WISE WORDS: Denise Lewis Reveals The Moment She Felt She Was In 'God's Palace'

Denise Lewis triumphed with a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics.

14/07/2016 17:02

For the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to DENISE LEWIS.

Denise is one of our most treasured sporting champions, following her gold Olympic triumph in the heptathlon at Sydney 2000, after which she was awarded an OBE. Since then, she’s become a regular pundit and presenter for TV, and has recently embarked on a challenge for Weetabix Sporting Starts, learning to play women’s cricket. 

To celebrate this sporting milestone, Denise spoke to HuffPostUK about what makes her happy, the hardest lesson she’s ever learned, and the best piece of advice her mother gave her... 

What do you do to switch off from the world?
I try to stay balanced. I have this one room - it has a TV, a sofa, some candles. I close the door, sit down and lose myself. I love a boxset. At the moment, I’m just finishing ‘The Good Wife’, which has been thrilling - all about a woman who starts in a negative, dark place and is able to transform herself.

When I’m in my car dealing with London traffic, then it’s music.

Denise remains one of our most treasured Olympic champions

How do you deal with negativity?
I’ve got better. People will always try, but I’ve learned - am learning - to ignore it. I don’t think you should try to retaliate. Moving forward is my motto.

When and where are you at your happiest?
I have moments of happiness every single day. It can just come from somebody saying something. Last week, I was at a festival and I was getting so much energy from the group around us - everyone loving standing, listening to Stevie Wonder - just great.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My mum gave me lots of advice growing up, but the general theme to everything was ‘Be yourself, be consistent.’ Whether it was in sport or life generally, it was about treating everyone the same, staying consistent.

What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn?
Keeping my expectations in check. I’m always striving to be the best, and that works for me, but it might not be everyone’s desire. And I’ve had to learn that that’s ok, everyone has different desires.

What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
Work harder at school. My mind was totally focused on sport, and it would have been good to experience other things. Also, not to worry, because it’s difficult being a tween and a teenager. Go with the flow.

What three things are at the top of your to-do list?
Find more moments of calm, take time to work on my stillness, through yoga and relaxation;
Find a challenge, probably something physical, to give me the wow factor;
Go travelling again, somewhere like Hawaii or Cuba before it changes beyond recognition

What do you think happens when we die?
Our bodies die, but I’m open to the idea our spirits live on. In some moments I’ll be looking at something, and I’ll feel as though one of my loved ones are near me, just a touch away. 

Denise has turned her hand to women's cricket for Sporting Starts

When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
My most moving experience came at the Victoria Falls. I wanted to cry uncontrollably, when I saw the mist coming off the Falls, the rainbow, the rush of the noise. It felt ethereal, like I was at God’s palace.

What do you try to bring your relationships?
Integrity and honesty. I encourage my children to be honest, it’s a value that should be unwavering, throughout your life.

What keeps you grounded?
Remembering my journey. I was brought up by a single mother, and I know I’m very fortunate with the experiences I’ve had. There was no magic involved, I earned it through my endeavours but I remain grateful.

What was the last good deed or act of kindness you experienced?
I went to a festival last week, and went to the ladies’. There was water all over the floor, and the woman before me was having a terrible time. I offered her a tissue, and the look on her face was astonishing. She was so grateful, and it was a tiny thing. It just show you how it’s not the big gestures that stay with us, but everyday achievable things that can make a difference to someone else.

Denise Lewis is participating in Weetabix’s Summer of Sport, encouraging everyone to get involved in #sportingstarts. More info here. Tap the picture below to open the slideshow of wellness apps:

  • 1 3 Minute Mindfulness
    It might sound silly but something as simple as breathing can make all the difference when works starts to get on top of you. You can use three different short breathing techniques both on your iPhone or through the Apple Watch app with gentle cues telling you when to inhale and exhale. It's not rocket science, but sometimes not-rocket-science is just what you need.
  • 2 Lark
    Lark is for those of us that might need that gentle nudge along the road. Created by Harvard and Stanford health experts this AI-style app actually has a conversation with you about your fitness/health goals and objectives. The Apple Watch app lets you send pre-determined responses so you can still chat on the go. It'll even pipe up with a little bit of encouragement if you're feeling stuck in a rut.
  • 3 Pause
    Pause is simplicity at its best. You simply set a time, connect some headphones and then follow the instructions. This audiovisual app asks you to follow your finger around the screen. Think of this as mental yoga and you'll get the idea!
  • 4 Pocket Yoga
    Pocket Yoga is just that, it's quite literally every yoga technique you can think of crammed into your Apple Watch. This isn't just an encyclopaedia though, it's your teacher as well. Monitoring your heart rate via Apple Watch the app will take you through pre-loaded sessions and even show you the techniques as you're doing them.
  • 5 Streak
    Ever wanted to start a habit but found that in the end it just fizzes out? Streak is here to help, you simply set the routine you'd like to lead and Streak will start getting you on the right track. Start sticking to them and you'll create 'streaks' which will eventually become second nature. The Apple Watch app gently buzzes with reminders and encouragement to keep you motivated as well.
  • 6 Waterminder
    Being in an office can breed two rather disturbing habits: Sitting still for too long and not drinking enough water. Well thankfully your Apple Watch already has a reminder to get you standing and now Waterminder works to get you drinking enough fluids. Using your Apple Health data Waterminder simply gets you to log everytime you have a drink, helping visualise the amount you should be drinking and how far away you are from your recommended amount.
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