20 Questions on Health and Fitness: Judith Gillespie

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Judith Gillespie

Judith Gillespie: I’ve been blessed with good health, which I never take for granted Picture: Mal McCann
Gail Bell

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

I’ve always been a morning person, so I’m usually up before anyone else in the house. I put the radio on to hear the news and have a quick look at the phone to see what’s going on in the world, and with family. I find early morning is a great time to get through a lot of work, undisturbed, so I will try and get emails and routine correspondence out of the way.

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

Breakfast? I have no set breakfast as I like different things, but porridge, wheaten bread toasted, cereal and/or fruit would be my usual choices, with a cup of tea. I don’t drink coffee, so I don’t have the need for a morning coffee 'fix'.

Lunch? I love baked potatoes, so often lunch would consist of a baked potato with something tasty inside.

Evening meal? Something spicy – chili, curry or pasta. And while I love cooking and entertaining, I’m blessed with a wonderful resident chef in my husband.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Good food is important to me as I think in a stressful, leadership-position job it’s really important to look after yourself, and of course to set an example. But I always think a balance is healthy in everything. I enjoy fish and chips like everyone else – I just don’t have them very often. I prefer quality to quantity and often think the best restaurant of all is your own kitchen.

4 Are you a calorie counter?

Not really – but I know when my clothes feel tighter that it’s time to cut down a little.

5 Best meal ever?

Family Christmas dinners when all the generations of the family circle are gathered round the table at our home. I love preparing Christmas dinner. It requires a bit of planning but then, planning major operations was part of being a chief police officer. That’s always the best meal for me.

6 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Good quality dark chocolate with a glass of red wine.

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

No – I'm just careful what I eat all the time because I know at my age, if you put weight on, it’s tough to take it off. Northern Ireland people are so hospitable and generous with food that sometimes it’s hard to say ‘no thanks’ when, for example, the freshly baked scones are being passed round. But I try to be disciplined.

8 Do you take health supplements?

No – if you’ve a balanced diet you shouldn’t need these.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

I enjoy a glass of wine, or a gin and tonic.

10 Fruit or fry-up?

Usually fruit, but the occasional fry-up is delicious.

11 Stairs or lift?

Stairs, if I can. But lifts provide opportunities to have conversations with a captive audience – so sometimes the lift is the better tactical choice.

12 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I walk miles with my dogs every day – my sister described me as a compulsive walker. And I run two to three times per week.

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

I’ve been blessed with good health, which I never take for granted, and I think for my age I’m reasonably fit. I’m not as flexible as I used to be and recovery time after strenuous exercise takes a little longer nowadays. But in the grand scheme of things, I’m happy to say I feel great.

14 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Have some form of exercise every day. Even a 10-minute walk can make a difference – and while you mightn’t feel like doing it at the time, you always feel better afterwards.

15 Do you have a memory from school sport / PE days you would rather forget?

Not really – I loved PE at school. I remember, though, in the police training centre in Enniskillen, as a young trainee constable, I was part of the RUC Diamond Jubilee Display Squad and we had to do stick drills to music. One of the tunes was Daisy, Daisy and we became known as the Daisy, Daisy Squad. I think I’d rather forget that.

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

My sister-in-law, Anne, died at a young age of cancer. She had been a marathon runner and, as a family, we were inspired to run marathon relays in her memory. We have taken part in the Belfast Marathon relay many times and also the Great North Run half-marathon. I was always interested in sport and fitness, but she inspired me to take up running and I have kept this up with the family.

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

Simple – eat less and exercise more.

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

I'm of a vintage that was inspired by our very own Dame Mary Peters. It was therefore a very special pleasure for me to work closely with her during the World Police and Fire Games in 2013. She has such energy, positivity and commitment to Northern Ireland sport and its people. And she looks incredible.

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

I get much more sleep now than I ever did as a serving chief police officer, for a variety of reasons. I don’t have a set bedtime, but I would never try to read anything complicated or important after about 11pm as my concentration levels are low by then.

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

I think so – your health is undoubtedly your wealth. I guess it’s about making the very best use of our short lifetime, to make all the differences that we can make for the better, and not just filling it with worthwhile activities, but also taking time to reflect on how fortunate we really are. I’ve sometimes been guilty of constantly rushing to the next moment and forgetting that the current moment is to be treasured and enjoyed.

:: Judith Gillespie is a member of the Republic's Policing Authority and a former deputy chief constable of the PSNI.

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