Archbishop Eamon Martin on his fitness level: I'm aiming to be a seven by Christmas

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Dr Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland

Archbishop Eamon Martin – I don’t get too much time to relax at the moment but I like to sing and I enjoy playing the piano and listening to all kinds of music Picture: Hugh Russell

1. Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I find early morning to be the best time for prayer and reflection, so I like to be up and about around 6.45 am and ready for a brisk walk, some meditation and Morning Prayer before breakfast. Sometimes, I jot down a few thoughts for upcoming talks and homilies. I also try to catch up on the news headlines and media talking points via radio and social media before going to my desk at 9am to check the mail.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? Most mornings I enjoy a simple breakfast of cereal and fruit – I've just started back on porridge for the winter.

Lunch? If I'm travelling during the day, I may have a light lunch, such as soup and a sandwich. When eating out, I will normally choose the fish dish on the menu.

Evening meal? My personal preference for evening meal remains a traditional Irish dinner of meat or fish, served with vegetables and potatoes.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, nutrition is always a major consideration and eating a balanced diet is important to me. I have a busy schedule, so it is important to keep my energy levels up.

4. Best meal ever?

That would have to be my breakfast after the three-day Lough Derg pilgrimage! It’s also hard to beat Christmas dinner at home with my mother and family. When possible, I enjoy relaxing and catching up with friends over dinner – I don’t like eating alone.

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is a full Irish breakfast – mea culpa.

6. Have you ever been on a diet?

If so, how did it go? No, I haven’t been on a diet, but I would be conscious to avoid high salt and high sugar food and drinks.

7. Do you take health supplements?


8. How do you relax?

I don’t get too much time to relax in my role at the moment, but I usually try to go for daily walks. I like the garden and being out and about. I also like to sing, particularly for the liturgy, and I enjoy playing the piano and listening to all kinds of music – from classical and opera, to jazz, blues and pop.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

I occasionally have a glass of wine at a meal.

10. Stairs or lift?

Stairs, but if the building is taller than four floors I might reconsider my strategy!

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I do not have a regime per se, but I do like to stay active and get outside into the fresh air. My lifestyle is quite sedentary, with all the meetings and driving I have to do, so it is a joy just to walk in the forest or by the sea.

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

I would say, make some time and space each day – even if it's just for 20 minutes – to be able to walk and clear your head, as this is good for both the body and the soul.

13. On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

I think I'm about five at the moment – but, I'm aiming for a seven by Christmas...

14. Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

No, I haven't tried alternative therapy, as I have quite a conventional approach when it comes to physical and mental health. I find prayer and meditation to be quite therapeutic and they can bring you out of yourself and help relax and open your mind to the world and to the needs of others.

15. Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

Although I wasn’t very sporty at school, I enjoyed PE, especially cross-country running and playing football with friends.

16. Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

No, I didn't have a Damascus Road experience.

17. Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

My advice is to offer thanks in Grace before meals, to be content with what you have and always try to do your best – with the help of God.

18. Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness/attitude to life?

God rest my father, he never wasted a free moment without getting outside to look after the garden, walk in the country, or take a swim at the beach in the summer. He remained at 12 stone in weight for all of his adult life, he didn’t smoke or drink alcohol and he ate moderately.

19. What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

I like to be asleep by 11.30pm and, thank God, I sleep well. I often think about those who cannot sleep at night because of worries or illness.

20. Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

I believe firmly in eternal life with God in heaven and, trusting in God’s loving mercy, I do not fear death, whenever it comes. Meanwhile, I try to live each day to the full and be thankful for the gift of good health.

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