The restorative power of the ocean: chatting with Hannah Whiteley

In the latest episode of our Bites of Nature podcast series, host Jasmine Hemsley did well to catch up with extreme sports champion, outdoor enthusiast and bundle of pure energy, Hannah Whitely. If you missed it, catch it now.

Hannah simply seizes life at every turn, and here she explains water’s key role in well-being, why it’s crucial to keep moving, and how what we eat helps us be at our best…

For anyone who may not know you, who is Hannah Whiteley?

Hi! Well I’m a professional kite surfer, a former world champion and three times British champion. I love keeping it active and fun, and so when I’m not at the beach I’ll be doing lots of other sports. And of course, spending time with family and friends is always very special. 

Do extreme sports have mental as well as physical benefits for you?

Most definitely. It’s powerful how my mood can change after a kitesurf session. Being in nature’s elements, using the ocean and wind, is so special. You disconnect from the land, phones, notifications… It’s just you, the ocean, your kite and some friends sharing the moment. And the feeling from those magic moments can last a week. 

For some people, water is seen as spiritually cleansing. Do you agree? 

I think everyone’s experience of the water is different and special to them, and you should discover it for yourself. For me, I feel the water helps reset my mind. I’m always in a happier place after being in the water, weightless and free.   

Do you think people should try to get into the sea more often?

Yes, and don’t be put off by the cold! There are so many benefits of going for a dip in cold water.  

If you only had 10 minutes a day for self-care, what would you do and why?

Leave my phone behind and take a run along the beach or in the woods.

When you can’t get to the sea, what do you do for exercise?

I love learning new skills, facing new challenges and getting creative with my workouts. Calisthenics, skating, climbing, running, swimming, yoga, walking. Moving the body is always good.   

We’ve all had to adapt to lockdowns, how do you keep yourself occupied?

In the last lockdown I was filming and training in Brazil, where the rules are more relaxed than the UK. During the first one I enjoyed exercising outside, which is what I normally do anyway. Being in nature is the best. 

How important is your diet as part of your lifestyle?

I always feel my best when I’m eating good, wholesome foods, and I enjoy eating the rainbow. It helps me perform at my peak. 

We’re veggie fanatics at ZENB. What’s your favourite vegetable and why?

Mushroom! I really love the different kinds. The wild ones are my favourite. There are so many ways you can cook and eat them.  

And finally, these are uncertain times, so what advice would you give to those who struggle in lockdown?

Try to make it part of your day to get out for bite-size moments of nature. It helps so much. Even when you don’t feel like it, make the effort. Even 15 minutes. It’s always worth it.  

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