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Runher:The farmer's wife and former nurse who says getting fitter starts with the fuel that you put in your body

Nutritionist Majella Farrell, from Co Down, is aiming to help Runher competitors reach their peak performance this October. Stephanie Bell reports

A thirst for knowledge and a passion for helping people has seen Runher nutritionist Majella Farrell devote her life to ongoing study, allowing her to continually add to her expertise in complementary therapies.

Majella will now be channelling her considerable knowledge and experience into helping the women taking part in the Belfast Telegraph Titanic Runher event in October reach their peak performance with a weekly nutritional column to accompany their training and to get the most out of it.

A mum-of-four and grandmother of two from Katesbridge, Co Down, Majella knows from experience how much your diet impacts on your health, especially when putting your body through training.

Majella will be guiding all our Runher participants on how to keep their bodies in top shape by eating the right foods while gearing up for the Titanic race.

With over 25 years of experience in the health care industry, Majella runs the Live Well Clinic, and as well as being a nutritionist she is also a practising naturopath and homotoxicologist.

She says: "I'm delighted to be helping the Runher participants. I will be chatting each week about different nutrients to help women prepare their bodies for the race. When you are putting your body under extra pressure during training, you need to keep an eye on your diet.

"It is all about planning and making sure you have the ingredients in the house. Some people will be just doing the race for fun while others will want to improve their running times. In order to do that, they need to look at what fuel they are putting in their bodies. If it is not right, then your body won't perform well."

Majella (53) is married to Terry (59), a farmer and lorry driver, and they have four children, Cathal (29), Jarlath (28), Michelle (24) and Maeve (18), who is an up-and-coming country star. She also has two grandchildren Caiden (10) and Alia (10 months).

She began her career as a psychiatric nurse and then decided to train in various disciplines of complementary medical care. Her training has taken her to London, Brighton, Belfast and Milan. She is now qualified in naturopathy, nutritional advice, reflexology, aromatherapy, body massage, massage for pain relief, skin rejuvenating therapies, Hopi Ear candling, PRM (Physiological Regulating Medicine), homeopathy, detoxification, food sensitivity testing and mesotherapy.

As well as running her own clinic, Majella teaches health and social care to diploma level in Newry and reflexology part-time.

While an advocate and practitioner of complementary therapies, she does not see what she has to offer as an alternative to traditional medicine.

She says: "Basically I have a holistic approach and try to find the therapy to match the patient.

"Generally all my different therapies are my tool box and there is no "one size fits all" as everyone is very individual.

"I also make sure that whatever medicine my clients are on, anything I suggest will complement that.

"I am a firm believer that what I do is not alternative to what doctors are doing, but complementary to it and that each should complement the other.

"I trained in reflexology first and that started me looking at other therapies as I always felt there had to be something to complement medicine.

"You can help the body with different therapies, but at the end of the day if your nutrition isn't good nothing is going to last. You've got to have good soil in order for your plants to grow and it's the same for the body - to be at its best you have to give it the best chance with good nutrition."

Majella believes in the motto 'Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food' - a quote from Hippocrates, known as the "father of medicine".

"All newly qualified doctors still take what is called the Hippocratic Oath," she says. "Even though he lived in 460BC, his thoughts on maintaining health remain the same and as valid today.

"In order to have great health and improve your fitness, you must begin with great nutrition.

"Sometimes this can seem so difficult to understand with so much information in the media which contradicts itself. In the next few weeks with Runher, I will try to break some of this information down into simple, easy to understand language, and help runners to improve their fitness outcome with good nutrition. "

Majella also finds time to do voluntary work in her spare time and is a founding member of her local community group in Annaghmore where she hosts regular health fairs to share advice on nutrition.

She knows that many people have a weakness for the wrong foods and believes that we can enjoy our food and still indulge in treats without doing our bodies any harm. She says: "We all fall down and I'm not a perfect eater. If someone put a nice Pavlova in front of me, I would probably have a slice and want more.

"It is all to do with balance, enjoying your food and ensuring that you are not doing yourself any harm with it.

"You also have to be realistic. You can't go for a run and think 'oh good I just ran for half an hour so I've earned a sticky bun or bar of chocolate'.

"Staying on track and being 'good' with regards to food can be a challenge so we'll look at ways to help that too during the coming weeks."

Majella has struggled with her own fitness during the past two years after breaking her knee. She has been recovering with the help of physiotherapy and yoga. She hopes to be fit enough to do the walking section of the Titanic Runher.

She adds: "I hope to travel on the journey with the girls and use Runher as motivation to continue to increase my own fitness as I am now able to walk longer distances this year. Nutrition is the foundation for all health and fitness.

"I'm looking forward to the journey to the big race day and to watching what everyone who takes part achieves."

Now read Majella’s advice on just how much water you should be drinking

I hope your training is going well. The reason for participating in Runher might be to improve fitness, to kickstart a weight loss regime or to raise money for charity. Whatever it is, it’s important to stay focused on the end goal. You can do this.

I am going to start by highlighting the need for hydration. Water is an essential “nutrient”. It might not seem like it, but water is the most necessary nutrient of all, so necessary, in fact, that people can’t survive for more than a few days without it. More than half of your body weight is water.

Fluids travel throughout your body, carrying nutrients and waste to and from all your cells and organs. The watery fluids that flow through you night and day are blood and lymph. Water is the main ingredient in blood and it is also in lymph, a fluid which is carried by your lymphatic system.

 Water is also the basis of the juices in our digestive system. It keeps things moving! Your digestive system has a mucus covering of which water is the main ingredient. The same goes for saliva. As you digest food, the food moves through your intestines. If there is not enough water in your system you will become constipated.

Water is also in charge when it comes to keeping us in motion because it is part of the fluid that keeps our joints lubricated. And it keeps us from getting too hot and bothered.

Our bodies need to keep a fairly constant temperature and this is where water comes in, by cooling you down with sweat. As sweat evaporates, it cools down your skin, which, in turn, cools down your blood. When your blood is cooler, your insides become cooler, and your whole body cools down. Your body also loses water by evaporation through your skin and breath and in passing water.

Water works hard in your body. It is so important to replace it. Eating and drinking replaces water. Most foods have a lot of water in them, especially vegetables and fruit. However, you cannot rely on food alone to give you a good supply of water, therefore it is essential to drink lots of water every day. Water alone doesn’t give the body extra work to do; the body absorbs it and uses it straight away.

The ideal source is pure, natural spring water, but an effective water filtration system in the home will help to remove the chemicals and heavy metals that may be in the water supply. Water supplies the trace elements we need and helps to maintain the acid-alkaline balance in the body.

Drinking more pure water can relieve many common ailments. One last great fact about water is that it contains no calories, no matter how much you drink.

As you exercise, your body’s need for water is increased.

A general rule is that you lose around half a litre for each hour you exercise — this can increase on a hot day. Please hydrate properly as this will prevent fatigue during your exercise and will be especially important on the day of your big event.

When you’re properly hydrated your body will recover more easily from exercise and you’ll also feel the benefit on your mood and concentration.

Week two: our trainer Melissa Eccles on building core strength

Muscles emphasised: The glute bridge is an excellent exercise for runners as it effectively strengthens your glutes, hamstrings and core.

Equipment needed: regular Swiss ball.

Repetitions: Aim for four holds of 15 seconds, with 10-15 seconds rest.

Progression: Gradually build up to holding for 25 seconds.

  •  Sit on the front of the ball with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • With your arms across your chest, walk your feet out until only your shoulders, neck and head are rested on the ball. When you reach this position your knees should be bent at 90 degrees and in line with your hips. (Note: There should be a straight line from your head to your knees with a 90 degree bend at the knee to your ankle.)
  •  Once you reach this position, squeeze and hold your glutes for 10-15 seconds.
  •  Really focus on driving through the heels, keeping those hips high and glutes squeezed.
  • Once you’ve held this position for 10-15 seconds, walk your feet backwards toward the ball and work your way back up to the initial seated position.
  • From here, take about 10-15 seconds rest before repeating the exercise.

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