Gabby Logan on positive ageing, burnout and facing an empty nest
Gabby Logan talks to Lauren Taylor about the representation of women on TV, and her mum's influence on how she feels about getting older...
DESPITE many more women of middle age and above featuring on our TV screens than ever before – from news broadcasting and sport to entertainment shows – it can still feel as if women in the public eye somehow aren’t expected to age at the same rate as their male counterparts. But Gabby Logan is bowing to no such pressure.
“I’m going to age, I’m going to look older,” says the 48-year-old sports presenter. ” I don’t want to have a face that doesn’t move at all – that’s not my aim in life.”
And who decided wrinkles were even something to try and keep at bay anyway? “They’re kind of the marks of your history, of your life. I think other cultures are very much more open to seeing that way.”
Logan is blessed with great skin though, and taking care of it has always been a pillar of her own self-care (her mum, Christine Yorath, was a beautician). “I’ve been having facials since about 22. Skin is important, if your skin is healthy and your hair is healthy, all those things are related to self-esteem and feeling good about yourself.”
A mainstay of BBC football and athletics coverage, Logan has been a real trailblazer for female sports presenters, and her podcast, The Mid.Point, in which she interviews celebrities about health and life in middle age, is now in its forth series.
The public eye has become a “more accepting and more welcoming landscape” for women beyond their 30s, she notes. TV, particularly in entertainment, has made big strides since being “littered with-middle aged white men, when women’s roles were kind of subservient, turning over cards or running on with a prize [on game shows]”.
But there’s still a way to go and representation really matters. “Sometimes it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like anything, if you don’t see it then you don’t believe it could be, and you think, ‘Well, this is me finished by the age of 40 because I can’t really see who those women are out there’,” says the mum-of-two.
Life experience has brought Logan a certain clarity when it comes to body image. “When I was younger, you never have what you want. If you have a strong nose, you want a button nose. I definitely have kind of come to peace with my straight up-and-down, no curves figure.
“I try to say to my daughter [she has 16-year-old twins, Lois and Reuben, with ex-rugby player husband Kenny] try not to waste any time on it, because it’s futile. It doesn’t do your self-esteem or your mental health any good, and its not going to change.”
Some people find self-acceptance earlier, she says, and some “go to their grave wishing they could have had longer legs”.
Still, she can’t quite believe she’s turning 50 next year. “I can’t ever really get my head around it. It’s not that I want to be younger, but it’s almost about moving the perception that you had of that age when you were younger. Like when I was 21, what I thought a 50-year-old would be like, I don’t feel like that person.”
And she’s got a great role model when it comes to positive ageing. “My mum looks amazing. She’s 71 and still works really hard and loves socialising and she’s very active. She loves it when people think we’re sisters, which I obviously I don’t,” she laughs.
“She does look great but it’s her attitude that has been a real lesson to me. So much more is your mindset, your hope, possibility, dreams, ambitions, not putting any kind of limit on those just because you’re moving into another decade. So yeah – bring on 50!”
With a full-on day job and a family, life is busy, and as she’s got older, Logan’s got better at spotting the signs of burnout early. After all, adrenaline and post-adrenaline crashes are part and parcel of working in live telly.
“[There’s] an element of performance, you’ve got to be sharp and try and keep engaging, and that takes energy,” she explains.
“For the Olympics and things like that, I could be on air for six hours, and you feel quite drained. You can also feel quite euphoric sometimes. You don’t think of it as tiring because you’re not physically running anywhere, but it’s a different kind of mental energy,” she adds. “Even though you’ve done it many times, there’s always a certain amount of nerves because anything can go wrong, you’re on that kind of heightened edge of fight or flight. After that, it crashes. You feel a bit shattered, and if you do a long run of shows, you get burned out.
“But I can kind of see it coming. That’s the thing about midlife, you’ve got those experiences. I know what happened the last time I did this, and know I need to get a kind of nourishment, [from] friends and loved ones, and be around people with good energy. There’s been periods in my life where I’ve had a bit of counselling.”
In her line of work, she says there’s no longer a stigma around therapy: “People talk about it openly.” In her teenagers’ worlds, it’s become far more common place too. “It’s really refreshing, that it’s not seen as anything to be ashamed of, and actually looking after your mental health is as important as looking after your physical health. And I think they [young people] align and link things like that much better than we would have done necessarily at their age.
“And it doesn’t mean that every person that needs to speak to somebody is heading for some kind of catastrophic mental breakdown. You wouldn’t wait until your leg needs chopping off for gangrene before you went to see what was wrong with your leg.”
These are precious times with her children, she adds. With only another year until they leave school, she’s soaking up all the family time she can right now. “They could leave on the same day [being twins]. Whatever they decide to do, it’s not far away and we’re going to have to get used to a new reality,” Logan reflects.
“Life is about looking at the positives, and there are great things about not being restricted by children’s school calendars and school days. The idea that you’re not clock-watching to work out what we need to do by a certain time, and what the year looks like because of their diaries…
“But it’s one of those terrible truths of parenting – you go through the challenging years of teens, and when they become really nice adults you like hanging out with, they go,” adds Logan. “You’re like, ‘Hang on a minute – I really like you!'”
The Mid.Point with Gabby Logan is available on all major podcast providers.