Secrets to looking and feeling your best

By Zoe Walker

Three busy women share how they look and feel their best.

Anna Hood, Lucy Marr and Natalie Hugill. Photo / Babiche Martens
Anna Hood, Lucy Marr and Natalie Hugill. Photo / Babiche Martens

Anna Hood
PR director, 32

Anna Hood leads a full and busy life, balancing a demanding career as a PR director with an appreciation for the power of exercise on wellbeing and mood.

"The work-life balance can be hard but I find I am at my happiest when I make exercise a priority. I want to be doing some five times a week," she says. "It makes me more motivated and clear-headed. Particularly when I am working late nights, leaving the office for an hour or two to do some exercise is the best thing to remain physically and mentally sane."

Hood, who works at Cathy Campbell Communications with international clients including Nespresso, Westpac, Volvo and Jaguar, recently set herself the impressive goal of completing 12 half marathons in six months. "It was amazing to do, as it gave me a real focus, challenge and then sense of achievement."

It was a challenging goal, with a stress fracture in her foot towards the end meaning she has found an unexpected appreciation for aqua jogging.

"People think of aqua jogging as just for the old and injured but I am a complete convert. It is an incredible way to exercise and meditative at the same time," explains Hood, who also likes that it fits in with her busy lifestyle - she can be out of the pool and catching up with friends at a restaurant in 15 minutes.

Hers is a modern approach to wellbeing - being healthy but realistic about the demands of your lifestyle. Hood's aim is to be as balanced as she can.

"I have had stages when I have had time off from alcohol to cleanse and refresh but I am trying to find a good balance between being social but also remaining healthy.

"During the week I try to eat as much fruit and vegetables as I can, along with unprocessed food. In the weekend I don't worry too much about this but I do try to avoid dairy and gluten and refined sugar."

For summer she hopes to start tai chi, and is looking forward to the Parnell Baths opening. "There is nothing nicer than doing lengths as the sun rises or sets, it is dreamy."

It fits with her philosophy of keeping her routine varied and interesting. "I try to do a range of exercise as it keeps it fresh, and when it is seasonal I don't get bored of just doing the one thing and overworking certain parts of the body," she says.

"Basically I know that when I am feeling fit and healthy, work and the rest of life seems to fall into place better."

Anna's essentials

I love green smoothies - baby spinach, apple, banana, parsley and ice. Lose the ice in the winter or you'll freeze, but it is the best way to kickstart the day - so refreshing and invigorating. This is the basic version of Kimberly Snyder's glowing green smoothie ( - you can sign up to receive daily emails from Kimberly all about health, wellbeing and what foods are really good for you).

It's fair to say I don't have much of a skincare routine but the Organic Skin Company Brightening Almond Seed Face Exfoliant and Ageless Amaranth and Vanilla Night Moisturiser don't leave my shelf. They have softened and brightened my skin. You can order online so it is delivered right to your door, and the fact that it is safe to eat makes me happy to put it on my face.

I went to one of Dr Libby Weaver's weekend seminars and it was enlightening. It changed the way I look at many foods and my approach to health and fitness. It made me realise just how much wrong information we are fed through media and different nutritionists and what we should and shouldn't be eating.

Sleep - which only comes with the ability to say no. I am learning this skill; I like to do everything but life goes pear-shaped and my priorities get confused when I am ridiculously overtired and I let myself get that way all too often. Sometimes saying "no" to a friend, family member or work commitment and getting a good night's sleep is the best thing for the mind and body.

West Coast beaches are only 35 minutes away but you feel like you're in another world. A walk in the bush or on the beach blows away the cobwebs and clears the head, and whether it is summer or winter a plunge in the sea is incredible to wash away a stressful week and reinvigorate the soul. It also makes you feel grateful when you look around and realise we really do live in paradise.

Lucy Marr
Businesswoman, 39

Lucy Marr is an inspiring presence in the lives of those who know her, encouraging mindful living with her own thoughtful approach to life, relationships and business. Marr co-owns the popular Stephen Marr hair salons, and is famous in certain parts for passing on random but effective tidbits of information to clients - the wonders of apple cider vinegar, encouraging words about travelling the world, or breathing techniques. The stylish businesswoman also co-owns The Department Store and beauty parlour Lucy and the Powder Room, which stocks all natural products and cosmetics - including her own chemical-free and highly active collection called Sans.

A conscious, healthy approach informs all aspects of Marr's life, from what she chooses to eat to how she runs her business. "Health and wellbeing, in holistic terms, runs through not just nutrition but filters through to every aspect of your life. It's about trying to create a positive, sustainable feedback loop - through your food, through your relationships, how you run your business," she explains.

As a busy businesswoman and mother of two young boys, Marr keeps herself healthy and happy with a one-on-one yoga class with a friend twice a week, and five minutes of meditation each morning before her family wakes - something she has been doing, "properly, consistently" since the end of 2011. "It's the only way that my mind can shut off. You do five minutes of that and it's amazing how rejuvenative it feels."

Petite Marr prefers more centring and low-key forms of exercise, and aims to find the time for one walk a week, to "zone out". She does pottery too, "which is great for upper arm strength", and has an ingrained sense of healthy eating.

"Growing up, my mother was a really amazing cook, so there has always been a really strong emphasis on nutrition and ingredients. I'm just really lucky that I prefer food in its natural form."

Marr remembers talking to a bio-scientist friend several years ago about food additives and what was in them, sparking a renewed passion for keeping her and her family's diet as fresh and untouched as possible. "I didn't have a lot of them anyway, but that's when I consciously starting removing anything from my pantry that had brackets or numbers in the ingredients."

A key moment in Marr's health and approach to vitality came at age 24, after overworking and getting run down. "It was a pivotal point in my health, and it made me reassess everything I was doing with my life," she explains. But she believes being healthy is a continuing journey. "Instead of a drastic change, it's more every week, every month, every year, fine-tuning how you live your life. It's a journey."

Lucy's essentials

My dear friends Nikki Ralston and Larmesa Lees two incredible yoga instructors and extremely wise and caring women. My life would not be the same without them.

Naturallyorganic.co.nz is a great online grocery site. They source locally and seasonally and deliver outstanding produce right to your door.

Books that changed me are The Naked Buddha - what seems to be a pretty simple walk through Buddhist philosophy can be at times utterly profound - and Lawrence Durrell's The Dark Labyrinth.

I love Little Bird Unbakery. I love owner Megan May's approach to food and always feel amazing after eating from her cafe. Auckland is lucky to have her.

My doctor Jan Raymond, founder of the Auckland Integrative Medicine Centre, is a super-smart lady who practices holistic medicine. She is our family doctor and has a very grounded approach to health and medicine.

I use Comvita UMF 20 wound care for everything. Burns, scrapes and cuts. It's antiseptic and its healing powers are phenomenal.

The older I get the less I perceive "things" to be essential which is ultimately good for mental health and wellbeing. The most essential of all are my family and friends.

Natalie Hugill
Performer and dancer, 25

For a performer, strength and wellbeing is crucial - keeping well, fit and strong to be ready for the demands of any type of job that may come up. Natalie Hugill, actress, dancer and creator of the variety show Lilly Loca's Vaudeville Cabaret, is dedicated to keeping healthy - physically and mentally - through exercise. "I start to get withdrawal symptoms if I don't do some form of exercise after a couple of days," she says, "I'm very conscious of it - my body is so receptive - if I eat something lard-ridden, I physically feel sluggish."

Being gluten and lactose-intolerant and hypoglycaemic means being conscious about healthy eating is essential for her too. "I believe your body is a temple and I live by the principle that to maintain a healthy physique, it's 80 per cent about what you eat, and 20 per cent exercise. I feel so much better mentally and physically when I choose something healthy to eat."

Hugill, who will perform as her alter ego Lilly Loca as part of the Tempo Dance Festival on October 19, loves yoga and pilates, for the physical workout and mental release they provide.

"I love the variety of yoga poses there are and I love that I can tailor my yoga routine to how I feel or what I want to work on that day."

Yoga gives Hugill a similar feeling to horse riding, something she has done since she was young, growing up on a farm. "I've always loved riding, I relate it to the feeling bikers must get when they are riding along the highway - you feel free and for a moment it's like time doesn't exist. The closest feeling I can get to that now is yoga, which is probably why I love it so much."

For a more strenuous workout Hugill runs. "As much as I love the zen feeling that I can get from yoga mentally, I love pushing and challenging myself as well." She isn't a natural runner, but has been working over the past two years to build her cardiovascular fitness, and now runs an average of 6km at a pace of 5.4min/km, "which I'm pretty proud of!" She uses iPhone apps like MapMyRun to inspire her to push harder and go further.

But it's about balance too. Describing herself as a workaholic, consistently on the go, Hugill listens to her body for signs of fatigue. "That's where multi-vitamins, getting enough sleep, healthy eating and having down time - even when I think I don't have enough time to have down time - come into play to keep me feeling good and pushing forward,"she says.

Staying healthy during production can prove difficult, with long days that are demanding on her body and mind. "[During production] my body needs and craves carbohydrates, and the easiest form of carbs when you're on-the-go are chips, burgers and pizza. I'm very controlled and believe in mind over matter - so even though I feel like delving into a burger and fries, when I'm in production week and know I'm going to be performing, I opt for the healthier option." But again it's about balance - post-production she'll treat herself, "because honestly, what's life if you can't treat yourself to a bit of naughty deliciousness?"

Natalie's essentials

Music is a great way to help motivate you and get you into a reflective or determined state of mind. I love creating playlists that reflect the mood I'm feeling when I exercise. If I'm feeling unmotivated, putting on some high energy, pumping music always gets me going. In saying that, I also have a playlist called "Zen" - my beautiful, reflective music for yoga or meditation.

A solid support network is essential. I have the most amazing husband, family and friends who are so supportive of everything I do. I try to ensure I put the same amount of love and energy back into them as I am a big believer in reciprocal relationships and karma. What you put in you'll always get back. Having a solid support network really helps centre me and makes me feel calm in the eye of the storm.

In a dream week, I'd do yoga every morning at sunrise, run, spend quality time with loved ones, eat raw and healthy food, meditate and run some more. If I could have one week every month like that, I'd be in heaven.

I do a lot of home yoga practice but I also attend group lessons at Soul Space Yoga and Pilates, which I find fabulous. Owner and teacher Michelle is so skilled and such a competent teacher - she knows my strengths and weaknesses better than I do and always know how to push me further and better my practice.

- NZ Herald

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