Beth Tweddle loves a to-do list. She writes them every morning – “or sometimes the night before, so I know what needs to be done,” says the former Olympic gymnast and mum-of-one, 35.
“I like, at the end of the day, to be able to see what I’ve done. I still have lazy days and sometimes I’ll only do one or two things, but then the next day I’ll be really productive.”
Being organised is one thing, but Tweddle’s worked out that this helps with stress too. Writing things down “gets it out of my head, rather than me going over and over it,” she says. “I always have a notebook and pen near me, my husband thinks I’m bonkers. But everyone works differently. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else.”
This – acknowledging we’re all on our own paths – crops up a lot when chatting to Tweddle. And hers has been quite a path.
Britain’s ‘greatest ever female gymnast’, Tweddle racked up seven consecutive National Champion and three World Champion titles, plus Commonwealth and European Champion wins and three Olympic Games, scooping Bronze at London 2012, before retiring at 28.
Now, her career is focused around Beth Tweddle Gymnastics and the brand’s range of training programmes, including a school curriculum programme, sessions for tots and the Academy and Gym Stars series.
She also took part in – and won – Dancing On Ice in 2013, but had an awful blow three years later, suffering a severe injury while participating in Channel 4’s The Jump.
Tweddle was airlifted to hospital with two fractured vertebrae and underwent surgery on her neck and spinal cord.
Although she chose not to talk about it too much in the media, she shared snippets of her rehab journey and that she’d worked with a psychologist to help with processing it all.
A joyous new chapter started in May 2019, when she and husband Andy Allen welcomed their baby girl Freya. The pandemic was particularly weird timing, as Tweddle had just returned to work after maternity leave.
Riding the rollercoaster
“It’s very strange, I’d literally been back to work for two weeks and then the first lockdown kicked in. So I’d just got a bit more normality back, and then I was basically back to being at home with Freya,” she says. “But do you know what? It has been lovely.”
Despite the past year being “a rollercoaster”, Tweddle says: “The huge positive for me was being able to spend so much more time with Freya, and with Andy working from home as well, we both got to see a lot more of her development at this age.”
Creating a routine from the start really helped, she says. “Every morning, we got up and played, had breakfast, went out for a walk – just off we went. I didn’t take my phone, so I couldn’t look at it or make work calls. It was just me and Freya and the outside world. We’re very lucky where we live, we’ve got horses, lots of countryside.”
‘My phone gets pushed aside…’
She seems to have a healthy balance with her phone and social media. “I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a conscious decision,” says Tweddle, when asked if she’s deliberately careful with it. “But if Freya and I are at home, she’s my main priority, the phone gets pushed to one side. I guess I want to use [social media] when it’s needed, rather than just doing it every day. But everyone is different.
“I think it can be such a positive, but also such a negative,” she adds. “For every 10 nice comments, you might get one negative, and then you focus on that – but I’ve learned through my whole career it’s what people closest to me think that really matters, and I have a really good relationship with my parents and friends.”
Juggling working from home and a lively toddler has been a balancing act, but Tweddle says she’s learned to let go of putting too much pressure on things. Home workouts remain a regular priority – even if they don’t always go like clockwork.
Taking the pressure off
“I’ve been doing workouts in the living room. I’m a morning person, so I tend to do things first thing, I find that sets me up for the day.
Freya gets up at half six and I’ll get up with her, then by half eight-ish Andy maybe takes her for a bit and I’ll do my activity. But if she starts running around and comes in with me – she finds it hilarious when I’m doing exercise and will usually try and sit on me or copy me – then I’m not too worried. I think people sometimes put too much pressure on themselves to do it perfectly. You just have to let go of that.”
There isn’t really a ‘set system’ at home, she says – “we just manage it between us” – but until recently, Andy usually took the helm with cooking.
“He loves cooking. I can’t cook, is the honest answer,” Tweddle says, laughing. That’s changing now though, as she’s taken it up as a lockdown project. “After Christmas, we had leftover turkey and ham, so I started looking at different recipes. We made a pie and then I thought, ‘Right, I’m going to really try’.”
She asked Twitter for suggestions (“Diet Coke chicken seems to be a real favourite, so I tried that”) and has been getting more experimental with the weekly veg box they get from a local farmer. “The other week, we got a pumpkin and I was like, what the heck am I going to do?! So I Googled it and made pumpkin soup.
“I’m just trying lots of different things, some not quite as successful as others! Andy luckily eats whatever’s put in front of him. He’s acknowledged the fact I’m trying!” she laughs.
On Saturday mornings, Andy and Freya bake. “I’ll go in and Freya will be covered in flour, having a whale of a time. It’s really cute.”
‘Kids need our support’
Tweddle’s been ploughing energy into keeping a stream of activities going for her gymnastics kids too – something she clearly cherishes.
“Gymnastics obviously taught me gymnastics, but it taught me so much more than just that in terms of the values I took away from it, whether it’s friendship, teamwork, determination, respect. We created a programme based around those values; each week they had an activity that links sport to everyday life,” Tweddle shares.
“One of my favourites was ‘Inspiration Week’, where we asked the kids to not only think about their role models, but about how they can be role models to each other as well.
During this pandemic, I think we’ve seen so many inspirational children.
Obviously, they need our support too, and it’s been amazing being able to do all this stuff online.”
When asked about the best advice she’s ever received, Tweddle refers back to something from her own days as a young gymnast.
“I was always wanting success there and then, but actually, it takes time,” she says. “It goes back to not putting pressure on yourself, and accepting things take a lot of practise, perseverance and resilience.
“So don’t put pressure on yourself to succeed at something yesterday. There’s plenty of time.”
For more information about Beth Tweddle Gymnastics, see bethtweddlegymnastics.co.uk