Neil McManus: I eat and train to be the best hurler I can possibly be
Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Antrim champion hurler, Neil McManus
1. Up and at it – what is your morning routine?
I wake between 6am and 7.30, depending on what time I get to sleep at the night before. I work for Andor Technology who employ flexible working hours which helps massively in this regard. I will respond to any messages on my phone for a few minutes when I wake to give myself a few minutes to 'psych' myself up before swinging my legs out of bed. For me, I feel a sense of purpose comes with rising early. If I do a morning gym session, it puts me in a positive frame of mind for the day. I injured my back quite a few years ago so I now do a lot of mobility and high-level core to support this. Most mornings, and especially after training sessions, I will do some yoga, stretching or foam rolling to loosen myself out for the day ahead.
2. What might you eat in a typical working day for…
Breakfast? Depending on the time I have my breakfast, it could range from an omelette to a steak, or simply a protein shake with some nuts.
Lunch? This depends on what I had for breakfast... if I only had nuts and a protein shake, I will have an omelette filled with vegetables, meat and cheese. This is the norm for me.
Evening meal? If it's a pitch training night, I will have a full dinner – chicken curry and rice, cottage pie, fish with vegetable and potato etc. If it's not a training night, I will have a salad with chicken/fish or some kind of meat and eggs. I will generally have porridge roughly 90 minutes before training and I also like to have a snack before bedtime, maybe a cup of tea and slice of toast or poached eggs on toast.
3. Is nutrition important to you?
Diet is very important to me. I always ensure my body fat percentage is in single figures. As an athlete, this is crucial. I believe that food determines mood and that you are what you eat. Good eating habits help me to create good training and thinking habits. My diet is high protein, high fat and moderate-to-low carbohydrate. I generally consume carbohydrate in the afternoon or evening.
4. Are you a calorie counter?
No. Never. Eat good food when you are hungry despite the time of day or night.
5. Best meal ever?
Christmas dinner courtesy of Dorothy McManus is still fresh in the memory.
6. Do you have a guilty pleasure?
A visit to the Cushendall Chinese is 'must' after a big championship match.
7. Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?
I follow a high fat and protein with low carb diet but there could be a few 'cheat' meals every week.
8. Do you take health supplements?
I take a protein shake after each gym session but try to get all the necessary fuel from good food.
9. Teetotal or tipple?
Tipple. No matter what your sport, there’s always time for a good pint of Guinness with bad friends (better known as teammates).
10. Fruit or fry-up?
A fry is still a mainstay of every Saturday in the McManus household, although the rashers are now grilled.
11. Stairs or lift?
Stairs – I like to burst up them at work to waken me up a bit.
12. Do you have a daily exercise regime?
My exercise routine is flexible and tapered to suit collective team training or matches. The reason I do extra individual training is to make myself the best hurler I can possibly be and therefore impact the performance of my team positively. When an entire team has this mindset, it is extremely powerful. Being part of a group operating on these terms brings me the maximal level of satisfaction possible; far greater than that of any cup or trophy. At this time of the year I can combine heavy gym workload with tough on-field training. Generally, we will have on-pitch collective sessions on a Tuesday and Thursday, with my gym sessions on a Wednesday and Friday. I will carry out a mobility session consisting of stretching, yoga or foam rolling once every day.
13. On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are; how fit would you like to be?
I estimate I am at 75 per cent of my optimal fitness. Pre-season has built up a strong base level of fitness that I now will work to develop into speed and power through work in the gym and on the pitch.
14. Best tip for everyday fitness?
Mix it up... have variety in your training and diet. A coastal walk around the beach in Cushendall with a friend may aid recovery of body and mind as much as a pool session.
15. Do you have a memory from school sport / PE days you would rather forget?
I loved PE at school. Garron Tower was tremendous craic. That I never picked up an Ulster winners medal is still mentioned to me now and then by those who have one (or two).
16. Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?
Dietary requirements are changed and updated as we learn more. For instance, three years ago I would have been eating a lot of pasta and other carbohydrates, but now that I am better informed, mainly due to Oliver Cummings of The Gym at Maghera, my diet is predominantly protein and fat with a much lower intake of carbs.
17. Best health advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?
Exercise regularly. It is brilliant for you, physically and mentally.
18. Who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?
I have recently finished Paul O’Connell’s autobiography and I identified with his thinking in many ways. I don’t believe any serious athlete will ever be 100 per cent content with where they are physically or with the training they have done.
19. What time do you get to bed normally and do you think you get enough sleep?
My fiancee and I have bought our first home and are currently renovating it, so this has meant staying up a little later than usual. If I get seven hours sleep, I believe that is adequate so I am trying to get as close to that as possible. A bath with Epsom salts is a good trick for relaxing the body for a deep, rejuvenating sleep.
20. Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?
Yes – what’s the point in worrying? No-one’s getting out of here alive.