Glengormley singer Karen Rush, on keeping up with Agnetha's ‘Rear of the Year' image

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Glengormley singer and entertainer Karen Rush, who created and stars in Abba tribute act The Bjorn Identity

Karen Rush, singer with and creator of The Bjorn Identity Abba tribute band
Gail Bell

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

As a working mum, Monday-to-Friday mornings are focused on getting the kids off to school on time. We've had to develop quite a strict routine and every single alarm in our house is set for 7.30am. At weekends, we are working into the early ours as entertainers, so the kids are at their grandparents' and we get to have a long lie-in.

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

Breakfast? I'm a classic cereal lover and keep it simple with Weetabix, porridge or bran flakes with strawberries and blueberries and a glass of orange juice.

Lunch? Normally I would have a boiled or scrambled egg, lean bacon and toast (brown bread/no butter) followed by 0 per cent or low fat yoghurt.

Evening meal? I try to experiment with food as much as possible and cook my pasta sauces fresh. We love Italian pasta and rice dishes, pizza, a variety of salads, sausages casseroles and stews. Champ is always a winner in our house.

3 Is nutrition important to you? I've been lucky and have always been able to eat whatever I want – until I turned 40 when I noticed I wasn't burning off calories as quickly. When you wear white lycra on stage for a living something had to be done! I was talked into joining Slimming World and for a few weeks and had my eyes opened to their kind of food science. It was brilliant and so simple and I lost half a stone in seven weeks. I have changed my attitude towards food and fitness, mostly by not feeding the cravings for all things sweet and cutting down on white bread and dairy.

4 Best meal ever?

I grew up with a mum who is the best cook ever, so my favourite meal is when she manages to whip up a feast of just about everything and anything and we all just dig in.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Toast with ham and coleslaw and dipping a cheese toastie into my tea to soften the crusts.

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

Apparently, Slimming World isn't considered a diet… they call it food optimisation, as you can have as many portions as you like as long as it's the right kind of food on your plate. Any kind of diet that allows you to eat ‘guilt free' is my friend.

7 Do you take health supplements?

I take B12, garlic, effervescent Vitamin C drinks and sometimes I take liquid iron.

8 How do you relax?

Drawing a hot bath with aromatic oils and listening to some music. I also love my soaps and am addicted to Holby City.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

I enjoy a tipple but as I'm out entertaining most weekends, there's not much time for social drinking.

10 Stairs or lift?

Stairs – a great opportunity to work those glutes. I've got Agnetha's ‘Rear of the Year' to keep up with.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Not really, but I walk a lot and the gigs are a kind of exercise on stage.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Walking and stretching is bliss – not only is it exercise without too much strain on the body, it's a great opportunity to think and refocus the mind.

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

I used to be super-fit, about nine out of 10, but we naturally we slow down with age. In my mind, I'm superwoman, lifting heavy speakers and lighting equipment like any other crew member and then performing a two-hour Abba or Motown show which is jam packed full of choreography. I'm maybe over-estimating, but I'd say now I'm a seven or eight.

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

I am a qualified holistic massage therapist, so I am a huge advocate of alternative therapies. I go for a deep tissue massage as much as I can. I burn essential oils in the house and put them in the bath and use them on the linen to help me sleep.

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

I was mad for sports in school and was school sports captain. I was awarded a prize for outstanding achievement in sports, so my name is on a shield somewhere – very fond memories indeed.

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

I've been lucky to have had no physical health problems but, over the years, I've been made aware of how mental health issues can affect just about anyone – particularly those who are good at hiding behind a smile. We should try to be kinder to those around us as we don't know what struggles they might be dealing with.

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

Take time out for yourself and learn to say ‘No' every once in a while.

18 Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness/attitude to life? My parents are my inspiration because of their drive, generosity and kindness to everyone around them.

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

I try to go to bed between 10.30 and 11pm on week nights. My body needs a good eight hours of sleep but on weekends I probably get about five.

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

I think I do. Death comes to us all eventually; it's the natural way of things. I do get upset, though, by news of untimely or accidental deaths, particularly where children are involved. As a mother my biggest fear is the thought of losing one of my children.

:: :: Karen will be on stage as her alter-ego, Agnetha, in The Bjorn Identity at The Empire, Belfast, on Friday December 7.

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