In fact, I boxed all the time until one afternoon about four years ago, I swung a hook and pulled a shoulder out of its socket."

Alas, that put paid to Samantha's boxing hobby ... and her fitness efforts almost came undone altogether.

"I had to get surgery on the shoulder about two-and-a-half years ago," she explains. "At the time it happened I just pushed it back in, and then later I'd be doing the smallest thing and my shoulder would just fall back out of its socket. I'd be just jamming it up against a wall to get it back in. The surgeon saw it and was like, 'what have you been doing?' These days, I'm more into weight training and building up muscles, as a while ago my arms were so weak."

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Samantha is certainly back firing on all cylinders ... and it certainly helps that her new husband is also a fitness enthusiast.

"We usually work out together, but by Friday we're prone to a cheat," she explains. "I think we both find it helpful to have someone else there to exercise with. I'm not a girl for sitting around with nuts and shakes on a Saturday night; we're all about having some wine and eating what you want. I would probably ind it a lot harder if I didn't have a partner to tag along. If I'm having a lazy week, it messes him up, and vice versa."

Los Angeles itself, with its good weather and sizeable fitness-friendly population, is also more help than hindrance for Samantha.

"For me, when the sun is shining, it makes a huge difference to my motivation. And if I don't fancy the gym, there are loads of places nearby to hike."500"

And in a city with wellbeing stamped all over its DNA, eating well has never been easier.

"Every couple of days, I'll cook up a big batch of fish, sweet potato and vegetables," she says. "You know when you're so hungry you find it really hard to cook? This way, you can just grab something and throw it in the microwave ... and it's as easy to cook 12 chicken breasts as it is to cook four. So for breakfast I'll have a bit of fruit and oatmeal, a protein shake after the gym, and then one of the meals. I'm obsessed with sweet potato at the moment.

"And we couldn't live without our Nutribullet (food processor)," she adds. "Instead of just juicing foods, it emulsifies the entire fruit so you're getting the full benefit of each one. I hate when you throw half the fruit away."

Samantha repeatedly extols the virtues of exacting balance. On her forthcoming tour, for instance, she is keenly aware that she won't be quaffing protein shakes after her gigs ("You're so high after each one, that of course I'll be drinking after them."). Yet for the most part, hers is a clean and lean existence, punctuated by the odd guilty pleasure.

"I'll definitely enjoy the odd sausage sandwich instead of oatmeal on this tour," she smiles. "I'll just make sure that some of the hotels I stay in have a gym."

Samantha Mumba's new single, Only Just Begun, is out now. For more info follow Samantha on Twitter (www.twitter.com/ samanthamumba1).

Irish Independent

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