Jodie McGregor had more reasons than most to follow the progress of Team GB’s equestrian team in the Rio Olympics over the last few weeks. Just a few years ago Jodie was a budding star in the junior three-day eventing squad and even saw in advance plans for the course that the GB riders tackled in Brazil. As a professional rider she travelled the world representing Great Britain’s junior eventing team in dressage, show jumping and cross country.
In 2012 she went to Poland where she took part in the European Championships and finished a respectable eighth out of 82 competitors. But despite her tender years she realised that she didn’t quite have what it took to be the best of the best and so decided that a change of direction was needed.
“It was the hardest decision of my life,” says McGregor, who grew up on a dairy farm in Bishopdale. “I grew up with horses and was riding as soon as I could walk and even had my first pony at the age of three. I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie and particularly love cross country. I progressed through the ranks and on to the Great Britain youth programme. But I don’t want to do anything that I can’t commit 100 per cent to and so I took the difficult decision not to pursue it. It was extra hard as my mum was particularly supportive and so passionate about it, but I knew it was the right thing for me.
“It was a huge commitment throughout my teenage years and I missed out on a lot of things others teenagers were into. I played area hockey and did cross country at school, but had to give that up to concentrate on riding. I would train every day and then compete across the country every weekend.
“There are so many people on the circuit who have been doing it for 20, 30 and even 40 years and never quite made it, I didn’t want to be that person. I do miss competing but I still ride.”
At the height of her equestrian career, McGregor was competing on 10 horses owned by different people. “That also made the decision to stop competing difficult as I had to explain to the owners my decision, but they were all really understanding,” she says.
McGregor also formed part of the North of England Tetrathlon team, which competes in cross country running, swimming, shooting and horse riding. She still has one horse and occasionally takes part in three-day event competitions. However, having always been interested in nutrition and fitness, this determined young woman decided to retrain as a personal trainer and fitness instructor and set up her own business, Jodie’s Fitness Formula, aged just 21.
“I knew I didn’t want to work for anyone else. I knew that I wanted to combine what I had learnt about healthy eating with keeping fit. I’m quite self-motivated and I like setting myself goals and achieving things so it just made sense for me to work for myself.”
McGregor’s ethos is “nourish not punish”. “Keeping fit and healthy should be a lifestyle choice that’s maintainable. If you enjoy something then you are more likely to stick at it. I try to steer away from the bootcamp-style training as, personally to me, it sounds quite intimidating and really not much fun.”
She went back to college to gain a qualification in sports science followed by a personal training course in Leeds. With her equestrian background and contacts, McGregor decided to start her personal training business initially specialising in helping horse riders achieve their maximum physical potential.
“Riders spend so much time training and concentrating on the horse and what they are doing that they don’t always concentrate on their own physical fitness. I know the benefits of good nutrition and physical fitness to your performance in the saddle.”
From there, word of Jodie’s gentle yet firm approach to healthy and nutrition spread and in just over a year she has built up a successful business which sees her travelling from her home in Rosedale, near Pickering, across North Yorkshire and beyond. She runs most of her sessions outdoors, where she feels most at home. “If it’s cold I get them to put a coat on,” she says.
As well as visiting clients in their own homes – or garden – she collaborates with a variety of hotels and retreats in North Yorkshire, providing weekly fitness sessions at Middleton Lodge and weekend fitness and nutritional retreats at Hollymoor House, both near Richmond.
Retreats are an area where she is looking to expand, with her next four-day event taking place at Quinta do Lago, on the Algarve, featuring training on the beach, bike rides and cooking demonstrations from Jodie’s new recipe book.
After constant requests from clients McGregor has self-published two books. Her first focused on exercise whilst her follow-up, launched in July, is a nutritional recipe book full of delicious, easy and healthy meals.
“We are all time poor so there is a temptation to resort sometimes to ready meals or processed foods. I kept being asked for simple healthy and quick-to-prepare meals which are low in fat and refined sugar.
“The problem with most diets is that people cut things out or deprive themselves but that makes it really difficult to stick at. I just look in the fridge and think what have I got that I can make a healthy meal out of and I think that’s what most people want.
“I’ve always loved cooking and I started baking with my granny when I was small and I think I have just gone from there.”
And McGregor definitely practises what she preaches. For breakfast she has two poached eggs on a slice of rye bread which she bakes from scratch herself, followed by yoghurt and fresh berries at mid-morning. For lunch she might opt for chicken and brown rice while her evening meal will be mainly vegetables, avoiding carbohydrates.
She drinks decaffeinated tea and says she has never really taken to alcohol, although she does have the odd gin and tonic. But she does admit to having one weakness. “I have a sweet tooth and I just love jam and cream scones – they are my downfall. I think it goes back to all that baking I did with my granny.”
Her first book focused on high-intensity interval training. “One of the main excuses people give for not exercising is that they just don’t have time to drive to the gym and do a workout and drive home again. I wanted to produce a book which helps people introduce exercise into their busy lives without having to go to the gym.
“Most people who come to me want to lose weight. My whole ethos is about exercise is to make you feel good rather than as some sort of punishment.
“I often hear people say they ate so much at the weekend that they had to go to the gym to work it off. To me this is all wrong – exercise should be something that’s built into your lifestyle, so it should be enjoyable.”
McGregor’s website contains some of her recipes and workouts as well as her blog which contains the latest fitness and healthy eating news. But this 21-year-old isn’t content to sit still as she is now training to be able to introduce yoga into her retreats and fitness programmes.
• Jodie’s Fit Formula – Recipes is available from www.amazon.co.uk, priced £12.50. To try Jodie’s homemade chicken kiev recipe go to foodanddrink.yorkshirepost.co.uk. For more information about her personal training sessions visit Jodie’s website, jodiesfitformula.co.uk