Claire Hanna on Parkruns, pregnancy and a positive attitude

Gail Bell asks people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: SDLP MLA Claire Hanna

Claire Hanna at the Belfast count centre for this year's assembly elections in May
Gail Bell

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

We have two girls, aged two and four, and shortly after 7am one child or the other will wander in for a cuddle so there rarely is a need to set an alarm. I have tea and a look at the news, then it is about an hour of chaos getting everyone fed, dressed and out the door with all the right bits and pieces.

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

Breakfast? I have porridge with the kids first thing (fortified with my mum's blackberry jam), but do frequently find myself hungry a few hours later, so I usually take fruit or toast or something for elevenses.

Lunch? On a Sunday I make soup and portion it out for the week, so I usually have that into work with me but, more frequently than I should, I find myself in the Stormont canteen making rather less healthy choices.

Evening meal? I really enjoy cooking – it is one of my favourite ways to unwind – but I work a lot of evenings and don't always have time for anything very elaborate during the week. I double up when making freezable things like curries, fish pies or chilli and usually have those on standby for busy nights.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, I just know how much better I feel when I'm eating well, as I'm sluggish otherwise. I eat a healthy diet but, unfortunately, also an unhealthy snack diet in parallel.

4 Are you a calorie counter?

I'm not; I don't find the time to track it accurately, although I do keep an eye on it and when I decide to take corrective action on weight, that is how I do it. Counting calories is effective when you stick to it.

5 Best meal ever?

It's all about the company for me. I love getting together with the family at the weekend and the menu is almost irrelevant, but I particularly enjoy making and eating a traditional roast. I love Indian food – with the kids and work, we don't get out much, but my husband and I do treat ourselves to a good Indian takeaway once or twice a month.

6 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Sadly, too many to list. Chocolate and cheese are particular weaknesses.

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

Nothing with very specific rules – if I tried to totally avoid something, I would probably obsess about it and cave in very quickly.

8 Do you take health supplements?

I'm pregnant at the moment and take a supplement with iron and folic acid, and Berooca as an occasional pick-me-up. Generally, I have a good and varied diet and get the right stuff that way.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

I'm not much of a drinker, so it isn't a big ask for me to be teetotal during pregnancy. When I'm having one, I like red wine or Guinness.

10 Fruit or fry-up?

Plenty of fruit, but I'm partial to cooked breakfasts too. Salmon and eggs is my favourite decadent brunch.

11 Stairs or lift?

The lifts in Stormont are notoriously slow which is good motivation to go for the stairs. My office is on the third floor and I'm up and down multiple times per day, so I generally hit the 10,000 step goal on sitting days.

12 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I started to do the Ormeau Parkrun about a year ago and now I absolutely love it. I don't do it daily, but I run 5/6k three or four times a week. As the baby bump develops I'll phase that out but I have signed up to a pregnancy yoga class instead. I love a good dander in the park with the family at the weekend, especially at this time of year.

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

I am blessed with good health and almost never get sick – no more than a day or two in the last five years – and I was up to 10k runs over the summer, but there is plenty of room for improvement. I would say 6 or 7.

14 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Give your brain some off time, even if it's just for a few minutes. Between the kids, politics and the phone, Mondays to Fridays are a total white knuckle ride in our house. If I can snatch the time, I find a half-hour run brilliant for clearing the head.

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

Not really – I was never in line for any gold medals, but I always joined in and enjoyed the craic.

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

My mum has had cancer several times, despite always looking after herself, so I know ill health can strike anyone, but her good health habits and attitude have helped her beat it each time. Now I have kids I feel a lot more motivated to keep myself alive and kicking for as long as possible.

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

Keep your head right – good mental health is seriously underrated. Even if it's just a walk, some exercise is essential, and so is chat with people you love.

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

Michael McKillop, the runner, is an inspiration. He has hemiplegia, the same condition as my nephew, and when I met him at an event last year he was so generous with his time and advice on different therapies and techniques.

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

This is my Achilles heal. I usually do a couple of hours' work after the kids go to bed but frequently this runs over and I am a light sleeper. I aim for 11.30 and manage this about once a week.

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

I thoroughly enjoy life and want to be around as long as possible, but I suppose so long as you are doing your best physically, spiritually and for the people around you, you are making the most of it.

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