Christy Turlington Burns on running marathons, helping mothers and how she stays motivated

By Nadine Baggott

Christy Turlington Burns is one of an elite handful of women for whom the label "supermodel" could not be more fitting. Married to actor and director Ed Burns, with a 12-year-old daughter, Grace, and a nine-year-old son, Finn, 47-year-old Christy has been a model since her teens and has even been described as "the greater model of all time."

However, it is not her cover-girl status that earned her a place on Time magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2014, but her tireless efforts to improve maternal and child health in developing countries through her non-profit Every Mother Counts.

Raising money and awareness of the issue also prompted Christy to take up marathon running in her 40s, something that perfectly suits her healthy-living ethos. Here, she shares the secrets to her boundless energy and enthusiasm and reveals what helps her stay fit and focused.

Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns is a passionate mother, runner, yogi and philanthropist. Photo: © Getty Images

Your endless energy is inspiring. Who, or what, motivates you most? I can't recall a time when I wasn't motivated or enthusiastic for something I was passionate about. My kids are among my greatest teachers and teach me new things about myself and the world every day. I grew up doing a lot of sports and that taught me discipline and to work hard. I wasn't a very motivated student. I was sociable, but it took me a while to learn to love school. By the time I went back to university [Christy graduated from New York University at age 30] it was such an incredible gift to be able to choose what I wanted to learn.

Does exercise help you combat stress? If I'm feeling stressed, I'll go for a run or go to yoga. But sleep is also really important to me. Sometimes if I'm taking on too much or travelling too much, the quality of my sleep is compromised, so getting back on track with that might be the best thing I can do. Waiting too long to eat isn't good for me either - that can definitely affect my mood.

Since you founded Every Mother Counts five years ago it has helped countless women. What made you decide to focus on maternal health? It was becoming a mother myself that made me aware of the issues that women can face in becoming a mother. When you look around, even in a western country, you see who's working the hardest and, inevitably, it's the women, especially when they're mothers. Just recognizing that is a big part of what Every Mother Counts is trying to do.

What does motherhood mean to you? Becoming a mother is so different from everyone. One of the luxuries I've had is that I didn't feel I was missing out on anything when I became a mother. I had my career, I had my education, I had lived on my own for a number of years - I truly felt like a grown woman. For me, becoming a mother was a very conscious choice. But even with my choosing it and having a great partner, it's still the hardest job I do.

Health and fitness are obviously important to you. How do you try to pass that on to your children? I'm healthy, my husband's healthy and when it comes to food and exercise, moderation is the best way to live. As parents, just living that way sets a great example for our kids. I home-cooked everything for the first two years of my kids' lives. But as they grow older, go to school, go to other kids' houses, you don't have as much control. My son has a sweet tooth but we don't keep lots of sweets in the house; we try to make them a little bit reward-based. Our daughter has the move incredible reserves of energy, whether it's riding her horse for five hours or whatever, she's just constantly on the go...she eats when she's hungry and she knows what she needs. That's the ideal.

How do you balance modelling with your charity work? Often, these days, the two are so interrelated that when I'm modelling it's usually supporting the work. For a long time I would fight the modelling as I wanted to do different things, but I haven't worked full tie as a model since 1995. Now when I'm on a shoot, it's nice to see some of the people I've known for a long time, but the actual act of being photographed has never been fun for me.

You ran the London Marathon last year to benefit your charity. Did you enjoy yourself? The training is the best part. I ran as a child, but as a teenager I took up horse riding. My relationship with running has been funny over the years. Early on in my career it was such an easy way to get exercise. Back then, there weren't gyms everywhere. Then it quickly became yoga, which was something I could do on my own in my hotel room. I rediscovered my love for running when I started training of my first marathon in 2011.

Now running is part of your everyday life. I have found way to integrate it into my day, and because my main work is Every Mother Counts, that's how I justify taking the time to train. I used to be a smoker, so I'm very lucky that I have the ability to do this. I ran the Chicago Marathon [in 2014] and I felt so healthy. I would drop the kids at school and then just go.

Your other love is yoga. Do you have any advice for women your age who are inspired to take it up? I can't imagine my life without yoga. There are many styles, so I would encourage people to try a few different one stop find out what feels best. A good teacher can make all the difference. I do at least one or two yoga practices a week. My muscles can get quite tight from all the ruling, so yoga is still my absolute favourite thing to do.

What do you do when you're alone? I like to take a moment to just sit, relax, cook dinner or read the paper; that is a joy. Also, taking a bath with lavender-scented epsom salts after a long run is a real treat.

What are your best and worst qualities? That's a hard question. I have a lot of energy and am passionate about many things. I work too hard and have a difficult time turning off. That's probably why yoga and running feel so liberating.

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