How to look good at 50Comment on this story
London - Olympic swimming silver medallist and Commonwealth champion Sharron Davies is not used to losing - which may be why she is putting up such a gallant fight against ageing.
When she turned 50 a few months ago, Sharron, who has three children, celebrated with a holiday in the Maldives and was pictured looking as fabulous in a swimsuit as she did 30 years ago. She tells Julia Lawrence how she does it...
Save money on hair
I spent 20 years soaking wet, reeking of chlorine and with goggle indentations on my face, so it’s nice to be able to spend time on my appearance now.
I wore my hair short when I was competing because it was practical, but I always wanted long hair so as soon as I could, I grew it. It’s very fine and grows slowly, though, which is frustrating.
I’m a natural blonde but I’m going grey now. My hairdresser softened the blow by telling me the grey hairs are scattered evenly.
My hair doesn’t take much maintaining and I get away with very few visits to the hairdresser. I had my first haircut in two years this week, and only have highlights every six months or so.
I save a lot of money on my hair, which is how I justify spending more on my face and clothes.
Moisturise like mad
One day about ten years ago, I was driving without my sunglasses and kept catching sight of myself squinting in the rear-view mirror.
There were two deep furrows between my eyes, so I tried Botox for the first time. I’ve been having it every six months since. It costs me about £300 a time and I see nothing wrong with it - doesn’t everyone have it?
It’s important that it’s subtle, and that you find a practitioner you trust. I like to be able to raise my eyebrows.
I also have filler injected into the lines between my nose and mouth once a year, which is something I’ve done since my early forties.
I tried lip fillers once, two years ago, but nature gave me quite full lips and high cheekbones, so I haven’t bothered to have them done since. I like to have a dermabrasion treatment (a deep exfoliating procedure which removes the top layer of skin) every now and then. I had one just before the Olympics, when I knew I was going to be on camera a lot presenting from the poolside.
I’ve been fanatical about all-over moisturising from an early age. I had to be, or my skin would have been dry and itchy with all the swimming. I’ve kept up the habit for more than 40 years, and it has paid dividends.
Implants don’t last
I had my first breast augmentation in my early thirties after my son Elliott was born - he’s 19 now. I’d returned to racing in 1989 after eight years away and had virtually no body fat.
After breastfeeding Elliott my bust shrank to nothing. The augmentation took me back to my natural size of 36C/D. I had to have them redone four years ago - again staying at my natural, pre-pregnancy size - after scar tissue built up around one of the implants, making it hard and distorting the shape of the breast.
Young girls who rush out and have boob jobs in their twenties don’t realise that implants aren’t meant to last a lifetime. You may have to have them replaced every ten years.
Work up a sweat
I rarely swim now. At my age it takes about three days for the goggle marks to disappear from my face, whereas when my skin was young it took 20 minutes.
I work out three times a week for an hour. That’s enough for me to keep in shape, and I have a mini-gym in the basement at home, so I never have an excuse not to exercise.
From the age of eight I trained every day - four hours in the pool and two hours in the gym - so I’m used to discipline. Putting in the hours is something I do quite naturally.
Other athletes understand that drive to win, getting up at 5am every day to scrape ice off the car windscreen and drive in the dark to a cold swimming pool. Everyone else just sees the glamour and the medals.
That said, I’m not as tough on myself as I was. As a busy mum to Elliott, 14-year-old Grace and six-year-old Finley, that would be impossible. Now I fit my workouts around my life, rather than the other way round.
I do 40 minutes on the exercise bike or cross trainer with the TV on, so I don’t get bored, then 100 sit-ups and crunches. I use small dumb-bells for tricep and bicep curls on my arms, and that’s it.
I am a huge believer that we need to keep our metabolism active as we grow older. If I do my three hours a week, I can eat more and look better because it makes my body work more efficiently. I also feel more confident and happier if I exercise.
I wear size 12 clothes, as I have done all my adult life.
The grazing diet
I stopped competitive swimming for the first time when I was 18 to concentrate on TV and modelling work and being a ‘normal’ teenager.
At 19 I moved into a flat with Suzanne Dando, the gymnast I’d competed with at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and over the next year I put on three stone. I got fat and lazy. I’d been used to thinking I could eat what I wanted, and I didn’t know how to adjust. As a child I can’t remember driving past the chip shop with my Dad after training and not going in for chips. Obviously I couldn’t do that any more, and I became obsessed with food and my weight.
I remember a particularly miserable year when I yo-yo dieted, trying every diet fad going - eating nothing but grapefruit and soups, keeping food diaries and fretting all day over what I was going to have for dinner.
I returned to competitive swimming nine years later, in 1989, and picked up a few more Commonwealth medals before Elliott was born in 1993 and I retired for good.
It has taken a while, but now I believe in moderation. Luckily I’m not a foodie. If I’m busy I forget about being hungry, but on a long car journey a bar of Galaxy is sometimes required.
I’m a grazer. I like snacking on nuts and granola bars, and eat little and often: toast and tea for breakfast, and I try to make lunch the biggest meal of the day. I love pizza and salad, and curry.
Grace and Elliott can cook, so often when I’m working they’ll have dinner waiting for me. I try not to eat after 7pm. I’m not a big drinker, and I’ve never smoked.
I hate hobbling
You can tell an older athlete by their injuries. I have rotator cuff injuries in both shoulders. The sockets have worn away, which is painful and will mean surgery at some point.
I damaged my knee when I worked on the TV show Gladiators in the mid-1990s. I tore my cruciate ligament, so I’ll have to have a knee replacement. Hobbling around makes me feel really old.
It was just a number. Our generation of women is so lucky, in that we stay fitter and more active for so much longer.
We can have babies in our teens or our forties, and live as we want. I celebrated my 50th with a holiday in the Maldives with the children.
It’s only on holiday that I swim every day. As I lower myself into the water, I feel comfortable and in charge. Swimming has given me a wonderful life, and water is where I feel at home. -Daily Mail