Health and Fitness Q&A: Your body always knows best says golden girl of Abu Dhabi

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: badminton player Sarah-Louise Rea (19) from Lisburn, who returned from this year's Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi with a gold medal

Team Ireland's Sarah-Louise Rea who won gold in Badminton at the 2019 World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi earlier this year
Gail Bell

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

I get up at 7.30 each morning (on a college day), but I have a lie-in on weekends. I always have to check my phone before I get out of bed – I start my day by checking my messages and sending my boyfriend a 'Good morning' text. After this, I get up, have a shower, get breakfast, take my medication, brush my teeth and get my bag packed for college.

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

Breakfast? My favourite breakfast is pancakes with butter and jam, a banana, yoghurt and glass of milk.

Lunch? My lunch is different every day, but I love having ham and coleslaw sandwiches with a biscuit after.

Evening meal? My favourite dinner is home-made stir-fry with noodles and a Fanta Orange as a treat. I love to eat loads of food and I love cooking it too.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Very important as I have to double the number of calories due to my speedy metabolism – I digest nutrients very quickly.

4 Best meal ever?

My Valentine’s weekend dinner out with my boyfriend, William. I ordered pan-fried seabass with wilted greens and finished off with wine and chorizo cream sauce, with a side order of mushrooms. Delicious.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I have three: a midnight snack of ham and barbecue sauce sandwiches; Tesco white chocolate and honeycomb cookies when I am at the movies.

6 Have you ever been on a diet?

If so, how did it go? I have never needed to be on a specific diet.

7 Do you take health supplements?

No, I get what my body needs from the food I eat.

8 How do you relax?

Doing a word search on long-distance car trips and going for walks with my headphones on to lock out all the noise.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

I am not allowed alcohol because of the medication I am on, but I am not a fan of drinking, anyway. I do like a non-alcoholic 'mocktail' when I am out.

10 Stairs or lift?

I like to use both stairs and lifts; I like to stay healthy by using stairs at college, but I use the lift when my legs are sore from training.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I go to college from Monday to Friday and I do a lot of walking up and down the town when on my break and at lunch. Some Tuesdays I play badminton for fun and on Wednesdays I have training sessions. On Thursdays at college, I play football, basketball and European handball with all my classmates, preparing for the Inter-College Sports Day in May. After college, I have the Ulster Badminton League and I also play at youth club on a Saturday night.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

My best tip is: Listen to your body, because your body knows best, and never push yourself to be someone different.

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 that I am a nine or 10. My body feels amazing after being away at the Special Olympics.

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

I have tried Tai chi and it was one thing that helped me when I was playing badminton in the Special Olympics summer games in Abu Dhabi. It helped me with my stress when a match was not going the way I wanted it to go. I thank the Special Olympics for bringing this into my life. I also use saunas to relax – I love getting to use alternative therapies.

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

I have several sporting memories from secondary school and they were all happy times. I won the 300m runs two years in a row and I was my school’s main ‘Sports Girl,’ doing my nanny proud. The other memory is winning two awards at my school award ceremony – I won both Athlete of the Year and Cross-country Girl of the Year in one night in front of my mum, dad and sister – it was a special night.

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

Yes, back when I was doing cross-country in school – I had to stop because there was a problem with my heart beating too fast due to the medication I was on.

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

My best lifestyle advice was given by my Special Olympics coach, Kim. She told me to be the strong girl that I am during my matches in the Special Olympics World Games and to strive be determined, to never back down and follow my dreams.

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

Serena Williams is the athlete that I most look up to. She stands up for women in sport and the way they are treated, on and off the court, and she is a strong black woman. I love that she shows other women who are mothers that you can play sport and still be a mum.

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

I go to bed at 11pm and get eight hours sleep each night.

20 Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards to your own mortality? Yes, I have a healthy attitude towards my own mortality because I have a positive mind that helps me to enjoy life and to understand my own emotions. It’s OK not to be OK because everyone has up and down days, but I have positive attitude towards life and my own mental health.

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