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Me and my health: powerchair footballer Jason Browning on his lifestyle

Lightning effort: Jason Browning
Lightning effort: Jason Browning

By Linda Stewart

The 23-year-old Northern Ireland international powerchair footballer, from Belfast, is a final year sports degree student and is also a qualified football coach. Jason plays for Lightning PFC, one of four powerchair football clubs in NI, and lives with his parents, Susan (59) and Alan (62).

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

A: I try to have a regular exercise routine, mostly focusing on muscular strength exercises and including my biceps, triceps, trapezius, deltoids and some core work if I can. I do this at home mostly - I'm not really the biggest gym user. This, in conjunction with regular use of my wheelchair, gives me a decent level of exercise. However, like most people I probably could do more than I currently do. Due to the nature of my cerebral palsy, I sometimes have to skip exercise. It all really depends how badly it is affecting me on the day.

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

A: The only thing that really applies is my cerebral palsy, but I wouldn't class it as an illness.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: It could be better. I love food but it mostly tends to be carbohydrate and protein-rich. I eat a lot of white and red meats, with probably a less than ideal number of micronutrients from vegetables, etc, although it is much improved from my teenage years, as my diet then was quite poor all round. However, thanks to my sweet tooth I do have a healthy intake of berries, apples, bananas and oranges - they are all lovely!

Q: Any bad habits?

A: In terms of bad habits, I'd probably say some snacking. I eat a decent amount of chocolate on a weekly basis. I find myself needing a little chocolate fix most days. Milk chocolate, white or dark, I'm not that fussy. I wouldn't say I eat too much chocolate as it would only be a bar or a few pieces each day. Although, realistically, I know I could do without it. Other than chocolate, I'd say another bad habit would be a tendency to favour the unhealthier option when presented with the opportunity to choose. I'd guess that's a common trait among people.

Q: Do you drink and smoke? If so, how much?

A: I don't smoke at all. I do drink occasionally, mostly socially with friends - three or four times a month at most. I'd tend to pick cider as my drink of choice, with an occasional vodka mixer if I feel like it. I'm not a big alcohol drinker - I'd mostly drink large portions of water daily.

Q: Do you take any supplements?

A: I don't really take any supplements. It's not something I've ever really considered as I don't feel I exercise enough to reap any real benefits from them. Although if I did increase my exercise amounts and intensity, I would be happy to consider supplements as part of my daily routine.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: Taking time out from life is something I feel is very important for your mental health. I do this a few different ways. These would range from spending time with friends and family to watching TV shows/movies, and I'm a big gamer, too. All of these help me to disconnect and suspend reality for a time, which helps me to relax. I also feel the compartmentalisation required to focus on sports is something I enjoy. Therefore, time spent playing powerchair football can also help me to take time out from life, particularly when training to refine my skills.

Q: How well do you sleep?

Jason playing powerchair football
Jason playing powerchair football

A: I'd say I sleep well for the most part. I tend to be a bit of a night owl, so my relationship with early mornings can sometimes not be a happy one! I do attempt to get at least eight hours to complete the recommended two full sleep-cycles, although my timing and sleep pattern can often vary depending on my schedule.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: Being 23, ageing isn't something that often crosses my mind, although I do want to ensure that I maintain a relatively healthy lifestyle so that the effects of my disability on my life are minimised as I get older. Simple things like trying to be healthy, posture conscious and keeping active are things I would think about where my age is concerned.

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

A: Similarly to supplements, there isn't really a go-to product I use to maintain feeling healthy. I'd recommend a sensible, balanced diet when possible as an alternative.

Jason plays powerchair football, a powered wheelchair-based variation of football designed mainly to give wheelchair users an opportunity to play football. Players in specially adapted chairs compete against each other and specialised powerchairs and powerchair attachments offer a competitive and fun environment to play.

There are four clubs in Northern Ireland and the IFA started the national team a few years ago. If interested in finding out more, contact Jason on jrbrowning10@gmail.com

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