Ageing is one of the best things that’s ever happened to Edith Bowman. At 46, the radio DJ and TV presenter feels more energised than she did in her 20s, when she wrestled with her identity and, in her words, needed to “cut down on the Jack Daniels and coke, just a little bit”.
“Coronavirus aside, I think I’m the healthiest, both physically and mentally, I’ve ever been,” she tells HuffPost UK. “When you get into your 40s, you have a bit of a ‘don’t give a fuck’ attitude. You don’t need to impress anyone. You’ve got to a point where you think: ’This is me, this is who I am, take it or leave it.’”
Hobbies like yoga, pilates and running help her feel settled – something that was missing in her early career, when she moved from Scotland to London.
“My late 20s were the toughest time, because I had no idea who I was,” she says. “I was very, very lucky to get the work I got with MTV and Radio 1, but I still look back at that period and go: ‘God, you drank a lot. You went out loads!’”
Now, she chooses to let off steam by running, but is quick to clarify she’s not a “big runner”. She prefers a relaxed jog that’s a maximum of 4.5k, compared to the marathons favoured by her husband, Tom Smith, frontman of Editors.
“If I haven’t done that in a week, it’s almost like my body and mind say to me: ‘It’s about time you had a run to clear out the fog’. It’s like an exercise spring clean,” she says. “I feel lighter and hugely proud of myself afterwards, even if I’ve only run a short distance. I feel instantly taller, in a way.”
“I’ve found my little pocket of things that work for me, like the little runs.”
Although she loved sports like netball and hockey at school, it wasn’t until she had her two children – Rudy, 12, and Spike, 7, – that Bowman rekindled her love of fitness. She was motivated, in part, by the desire to lose some baby weight, she admits, but soon realised the mental health benefits.
“It’s finding the things that work for your body, because not everybody can run, not everybody can do the gym stuff or the exercise classes,” she says. “I’ve found my little pocket of things that work for me, like the little runs. We’re all individuals, we’re all built differently.”
And part of enjoying exercise – and maintaining good mental health more generally – is knowing when to give yourself a break, she says, acknowledging there are good days and bad days.
“You can’t predict what kind of mood you’re going to wake up in,” she says. “Sometimes you just know it might be one of those slightly foggy, grey days, where everything’s just not quite as sharp as it could be.”
The past few months have been tough for everyone, even Bowman, who prides herself on being a “glass half full” person. Festivals are a huge part of her life and watching them being cancelled during the pandemic, one after another, has been heartbreaking, she says.
She was supposed to present coverage from Isle of Wight, Glastonbury and TRNSMT Festival this summer, and her husband was due to perform at more than 20 festivals across Europe.
“It makes me really sad, to be honest,” she says, reflecting on the future of festivals. “There’s nothing like when you’re driving towards that site, you can almost hear the bass, and you start to smell that slightly weird, but comforting smell.”
Despite Covid-19, she presented some remote festival coverage and “best of” clips this summer, but says it was “a really weird, bittersweet experience”. Now, her friends in the industry are all asking the same question: “How are we going to be able to open the gates to festivals next year if it’s still the way it is?”
“That just puts a weight on my heart, not just because I work at festivals, but because I love going to them,” she says. “I can’t see the future yet for it and that’s really scary.”
Another big challenge during the pandemic was homeschooling her children, which Bowman says was quite full-on. “It’s interesting, because you have a relationship with your kids, and your teachers have a relationship with them, and that’s a different kind of relationship,” she says.
“So to suddenly be their parent and their teacher, it does shift your relationship slightly and that was a challenge.”
The period was made harder by the fact that Bowman’s parents are still based in Scotland. She managed to see them for the first time last week, after last visiting her mum in February and her dad at Christmas.
“It was so emotional seeing my dad after that length of time,” she says. “They stayed for 10 days and then went back up to Scotland. I haven’t cried like that for such a long time, when I was waving them off. It was really, really hard.”
With everything she’s learned in her lifetime and career, what would she tell that confused 20-something now? “Maybe just to cut down on the Jack Daniels and coke just a little bit,” she jokes. “But I wouldn’t massively change anything. I’d probably tell myself it’s going to be alright.
“I’m really happy with who I am and it’s taken me a while to get there.”
The Play Next podcast, presented by Edith Bowman in partnership with BMW, is available from Wednesday 12 August on all major streaming platforms.
In What Works For Me – a series of articles considering how we can find balance in our lives – we talk to people about wellbeing and self-care.