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Me and my health: North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan on his lifestyle


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Bike mad: Philip McGuigan, the MLA

Bike mad: Philip McGuigan, the MLA

Philip McGuigan running

Philip McGuigan running

Bike mad: Philip McGuigan, the MLA

The 46-year-old North Antrim MLA, from Swatragh, is the Sinn Fein environment spokesperson and vice chair of Stormont's Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee. He now lives in Dunloy with his wife Paula and has four children, Rachael (26), Stephen (25), Cathair (21) and Daithi (18). A keen cyclist and runner, he is also an avid sports fan and enjoys watching hurling.

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

A: Yes - I train five to six days a week. It is mostly cycling, although I have started to run a bit recently and quite enjoy that too. I got involved in cycle racing eight years ago and have learnt that if you do not put in the hours of training, you will experience an awful lot of suffering during the races. Usually I'd train for 30 to 60 minutes on three or four days midweek and maybe get out on the bike for six to seven hours between Saturday and Sunday mornings. I love sport and I am very competitive. Cycling allows someone my age to feel younger and still get an adrenaline rush when it comes to sport. I have also made a commitment to myself that I won't use the lifts at Stormont. My office is on the third floor - that's six flights of steps. On a Monday and Tuesday I may have to climb them as many as 10 times - that can take the breath out of you, for sure, and is as good as a gym session.

Q: What is the worst illness you've had?

A: I have been quite lucky so far, to be honest. Nothing much worse than a bit of man-flu over the years. I have had a few bad crashes whilst racing on the bike though. I broke five ribs a number of years ago racing in Donegal and last year I came off my bike, broke my collarbone, a few ribs and had a lot of road rash. Again, that race was in Donegal, so I may try to avoid races there in future.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: It all depends on the time of year. I am a sugar addict and struggle to stay away from sweet stuff, but for the seven months of bike racing season my diet is usually sensible enough - and probably a little bit boring - with lots of porridge, chicken and vegetables. In the winter, my diet is terrible and the local confectionery shops in Dunloy will see an upward spike in their turnover. I genuinely have a set of clothes for the winter that are two sizes bigger than my summer clothes.

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Philip McGuigan running

Philip McGuigan running

Philip McGuigan running

Q: Any bad habits?

A: I would like to think that biting my nails is my worst bad habit but that is probably a long way from the truth. Does eating too many blue bonbons count? And, like many people, I spend too much time on my phone.

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

A: I used to do both, but neither now. I haven't drank in more than 20 years and I stopped smoking about seven years ago. Two very wise decisions that I'll never regret.

Q: Do you take any supplements?

A: If blue bonbons were performance-enhancing then I would be a five-time Tour de France champion. I take protein shakes now and again. During the winter I also take vitamin D and fish oil tablets in the hope that they protect me from getting sick.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: Cycling. Most of my training is based on a programme with quite a bit of science behind it. Sometimes it's just good to go out on the bike with no plan and just look over the hedges and enjoy the scenery as you pedal. I am so lucky that I can leave my home in Dunloy, cycle along the coast road to the Glens of Antrim and home and experience three to four hours of the nicest terrain and scenery on this island. JFK encapsulated it well in his most famous saying: "Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike."

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: Not well. I suspect not needing much sleep is likely to be the only thing I had in common with Margaret Thatcher.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: The thought of not being able to ride my bike at some point terrifies me.

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

A: My bicycle of course - am I starting to sound a bit obsessive here? I cannot think of a better invention that helps with both physical and mental health. It is also the solution to many growing societal problems such as congestion and climate change.

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