OLYMPIC ATHLETE OR LARA CROFT ?
Copyright 2001 www.tombraiderchronicles.com

[ November 19th 2001 ]

Hermione Norris may be best known for her assured portrayal of calm, collected Karen Marsden in ITV's Cold Feet, but beneath that unruffled exterior there's an adrenaline junkie simply bursting to get out.

Scuba diving? She finds it relaxing. Bungee jumping? Any time. Trekking in the Himalayas? Loved it. Driving very fast cars in the American wilderness? Done it - she once had a blow-out in a Pontiac Firebird at a horribly high speed. Then there was the time she almost drowned while white-water rafting.

"It was totally exhilarating," she says, as she recounts the drama that happened earlier this year in New Zealand. "And very dramatic, with lots of rafts rushing along this fast-flowing river through magnificent rocks and boulders and people shouting with excitement and others waiting in pools at the side in case anything happened.

"Next thing I knew, I was being thrown out of the raft and into the water with the instructor. For a moment, I thought I was a goner because all I saw was everyone in the boat shouting 'aaaargh' and reaching out in a really dramatic gesture to try to save us. It was one of those moments when your mind goes blank and all you can do is say: 'Oh God, oh God' over and over again.

"But once the initial panic was over, I did exactly what I'd been told to do - I faced down river with my feet out and my arms behind my back. They soon pulled us out. It was very frightening, but I'd do it again in an instant."

Hermione, who's 34 and single, throws herself into things with such determination - whether it's a new sport, an alternative therapy (she has acupuncture and reflexology as well as regular shiatsu massages) or sampling a new vitamin pill that's just hit the shops - that her friends call her Duracell, after the supercharged batteries.

"Yes, I'll try anything," she says. "I tend to run around a lot and I can get obsessive about things - when I'm into something, I am really into it. I've been a bit of a water baby since I learnt to swim properly. I find scuba diving incredibly calming. It's a pity I can't do that near my home in west London, but I swim instead, that's my big thing.

"I'm too tired to run at the end of the day, so I go to the pool after work. It's my way of winding down: I do half an hour of laps up and down the pool, followed by a steam and a sauna. My other main exercise is yoga, which surprised me because I'd always thought it would be very boring - and, of course, it's the complete opposite. I like it from a mental relaxation point of view, but I also enjoy the discipline of a class because it's dynamic and gives me a really good workout.

"I'm lucky because I have a high metabolism, so my weight is usually between eight and a half and nine stone," she says. "If I find myself putting on a few pounds, I don't mess around with silly diets. I just eat three meals a day and don't pick at anything in between. I've tried to diet in the past, but I just can't - if I say the word 'diet', I start eating. I tried food combining, because at least it's healthy. It gave me loads of energy, but I didn't really enjoy it. I stuck at it for about a month, which is a long time for me.

"As for vitamin pills, if I see anything new in the shops, I'll try it. I buy loads, take them probably three times and if they haven't made any difference, I ditch them. My bathroom cabinet is full of them and every now and then I go through them and realise that they're all out of date."

Hermione is currently filming a new television detective drama with Robson Green but, in keeping with her sporting tastes, she would love to take on an action woman or Lara Croft-type of film role. "I'd love to be in something like Terminator II, with lots of sword fights, guns and unarmed combat," she says. "I'd like to be a bit of a baddie, do loads of martial arts, climb up cliffs and then jump off them, that kind of thing. I would also have loved to have been an Olympic athlete. Athletes fascinate me - their mentality and focus are just amazing. It wouldn't bother me doing the same thing year after year, I'd thrive on it.

"It's a big regret that I didn't get the chance to play many sports because I would have loved to. But I trained to be a dancer from the age of four, so any other sports were out of the question, because it was thought you'd build up the wrong muscles. At least the dancing gave me a good background in the discipline of exercise, because I now find I need to work out, more for my mental health than anything else. If I don't, I get down, so I try to keep a good routine going. On the down side, dancing did give me a dodgy lower back.

"But doing something for myself is incredibly important. One of the reasons I travel the world doing extreme sports is because I am the sort of person who simply can't bear just sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring."

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