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Me and my health: Mayor Brian Kingston on his lifestyle

By Helen Carson

Belfast Lord Mayor Brian Kingston (50) lives in the Ballysillan area of north Belfast with wife Eileen. They have three children, Leanne (25), Owen (23) and Amy (19).

Q: Do you take regular exercise - and if so what?

A: Running is my exercise now, but I have always been active, playing rugby and cycling. I played football until I was in my 40s as I had a few injuries - one time I broke my leg and I was knocked out a few times, too. I started running last year at my local Parkrun, then I had a few outings with my running club Albertville Harriers, who I train with two nights a week. I completed the recent Belfast Marathon with a time of 3 hours 29 minutes.

Q: What's been the worst illness you have had?

A: I discovered I had a heart condition - atrial fibrillation - four years ago. Sometimes, in bed at night, my heart would be racing. This happened again at a meeting in the Belfast City Hall one night - my heart was speeding up and slowing down. I had to leave early and go to A&E at the Mater Hospital where doctors had to shock my heart in a bid to regulate it. Now this is maintained by beta blockers and soluble aspirin. Thank goodness I am fine to do everything else I want such as running.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I think I eat well, but when my wife is working and I have to cook, it is more likely to be chicken burgers and oven chips on the menu, compared to the healthy food Eileen prepares. I usually have two rounds of toast for breakfast as this give me enough energy during the day. I eat vegetables and fruit such as bananas and oranges.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: I used to drink too much coffee - until I was diagnosed with my heart condition. At that time I would have up to eight cups of coffee a day which is too much. I stopped drinking coffee altogether and now take decaffeinated or tea.

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

A: I don't smoke and don't know why people do smoke. I'm not teetotal and have the odd drink either at an event or when I'm watching the football.

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: No, because I eat a balanced diet. Also, there is so much contradictory information on vitamins and supplements - it's hard to know what you need to be taking or not. When we were children my mother would line us up and give us each a spoonful of cod liver oil every day.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: Running is a great way to clear your head. I also enjoy reading - mostly history books and newspapers - and I'm always buying books. We all need recovery periods to mentally recharge - you need to know when to take a break or rest. A quote by Thomas Merton sums it up best as 'overcommitting yourself in life... is a form of innate violence'.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: Most of the time I sleep well, but during the years I ran the Shankill Mirror the pressure of deadlines used to keep me awake. A day or so before deadline I would stay up all night to get the work done - I certainly wouldn't want to do that again. A good night's sleep is one of the best things we can do for ourselves physically and mentally.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: Not at all as I am pretty fit and healthy for my age. My kids tease me when it's my birthday, but if I wasn't getting older I would be dead. Enjoy your life and hope to stay in good health. My father suffered from dementia so that is a worry, so I look after my health which is more important than worrying about ageing.

Q: What is your go-to product/habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: Probably snacking on a banana as it is better than eating a chocolate bar. I also enjoy Dale Farm's new protein milk - I have a strawberry flavoured one after a run. For a treat, though, I will allow myself a chocolate muffin with a cup of tea.

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