Me and my health: Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen
Me and my health: Andy Allen
The Ulster Unionist MLA for East Belfast is 30 and lives in Belfast. He is married to Natalie (31) and they have three children, Carter (10), Chloe (7) and Tyler (1). Andy is a volunteer for AAVS, a charity he helped establish in 2011 to deliver support services for those who serve or have served and their families throughout Northern Ireland
Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?
I have always been a relatively sporty and fit person - especially in my younger years, I loved playing football and running. I then joined the military in 2006, where fitness and exercise were central to my infantry job role. We exercised on a nearly daily basis to ensure we were highly agile and fit.
Then on July 14, 2008, while serving with the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment in Afghanistan, I was injured by an Improvised Explosive Device. As part of my recovery, I underwent an extensive period of rehabilitation which included regular exercise in the gym and on my prosthetic legs.
However, following complications that affected my ability to walk, I became less active and as a result of reduced exercise, felt the negative effects. After several years I therefore decided that I needed to become more active again. I now go to the gym 4+ days a week, where I exercise using strength and cardio training to stay fit and active. I hope with improved overall fitness and core strength to be able to walk on my prosthetic limbs again and not have to depend on my wheelchair as much to get around.
More recently, I got involved with the Help for Heroes Sports Recovery programme (www.helpforheroes.org.uk), further to which I was selected to represent Team UK at the Warrior Games, an Olympic-style competition for injured veterans out of which the Invictus Games originated. In Tampa, Florida, in June of this year, I competed in shot put, discus, powerlifting and rowing which has given me the incentive to continue utilising sports as part of my overall recovery journey. I also hope to continue to be involved in competitive sports, whether that be Invictus, Warrior Games or local competitions, as having a goal to work towards also helps to incentivise and motivate.
I would also encourage anyone interested in sports to seriously consider getting involved, as there are so many positive benefits and outcomes to be achieved. You do not have to be an Olympic athlete to enjoy sport, as there are many amateur groups and clubs using sport to help tackle social isolation, improve physical and mental wellbeing and more. One such club for anyone interested is Para Sport NI (www.facebook.com/ParasportNI).
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What is the worst illness you've had?
I have been relatively fortunate that I haven't suffered from any major illnesses. As a result of my injuries in Afghanistan, I have experienced some complications that cause me some difficulty, however, thankfully they are not too serious.
How healthy is your diet?
My diet until recently was quite sporadic, resulting in me grabbing takeaways on the go but since I've become active in the gym I have become more aware of my diet and the importance of balanced nutrition. My overall diet is much better now and I'm feeling the positive benefits of it.
Any bad habits?
Probably takeaways - but thankfully that's in moderation now.
Do you drink and smoke/ if so how much?
I have never smoked. I would have an occasional couple of beers.
Do you take any supplements?
I have never really thought about supplements until recent times when I started taking multivitamins after I became more aware of health and wellbeing.
How do you take time out?
I enjoy spending time with my family, going swimming and bowling or to the cinema, etc. I also enjoy going to the gym.
How well do you sleep?
I sleep relatively well - in fact, I must admit I enjoy my sleep.
Do you worry about getting old?
No, not really. It's all part of life and there's nothing we can do to prevent it. Therefore, I just try to live every day to its fullest.
What is the go-to product that keeps you feeling healthy?
I enjoy a healthy smoothie and I would often try different combinations of fruit and vegetables to make them. Sometimes they taste great and others not so much.
Follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyAllen88, on Instagram at andy.allen88 or search Andy J D Allen on Facebook.
AAVS operates a drop-in, treatment and training centre which offers many support services under the one roof. For more information about AAVS and their work you can visit their website at www.aavsni.com