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How well-known Northern Ireland faces are staying healthy and (mostly) happy while in lockdown


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Zoe Salmon

Zoe Salmon

Helping others: Zoe Salmon with husband Will

Helping others: Zoe Salmon with husband Will

Difficult time: Brian Houston

Difficult time: Brian Houston

Keeping fit: Mark Pollock

Keeping fit: Mark Pollock

Cleaning up: Gordon's new patio

Cleaning up: Gordon's new patio

Outdoor life: actor Charlie Lawson with dogs Rex and Butch

Outdoor life: actor Charlie Lawson with dogs Rex and Butch

Gemma Garrett with her dog Stella

Gemma Garrett with her dog Stella

Write path: Carlo Gebler

Write path: Carlo Gebler

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Zoe Salmon

For some, the pandemic restrictions are making it harder to stay fit, while others are throwing themselves into a new regime. Linda Stewart asks some of Northern Ireland's best-known faces about the impact lockdown is having on their own health.

Zoe Salmon: ‘Getting through a long to-do list helps me mentally’

The 40-year-old, is locked down "alone-ish" in Co Down as husband Will Corrie is a key worker. She has been taking part in the ads from the Northern Ireland Executive urging people to join the #StayAtHomeHeroes effort. She says:

"Before this heartbreaking pandemic, I'd have done five intense exercise sessions a week, mainly weights-based but with HIIT too. The pandemic has taught me to give my body a rest and so I am enjoying the calm before returning to my exercising storm.

Our health is our wealth and for me nothing is more important. My food lifestyle has remained the same. I look forward to a takeaway night and, like many, I have a sweet tooth so I still enjoy Ben & Jerry's ice-cream on the sofa at weekends with a snack bowl of my favourite sweets and chocolates.

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Helping others: Zoe Salmon with husband Will

Helping others: Zoe Salmon with husband Will

Helping others: Zoe Salmon with husband Will

I drop food off on my dad's doorstep and I am able to see him from a distance as I stand in the front garden. Other than that I do not leave the house, so I only see my dad (75) and my husband. I work from home and am fortunate to have food supplies from my husband's business. Corries Home Delivery service has been busy giving away food parcels to those in need in our community and I'm extremely proud of Will and his team. We all need to be able to look back on this time and be proud of what we did to help others. I wake up every day grateful and humbled by the work of our key workers, our heroes. Mentally, the only times I have struggled is when people have flouted the rules. It breaks my heart and brings me to tears to see that not everyone is in this together but yet we need to have unity for lives to be saved.

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I also am enjoying finally getting through a long and varied to-do list. It really helps me mentally to tick boxes and get things done so I am relieved and happy about little things like that. Between the list, and helping with a number or campaigns locally and nationally, and staying connected remotely with friends and family, I am proud to be following the Government rules and am extremely grateful to our key workers - thank you! Sending positive wishes to everyone to stay safe and healthy. Let's all get through this together."

Corries Farm Butchers has been delivering free meat packages to local heroes and vulnerable people nominated by people in their community. It is also offering a delivery service, primarily for those in vulnerable groups, self-isolating or key workers who can't get to the shop during opening hours and has introduced children's news bulletins on its Facebook page on Feedback Fridays

Brian Houston: 'I wasn't sure if this was serious, then my friend died of it'

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Difficult time: Brian Houston

Difficult time: Brian Houston

Difficult time: Brian Houston

The 46-year-old-singer-songwriter and dad-of-two is in lockdown in Belfast with his wife Pauline and son Danny. He says:

"I struggled at first to get my head around it all - I wasn't really sure if it was as serious as it was being made out to be. Everyone seemed to be freaking out unnecessarily. Then my friend died of it. I was so shocked. His name was Landon Spradlin (66), a guitar player from Danville, Virginia. He messaged me about getting together on March 12 and was dead by the 24th.

To cope with the loss I got busy. I brought home my mics from my studio and started busking on Facebook using a PayPal me link to raise funds. It was difficult emotionally, trying to find reasons to turn on the camera and perform. Each day was a challenge to convince myself folks might want to drop what they were doing and listen.

Yet suddenly I was busier than ever - I was trying to write and record all day, then going online and busking for an hour in the evening. I was knackered.

As a family we decided to stay fit and started walking five miles together about six days a week.

We also teamed up and launched my wife's business Bristle and Bird. She sources and hand makes aromatherapy-based skin products with all natural ingredients. It was amazing to get bristleandbird.com up and running and start taking orders.

Lockdown has welded us together as a family, forced me to overcome my insecurities, launched a brand new business idea and given my wife, my son and me quality time walking together.

At first it looked like a dark tunnel but it turned out to be a birth canal."

Pastor Landon Spradlin died in early April after travelling from Virginia to Louisiana to preach at Mardi Gras at the start of March. He tested positive for coronavirus and died after developing pneumonia in both lungs

Mark Pollock: 'When I went blind I went through a period of isolation'

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Keeping fit: Mark Pollock

Keeping fit: Mark Pollock

Keeping fit: Mark Pollock

The 44-year-old blind and paralysed polar explorer and motivational speaker, originally from Holywood, is in lockdown with his fiancee Simone in Dublin: He says:

"I got my handbike out of the gym about two hours before they shut, but I didn't really believe it was going to be shut that long - I don't know why I did it. But the hand bike is on the turbo trainer in my living room, then I have my dumbbells and exercise bands which I had in the house anyway.

I would normally be away two or three times a month in Europe, America or the Middle East delivering talks at live conferences. But all my events have been cancelled around the world. My entire income got wiped out in about a week.

I've been training hard, but I'm spending most of my time developing online products we were developing as a strategy prior to this happening. I've been developing four webinars and I'm selling and delivering them.

I was all over the caramel eggs and Cadbury Creme Eggs at the beginning of this. Because of lockdown, I've got care assistants who come in and out and I was asking them to buy caramel eggs in bigger boxes, so that I didn't have to go to the shops - but then I was eating them all! But now I've cut that out and gone on a Keto diet with intermittent fasting, so I'm lighter now than when I started this whole thing.

When I went blind in 1998, I went through a period of isolation, albeit surrounded by my family - I couldn't go anywhere or do anything - and when I was paralysed I was in hospital for 18 months.

In a way, this is what I speak about, this is what I study, this is what I help others to deal with, to be resilient, to adapt and collaborate with others in these times of crisis. I'm trying to do that myself now.

I have a coach who I've always used remotely. All the data from the bike - heart rate, RPMs and so - goes into the cloud, along with sleep recovery data and food data. The coach looks at everything going on and plugs it into a training programme for the week. I'm making great progress with my programme in lockdown - I'm not distracted by having to travel all the time."

To learn more about Mark's online webinars, visit www.markpollock.com

Gordon Burns: ‘My leg muscles are now firm and my arm muscles bulging’

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Cleaning up: Gordon's new patio

Cleaning up: Gordon's new patio

Cleaning up: Gordon's new patio

The 77-year-old Belfast-born broadcaster is in lockdown with wife Sheelagh at their home in Manchester. He has two children, Tris and Anna, and four grandchildren. He says:

"Generally speaking, life in lockdown is boring, monotonous, repetitive and seemingly endless. On the other hand let's look at the positives.

I have cracked the seemingly impossible task of landing a Sainsbury's delivery slot. A local fresh vegetable company delivers a wide range of fresh veg with the added mystery of only receiving what they choose to provide. So now this Ulsterman brought up on traditional fayre is eating previously shunned items like celeriac. My dad will be spinning in his grave. And sweet potato instead of the good old normal spud. Even squash! I have amazed myself.

Unbelievably, I have become something of a gardener. My neighbour lent me his power washer and I now proudly boast the world's cleanest, shiniest driveways and patios. The rockery and flowerbeds are neat enough to enter the best garden competitions with what has felt like tonnes of bark chippings being expertly spread. I have never walked so much or so far on a daily basis. My leg muscles are now firm and enlarged and my arm muscles (from gardening) positively bulging. I've become a fine specimen of a youthful looking man, despite my 77 years.

On the negative side I desperately miss not being able to fly to Philadelphia to see my daughter and two grandchildren, who are seven and four, but via FaceTime they take me up to the fort they've built from blankets in their bedroom and we've an hour of adventure, fun and laughter.

I also miss going to support Man Utd and heading to the pubs and restaurants. But I'm still alive, healthy, fit, muscle rippling, sun bronzed, celeriac-filled and, importantly, forever optimistic."

Charlie Lawson: ‘I now walk five or six miles a day... mad cyclists are a pet hate’

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Charlie Lawson and partner Debbie Stanley at the Belfast Continental Christmas market

Charlie Lawson and partner Debbie Stanley at the Belfast Continental Christmas market

Colm O'Reilly

Charlie Lawson and partner Debbie Stanley at the Belfast Continental Christmas market

The 60-year-old actor is in lockdown with partner Debbie at their home in Prestbury, Cheshire. He says:

"It's all right for us - we live in a very small village two minutes away from nowhere. The problem is my industry has been completely and utterly decimated and will not recover for a long time. It's lost billions - dozens and dozens of companies have gone to the wall, TV companies, film companies, West End theatres have closed and our industry will come firmly at the bottom of the list to reopen.

At the moment I have a lot of interviews going on, some paid, and I'm also writing my autobiography - I've done 110,000 words. It's hard work but it's something to do.

Debbie is out running - she's doing Couch to 5K every day and I've done all the garden. We have two dogs that need exercised so we are outside a lot and I'm putting on test match special replays on Five Live Extra and chilling out. We're lucky, but there will be people back home who won't be as fortunate.

I've been hearing about suicide rates being up in north Belfast and so on and I send my best wishes to those who are finding things hard.

I'm not doing much on social media. It's all very well singing Imagine from your bloody flat in Hollywood but it doesn't really cut the mustard with anybody who's stuck in a council estate in town.

I walk five or six miles a day. I can't be arsed doing all this running and I hate cycling. I live in a village that is completely and utterly dominated by mad cyclists - it's one of my pet hates.

Last night we had venison that we shot about two and a half miles away with spinach and rocket salad from the garden. We have done so much now in the back courtyard that I can't physically do anything else - it's bloody rammed.

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Outdoor life: actor Charlie Lawson with dogs Rex and Butch

Outdoor life: actor Charlie Lawson with dogs Rex and Butch

Outdoor life: actor Charlie Lawson with dogs Rex and Butch

We live two doors down from the pub and I do miss the social gatherings, but it's going to be a long time before the pubs are back to what they used to be. But not being able to go and socialise is a small price to pay.

When Flybe went, I had 12 trips to Belfast booked - we would have been over once or twice a month and I miss that a lot. I haven't been over since February and I am having withdrawal symptoms from not being able to get to Belfast."

Gemma Garrett: ‘I always try to start my days with a gratitude exercise’

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Gemma Garrett with her dog Stella

Gemma Garrett with her dog Stella

Gemma Garrett with her dog Stella

The 38-year-old businesswoman and former Miss Great Britain is in lockdown in Belfast with her dog Stella. She says:

"I've tried my best to keep to as normal a routine as possible throughout lockdown. I have set up a gym in my garden and try to work out a few times a week. I also do some workouts with my trainer, Ian Young, via video call.

The main problem is the cooking, as I'm not the best cook in the world. I've realised just how much I eat out. I have tried a few pasta recipes but it's just not something I enjoy. I've taken advantage of the few restaurants that have opened for takeaway like Deanes and Slim's Healthy Kitchen.

I do miss my friends though and I've been using FaceTime a lot. I FaceTime Paddy McGurgan most days while I'm walking my dog Stella. I live alone so if it wasn't for Stella I don't think I would be coping quite as well. She keeps me sane. She doesn't realise that it's a pandemic so she still needs her walks and that keeps me in a routine.

I'm also working from home on my business Buella. So I have to send out orders etc and Stella keeps me in a great routine because I'm up at 6.30am every day, no matter what. My family lives close so I can call and talk to them, keeping a safe distance. I simply would not be able to cope without seeing my family.

I've downloaded a Spanish speaking app and I've ordered a few books also. I've had up and down days, I think like most people, but I always try to start my days with a gratitude exercise where I simply list 10 things I'm thankful for and it immediately changes your mood.

My mum and sister are great at sewing and are making scrubs but I wasn't blessed with that gift so I've been trying to brighten up people's day (mostly NHS and frontline workers) with a surprise gift from Buella."

Carlo Gebler: ‘My days follow an unvarying pattern, seven days a week’

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Write path: Carlo Gebler

Write path: Carlo Gebler

Write path: Carlo Gebler

The 65-year-old writer and father-of-five is in lockdown in Enniskillen with wife Tyga and son Euan. He says:

"I am a university teacher. Starting after St Patrick's week, I did four weeks of virtual teaching - finagling, time-consuming work. Once the term finished, I'd over 200,000 words of marking. Normally I'd mark paper scripts but this year I received the scripts via the internet. You can't mark on the screen, or at least I can't, so I had to print them all out.

Besides my academic responsibilities I've also been doing my own work. Self-isolation has allowed me to write and rewrite without interruptions. Since the lockdown started I have finished a 'weird' story for Blackstaff, corrected a novel, The Late King of Thebes, the story of Oedipus as written by his daughter, Antigone (the novel will be finished quite soon, maybe next week, even), done some preparatory work on an anthology of Italian literature (just reading), and written one or two pieces of occasional journalism (like this).

I live in Fermanagh in the country - a good place to self-isolate and my days follow an unvarying pattern, seven days a week. Every day I rise about 6.30am, empty the ashes, tramp the lanes listening to something I've downloaded (so far I've done Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and a good chunk of Gertrude Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (left); then I work at the desk all day, occasionally breaking to do some gardening, and in the evening I watch a film: last night's fare was the Harold Pinter scripted Accident. I am, I must say, quite happy."

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