20 Questions: Rugby star Rory Best on fresh produce, fitness and his love of lawnmowers

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Ireland and Ulster rugby captain, Rory Best

Ulster and Ireland captain, Rory Best
Gail Bell

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

I get up reasonably early – the alarm goes off at 6am – as I need to be on the road at 6.30am and and at the Belfast stadium for 7.30am.

I will do some early morning prehab exercises and stretching to get the body moving before breakfast at 8.30am which is followed by a team meeting at 9am.

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

We have breakfast at the stadium and generally it revolves around eggs. I will have them either scrambed or poached, with sourdough bread and maybe a lean beef sausage. Often, I'll grab a yoghurt and some nuts as I'm going out the door.


Lunch could be chicken and rice or chicken and potatoes, or chilli con carne or cottage pie with sweet potato mash. We also have lunch at the stadium and there is always a good choice.

Evening meal?

This will be eaten at home with family all together and will consist of fresh, local produce. I used to do most of the cooking in our house before my wife took over, but if I make something, it will usually be something with beef in it like spaghetti bolognese.

My wife makes great saute chicken with rice or chicken curry. They are all reasonably simple meals, but made with fresh ingredients which is important.

3) Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, because I like food ingredients to be sourced from the farm when possible so I know what I'm eating.

4) Best meal ever?

My granny looked after me a lot while growing up as my mum was working, and I loved her bangers and mash. She would have it ready when I came home from school and I remember the potatoes were yellow, home-grown and delicious.

5) Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Something very unhealthy like a big burger and chips – I'd go for a cheeseburger with onions and the chips have to be thick, fat ones; no skinnies.

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

I haven't really been on a diet, but I remember some years ago, maybe back in 2004 or 2005, I was definitely carrying too much body fat and, after realising that, it opened my eyes to my eating habits.

I didn't go on a specific diet, I just got into a better routine and exercised more control over my eating. From having three guilty meals three days in a row, for instance, I cut it down to just one.

Sensible cutting back worked for me.

7) Do you take health supplements?

Yes, I take PAS [Pro Athlete Supplementation] Defence vitamins for athletes and Paradox Sport fish oils.

8) How do you relax?

I love to be out-and-about on the farm, having a game of golf or just spending time with the family, whether that is going to the cinema or taking the dogs for a walk.

I have just bought a new lawnmower so at the minute, I love cutting the grass. My new lawnmower is my pride and joy. I don't like sitting around at home, so I relax better when I'm doing something.

9) Teetotal or tipple?

Tipple – it's important to celebrate after a big win on the rugby pitch. It's a release after all the hard work. Alcohol is pretty high in calories, though, so I have to pick my times now when in celebration mode.

10) Stairs or lift?

Stairs – an extra bit of training always helps...

11) Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Yes, most days are spent training and working on fitness and skills levels. A daily exercise regime includes working out in the gym and also on the pitch and will involve weights, stretches and somewhere between 70-90 line-outs, as well as high-intensity skills training with short bursts of play.

12) Best tip for everyday fitness?

On the days you don't feel like going to the gym or for a walk or run or whatever, go anyway. Once you're there, enjoyment takes over and you'll feel better for it.

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

I like to think I'm an 8 and I'll aim for a 10.

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

Yes, there's a lot on offer within Ireland and Ulster Rugby, including full-time masseurs. We're lucky to have a great medical team offering physio treatments and acupuncture.

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

By and large, school sports were happy times and, obviously, I played a lot of rugby.

I wasn't that academically-minded, but rugby kept me in school and kept me going throughout university.

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

Not so much an epiphany as a realisation that I was too heavy and too out-of-shape after my first year with Ireland. I wasn't being picked and, looking back now at videos, I can see why.

I made the decision to change my eating habits and train harder and it paid off.

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

Eat 'fresh' as much as you can and then you won't be wondering about hidden quantities of sugar, salt, additives and will know exactly where your food came from.

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

I really admire Roger Federer as he has really stood the test of time. He has made tennis bigger, fitter, faster and everyone else has had to raise their own game to keep up with him.

He makes it look easy and his poise in the game is a joy to watch.

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

I try to be in bed by 10.30pm and set a reminder on my phone. During the rugby season I'm a lot stricter, but it's always later, around 11.30pm in the summer when the kids are off school.

I'm not getting enough sleep at the minute, but I am trying.

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

Yes, I think so; I live each day as well as I can as no-one ever knows what is around the corner.

:: Rory Best will be conferred with the second ever Freedom of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough at a ceremony in Armagh next month

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