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Celebrity Health - Derval O'Rourke

A photo of Derval O'Rourke

'Healthy food makes you fast'

Derval O’Rourke has held the title of World Champion in sprint hurdles and competed for Ireland in three Olympic Games. She also picked up four European Championship medals and holds the Irish record for sprint hurdles. Recently she announced she was hanging up her spikes for good and has written Food for the Fast Lane: Recipes to Power your Body and Mind.

Now that you’re retired from competition what sort of exercise do you do to keep in shape?

"I am in a transition period from being fit to perform to being fit to be healthy at the moment. I go for a run on the local beach or in the woods with my dogs Berlino, a five-year-old small labradoodle, and one-year-old Chaz, who is a lurcher-greyhound rescue dog. I lift weights once a week and a new thing I’m doing is a weekly pilates class. I’ve never done pilates before and I’m enjoying it. I have ongoing problems with my back so it’s good for that."

What sort of foods do you eat to stay healthy?

"I find that health stores are really good for basics so I stock up on ingredients like agave syrup, protein powder, gram flour, coconut flour, psyllium husk and sambucol. I love jumbo porridge oats because they are so versatile. I cook quinoa all the time and use a lot of coconut oil in cooking. I love nuts in foods. I like eating non-animal-based proteins like mixed beans. It’s nice to challenge yourself and I try to eat a lot of lentils – there’s a nice recipe for lentil dal in my book which is easy to make and really nutritious."

Do you take any natural supplements?

"I take a multivitamin and fish oils – I also eat a lot of fish. I keep an eye on my iron levels as lots of women do and have regular blood tests. When I was in competition I used to take whey protein and amino acids in tablet form to help with recovery."

Do you ever worry about your health?

"Yes – I think it’s one of the most important things. I am asthmatic so I have to be careful and the different seasons bring different challenges. In 2006 I fractured a vertebrae in my back while sprint hurdling, but it’s generally okay if I stay fit."

How do you keep your skin and hair in great condition?

"I try to drink lots of water. I have my own herb garden and add a bunch of mint and chopped up limes to water to make it more interesting. Every now and again I put in a leave-in conditioning mask in my hair for a day. If I’m eating well then my skin and hair is pretty good."

How do you relax when you are not training or promoting your book?

"I like lazing about watching box sets – I’ve finished Orange is the New Black and am enjoying The Good Wife. I play with my dogs – they need loads of exercise and they get me up and about. I live near the beach in Cork and spend a lot of time there walking the dogs. I take them running with me."

Do you have any tips for Rude Health readers?

  • Read your labels as knowing what food you are consuming is very important. You would be surprised by what’s in some foods.
  • Don’t be afraid to cook and try different things. I went to a cookery school a couple of years ago and it has had a massive influence on my cooking and the book. It helped me to see that healthy foods can be tasty too.


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