Life

Lord Of The Dance star Lara Milner answers 20 questions on health and fitness

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Lara Milner, the Belfast-born lead dancer with Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games

Belfast dancer Lara Milner, in costume for Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games

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

When at home, I usually get up and start the day with a coffee and a bowl of porridge before heading to the gym. When I'm on tour, though, I'll have breakfast with my room mate or colleagues. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to get a healthy breakfast in some of the countries we visit, but hopefully they always have fresh fruit if not porridge.

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

Breakfast? Porridge with honey is my favourite breakfast, with some fresh fruit added, followed by, of course, a nice cup of coffee.

Lunch? I usually have salad – lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese for lunch. I also like to have sweet potato fries if I’m feeling an extra bit hungry. When we are travelling by bus, we sometimes have to stop off at service stations and that can mean very little choice in terms of food available. I never understand why these places don't have healthy options.

Evening meal? In the evening, I enjoy pasta or rice with vegetables. The catering on tour at the venues is normally excellent, with a good selection of healthy options. Often we have very little time between arriving at the venue and going on stage, so it is essential that we are able to eat well before the show opens.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, as a professional dancer, nutrition is very important to me. I like to keep a healthy, balanced diet and drink plenty of water to keep my body in shape and my skin healthy. Our schedule can be hectic – we can be on a bus for six hours at a time before arriving at the next destination – so looking after your body is essential.

4. Best meal ever?

I enjoy a weekly Chinese dish every Friday night, so that is always my best meal. I also love chocolate, which is my little sin – but why not?

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I love chocolate, especially with a cup of coffee.

6. Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

No,I find that healthy eating and regular exercise generally keeps me in pretty good shape.

7. Do you take health supplements?

I take a multivitamin, vitamin C and cod liver oil tablets every day which helps when my legs seize up with so much dancing.

8. How do you relax?

There's a gym near where I live in Belfast and I love going to the spa there – it has a steam room, sauna and jacuzzi pool and I find using these facilities a really enjoyable way to unwind.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

I enjoy the odd glass of Prosecco with an evening meal when we have a day off.

10. Stairs or lift?

I try to use the stairs when I can, but if my room is higher than the fourth floor, then the lift it is – otherwise, the stairs become too much of a struggle with a heavy suitcase.

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Yes, I go to the gym where I do cardio and also weight training. I also use my dance studio where I work on my routines' choreography and new dance moves. On tour, I try to fit in a gym session wherever possible.

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

A little bit of exercise daily, even if it’s just a walk, which is always a good way to stay fit and healthy. When I was at home over Christmas, I went walking around the Giant's Causeway and at Cave Hill in Belfast which were both beautiful, scenic walks. Walking in the fresh air is a great way to clear the head.

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

I would say I am an eight – I’m never 100 per cent happy as there’s always room for improvement, but I do try.

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

A physiotherapist travels with us on tour, so a massage or rub-down before or after a show is a great form of alternative therapy for me. Even if you're not in pain, your legs feel tight, so a massage really loosens them up and you're ready to go again.

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

I really enjoyed sports day; I was always very competitive and if my team wasn't winning, I wasn't happy. I particularly loved the sprint race, for which you had to qualify before you were allowed to enter, so the trial races beforehand were very exciting.

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

I recently watched a television programme about meat and fish and it made me concerned about how animals are kept and what they eat – because we eat what they eat. It also worried me how meat can be full of antibiotics and chicken plumped up with water – it changed my whole perspective and I have been a vegetarian since last October. I have had to adapt my meals accordingly, but I do feel better for it. Luckily, I love vegetables so it hasn't been a hardship at all. People ask how you get the protein you need as a vegetarian, but I get what I need from nuts and seeds, as well as dark green, leafy vegetables.

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

Drink as much water and as little alcohol as possible.

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

My fiancé, Ryan Burnett, is a professional boxer and he is my biggest inspiration. He has to be very disciplined with his diet and fitness and he helps me out a lot with my own training. We will go on long runs at night together when we're in London, where Ryan does part of his training, and we'll go to the gym together in Belfast. We enjoy pushing each other on and if one of us is having a lazy day, the other will be the motivator.

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

I usually go to bed at 11:30. Sleep is so important to allow your body necessary recovery time.

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

Yes – I try to eat and exercise the best that I can, to stay as healthy as I can, while allowing my body to rest as much as possible – that's important too!

:: Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is on at the Millennium Forum in Derry from February 8-11 before cast and crew embark on six-week tour of Europe.

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