Ex-basketball player Gareth Maguire: Getting a dog was best thing I did for my health

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Gareth Maguire, founder of Ulster Elks and and co-founder of Sport Changes Life Foundation which co-hosted the second Belfast Classic Basketball Hall of Fame at the SSE Arena at the weekend

Former basketball international Gareth Maguire
Gail Bell

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

I tend to wake early, usually around 5.30am. The day begins with checking my phone as I do a lot of transatlantic work and have emails from the US to catch up on. I then get dressed for an early morning 20 or 30-minute run or walk along the lough shore with our dog, Pippen. After a quick shower, I will have breakfast with my family as we all get ready for school and work.

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

Breakfast? On a typical working day, I would have cereal for breakfast along with a cup of hot water and fresh lemon.

Lunch? My lunch never tends to be the same as I am out and about quite a bit. Usually, it could be a sandwich, but if I have a meeting over lunch, I love a bowl of chowder with brown bread.

Dinner? Dinner varies quite a bit, from spaghetti Bolognese or chilli, to salmon or chicken with lots of fresh vegetables. I do like a cup of something sweet at night for supper and if there isn’t anything sweet, I would have another bowl of cereal before bed.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Nutrition is very important to me, but I am not as good at managing it on a daily basis as I used to be. When I was an active basketball player, I was very particular about eating well as I often trained twice a day. Nowadays, I try to be conscious of eating correctly, but this can be tricky when you travel a lot or have meetings over lunch and dinner.

4 Best meal ever?

I’m well and truly on the countdown to it now... Christmas dinner. Also, my mum’s stew is to die for.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Maud's Café cheesecake.

6 Have you ever been on a diet?

I generally don’t really like talking about diets, but I have, at times, had to make real cut-backs on eating unhealthy food and motivate myself to get more active. I made these changes a few years ago and I feel much better for it.

7 Do you take health supplements?

No, I have never taken health supplements as I think you can get all you need from a healthy, balanced diet.

8 How do you relax?

By getting out in the fresh air and walking Cave Hill with the family and Pippen. With the darker evenings coming in, I like to watch Narcos on Netflix.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

I was teetotal for a very long time but now I enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner or a beer on a night out.

10 Stairs or lift?

The lift!

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

My daily routine usually includes either a morning walk or run, ranging between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on what I think I need. Getting our dog five years ago was the best decision for my mental and physical health, as before this, I would have just worked in the morning on my laptop.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

My best tip is do some form of exercise, even if it is just for 15 minutes. Even small bouts of exercise can make a big difference.

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 I am around a five as I really only do aerobic activity and I know fitness amounts to much more than that. I would like to be a 10 at some point, for my stage in life, at any rate.

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

I haven't tried any but I wouldn’t oppose it either, if proven effective.

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

School sport was the best. I played a lot of different sports and loved them all. I was very fortunate to be athletic and I played competitive badminton, football, Gaelic and basketball. Basketball was my favourite and I went on to represent Ireland at junior and senior level internationally. Sport has been central in my life and has changed my life in a positive way. As a co-founder of Sport Changes Life, I have found these experiences a great motivator for the development of the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic, which recently took place at the SSE Arena. Such events elevate the sport and foster great life experiences, relationships and the skills of promising sporting athletes.

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

No, not really.

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

Try lots of sports and activities when you are young. Doing this can help you develop a range of skills and help you find something that you are passionate about.

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

Everyday people inspire me. I admire people who, regardless of their shape or size, get out every day to exercise for their physical and mental health.

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

My bedtime is not really routine, as sometimes I have to work late as my work requires a lot of contact with people in the US. I try to get to bed before midnight, as I rise early, but I usually don’t sleep for much more than five or six hours.

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

Yes, I think I do. I am working on living my best life, taking on whatever may come my way.

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