Leeds-born Gabby Logan on her podcast, mid-life and making time for fitness

Leeds-born sports presenter Gabby Logan, chats to Abi Jackson about redefining midlife, keeping the balance and why finding time for fitness is a non-negotiable.

Gabby Logan. Picture: David Venni/PA.

Mortgage and marriage by 30, kids by 35, career peaks by 40… the pressure to achieve things by a certain age can be immense. It piles on stress for younger folk and feeds the idea that by middle-age and beyond, we’re past it.

Gabby Logan is glad this is finally starting to change.

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“If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to just back off that whole thing, because it’s so limiting. I used to have these real mental barriers on ages where things had to be completed by,” admits the BBC Sports and Match Of The Day presenter. “Doing the job I do, in my 20s, there was a real feeling that I wouldn’t be on telly in my 40s. And I’m now approaching my 50s.”

Gabby Logan at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019. Picture: John Walton/PA.

At 48, Leeds-born Logan has just been on our screens hosting the Euros – a highlight of the sporting calendar. Her career continues to flourish and, in a very male dominated field, her talent and dedication have shone (Logan was made an MBE in 2020 for her services to sports broadcasting and promoting women in sport).

She likens middle-age to being “almost like the second teenage years – there’s so much happening to us physically and emotionally. And everybody’s take on where they are in life is so different, but one thing that’s kind of constant is that there’s a moment of realisation that you’re not the young person your mind still thinks you are, physically things are changing, but you’ve still got all this enthusiasm and ambition.”

It’s something she explores in her podcast, The Mid.Point. Now in its third series, it sees Logan interview fellow high-profile mid-lifers, as well as experts on things like sleep, nutrition and hormones. It’s an honest, informative and often funny look at things that crop up during this life chapter – like menopause – and a celebration of the joys it can bring.

Logan – who lives with her husband, retired pro rugby player Kenny and their 15-year-old twins, Lois and Reuben, in Buckinghamshire – is happy to admit her motives were personal. “I suppose it was an ambition to not go, ‘Oh ok then, whatever, I’ll just throw in the towel a bit’.” She’s had “the joy of chatting to some really diverse people” too – Davina McCall, Claudia Winkleman, Richard Osman and John Bishop, to name a few – and every interview brings new food for thought.

A recent favourite was chatting with Penny Lancaster, the model and TV personality who recently became a Special Constable with City of London Police.

“What I love about [Lancaster] is she’s so honest about what she’s going through with her menopause, but she was so passionate about becoming a Special Constable, and that’s the kind of guest I love. She’s 50, and she takes on this enormous challenge and responsibility; she’s a mum and wife and then puts this police uniform on and wanders around the City of London doing frontline mental health work, really.

“She’s maybe not had as big a passion, apart from her family, in her whole life, and it’s happened at 50,” adds Logan. “That’s a proper example of not putting age as a barrier for anything you want to achieve.”

Energised, genuine and witty, it’s easy to believe it when Logan says she’s “loved” talking to all her guests. The former rhythmic gymnast (Logan competed internationally as a teenager), whose TV roster includes appearances on Loose Women and The One Show as well as being at the forefront of the BBC’s athletics coverage, is no stranger to hard work.

But she deeply values taking care of her health too. Logan was just 19 when her younger brother Daniel, 15, died suddenly, and she underwent a lengthy IVF journey to have her twins, surviving major blood loss following their birth.

So how does she look after her own health and wellbeing?

“I try and exercise, if I have time, five times a week. But I’m not going to give myself a beating if I’m away with work or doing something big like the Euros and have long days. Then I’ll try and exercise as much as I can, but I’m not going to push myself too hard and jeopardise my health just to get a run in. With regards to food, I know I feel so much better if I avoid certain foods, or I make sure I eat certain things. I eat protein with most meals, and lots of vegetables. I feel it’s worth making a bit more effort to find those foods when I’m working, and not just eat what’s in front of me, because I know I’m going to feel better tomorrow.

“Obviously, it’s a balance. My son’s in an elite programme for rugby and I remember their nutritionist giving them a talk on Zoom earlier in the year, saying, ‘Let’s think 80/20. So 80 per cent of the time, you’re really on it, and 20 per cent of the time, you can fall off’. Because they’re 15-year-old boys, right? They’re going to go and have [whatever they want]. And I thought actually, 80/20 is a pretty good balance for all of us, really.

“And if in that 20 there’s the odd glass of wine or gin and tonic, whatever your pleasure is, maybe some dense carbohydrates that don’t leave you feeling good but you love them, then you don’t have to get into such a tizzy that you fall off it completely. I think a lot of people try and adopt a way of eating, then the first day they fall off it, they go, ‘Well there’s no point, I don’t know why I’m bothering’. But you have to give yourself a bit of slack.”

Does she feel blessed that you’re someone who loves exercise?

“I really do, I’m very grateful that I love it. If you don’t like exercise and it’s constantly something that’s not your friend, that must be hard, but I really see it as something that is my friend.

And it might be a hard friend – we’ve all got friends who are a bit more honest than others – and exercise can be like one of those brutal friends! But I try and treat it in that way. As long as I’m not ill, I’ve never felt worse after exercise, I’ve only ever felt better.”

Nor is her job a typical nine to five. How does you she find balancing your wellbeing around the demands of work?

“My job might not be nine to five but I will know roughly what I’m doing the next day. So it might be, ‘Ok, I’ve got a really early start but I’ll be back by four so I can do something then’. I just try to plan around the week and see if maybe I could fit a couple of sessions in here, or I’ll book something there, a trainer or an online class. And the rest of the time it’s like, ok, I can go now for a run.

“Since I’ve had kids, I’ve had to be a bit more organised like that. But they’ve grown up with me exercising, so they know it’s important to me. If we’re on holiday and I say I’m going to go to the gym or something, [my family] would never say, ‘Oh, you’re on holiday’ – because they know I’m nicer when I’ve had a workout! And they’ve got their own health programmes, they do their own thing. I think it’s really important for kids to see you enjoying exercise, actually, so they have a positive association with it.”

The Mid.Point with Gabby Logan is available on all major podcast platforms.

Roots in Leeds

Gabby Logan was born in Leeds in 1973 while her father Terry Yorath, who went on to become Wales manager, was playing for Leeds United.

Her parents met in the Catholic youth club in Beeston as teenagers when mother Christine Kay, who lives in the Shadwell area of the city, was 15 and Cardiff-born Yorath had just turned 16 and was an apprentice with the Whites.

They had four children: Gabby, Louise, Daniel and Jordan.

Growing up in the city as a Catholic, Gabby attended Cardinal Heenan RC High School and Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College and later became chancellor of Leeds Trinity University, which has Catholic foundations, for five years until 2017.