20 Questions on Health & Fitness: NI wheelchair athlete Jack Agnew

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: wheelchair athlete Jack Agnew from Belfast, a double gold medal winner at the 2017 World Para Athletics Junior Championships who's currently competing in the Commonwealth Games as one of three NI para-athletes

Wheelchair athlete Jack Agnew in action

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

I normally wake up at 8am during the week for college. After I wake up, I check my phone, get showered and ready, get my breakfast and leave the house at around 9am to be in college for 9.30am.

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

Breakfast? I would normally choose anything between eggs, a bowl of cereal like Weetabix or a fruit smoothie.

Lunch? I’m usually in college at lunchtime, so I would bring food in with me, maybe a sandwich and a piece of fruit.

Dinner? Dinner would normally be something high in protein and easy to make, as I would have just finished training in the evening and need protein in my body to help my muscles recover.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Nutrition is very important to me. It is vital as it give us energy for training and also muscle recovery, so making the right food choices is important.

I normally make sure I get a higher carbohydrate meal before training and a higher protein meal after training for these reasons. I also make sure I am taking in enough calories to keep me energized for both everyday life and training.

Hydration is very important too, so I’m always keeping a check on my intake of water.

4 Best meal ever?

My favourite meal would have to be a rib-eye steak, cooked rare with a side of corn-on-the- cob and sweet potato chips.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Burgers are hands down my guilty pleasure; it’s hard to look past a burger.

6 Have you ever been on a diet?

If so, how did it go? As athletes, we are constantly making sure we eat the right things. I have never been on a specific diet, but I am constantly tailoring my diet to meet my training needs.

For example, on a rest day I will not consume too many calories as I don’t need them – apart from what I need for my normal routine – whereas, on the days I have a hard training session, I’ll make sure to take in a lot more.

7 Do you take health supplements?

The only supplements I take are BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) which are a form of protein. They helps build and repair the muscles after training.

8 How do you relax?

I like to listen to music and mix tunes on my decks. On rest days I try not to do too much, but I might have my friends around and play video games. I find it works for me.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

Tipple – but only outside of training blocks and off season, so it's very rare.

10 Stairs or lift?

Always the lift – stairs are too dangerous for wheelchair users.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Yes, but my training sessions are different each day and also at specific times of the day to ensure that I maximise the benefits of the session and to plan for recovery.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Create a fitness plan that you can easily stick to and set realistic goals so you don’t drop off the wagon. Keep positive and stay motivated.

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

At the start of my winter training, I would say I'm around a 6 or 7 out of 10.

While in the middle of this training, I will generally make massive gains in terms of my fitness. Leading up to the Commonwealth Games in April, I have been progressing well and am definitely on track for peak fitness for the games on the Gold Coast, Australia.

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

Not really, I would tend to stick to proven scientific methods.

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

School was not very pleasant for me in terms of sport. In primary school I was often given a whistle or stopwatch and told to time everyone else in a race, when I would have much rather taken part myself. This is one of the main reasons I got into sport, to prove people that I can do anything when I set my mind to – despite having a disability.

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

What happened at school, when I was a spectator on the sports field rather than a participant, was an epiphany. I took a very painful experience, emotionally and mentally, and used it as motivation to succeed in sport.

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

Plan everything – nutrition, exercise, rest, social life – so you get some balance in your life. And keep positive, stay motivated and surround yourself with the right people.

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

In wheelchair racing, Marcel Hug from Switzerland is my idol. He is the best wheelchair athlete in the world right now. He is the perfect role model and also a very down-to-earth person which I really respect a lot.

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

Normally, I'll get to bed around 11pm. It takes me a while to get to sleep, but once I’m settled, I'll sleep well and usually waken up quite refreshed.

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

Yes, I’ve been through a lot in my early life and this has taught me to look after myself and be positive.

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