Meet Jacqueline Hooton and learn more about fitness at midlife and the keys to active ageing

Women's Best Interview Team

Reading time: 8min

Jacqueline Hooton is a mother, owner of Her Garden Gym, fitness expert, personal trainer, and writer. 🤍 Read our interview and find out more about the Women’s Best ambassador!

Name: Jacqueline Hooton

Location: Felpham, West Sussex, United Kingdom

Height: 170 cm

Birthday: 11th February 1963

Instagram: @hergardengym

Can you share more about yourself and what you are doing?

I’m a mum to five grown-up children and I have two grandchildren as well. I live in a seaside village on the South Coast of the UK, and enjoy being active outside running, walking and cycling on the beach every day. I’ve been a personal trainer for twenty years and I see clients in my personal training studio as well as online, which means I have clients worldwide. During my career in the fitness industry, I have worked as a fitness tutor, supporting students as they embark on a career in fitness, and hosted a number of my own business building events for fitness professionals.

When did your journey start? Was there a certain event or situation after which you found your passion & decided to follow a certain path?

I gave birth to my first child, my son, in 1989 when I was twenty-six years old. I’d always been active but it really hit me how important my health was when I became a mother. I remember looking at my newborn baby and feeling this huge sense of responsibility for another life. So I started working out to Jane Fonda videos when my son took a nap, and I haven’t looked back since!

Can you explain more about your area of expertise and the central focus around your work and what you do?

My focus has always been in the area of female health and well-being. When my first two children were little, I delivered antenatal classes for expectant mothers and their partners. My work evolved as my other children were born. I started to focus on postnatal recovery and exercise, and helping new mums incorporate exercise into their lives. Nowadays I aim to support women as they enter midlife, and experience menopause. I devote a lot of my energy to helping women understand how lifestyle can impact the ageing process, and the importance of exercise to promote optimal ageing.

Where did the idea for your fitness studio, Her Garden Gym, come from?

In my early days as a personal trainer, I worked in large gyms and fitness facilities. I had a small space, at home, where I started to see female clients who didn’t feel comfortable in a public gym. When my eldest son left home and another went to university, I was able to convert and extend my home-based studio and Her Garden Gym was born. The name really reflects the location, as the indoor studio space leads into the garden. This outdoor area includes further training equipment and a summerhouse where clients can enjoy relaxation, stretching and Pilates sessions.

Tell us more about your social media presence, what are your goals with your content and the messaging you are conveying?

I am most active on Instagram, as I enjoy the visual content creation side of my work. Fitness on Instagram can sometimes seem exclusive and unachievable. It appears to be dominated by young athletes, with incredible physiques, doing high-intensity workouts. So I aim to share content that is relatable for midlife women looking to promote and support their health and wellbeing long term. I share workouts women can do at home, with minimal equipment, and I also aim to educate on important health matters which affect women as they reach menopause and beyond.

What do you love most about your community and your followers?

Nearly 90% of my followers are women, and 50% of these are between the ages of 45 and 64, which is great because these women are exactly who I am aiming to support with my content. I am especially proud of the feedback, comments and messages I receive from my community. Many women in their 40s and 50s have a poor history and relationship with health and fitness. They’ve been yo-yo dieters or on-off exercisers and they believe exercise is painful, and something to be endured rather than enjoyed. I aim to show how small changes, like taking a daily walk or completing a short bodyweight circuit, can really add up and start to make a difference to long term health. I get lots of messages from women saying things like ‘You’re really encouraging me to be more active and I’m enjoying the strength training workouts you share’.

What is your well-being and fitness philosophy for midlife and older women? What would you recommend to women who are new to fitness and starting at a later stage of life?

The message I share is it’s never too late but don’t leave it a day longer, start today! I especially emphasise the importance of strength training in midlife. From our 30s onwards we experience a gradual reduction in bone density. As a result of the hormonal changes associated with menopause we can experience rapid bone loss in our 50s, and this can lead to the serious health condition osteoporosis. Strength training can promote bone density and helps us remain functionally strong for all the activities of daily living. So, I tell women they can get strong anywhere, and encourage women to use resistance bands and dumbbells at home if they don’t like the idea of going to a gym.

Also, what do your own workouts and conditioning consist of? Do you have a favorite type of training or exercise?

I enjoy being active and training outdoors, and I’ve recently acquired a stand up paddleboard which I’m excited to master. I am also passionate about strength training and really enjoy the challenge of lifting heavy weights in the gym. I split my workouts, and a typical week includes 4 or 5 strength sessions focusing on important compound lifts (like squats and deadlifts) and bodyweight strength exercises, such as pull-ups and push-ups. I also like to mix things up in my own PT studio with a circuit based approach to conditioning incorporating battle ropes, kettlebells, slam balls, powerbags and skipping.

What’s your philosophy on nutrition? Do you follow a particular diet, and if so, how do you maintain this?

It’s really important to cultivate a healthy relationship with food. The only time I have ever dieted was when I competing as a figure athlete in my early 50s. The fitness industry, and competing, is a great place to hide an eating disorder or legitimise disordered eating. I witnessed the damage this can do when I spent time around other competitors. So as a nutritionist I am very aware of my responsibilities in sharing evidence-based information, and not perpetuating diet culture.

Nowadays I focus on achieving my daily protein intake, (which is especially important for midlife women) adequate hydration, and eating a diet that contains plenty of fresh foods, plants, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.

You’re a mother, is there a message you have for younger women who feel unworthy or have a negative self-image? Do you have a message for your younger self?

My message to younger women is celebrate and learn to LOVE what your body can DO, help shift the focus away from aesthetics and unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad or who shares content you find triggering. It’s a strategy I recommend to my own daughters.

My younger daughter, Saffron, (also part of the Women’s Best community) struggled with an eating disorder when she was in secondary school. After her first year at university she returned home and asked me to help her get stronger. Always a keen dancer, it was the first time she took a serious interest in fitness. So she started training in my studio in the summer break and as her confidence grew I took her to the gym with me. Once she stopped counting calories and started logging the weights she was lifting she began to appreciate her body for all the things it could do. Three years later she’s no longer a student and has developed in so many ways, she continues to go from strength to strength in her training.

I’d tell my younger self to start lifting weights sooner! I only began serious strength training when I was 36 years old. I wish I’d known about the benefits of strength training in my twenties, and how this is the optimal decade to build bone density and future proof bone health.

For women approaching midlife or older, what’s the secret to staying healthy, happy and fulfilled?

I do a lot of work to promote active ageing and constantly challenge the negative narrative on ageing. When we feel more optimistic about the ageing process, and understand how to support healthy ageing, the future looks a lot brighter. Midlife can be a wonderful time to reinvent yourself, build a new career, or make fresh friendships. Attitude is a really important factor when it comes to ageing too. Society places a great emphasis on youth and looks.

So it’s up to grey-haired women like me, showing up loud and proud about our age, to challenge the idea that we have a best before date. This message seems to resonate with my community, and I’d like to think I’m helping women feel more positive about their futures.

What’s your biggest achievement? What are you most proud of?

I’ve modelled on a catwalk for London Fashion Week as a classic model, and I’ve won first place as a figure athlete in the over 40s category in a bodybuilding competition. As amazing as these experiences were I’m enormously proud of the money I’ve raised for different children’s charities through various fitness events, including London Marathons.

Of course it goes without saying I am also enormously proud of my five children.

Let us in on what Women’s Best supplements you use, when and why?

My favourite Women’s Best supplements are the Fit Pro Whey Protein, Creatine Powder and the Smart Bars. Whey protein is an easy and convenient way to achieve my daily protein intake when I’m busy and need to grab something quick between clients. I take creatine as it’s one of the most well researched supplements shown to have powerful benefits for both athletic performance and health, and the Smart Bars not only taste delicious but provide 20g of protein.

And, what is your favorite Women’s Best sportswear collection?

I really love all the collections and I literally live in Women’s Best every day whether I am working with clients or engaged in my own training. I especially like the fit and feel of the Renew range, and the longer length top with the thumb holes. Renew is perfect for autumn training outside in the UK when the temperature drops.

Lastly, you decided to collab with Women’s Best. Why did you choose to be part of the community?

Women’s Best is an inclusive fitness brand, with a diverse community of women. Women’s Best athletes include women of all races, different shapes and sizes, disabled athletes and those with special needs, as well as women of all ages, including myself at 58! I’m proud to be associated with a brand that encourages all women to embrace fitness.

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