We asked the Paralympic gold medalist, Ilse Hayes, a few questions about what motivates her in health and fitness. Diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease at the age of 11, Ilse Hayes tells us how she faces life with #NoExcuses. Read here answers below!

QUESTION 1: What does the #NoExcuses movement mean for you and overcoming adversity?
Nothing is big enough to stand in your way in order to achieve your goals. Setbacks will always be there and you have a choice how to react to that. The #NoExcuses movement is a great way to also remind yourself there are other people also facing adverse situations.
QUESTION 2: What is your philosophy regarding training and exercise?
I generally enjoy leading a healthy lifestyle, but from an athlete’s point of view it creates the base from which I compete. Therefore, I try and give 100% in each training session. That gives me the confidence that when I go down in the blocks I know that my preparation was the best that I could make it to be.
QUESTION 3: Does your vision impairment create challenges regarding your training philosophy?
There aren’t much direct challenges, but I rely on my teammates and coach to create an environment where I can train in optimally. Most of the time I have to ask someone whether the track is clear when I for e.g. enter a 150m stride, and they always assist. That means I can exercise at 100% intensity without having hesitance.
QUESTION 4: What made you decide to go into athletics?
Well not a choice, just started running the 50m U/7 dash and suppose got hooked from there. I Started competing internationally at age 15 and I think once you experience the thrills and adrenaline of competing on a world stage it ensures that you go back to the training track.
QUESTION 5: Describe your initial feeling when you attended your first Paralympics?
Definitely overwhelming, but a huge turning point in my career. In the 400m at the 250m mark I was way out of medal contention and just decided in the split second that I am not going home without medal. I fought back with everything I had and sneaked in with a bronze. I realized then that I wanted to hear my national anthem at the next Paralympics.
QUESTION 6: What motivates you every morning to stay on track?
Some days it is difficult to wake up for e.g. on a cold Saturday morning or when your body is really aching, but I have experienced the immense feeling of exhilaration whilst standing on the podium hearing your national anthem and you don’t need further motivation to wake up. Also the knowledge that each session adds to the overall success of what you do and missing one session means that you are one step behind. You continually strive to become a better athlete mentally and physically and sticking to a diligent training schedule is the core.
QUESTION 7: Do you have a mentor or professional athlete/s that you look up to or aspire to?
Well I really enjoy watching Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce from Jamaica as it really looks like she enjoys herself when competing and embraces the whole experience. She also has the knack to deliver on the big occasion which makes her a true champion. Mentor wise I have a strong support team around me including my coach, sports physician, husband, physio, massage therapist, gym trainers, biokineticist etc. all of which has my interests at heart.
QUESTION 8: Do you have a strict diet? Give us one or two of your favourite training foods.
Certainly not pedantic about it but focusing and eating healthy throughout for e.g. in moderation and having balanced portions between carbs, proteins and good fats. The more colourful the plate the better. I’ve been using the Biogen Recovergen Pro after sessions which has helped my recovery for the next session. Some favourite snack food would be nuts (almond, cashew, brazil etc.) and little vegetable treats like mini-corn, mange tout and cherry tomatoes.
QUESTION 9: What training or diet advice do you have for anyone wanting to get into shape or train for an athletic event?
Training wise if you are training for a competition just stick to what you set out to do. No point in missing sessions as you would only be cheating yourself. No better feeling than arriving at a big competition and knowing that you did everything you could to prepare properly. Diet advice is difficult as each person’s body is different. I am not one for extreme diets, but believe in a variety of different food types ensuring balanced consumption of minerals and vitamins.
QUESTION 10: What advice would you give to young and/or disabled South Africans wanting to pursue a career in sport?
Disabled or not no one needs to be told that they are not good enough. Success won’t come overnight and don’t think the ride gets smoother after you have stood on the podium. I’ve had many setbacks before major events in the past whilst doing everything right, but you have to accept that that is part of the game and should not deter you for keeping your eye on you ultimate goals. Also just enjoying and embracing every moment of living your passion.