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Me and my health: Neil Calvin on his lifestyle


The 38-year-old is area operations manager in Mencap Northern Ireland's Personal Support and Housing Service which develops new housing locations to support people with a learning disability to live independently in the community. Neil, who lives in Belfast, is married with two children.

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

A: I really do enjoy an active life and love taking part in big events, especially marathons and triathlons. I will be running in the Belfast City Half Marathon on September 23 in aid of Mencap. I have a very busy and rewarding job and the exercise really helps with the job, so I run three or four times a week and do weight training several nights a week as well. I also do other things such as wakeboarding and we go skiing once a year. The one thing I really love to do is to go sailing and try to go dinghy racing once a week at Carrickfergus Sailing Club - there really is nothing like it.

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

A: Swine flu. It really was horrific, one of the worst feelings I have ever had - take your normal flu and multiply it by 10. I hope to never feel like that again.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I eat healthily during the week and like to have a good mix of fruit and vegetables as well as plenty of carbohydrates, which helps with all the running and weight training. However, it can all go a bit wrong at the weekend when you are out with family or friends, but you have to enjoy life as well.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: I don't have many bad habits - well ones I can mention in a newspaper anyway - although my family might disagree with that. I do enjoy a good steak, or the odd pizza, but I'm not really into sweet stuff which is a good thing, I suppose.

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

A: I have never smoked and have no intention of starting. I enjoy a few pints or a dram, mainly at a weekend catching up with family or friends. I love the social side of going out with friends and Belfast has some great places and music to enjoy. I do find with age you have to be more sensible with the number of drinks, as it takes more of a toll on me, as I get older. A good run always helps.

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: I have never taken any supplements, not for any specific reasons, but mostly because I don't know much about them and have never had the need to use them. Maybe it will be something to consider in the future.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: I have a busy life between work, committees, family and all my activities so I have to pick my moments as they arise. I find I need to have a focus on an upcoming sailing regatta or marathon to train for and I find that focus helps me to keep going.

I find running and exercise a great time out that really clears your mind. I know how long each type of exercise takes roughly, so, because our family schedule is constantly changing, I will have my kits ready and just take the opportunities as they arise. Mencap is very focused on ensuring colleagues get a good work-life balance, which is encouraging and ensures there is space in a busy lifestyle.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: Your sleep patterns change a lot as your life does and, with two young children, sleep can be a luxury at times. Generally, I can get five or six hours a night, which is not too bad.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: I don't really think or worry much about getting old - I'm too busy to be honest.

I would prefer it if things do not start to slow down as I love being active - and that will be more important as the children get older, I want to be able to take them on activities and instil the importance of a good active lifestyle, not just for health but also for the pure joy of it.

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

A: Getting into a boat and sailing in a breeze both tests your physical and mental health and - aside from family time - is one of the greatest boosts for my general wellbeing. The sensation of harnessing the wind and elements to surf down big waves is a feeling that is hard to beat.

For more information on the work of Mencap Northern Ireland, visit

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