Getting to know queen of running Dr Juliet McGrattan

In our latest ZAAZEE blog we’ve caught up with Juliet, Dr, author, runner, writer and mother. That’s quite a CV, take it away! This is a superb read.


Hello, I’m Juliet. I’m a bit obsessed with trying to get inactive people moving, particularly running, particularly women and particularly those who don’t think they can do it. I worked as a GP for 16 years and am now using my medical experience and knowledge to break down some of the barriers that prevent people being active through writing, blogging and building a women’s running network.

My fitness journey

I grew up as a dancer, totally obsessed with ballet. Sadly when I went to Uni I didn’t carry on and other than enjoying a bit of hiking, aerobics and an occasional snowboarding holiday, exercise wasn’t a priority for me. After my third child, with three pre-schoolers and a demanding job, I knew I needed to get fit and healthy and decided to have a bash at running because it was quick and I could do it from my front door in a spare 15 minutes. I would never have dreamed at that point that my career would change and that it would be centred around running. That first step literally changed my life.


Bringing medical knowledge to the table, and the benefits

I think it was my personal experience of how good running (slowly!) made me feel, both physically and mentally, that made me realise the power that exercise truly has. I began encouraging my patients to be more active. Being in the privileged position of being a GP meant that people would share their very private health problems with me. I was able to really appreciate how hard it is for some people to get and stay active. The barriers are so varied, ranging from motivation and anxiety to urinary incontinence and heavy periods.

I began to write for Women’s Running Magazine answering runner’s health questions too and this led me to realise that there wasn’t really much out there to support people through all these very common but often very embarrassing problems. That’s when I decided to write my book Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health to try to start the conversation about taboo topics and give sensible and evidence based advice. I also took on a role with Public Health England as a Champion for Physical Activity, giving presentations and workshops to health care professionals about the benefits of exercise and how to discuss it with patients, it’s been such a rewarding role.

We’ve been keeping a track of 261 FEARLESS, what is it?

261 Fearless is a global women’s running network. It was founded by Kathrine Switzer who ran the Boston Marathon in 1967 wearing the bib number 261. An official tried to throw her out of the race because she was a woman. Kathrine went on to finish and has been an incredible advocate for women in sport ever since. I’m working with her and a small but amazing team to use running to empower women all around the world.

I’m the Women’s Health Lead and Master Coach for the global organisation and in the UK I have set up 261 Fearless Club UK as a community interest company (type of social enterprise). We’re keen to find those women who think they can’t run and show them they can. Our clubs are all non-competitive and we don’t train for time or distance, we simply bring women together for an hour of fun running games and drills, a chatty run and lots of advice on how to run healthily. It’s wonderful and the club meet runs are the highlight of all our coaches’ and member’s weeks!


Passion behind my running club?

For me, I think it’s the non-competitive element that really fires me up. That doesn’t mean our members aren’t competitive, many are, including myself but for that one hour a week we leave all that behind us and just enjoy being together. We support and encourage each other.

Those who have been running for longer, understand the benefits of running and want to share them with other women and it’s incredible how they motivate each other to turn up each week and keep going. To be honest, it’s not really the running bit that gets everyone out of bed on a wet Friday morning, it’s knowing they’ll see their friend and because they’ve made themselves accountable to the group.

Benefits of running

Wow, there are so many! I do think however that the reason many people start isn’t the reason they carry on. I started to get fitter, healthier and lose the baby fat. That’s not what keeps me going though, that’s most definitely the mental health boost, the peace, headspace, time to think and re-balance. I ‘need’ to run now and I wonder how I managed when i didn’t run!

So many changes happen in our body when we exercise. From the flood of feel good endorphins to the release of anti-inflammatory substances in our body that reduce our risk of disease But it’s more than that, it’s the personal challenges that build our confidence, the supportive friendships we form and the way that exercise can broaden our horizons by giving us new experiences and taking us to new places. We do it for ourselves not for others and looking after ourselves is so important.


Why do mums get so stressed?

I think we all get stressed. Men, women, mums and dads. Women are often more willing to admit it and seek help. I certainly knew as a GP that if men came with stress, anxiety or depression I would discover how long and how bad things had often got before they came to see me.

I think it’s just the expectations of today.

We seem to be working harder, longer and always have so many ‘tabs open’ in our brains. It can be hard to switch off and we always feel that there’s something else we should be doing. I’ve not always been the best role model but I’m working on it!

What foods should women eat more of?

Less complicated ones I’d say! There’s a lot to be said for going back to basics and eating freshly prepared food but it doesn’t have to be time consuming. Fruit and veg all the way, plus nuts and seeds and don’t be afraid of healthy fats. I always use lots of olive oil and don’t eat any ‘low fat’ products, I’d rather use less of the real thing and they fill me up more anyway. I’ve found that the more exercise I do, the more interested I’ve become in how to fuel and nourish my body. I’m no angel though and I love to bake with my kids and I’ll enjoy a large slice of chocolate cake without any guilt. I don’t do guilt and food.


Secret to building up endurance

There are three keys for me. Firstly, build it up slowly. Taking too large a jump in your distance can lead to injury, your body needs to adapt slowly. Secondly, slow down! To go further you need to go slower. The ideal way to do this is with a friend so you can chat as you go, that will keep you at a pace you can sustain. Finally, know that so much of it is in your head. Your brain will tell you to stop way before you actually need to, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and believe in yourself.

What’s your favourite run + running event?

When I run on my own I head into the hills. I prefer the road to trail and there are some stunning runs where I live. I think my favourite is a run I do from my daughter’s school up, up and up onto the moorland with stunning views across to the Yorkshire three peaks. I rarely see anyone else and it’s so therapeutic.

Favourite marathon?

Such a tough choice! There’s nothing like your first time and mine was London with my friend Nicky so that was very special. BUT I think I’m going to have to say Boston 2017. It was the 50th anniversary of Kathrine Switzer running her iconic race and she went back to run again, age 70. I was on her 261 Fearless team and by some gift I ended up running beside her for the last two miles. To run towards the finish on Boylston Street and cross the finish line with the crowds screaming for queen of the Boston Marathon was something I will never ever forget.


My favourite 10k

Definitely the 10k route from my front door and on the roads above the village. There’s a race on this route every year as part of the annual scarecrow festival but I run around it nearly every week on my own or with friends or the dog and I love it.

Run to music?

Never. I find music very motivating generally but I never listen when I run. I run for peace and quiet and I love to hear nature (and the cars approaching me on the narrow country roads here).


Discovering ZAAZEE

I think it was Twitter that first introduced me to ZAAZEE. I remember seeing it was a local company from Manchester and I like to support small, local brands when I can. I saw a top I liked and treated myself. I was amazed by the quality and how different it was to other kit I’d been buying. I also loved the customer service, ZAAZEE really seemed to care about what I thought of their product.

Favourite ZAAZEE colour?

Oh, I love the black and white stuff but that’s not really a colour. I absolutely love the yellow – although yellow is a colour I look awful in so I admire those clothes from a distance. Blue I’d say. I have a blue vest that I’ve had for years and it’s still one of my favourites.

So we met you a few years ago, what’s your favourite ZZ product?

It’s got to be the bras! I was squashing myself into all manner of contraptions when I discovered the ZAAZEE bras. I won’t wear anything else. Sometimes I’ll wear them when I’m not even exercising because they’re so comfy. I have three of the Ellie sports bras so I can have one on, one in the wash and one in the drawer! I can’t wait to try the Aurora padded sports bra, it looks fabulous.

What’s exciting you fitness-wise for the 2019?

There are so many cool thing happening in 2019. I’m running the Manchester Marathon in April and later in the year I’m organising a team of 261 Fearless Club UK runners to run the Great North Run with Kathrine Switzer, that will be epic!

I’m working hard to grow the UK club network and I have an exciting trip to the USA to give a presentation (scary stuff!) and attend a coaching course. Most of all though, I’ll enjoy taking my kids to athletics, dance, climbing and rowing, watching them develop a love of exercise and wishing I could still keep up with them.

Thank you for reading, Juliet xx


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