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Fabulous in her fifties: Linda Barker on body hang-ups and gruelling workouts

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When 51-year-old TV presenter Linda Barker appeared in a bikini on Splash!, Tom Daley's diving programme, she became an inspirational figure for women of all ages. Her toned tummy and visible body confidence made the former Changing Rooms presenter a hot household topic and left us wondering just how many crunches we would need to do to get abs like hers. Linda, who is fronting a Playtex campaign to find inspirational women over 50, spoke exclusively to HELLO! Online about why she won't reveal her body hang-ups, her biggest indulgence, punishing gym routines and the "scariest thing" she's ever done.


Do you find it harder to keep yourself looking good now that you're in your fifties? "I really don't beat myself up about it. I think the media is changing. There are a lot more mature women in the media at the moment and I think that's a really brilliant thing. I think the more real women that are in the press the better. That's why I got involved in Playtex's campaign. We're looking for three fabulous women who are fifty plus which I think is such a great message. The more we see of older women, the happier we are in our own skins and aren't ashamed to reveal our age. It's about celebrating our age, whatever age we are. That's what I really believe in. "I had a bit of a shock when Splash! were talking about my age all the time but then I realised it's something that people really responded to and why shouldn't 50-plus women look good in a bikini or whatever it is. I am quite confident in my own skin but of course I have good days and bad days. Everybody does whether they're in their twenties or thirties or forties, that's the reality of being a woman in the modern world. The most important thing is that we send out a positive message about being healthy and fit and confident in your skin." Do you have any body hang-ups? "I probably have as many as most women do but I find it very hard to talk about them because my body does what it's meant to do brilliantly and I'm really happy that it's strong and healthy and it gets me off a 10 metre high diving board and it let me run a marathon so the last thing I would do is criticise my body. I feel so happy that my body is strong and that I can run and dive and do my yoga and i'm stretchy and bendy so I won't beat myself up about anything." How many times a week do you exercise? "It really depends on what I'm up to. When I was diving on Splash! there was hardly any time to do anything and it was exhausting so I just did a bit of yoga in the gym area. We were in the pool practically every day in January and I would do a bit of yoga and a gym routine to warm up. Now that that's over I intend to do more yoga, a couple of sessions per week would be great. Luckily i'm the sort of person that loves exercise and I would relish the opportunity to do it every day if I could. Life and work get in the way though." You're clearly a healthy eater. What are your favourite foods? "I've got two favourite meals; I really love breakfast and I really love afternoon tea. You don't have to be a saint all of the time and afternoon tea is a lovely treat for me. You've got to have fun things as well and balance life. I really love cooking so that's good because I don't go for processed or packaged food much. I like quite savoury things and I don't really have a sweet tooth. I love making soups and salads. In the winter I make roasted vegetable salads, that kind of thing." If you've allowed yourself a little indulgence, do you make an effort to counterbalance it with something healthy? "It's not something I really think about. My daughter came home from university recently and we went and had afternoon tea but what's important is having a nice time with her and enjoy the cakes and sandwiches and not think about it, it's a one-off it doesn't happen every day. If I do have a week where i've not been so healthy and I've indulged in cake or something bad, my body tells me. I might feel a bit sluggish or not 100 per cent fit so I'll put in an extra run or have fresh juice or fresh soup for lunch instead of a sandwich. It's nothing special, just something to get back on track."

Are you a fan of juicing? "I love juicing. I love Jason Vale, he's also known as the 'Juice Master' and he's very passionate about health and fitness. I went on a juice retreat that he ran a couple of years ago and it stuck in my mind. He spoke about health and what we should be doing to look after ourselves and certainly the juice works for me very well. I'll often juice in the morning for breakfast and if i'm wanting to get back on track if i've been on holiday or we've just had Easter or Christmas I do a bit of juicing and I'll sometimes replace a meal or drink juice a couple of times during the day. If I really want to do something serious I'd do it for a few days. I'm not that disciplined at home so I might do it with a group of friends or we might go to a juice retreat to get the full benefit." What are your favourite juices? "Celery, cucumber, apple and spinach is a favourite. I've been known to put a lettuce down the juicer. Beetroot is really good too. It's the vegetable juices that are best for you. I'd definitely recommend them, especially for breakfast." What exercise do you do? "I do yoga, I run and I work out in the gym with a personal trainer twice a week. I'm fairly active and I really like being healthy and being fit and strong. I always have done. That stood me in good stead. For diving you really need core strength so I was glad of being quite strong and prepared in that way." What kind of yoga do you do? "I do all sorts. I've got an app on my phone and download so I do those when I can or I go to a class and just do whatever fits in with me. I like Vinyassa flow but I'll do strong yoga or relaxing yoga or whatever fits in with what i'm doing really. I've got a couple of favourite yoga people, both are New Yorkers. One is Tara Styles and the other is called Rebecca LaDyne." What do your gym workouts involve? "I have a trainer and he's very punishing. He's a really nice guy called Giulio Scala and he does 20 minutes cardio with me so that I get my heart rate up and I get very hot and sweaty. Then we do a mixture of upper body, lower body, abs and core strength exercises. I think the thing is with having a trainer is that you just work out to your maximum all the time. He really pushes me to a limit that I certainly wouldn't push myself. I basically get punished for an hour but in the best possible way. He doesn't let me let up at all and it really works for me." Everyone was saying how fabulous you looked on Splash!. Are you feeling any pressure to keep it up? "No. I mean it was really lovely that there was all that attention and it was all very flattering and unexpected but no, I'm not going to put any pressure on myself. It was what it was and it was great at the time." Did you train especially for the programme? "Not at all. I didn’t really have much warning about being on the show, just a couple of weeks. We started filming on 1 January so it was that time when we all think we can hide under some loose-fitting clothes but that wasn’t going to happen."

 Were you nervous about being on national TV in a bikini? "I didn't really think about that because I didn't know I was going to be wearing a bikini. Obviously I knew I was going to be in the pool but I wasn't told about the bikini part at first. I was most nervous about the diving. It was the scariest thing I've ever come across. I work out and I keep healthy and I'm fairly confident about who I am in my own skin so I didn't worry about anything apart from the diving." How do you get your skin looking so radiant? "It isn't always. I use good products these days and I treat myself to facials. I do a moisturizing and cleansing routine with products by Environ. We all know what's good for us like eating healthy food and drinking plenty of water. I don't let it rule my life but if i'm looking a bit grey or under the weather I know how to get myself back on track." Would you ever consider plastic surgery? "I don't know. I really like a natural look and I worry about plastic surgery. I think at the moment there's a lot to be said for using very good products. When the programme 10 Years Younger was popular and there was a lot of surgery going on, I thought it was a weird message. It was always on peak time viewing and children watched it. It's a confusing message for women. I can't say I would never, you just never know. I would never criticise anyone for having it but for me I'd be really worried about what I put in my skin and tinkering with what's real. I make the most of what I've got. I think there are more and more women that are embracing that natural look." Tell us a bit about the Playtex campaign. "We're looking for three fabulous women who are fifty-plus and I want to be wowed by people getting in touch. These women are not models, they're real women with real stories to tell and they are going to be the spokeswomen for Playtex. It's a really positive message for the 50-plus woman." Linda Barker and Playtex are scouring the nation to find three women who truly embody The Ageless Generation. Visit 'Playtex UK & Ireland' on Facebook to enter. The three winners will attend a glamorous shoot with Linda. The competition closes on 26 April 2013.

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