Q&A: Hazel Lang on how hitting her husband with a stick helps her relax

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Belfast martial arts expert Hazel Lang, 2019 British champion in stick fighting and silver medallist in last year's World Stick Fighting Championships in Lisbon

Hazel Lang from Belfast won individual silver and team bronze medals in the World Stick Fighting Championships in Lisbon last year
Gail Bell

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

I have never been a morning person, although I have had phases when I signed up for morning boot camps and, leading up to a Tough Mudder, I would get up for 6am exercise and felt energised for the day ahead. Generally, though, morning laziness prevails, so at 7.20am I make sure kids are up and dressed for school. There is usually some drama with how they want their hair, or lost socks or forgotten violins, but I eventually get them out to school breakfast club for 8am and I'm down to work for 8.30.

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

Breakfast? I don't have the best appetite in the mornings, but if I am training or going for a long run, I would have porridge (made with water) with banana, a splash of milk and honey on top.

Lunch? Something simple, quick and not too unhealthy.

Evening meal? My husband Mark is a good and enthusiastic cook and earlier this year we started having a vegetarian diet through the week, so our main meal will probably be plant-based and low in fat. We save all our meat for the weekend.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, it is, but it's not something I actively think about. As we load our food with heaps of vegetables – because they are tasty – the nutrients are just part of that.

4 Best meal ever?

I love Indian food. When Mark and I travelled round Australia in our campervan, he slowly weaned me on to more and more spicy food, starting with Korma. Ten months later, I was asking for Madras with extra green chilli.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

An occasional 200g bar of fruit and nut.

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

If I find my trousers getting a bit tight, my ‘diet' would just be just cutting out on the extra biscuit and booking a running or obstacle event that needs to be trained for as motivation.

7 Do you take health supplements?

I'm never too sure which supplements are beneficial and which ones pass straight through you, so I rely on a well balanced diet with plenty of vegetables.

8 How do you relax?

I find hitting my husband with a stick at Sunday Kali training fairly therapeutic. Other than that, hillwalking and running are a great way to clear the mind. The worst year of my life was in 2009, when our first child, Austin, was stillborn at 40 weeks. It was horrible and traumatic. After some time, while on maternity leave, I had to mentally, actively push through, determined not to become a victim of our circumstances. Running and swimming took a large part of that process. I forced myself to exercise to help clear my head, release endorphins and combat depression.

9 Teetotal or Tipple?

Tipple – more so since having children, strangely.

10 Lift or stairs?

Stairs and always two at a time because I'm impatient.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I have to squeeze exercise in where I can – that's why the family training at RAPTR Martial Arts is really good; instead of just being the 'taxi driver' taking the kids to their hobbies, I get to train with other parents.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Book an event such as a 5 or 10K race or sport competition, something that, at the time of booking you think, "I'll never be able to do that", but, on completion, will make you feel proud.

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

At the moment, having just completed a year of assignments for my orthodontics master's degree, I'd grade my general fitness disappointingly, at a borderline seven, but I'd love to be 10.

14 Have you tried or would you try alternative therapy?

Yes, my sister is an osteopath and it was great when she lived in Northern Ireland, as, when my back used to seize up, she would have it sorted within 30 minutes.

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

I have always enjoyed sports, but was terrified of getting hurt in hockey. I watched my friend, Maria, play in the All Ireland camogie final – those girls are brave. I compare bruises with Maria after her camogie and my stick-fighting training – hers are always more impressive.

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

Meeting Mark definitely improved my diet. Before going out with him, I once went to his Jiu-jitsu class, having had a jar of pickled onions for my dinner. That wouldn't happen now.

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

Try to do tasks as they crop up. Having a long ‘to do' list is chronically stressful.

18 Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate for fitness/attitude?

For fitness, I have always looked up to my brother who runs mountain marathons in the elite division. Career and education wise, Mark has overcome severe dyslexia to attain multiple masters in education and special needs education, then, when circumstances in his job were making him unhappy, he made opportunities for himself to set up RAPTR Martial Arts which is his passion.

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

I probably go to sleep a bit too late, but as Mark gets home about 10.30 after RAPTR, we spend some child-free time with each other to chat, which is important.

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

Yes, I want to feel like I have lived. I think you just have to try to make the most of each day and fill your time with things that make you happy.

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