Ten years ago I had just started my running journey and was rapidly learning that if I wanted to run for longer then I needed to eat better. My running friend lent me a book, Go Faster Food, written by Kate Percy. I loved it because as well as being packed full of achievable recipes it explained why what I ate really mattered when it came to performance. I’ve used it ever since! This is why it gives me HUGE pleasure to introduce Kate Percy who founded Go Faster Food ten years ago on a principle she’s passionate about: Real Food Fuels You Better. Fast forward a decade and she has authored four cook books – Go Faster Food, Go Faster Food for your Active Family, Fuelsmart for Race Day and Go Eat, Go Active (for Virgin Sport) . She is also in-house chef for 220 Triathlon Magazine, ‘food guru’ for Athletics Weekly and Great Run, and she runs an ‘eat-like-an-athlete’ healthy eating education programme, which is delivered in schools and sports clubs throughout the UK. Most recently, Kate has launched a brand of delicious natural energy balls called Go Bites® to fuel active lifestyles.
I was really excited to find out more about Kate and if she had always been super sporty.
Kate, when did you decide to start exercising regularly and why was that?
In school, I was the one who always found an excuse to miss games! As a musician, I would say I had to practice, or that I had a music lesson. Then there was the ‘I’ve got a heavy period’ excuse. I wasn’t bad at sport and I was pretty fit (I always did well in athletics, but this was a minor sport at school), but I had been discouraged by always being a ‘reserve’ in the netball and hockey teams. Excitedly I would rush up to the team list which was pinned on the notice board every week, only to find I was first reserve … again. My PE teachers certainly knew how to put a girl off! So, by the time I was at university, the nearest I came to sport was the odd aerobics lesson (showing my age!), hiking and a bit of skiing and sailing. How things have changed! I started going to the gym to lose the baby belly after my first child, Helena, was born, but it wasn’t until my third child was five that I got the running bug. My husband Mark had starting training for the New York Marathon back in 2000 and as his miles increased, he started to struggle with energy. I looked at how I could change his diet to get more out of it and started to develop recipes that would help fuel his running better. That’s how Go Faster Food began! I got bored of watching from the sidelines, ran the Race for Life 5K in Bristol in July 2004, and by November I found myself running the New York marathon. I now have seven marathons and numerous other races under my belt.
What activities have you tried and what’s your favourite?
A lot! From stick and racquet sports to military fitness classes and cycling. Recently I even tried mixed touch rugby (not for me). I do prefer the fresh air to being in the gym, so for flexibility, ease, the sense of freedom plus the emotional wellbeing that it brings me, my favourite is running for sure. If I had all the money in the world I would live in the Alps and spend my summers running and my winters skiing…
What has been the biggest barrier you’ve had to overcome in your fitness journey?
I think, time. And that varies at different points in your life. Right now, the business is taking up every waking minute but I know that if I don’t make time for fitness two things will happen – I become less productive and get a bit grumpy! At times it’s been difficult not to feel guilty about it, that I should be using the time to work on a presentation, write my book or spend time with the family. But the truth is I get my best ideas when I’m out running or ploughing up and down the pool. It also gives me the headspace to work through problems and issues. I don’t use a running watch anymore, I’ve found I run better and more relaxed without the pressure of sticking to a particular pace. Instead I have a list of things and problem-solving to work through and more -often-than not I have nailed it by the time I’ve finished my run.
Since the launch of our Go Bites® energy balls and the start of my 54th year, my focus is on everyday fitness. I have to squeeze in a run in whenever I can. And now that we have a nutritionist and fitness trainer on the #GoFaster team, it doesn’t matter whether we’re on the road or huddled in the office all day, we all make time to have time-out whether it’s a press-up and burpee session on College Green in Bristol, or running up and down the stairs. I always ‘speed walk’ to work (usually because I’m late!) and cycle regularly too.
It’s so important not to compromise and we try and imbue our whole team with that same sense. It’s also a brilliant reason to have fun. We all did the Royal Marines’ Commando Challenge in the autumn – a fantastic team-building exercise that we all still talk about now!
Have you had any negative comments and how have you dealt with them?
Oh gosh, I think like everyone my own ‘chimp brain’ provides me with all the negativity I need! Especially starting a business, imposter syndrome weighs heavily, and I remember it took me a long time before I was happy to call myself a runner.
In general, I think most comments have been positive and affirming rather than negative. It’s just brilliant that activity and fitness are becoming more mainstream and starting to be seen as an essential part of a person’s wellbeing rather than a nice-to-have. Employers, for example, are building it into their staff’s packages and so negativity or judgement of people who put fitness first are celebrated, not judged.
I suppose the only negativity I’ve experienced has been around our ‘Eat Like An Athlete’ Education Programme, where we use sport and examples of sports stars as a hook to engage people with the link between what we eat and how we perform and feel. Some teachers will say, “Well, what about the children who aren’t active?”. To me, all children should be active, and it’s our responsibility as adults to encourage this and lead by example. Frustrating to say the least!
What goals have you set and have you reached any of them yet?
I LOVE setting goals! If you run a marathon without a goal and sticking to a plan, it will HURT! Right now my fitness goals are to be as fit and strong as I can be – at 53 it’s important to keep up the upper body strength and fight the muscle degeneration that occurs as we age … to that end I’m trying to improve my swimming this year and swim the Dart 10K down in Devon. I’m also looking for a 10k to run with my best friend who has spent two years fighting cancer and wants to get fit again. Now that our children have left home, Mark and I want to take on an adventure as our next goal; possibly ski-touring from Chamonix to Zermatt in 2019 if time allows this!
I love the motivating REDJanuary and the virtual runs of Run Mummy Run and other just brilliant communities like 261Fearless UK that help everyone stick to a plan. And we all know that deadlines, goals and peer pressure motivate most! If anything’s going to get me off the sofa and out running on Sunday evening it’s that!
What benefits has being active brought you?
Undoubtedly, I am as fit now as I was in my twenties. I am acutely aware that I have more energy, feel younger (maybe I look it too, not sure!) and sleep better than many less active women of my age. I feel less stressed for being active and take more in my stride (literally!). I have managed to cope with the menopause pretty well too without any medication and I reckon this is because I’ve kept as fit as possible (also the business means I don’t have much time to think about it!). Fitness is as much part of my working life as it is my personal life.
Another benefit of being active has been the joy of seeing my children follow suit. They are at their happiest getting out there, be it running, swimming, hiking, cycling, kayaking … My 24 year old daughter announced this morning that she is doing a half ironman in August, my 18 year old has just returned from kayaking in Nepal, and my middle son, who is spending a year in Moscow as part of his degree, has taken up cross country skiing and karate for the first time!
What advice would you give to other women who want to start exercising?
Simple. Don’t think about it for a second more, just get out there. Find a friend if you can, or find a running group like 261 Fearless or an outdoor fitness session. If you lack the confidence to do this, try downloading a Couch to 5k or 10k app and you will soon have that inherent fitness and be ready to run with these quite fabulous groups. Everyone is supportive and there to have fun. And nobody will judge you – that is just in your imagination! Sign up for a race with a buddy – there are loads coming up in the summer like Race for Life or The Colour Runs. Pick one and then build the training into your day. If you can’t face running, try power walking or Nordic walking. You will feel the benefit of any exercise instantly. Good luck!