Family

Renee Wright reflects on 2018 and reveals what's in store for 2019

''I've seen a lot of friends go through hurt and pain... Bring on the fresh page!''

By Donna Fleming
Renee Wright on beach chair

If you happen to be at one of Auckland's popular North Shore beaches this summer and notice a familiar brunette dropping into the occasional squat as she walks along the sand, don't be alarmed.

It'll most likely be TVNZ weather presenter Renee Wright, incorporating her newfound love of Pilates into her passion for the beach.

"My Pilates classes probably shut down over Christmas and New Year, so you might see me squatting away on the beach," jokes Renee.

The beach is her happy place, and the mum of three says she's been desperately waiting for the summer holidays so she can hang out at one near her home with her family.

"I am one of those people who is affected by the weather – not just because of my job!

"I absolutely love summer. Being outside on a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day just makes you feel so good. For me, summer is about being at the beach and being able to relax."

She will still be working over January, presenting the weather at the weekends and recording voice-overs for TVNZ 1 one day a week.

"That person you hear saying, 'Coming up next week,' and 'Have a nice evening,' that's me. I sit there in a dark booth in my active wear – my mummy uniform – reading the script. A lot of people don't realise it's me, although my kids have picked up on it."

But for the rest of the time she will be chilling, most likely at her local beach with husband Charlie Waide and children Leo (7), Gigi (5) and Arabella (2).

This year, they also plan to spend time on the water, thanks to the boat they recently acquired.

"I can't wait to have fun with them and create some lovely memories, like I had when I was a kid," says Renee (38).

Growing up, Renee spent her summers at the beach, like many Kiwis. For years, Pauanui on the Coromandel Peninsula was the family's holiday destination, as her police officer dad Warren landed the much-coveted gig of local community constable during summer.

"We would go for the whole summer, and I have so many great memories of swimming and playing on the sand and collecting shells and riding our bikes around. Then when we got older, we would hang out at the beach club. Those lazy, carefree summer days really are a special time."

She looks out at the golden sand and turquoise water of the beach where she's just done a photo shoot for the Weekly, and says, "Look at this! We Kiwis really are so lucky to have these amazing beaches. We are so spoilt."

Renee plans to enjoy a relaxed summer with kids Gigi, Leo and little Arabella.
Renee plans to enjoy a relaxed summer with kids Gigi, Leo and little Arabella.

Because Renee has been working during the holidays, the family have no plans to head off for a summer break elsewhere in New Zealand, but with great beaches on their doorstep, she doesn't feel like they've missed out.

"We have day trips and boat adventures, and it's actually nice being in Auckland because it empties out over summer. But then my husband and I will probably have a skiing trip in February, which I am looking forward to. I am very lucky."

Renee's parents, Marian and Warren, will look after the children while she and Charlie (39) head off to colder climes, possibly Aspen, where they went earlier this year.

"Aspen is good for me because I am a beginner skier and there are lots of mountains for different levels. My husband is really good on the snowboard and the friends we go with are really good skiers too, but I go to a mountain called Buttermilk. It's where you'll find me and a lot of five-year-olds."

Before she gets a dose of chilly weather, Renee hopes a nice warm summer will give her a chance to recharge after what has been a busy year.

It has also been a challenging one, as she's had to deal with the loss of special people in her life, including Charlie's grandmother and her TVNZ colleague Greg Boyed.

"Greg was a very dear friend of mine and we were very close outside of work," says Renee, her voice faltering as she talks about the popular journalist, who took his own life in August.

"He really was very special and it's been devastating. I feel so sad for his family.

"When something like this happens, it makes you reflect and realise how precious life is. I feel very blessed that I am the kind of person who is naturally happy – it's my default. But I know that is not the case for everyone, and some people struggle.

"I've seen a lot of friends go through hurt and pain this year and I know they are looking forward to this year being over and a new one starting. Bring on the fresh page!"

Renee doesn't tend to set New Year's resolutions, but one thing she's determined to do in 2019 is continue with the Pilates sessions she's enjoyed so much in the previous year.

"I love it, it's become my thing. In the first couple of sessions you find yourself saying, 'What the hell is this?' I've got stuck a few times and I've had to say to my instructor, 'You're going to have to lift me out of this.'

"The other day, I was doing something called piking and he was saying, 'Go, go,' and I was saying, 'I can't – I'm stuck!'

"But I like the fact you are constantly challenging yourself. It is a nice way to calm your mind, de-stress and stretch out. After three babies, your body changes. I breastfed each of my children until they were 14 months and it felt like I was breastfeeding for about six years. I had a lot of back pain from hunching over, and Pilates has been good for me, giving me strength in my mid-back and stretching out my hips as well."

It also gives her the chance to slow down.

"I do two or sometimes three classes a week, and after rushing to get the kids to school and preschool, I get a bit of time for me. I sound like a complete cliché – I think there are memes about mums who go to Pilates and hang out in their activewear – but it really does make me feel better and gives me energy."

One day a week, she joins her friend and fellow TV presenter Toni Street for a workout session with a personal trainer.

"We have been doing that for quite a few years. Toni is such a Harry Hard-out and really disciplined with exercise. I tend to be a bit more laid-back, so it is nice to have her to kick my butt.

"She's the one who got me into it just after Gigi was born. She'd be going, 'Come on,' and I'd say, 'But I have a baby,' and she'd say, 'Well, bring the baby.' And I'd think, 'Damn, now I'm out of excuses.'"

Renee's grateful that she's kept up the exercise because it gives her the stamina to keep up with her children.

"I am always running around with them and even when it comes to things like lifting them out of the bath, you have to be strong. I should probably be doing more to get fit, but it is a matter of finding the time."

She admits that, like most other mums, she feels as if she spends her time rushing from one thing to the next.

"I'm always chasing my tail so it would be nice next year to be able to pull back a bit and have some time to breathe. One thing I'd really like to be able to do is spend more time with friends and family. I love going for walks with my mum – we solve all the problems of the world while we're walking.

"And I would love to be able to catch up with friends more. Social media is good in that it can remind you to check in on friends, but it is also bad because it tends to be a highlights reel of people's lives. It can be inspiring, but you can look at other people's social media and think, 'Why has everyone else got everything together?' Actually, it is all smoke and mirrors.

"We're all just trying to do the best we can and I think we need to be kind to ourselves, and when we're struggling, tell ourselves that this will pass."

Her family saw in the New Year quietly. "It's a bit low-key for us. Last year, we made pizza and watched Ice Age. There are normally fireworks we could go and watch, but with Arabella only being little, you don't really want to be dealing with a two-year-old the next day if she's had a late night. It's not for the faint-hearted!"

Christmas, on the other hand, is a big deal and Renee loves making it as magical as possible for the children. Recently, she's been obsessed with baking gingerbread, although it's not exactly her forte.

"I try to make gingerbread men, but they look like something out of a horror movie. I have to explain what they are because other people can't tell!"

She left it up to her aunt to make a fancy gingerbread house which, according to family tradition, is then smashed by the children.

"It's a lot of fun, but one year we left it too long and it was so hard the kids nearly broke their wrists. We had to get out a hammer!

"I had been filming it and thought, 'Maybe I'll put that on social media.' But then I thought, 'Oh, okay, maybe not!'"

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