Life

Over-40s gymnastics champ Ursula Goode: 'No wetsuits' our only rule for year-round sea swimming

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Coleraine dentist, mum-of-four and the over- 40s novice British champion gymnast twice over, Ursula Goode

Ursula Goode, over-40s Novice British Gymnastics Champion, was originally encouraged in gymnastics by her teachers at St Bride's PS, Belfast
Gail Bell

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

My day starts at 7.30am with Ben and my four children. As a dentist, I work part-time with my husband, so I will either head out to work, or out on a four-mile run.

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

Breakfast? I couldn't function without breakfast, so it has to be jumbo porridge oats with soya milk and blueberries or else poached eggs, tomatoes and avocado. If I've got an intensive gym session ahead, then I can eat both.

Lunch? Lunch could be a jacket potato served with cheese and salad.

Dinner? We always eat dinner together as a family round the table. Ben is a fantastic cook, so everything is made from scratch. I have been accused of marrying him just for his culinary skills.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, as I've gotten older, I've learned that good nutrition is vital, not only to maximise the benefits of my gym training, but also for good recovery and muscle repair. But, in tandem with this, I believe food should also be fun, delicious and social.

4 Best meal ever?

It has to be Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in 2001 during our honeymoon in Padstow, Cornwall. We had the most amazing fish and Champagne, then discovered that the bill had been taken care of by Ben's aunt and uncle.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Dark chocolate.

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

I've always had a good appetite, as my mum will testify, but I've never actually dieted – I love food too much and have very little will-power, especially when it comes to chocolate.

7 Do you take health supplements?

No, good nutrition is the best way of getting everything I need.

8 How do you relax?

I relax by swimming – in the sea. I swim around three to four times a week, all year round, with friends from the Arcadia Bathing Club in Portrush. The only rule is: 'No wetsuits'. Probably, my craziest dip was last March in the snow. It was cold, but extremely exhilarating. My ideal day is a day spent in Portrush, a run on the beach, a dip in the sea and then relaxing around the fire with Ben and the kids.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

White wine or bubbles. Life would be very dull without either.

10 Stairs or lift?

I take the stairs every time.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime? Yes – I work out five times per week and attend Sika Gymnastics Club two or three evenings in the winter, increasing to five evenings in summer. I also run when I can – Saturday morning parkruns to half marathons. I've completed nine to date, including the Great North Run where I met Sir Mo [Farah] and Dame Kelly Holmes. I recently took up cycling and swimming as a result of encouragement from friends and took part in my first tri-a-triathlon – proof that you're never too old to try something new.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Little, but often. Don't aim too high at first – that day will come. I never dreamt I would compete in gymnastics, let alone win a medal. It is a real honour to be the first Northern Ireland gymnast to bring home a British gold medal at adult level.

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

I would suggest an eight, but I hope to be a 10 some day.

14 Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy? Yes, I'm an absolute convert to acupuncture. It cured my migraines.

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

I was quite sporty at school; I wasn't anything exceptional, but I was always encouraged by my teachers. Mr McVeigh at St Bride's Primary School, Belfast, saw me in the playground practising front walkovers and cartwheels and asked my mum to sign me up to a local gymnastics club.

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

I returned to gymnastics, after 21 years, following the birth of my third daughter. I had postnatal depression and gymnastics played a huge part in my recovery. I went on to have baby number four and went back when he was 10 weeks old. I can't imagine my life without gymnastics.

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

You don't know what you're capable of until you're brave enough to try. I recently read Eat, Sweat, Play by Anna Kessel, a must-read for women involved in sport or who are thinking about sport with young daughters. I'm convinced that normalising sport, especially for young girls, can help lay the foundations for a healthy life.

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

Meeting Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the originator of parkrun, was inspiring for me. He told me junior parkrun would be a game-changer in this country. I volunteer as a run director in Portrush as a result of that encounter.

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

I usually get to bed around 10.30pm, but it's still not early enough, as I tend to read late into the night.

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

The older I've become, the more I realise how important it is to be thankful for what you've got. Other than family, nothing else is more important than health and you can't take it for granted. If I can spend each day with my family and try to give the best of myself in everything I do, then I will be ready to meet God.

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