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Wendy Petrie’s road to recovery

Love, family and running are keeping the star strong
Robert Strathen

When the going gets tough, Wendy Petrie gets running.Lacing up her trainers and pounding the pavements helps the TVNZ newsreader to deal with stress and it was a strategy she found particularly helpful last year, when she was coping with the impact of Covid-19, then losing her job presenting the 6pm news.

“Through that first lockdown, I was running pretty much every day. I needed to get out of the house and have some time out from the busyness of life and kids, and the general stress of everything,” says the mum-of-three. “Last year was really hard for a lot of people and I know that for me, running helped. It instantly brightens my day when I have done some exercise in the morning. And it helps me in every aspect of my life.”

Running’s not just a great stressbuster in the difficult times, points out Wendy – it’s a way of keeping mental health on an even keel all the time. Especially when she went to her dermalogist to check a spot on her arm that needed to be immediately removed. After a two-week nervous wait, biopsy results confirmed it was skin cancer. Thankfully, it was all removed, but she says, “It’s a wake-up call to get regular checks, even while we are distracted by a pandemic.”

Wendy’s still got a spring in her step!

She counts herself as lucky to be a naturally happy person. “I guess I am an eternal optimist. Plus, I have got great friends and family around me, and it makes such a difference, being surrounded by positive people.”

But there are still times when she’s felt low as a result of losing the job she loved and that had been a huge part of her life for 14 years.

“I’m still adjusting,” admits Wendy, who was made redundant from her full-time role in July and has since worked part-time at TVNZ, filling in on various news shows. “Like a lot of people who lost their jobs last year, I didn’t choose to leave mine. I’m still dealing with the ramifications of that mentally. Going from five days a week to five or 10 days a month is quite an adjustment. Some days I’m really good and other days I’m not, butI know it is something that I just have to deal with.

“Generally, I feel lucky that I have a happy, healthy family and that everyone has stayed well in these Covid times.”

Wendy, 49, has always been sporty and tried to keep fit, but it was after having her children – Addison is now 17, Liv, 15, and Zac, 11 – that she really got into running. “I started out just doing little short runs, which is all I could really do because when you’ve got small babies, it is hard to get out of the house for very long.

Filling in with Toni Street on Seven Sharp.

“So, I would do one or two kilometres, then four kilometres, then it just got longer and longer as I built up my fitness. Now I do around eight kilometres most days, and I do one long run of around 16km each week. There’s something so good about pushing your body and feeling the reward of achieving something. My body loves the endorphins it gets from exercise.”

Running not only prompts her body to release those all-important feel-good chemicals, but it gives her time to think. “I find that my best ideas come when I’m running. Everything seems to make sense.”

Wendy likes to run first thing in the morning and having daughters who get up early to train for their sports – Addison is a rower and Liv swims – means she’s also up at the crack of dawn. “I figure that if I’m going to be dropping the younger one at swimming at 5am – the older one has her driver’s licence – then I might as well do some exercise then, too. It makes me feel good knowing I am getting the day off to a great start.”

Wendy, who also does a weekly Pilates class, says her daughters don’t need any prodding to be active – they love their sports and will also go to the gym or for a run. Her husband Ross Peebles is also keen on exercise, partly inspired by the fitness videos he produces for Les Mills International.

Competing in the Spirited Women event in Taupō

It’s Zac who’s not into it as much. “At the moment, he’d rather sit on a device all day and play Minecraft, but we’re working on that,” smiles Wendy. “He’s a work in progress.”

She believes it’s important to have conversations with family and friends about mental health, and to make sure everyone knows the importance of speaking out if they’re struggling.

“My youngest daughter and I were talking about how the swimming nationals were cancelled last year because of Covid, and she said to me that looking back, it was a really down period of her life. I think it is good that she acknowledges that. We need to talk about the fact that we can feel down sometimes and that there are things you can do to feel better.

“That’s something that has come out of Covid – realising mental health is a big issue that is affecting a lot of people. It’s so important to acknowledge that and for people to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”

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