Me and my health: Athlete Katie Kirk on her lifestyle
The 22-year-old athlete, from Holywood, who carried the Olympic torch at the London 2012 opening ceremony, is currently at a training camp in South Africa. She hopes to represent Ireland at the European Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio in the summer.
Q: Do you take regular exercise - and if so, how much?
A: I do 10-12 exercise sessions a week, made up of a mix of long runs of up to 60 minutes, interval training and weights work. As there is no indoor track here, I train outside at the Mary Peters track. I love doing long runs along the towpath of the River Lagan and through Belvoir Forest Park. Having competed so successfully at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, my main aim at the minute is the European Championships in Amsterdam in July, followed by this year's Olympic Games in Rio.
Q: What's been the worst illness you've ever had?
A: When I was 19 I had glandular fever, so I was off my feet for about two months. The fatigue was the worst part of it, so even going out to the supermarket seemed like an excursion at the time. I was told it would affect my fitness levels for the rest of my life, but it didn't and I competed and did well shortly after my recovery. Obviously I couldn't train when I was ill, as there was a risk of developing a more serious post-viral fatigue which would take longer to get over.
Q: How healthy is your diet?
A: I studied Food Nutrition at Queen's University and, being an athlete, everything I eat has been thought about. Good nutrition is important for my career, my fitness and how I am feeling, as that is what helps me reach my targets. I eat a lot of carbs and proteins, trying to get protein into every meal - even breakfast. I am lactose intolerant, so breakfast can be difficult for me as I cannot eat dairy, which forms a large part of an athlete's protein intake. Usually I will have protein porridge with nuts and seeds and I use almond butter - I try to make things tasty. If I could eat yoghurts that would make my life a lot easier. Lunch is usually a salad - I am the queen of salads - and I love tuna, eggs and green beans. My favourite salad is kale with tahini, lime juice and anything else. Occasionally, though, I will have some ice cream - I won't go into anaphylactic shock, but will get a sore stomach. I will be okay, as long as I don't eat too much.
Q: Any bad habits?
A: I do skip some meals if I'm very busy. And I absolutely love cake, cookies and biscuits of any kind - the good thing is that because of my training I can have a bit of what I fancy every now and again. I don't drink any caffeine or eat too many sweet things. After an intensive training session you can eat something that is high in sugar, so that is the best time to have cake.
Q: Do you drink/smoke - and if so, how much?
A: As an athlete I don't smoke, and drink very little. In fact, I have two drinks a year, while I am on my two week break in September. As I train so hard, I cannot afford to drink and as I don't go on any nights out, I really don't miss it.
Q: Do you take any health supplements?
A: I take supplements which have been approved for use by elite athletes, including Vitamin D in the winter, which is particularly important for people from here, a large number of whom are deficient in it. I also take a pro-biotic, which is good for immunity and gut health.
Q: How do you take time out?
A: I devour books. I have my Kindle with about 20 books downloaded to read. My favourites are crime novels and the author I most enjoy is American writer David Baldacci - I have read about 20 of his books.
Q: How well do you sleep?
A: I have difficulty getting over to sleep and tend to toss and turn in bed. My parents said they couldn't get me off to sleep until I was about three. I have to read a book for about an hour and then coax myself to go to sleep. I can be tired all day and still not sleep at night.
Q: Do you worry about getting old?
A: I haven't given growing old much thought, although when I was younger I had a real fear of dying. From an athlete's perspective, I worry about not being able to compete any more or run as fast as I could. To not be able to do what I have done my whole life, that would be a fear. Not knowing if I will be mobile, active or healthy in old age is a worry, but no-one can predict that.
Q: What is your go-to product/habit that keeps you feeling healthy?
A: Eating good food and getting lots of vegetables into me is one, and stretching - which keeps my muscles from tightening up. I also love getting a sports massage - it is not relaxing and can sometimes be sore, but afterwards you feel the benefit of it.