20 Questions on Health & Fitness: Northern Ireland Women's captain Marissa Callaghan

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Marissa Callaghan, Northern Ireland Senior Women's Captain

Northern Ireland women's captain, Marissa Callaghan
Gail Bell

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

I’m not known for being a 'morning person' so I would usually waken around 30 – 40 minutes before I need to leave the house for work or early morning training and I head straight for the shower.

On my way to work/training I always stop for a coffee… then my day can begin.

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


I normally eat fruit in the morning: bananas, apples, pears. If I have time, I would have a bowl of cereal or porridge.

I must admit, I can miss breakfast sometimes because I don’t leave myself enough time in the morning.


On training days I would eat either chicken, meat or fish with rice and vegetables. If I haven’t prepped, I would normally eat a sandwich of some sort – mainly a chicken wrap.

On my rest days, I try not to eat as many carbs; a salad would be my choice.

Evening meal?

My day doesn’t usually finish until 9pm when I'm training, so I try to eat a big lunch, then snack until I’m home when I would get something like a cheese and ham toastie. I would always have a protein shake after training as well.

On days when I am home at dinner-time, I eat the usual things like fajitas, omelettes or meat/veg/potatoes.

Between lunch and my evening meal I like to snack on fruit, nuts, yoghurt and the odd piece of chocolate from time to time.

3 Is nutrition important to you? Nutrition is important to me, I try to eat a balanced diet with a 'cheat' day over the weekend. It is important for me to eat the right food to help get the most out of my training sessions and aid my recovery.

4 Best meal ever? It would have to be my mum’s Christmas dinner...

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure? Chocolate.

6 Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go? I tried a 'no carb' diet a few years back; it didn’t last too long.

7 Do you take health supplements? Yeah, I take omega 3 fish oils and protein shakes.

8 How do you relax? Get the feet up with a cuppa and watch some Netflix.

9 Teetotal or tipple? I like a beer or two, but I don’t really drink that often – mostly on special occasions.

10 Stairs or lift? Stairs.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime? I have recently tried yoga to help me to relax and work on my flexibility. The plan is to take 20 minutes out of my day to do this. It's early days, to tell you any real results, but I have heard great things.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness? Get outside and go for a walk.

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 at the minute I’m an 8, but there is always room for improvement. When training in camp for our World Cup qualified against Slovakia, you feel prepped and ready to go because you have trained and worked so hard throughout the previous months.

As a footballer playing all year round, I always have some tightness, so don’t think I’m ever 100 per cent fit.

14 Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy? Yes, of course – I think a spa day is an ideal way to relax away from work or training commitments. I also like to get a sports massage every so often as it helps with muscle soreness.

15 Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget? I used to get so excited when sports day came around – I was a child who loved sport of all kinds. I was also very competitive and liked to win.

I remember in primary 7 they introduced a penalty shoot-out competition for girls for the first time. I couldn’t believe it, as I loved football and knew this was something I should win. I didn’t – I missed my last penalty and came 2nd.

That is not a fond memory.

16 Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle? I put on a lot of weight in 2007 as my lifestyle wasn’t the best. I remember one night I went to get ready for a night out and tried on about 10 outfits. Nothing would fit and I just felt awful; I broke down in tears and knew I needed to change.

One of the biggest changes I made was going off fizzy juice and, still to this day, I don’t drink it.

17 Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others? Surround yourself with good people and appreciate what you have… and drink plenty of water.

18 Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life? I take ownership of my fitness and attitude to life. I’m thankful for my opportunities and try to make the most out of every situation.

My mum taught me to show compassion and help those who are less fortunate, work hard and look after the people you care about.

19 What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep? My sleeping pattern is something I have changed recently as I was finding myself feeling tired and lethargic during the day. I was staying up until around 12.30 or 1am and then I read an article that suggested going to bed before 12 helps bring about a better, deeper sleep.

I have been aiming to go to bed between 11 and11.30pm – and I have seen a big improvement on how I feel throughout the day.

20 Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality? Yes. I try to be a positive person, thankful for my family, friends and health.

:: Marissa Callaghan is an ambassador for Club Game Changers, an initiative developed by the Irish Football Association and Electric Ireland to enable local clubs to raise funds.

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