How does marathon mountaineer Lauren O'Malley chill out? Winter open-water swimming, without a wetsuit

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: South Armagh mum, mountaineer and marathon runner, Lauren O'Malley

Lauren O'Malley – I find a hike or a long-distance swim relaxing, but I do also like to read and I am fond of a G&T
Gail Bell

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

I get up at 6.15 am during the work week – when the temptation of the snooze button does not take hold. I'll have a quick shower, then get the kids up and, after racing them into uniforms and backpacks, I drop my two boys to the childminder and head into work. I try to plan out my day the night before so that I know when and where I can fit in a quick work-out in and I always try to take a few minutes when I first wake up to focus on whatever training goal I have in mind that day.

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

Breakfast? Breakfast is a cereal bar en route to work, followed by a bagel with peanut butter when I get into the office.

Lunch? I might have Thai noodle soup or a tom yam salad with papaya.

Evening meal? Any sort of spicy dish or curry with fresh vegetables and tofu.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

I am a big eater and food is always on my mind, but I am a vegetarian and I'm fairly health conscious. I try to eat the majority of my carbohydrates early in the day, with my last meal always finished before 6.30pm.

4 Best meal ever?

Thai food is my absolute favourite.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is a curry chip. It has no nutritional value whatsoever, but it always makes me smile.

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

I have never been on a diet for weight loss purposes, but I did have a high carbohydrate / protein diet while training for the Marathon Des Sables as I was burning such a high rate of calories with my running schedule. I actually struggled with this a bit because it meant I could not simply eat when hungry or for pleasure, but had to put a lot more thought into my meals.

7 Do you take health supplements?

I don’t regularly take supplements because I try to keep a balanced diet but, again, if I am training for something really strenuous, I will add salt tablets during exercise, as well as a multi-vitamin and night-time recovery shake or tablet into my regime.

8 How do you relax?

As I am a naturally busy and energetic person, my relaxation isn’t quite the same as it is for other people. I find a hike or a long distance swim relaxing, but I do also like to read and I am fond of a gin and tonic and a nice spa or a long hot bath.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

I am only ever teetotal if I am training for a big event, otherwise it’s a gin and tonic with a lime or a pinot grigio for me!

10 Stairs or lift?

Stairs every time... as a mildly exercise-obsessed individual, it is a good way to sneak in some extra steps.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I am religious about training. I work out six days a week and sometimes ‘relax’ with a hike or a swim on the seventh. I run 5k every day on my lunch break and then vary days with weights and high interval training. I also run again in the evenings a few days each week while my boys are in sports practice and I recently took up winter swimming. This involves absolutely freezing swims in the local lake without a wetsuit.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Keep spare kit in the car. I drive around with a wetsuit, runners, towels, the lot!

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 say I am a seven, but would like to be an 11...

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

I was actually given a voucher for reflexology and reiki and loved both, so now I treat myself every few months. I also find great value in massage and, if I could afford to, I would have one every week.

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

I loved school sports, but I seriously lack hand-to-eye coordination which made for some hurdling and high jump incidents which I would rather forget.

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

I have had two major health setbacks in my life. One was after being hit by a drunk driver at age 19 where I suffered very serious injuries to both of my legs as well as my head and face, and another incident five years ago where a blood clot in my chest led to me having a rib and muscle removed, as well as a vein transplanted from my groin into my chest. Both of these incidents left me immobile and took a serious toll on my fitness. Recovery was long and painful and it taught me the most valuable lesson in this life: Your health is your wealth.

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

My advice would be to look after your joints and never let your fitness go.

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

I recently started listening to Rich Roll podcasts and I really like his philosophy and style. He is very inspirational in the changes that he has made in his own life and his guests are super-interesting, although I could never be as clean living as he is.

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

I am usually in bed at 11pm and I read or listen to a podcast until 11.30. Although I never feel like I get enough sleep, I also never manage to get to bed any earlier.

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

My previous health scares have given me a solid grasp of mortality and definitely have fuelled my attitude of living for the day. I never letting an opportunity pass me by.

:: Lauren was base camp manager for the Irish K2 expedition in 2005 and in 2017 completed the Marathon des Sables, an ultra-running event in the Sahara desert. She has also completed climbs in South America, The Himalayas, Europe and Africa (she is married to well-known Newry mountaineer Banjo Bannon) and last month completed an 'ice kilometre' swim in Camlough Lake.

Lauren on Mount Kilimanjaro with her son Conor (11) who last year became the youngest person to climb Africa's highest mountain

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