Life

Aly Harte: If I have a photo shoot I cut down on fruit gums and wine

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Belfast artist and fitness blogger Aly Harte, one of the judges in Northern Ireland's upcoming Health and Fitness Awards

Aly Harte – my role as a businesswoman, fitness fanatic and parent rely on me feeding my body the best way I can

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

I love to work out early in the day and, depending on my husband’s work schedule, I go to the gym most days at 6:30am. On my way there, I listen to my ‘Bible in one year’ app which acts as meditation and some calm in my morning… especially as I am up and out before the kids rise. I have an Apple watch and love to get 3,000 steps in before 8am and to hit my exercise target so I am set up for the day ahead.

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

Breakfast? Breakfast varies from poached eggs on toast to a protein shake with added oats. Some days I eat porridge with my three boys and on other days I'll have avocado, eggs and sour dough.

Lunch? Sometimes a brunch-type bacon, eggs and coffee, at other times, rocket with pine nuts, sautéed peppers and cooked chicken slices.

Dinner? I try to eat fish once or twice a week. During the week I have a mixture of lean meals with protein, vegetables and rice, pasta or potatoes. At the weekend I indulge with a takeaway and eat oven chips, corn on the cob and battered fish with the kids.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Yes – my role as a businesswoman, fitness fanatic and parent rely on me feeding my body the best way I can. When I meal-plan and get a shop in at the beginning of my week, with nutritious snacks like fresh fruit and nuts and seeds, then it's easy to keep on top of my energy levels. Also, a month before going on holiday, I increase my water and green tea intake to help keep my bloat under control.

4. Best meal ever?

Rare steak with triple cooked chips, broccoli and peppered sauce.

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Ben and Jerry’s phish food ice cream – topped with jelly beans.

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

I had a strange relationship with food in my early 20s but I quickly learned that starving myself was not the way to feel good about myself. In the last 10 years, despite having had three children in that time, I am in a really good place with food. The only time I would consider anything like a 'diet' is if I have a photo-shoot and I want to cut down on the after-school fruit gums and my wine intake.

7. Do you take health supplements?

I take vitamin B complex and protein powder in my post-workout shake.

8. How do you relax?

Sunbathing – preferably with a glass of rosé and my kids playing in the paddling pool out in our back garden.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

Some wine and a classic G&T are two of my treats.

10. Stairs or lift?

Stairs every time, even when there is an elevator. I love to double-step up them too!

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

My daily warm-up includes stairMaster or treadmill (with incline switched on) or else cross-trainer followed by 45 minutes of strength training, including weights targeting specific areas. I’ll mix it up and practise yoga, take a reformer Pilates class or swim at least twice a week as well.

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Even if you plod, just keep going.

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

A few years ago I was diagnosed with the same heart defect which took my dad when I was just seven years old, so I try to be mindful of this when I’m working out and not push my body too far. I’d say I'm around seven or eight. I always err on the side of caution – it’s about enjoying my workouts rather than having an obsession about being at optimum fitness levels at any given time.

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

Yes, I recently tried cupping during a physio session which I was featuring on my wellbeing blog. I felt so light, almost that someone else was taking all the weight from me.

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

I loved playing netball and I took up hockey at grammar school when I was 16. I wasn’t brilliant but I had enough ability to enjoy being part of the team.

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

Yes – I was hospitalised with pneumonia a few years ago following 14 courses of antibiotics and during this time I was diagnosed with the same heart defect which my dad passed away from. Although I’d always kept fit and healthy, I really stepped up my game and took health, fitness and wellbeing more seriously after that.

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

Following the 14 courses of antibiotics and the hospitalisation for pneumonia, my tonsillitis returned. I saw an out-of-hours doctor who advised I have my tonsils removed. His advice was the best health advice I received and I haven’t looked back.

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

My maternal grandmother – my blog is named after her: darlingedna.com. She lost my grandfather less than a year after my dad passed away. She was such a great influence in my life and we shared a very special bond.

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

When I train early, I try to get to bed before 10pm but if I’m hosting an evening workshop for budding artists, it can be later. In an ideal world, seven to eight hours would be great.

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

I’ve been aware of mortality most of my life since losing my dad so young and, more recently, after losing my 41-year-old cousin from an aggressive form of cancer. Every moment is precious and perhaps my faith is the reason I’m at peace with my own mortality.

:: Aly Harte is a judge in Northern Ireland's first ever Health and Fitness Awards which take place in the Crowne Plaza, Belfast, in September. Closing date for entries is Monday, July 16. For details, visit healthandfitnessni.com

Fitness blogger and artist Aly Harte

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