AJ Odudu reflects on how it felt to be forced to pull out of the 'Strictly' final

·4-min read

Watch presenter, former fitness blogger, trained PT and Women's Health's May cover star, AJ Odudu, in work mode – presenting from the red carpet, hosting Married At First Sight UK: Afters, gamely downing juice shots and telling us about blagging limos from a Leeds pub (watch it all on the WH YouTube channel) – and you get the sense that this is not simply a woman nailing a job she’s born to do, but one who’s also savouring her success.

No doubt, the 34-year-old brings good energy most places she goes. So, what are her secrets to living life well? Here, in words taken from her cover interview, are some key lessons WH is taking from the small screen juggernaut – including how she made peace with the injury that forced her to pull out of the Strictly final.

Women's Health's May issue hits newstands on Tuesday 19th of April, in which you can read AJ's full interview. Pick one up, or subscribe, now.

1. Applaud your body for what it has done for you – even when injuries set you back

AJ was devastated when a ruptured ligament in her right ankle meant that she couldn’t dance, and had to forfeit her place in the Strictly final. At the same time, she's made peace with what her body did allow her to do – even in the face of the disappointment.

'That whole evening [watching the Strictly final] was like a sweet dream and a beautiful nightmare. It was absolutely amazing. I got to wear the dress I was going to wear for my show dance; I wanted to get to the final and I got to the final.'

'But it was also that realisation of, "Oh my gosh, I cannot believe that I’m not on that stage because I’ve got this injury! Are you joking?"… Now, I kind of feel guilty that I was so hard on myself initially. I thought, "How were you so angry at your body, which has done so much. Like, at least 10 hours a day for 13 weeks".

'Yes I have this body that let me down, but, actually, it carried me to the final; it did what it needed to do.'

2. Celebrate your successes

It's easy to lose sight of just how far you've come. But AJ knows that reflection is vital. 'I don’t take anything for granted, and when things go right and I get certain opportunities, I properly bask in it. Setbacks in my earlier career have meant that when you do come back, you really appreciate those moments and that, essentially, is what keeps me happy – as opposed to just being busy.'

3. Know the importance of authenticity

'Luckily, I feel confident in many spaces, but when I’m not, I do have to remind myself that it’s quite a brave thing to be yourself – which sounds so ridiculous,' says AJ. 'But in a world where we’ve got so many references of how to be, what to look like, where to travel – when you are yourself amid all of that, it’s quite like, "Oh my gosh, I’ve waded through it. And I’m still me." '

Too true.

4. Work on learning how to stave off burn out

We all know the 'listen to your body' maxim. But how many of us are actually good at heeding its cues? 'I’m just allowing myself to be a bit more flexible; to exercise when I feel alert and good and then my body will respond to that. And just chill out when my body is telling me to. Because if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s that you really should listen to your body,' AJ says.

'It’s one thing I’ve struggled with. On SAS: Who Dares Wins I climbed a mountain, collapsed and then carried on, and then [in Strictly] I danced so hard I tore a ligament. This is someone who hasn’t quite figured out how to not burn out. So that’s what I’m going to focus on...that’s the lesson for me.'

5. Commit to your goals

Yours might be wildly different to those of a successful presenter. But getting clear on what you want is essential, if you're going to take the steps to make it a reality. For her part: 'I’d love to do my own prime-time, shiny-floor show with a live studio audience. I’d love to work in America one day,' AJ reveals.

'But I hope that whatever I do and wherever I go, I remain connected to my roots, my friends and family and my sense of self.'

Read AJ's full interview in the May issue of Women's Health: on newsstands now

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