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Julie Nelson: 'I damaged a cruciate and couldn't play football for a year'

Me and my health: Julie Nelson

By Helen Carson

The 31-year-old, who lives in Larne, is captain of the Northern Ireland Women's Football team, a player for Crusaders Strikers and one of two IFA ambassadors for women's football here.

Do you take regular exercise - and if so, what?

I do two to three hour-long gym sessions a week to work on strength and conditioning with up to three weekly sessions lasting two hours each on the pitch. While the gym keeps my strength up and helps prevent injury, getting outside into the field is where you hone your football skills. We always play a series of short games to prepare us for matches. I have been playing international football at senior levels for over 12 years and feel as fit and able as I ever have. But not training would mean I would lose my fitness.

What's the worst illness you have had?

Nothing serious at all - I've had the odd cold but I've never had to take anti-biotics ever because I've never had flu. I've had injuries as a result of playing football and damaged my cruciate ligament in my right knee in 2005 when we were playing against Sweden. At that time no-one really knew a lot about the cruciate. I had to have surgery and didn't play football for 13 months. I had a scholarship in America at the time so when I went back they provided me with one-to-one physiotherapy everyday until I recovered. Now my leg is better than ever.

How healthy is your diet?

I never skip breakfast which is usually a bowl of porridge, occasionally I will have toast and a banana. I bring my own lunch into work with is either salad or rice and tuna. As I'm still living at home my mum always has a home-cooked dinner waiting for me when I get in from work - and people ask me why I don't move out? As part of my job I coach the top young female footballers here, all under 11, so I may not get home until after 6pm in the evening. On a Sunday my mum will have a roast dinner for me and the rest of the time she cooks potatoes, vegetables and meat. The most exotic food she cooks is sweet potato - she never has pasta or rice. Occasionally I will make pasta or rice for myself at home.

Any bad habits?

Milk chocolate... I generally need some when it hits 3pm in the day.

Do you drink and/or smoke - if so, how much?

I take a drink but very rarely as I am training and playing football for about 11 months of the year. I like a glass of white or rose wine when I go out for dinner with friends and at Christmas I would have Captain Morgan's rum with ginger beer. Because I train on Saturday, it is unusual for me to drink at the weekend. Although I did drink more when I was younger.

Do you take health supplements?

Iron, vitamin D and Paradox Sports fish oils the latter of which has Omega 3, 6, 9 and 12. I don't take vitamin C as I get that from fresh fruit and vegetables.

How do you take time out?

My downtime is going out for dinner with friends and I love Thai food or Little Wing for pizza. While a lot of people clear their head by going for a run or a cycle, my relaxation is resting at home with my family. I have also become a proud auntie recently to my nephew Finlay who is now 10 weeks old. It is just wonderful to have a wee baby around to spoil.

How well do you sleep?

Very well, although I feel as though eight hours is not enough. I only feel very well rested when I get nine or 10 hours of sleep. Getting over to sleep is not a problem especially after training and generally I will not wake up during the night. I'm not one for early nights as I don't get home from training until 10pm on Monday and Tuesday nights and 8pm on Thursday, so it's hard to unwind. I'm up again by about 7.30am.

Do you worry about getting old?

Not really at the minute, but as the years go by I will have to consider stopping playing football. Now though, I am still competing and capable of playing for another 10 years. But the day will come when I won't be able to train the way I do now.

What is your go-to product or habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

Drinking water - when you are hydrated your hair and skin look better and you have more energy. I also try to eat as much fresh fruit such as berries, bananas and grapes as possible.

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