Darkness Into Light ambassador Diarmuid O'Carroll on what keeps him match fit

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: ex-Irish League star Diarmuid O'Carroll, ambassador for the Darkness Into Light event which takes place across Ireland this Saturday

Retired Irish League footballer Diarmuid O'Carroll, who is an ambassador for Pieta House's Darkness Into Light event
Gail Bell

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

It depends on the day, but every morning, I’ll check my social media, WhatsApp and emails before getting my all-important cup of tea.

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

Breakfast? Breakfast will usually be my cup of tea along with two eggs on toast.

Lunch? I'm trying to be healthy at the moment, so lunch will consist of a combination of something like chicken, rice and vegetables.

Evening meal? A pitta pocket filled with meat and salad.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, it's especially important since I’ve stopped playing football – I’ve really started to try and improve my diet. You feel much fresher and more energetic when eating well, compared to how you feel when having takeaways all the time.

4 Best meal ever?

I love pasta carbonara – if it was my last meal, I’d probably have chips with it too, just for shear carb overload.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

That would be cheesy curry chips, followed by some chocolate cake.

6 Have you ever been on a diet?

As mentioned, I’m trying to eat healthily at the moment but when in 'normal' mode, I’ve absolutely no willpower at all, food-wise. The problem is, the older I get, I just can’t get away with eating as much unhealthy food as I used to.

7 Do you take health supplements?

I'm currently only taking protein shakes.

8 How do you relax?

I love watching Netflix with my wife to relax or watching sport on TV. I also enjoy playing 5ives, golf or snooker.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

I do drink alcohol, but only occasionally. I could easily go a month without it and not even mean to...

10 Stairs or lift?

I do try to take the stairs where possible, but same as everyone, I sometimes get lazy and hop into the lift.

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

A daily exercise regime is good for body and mind. I love going for walks and long runs, but recently I’ve been trying to focus more on weights in the gym. I try to fit in some form of exercise four days a week.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

I have an Apple watch and I’d highly recommend anyone to get one – or a Fitbit – so you can track your steps regularly. Pick a target, such as 10,000 steps each day, and then continually compete with yourself to beat the record you set the day before.

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

I am 6/7 at the moment, but, like everyone, I’d love to be that little bit fitter and in better shape.

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

In terms of therapies for injuries I’ve always been open to anything that physiotherapists or doctors recommend. Acupuncture is probably the most 'alternative' I’ve ever done, though. I also really enjoy Bikram yoga as it is so relaxing and helps to improve how I feel physically and mentally.

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

Yes, I loved school sports, especially playing football and soccer. We had a great team of boys, many of whom went on to have big careers in sport. It was always the best fun playing sport with your mates at school.

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

No, not really, but sometimes I’d see a picture of myself playing football and think I’m carrying a bit too much extra weight and that would make me want to change. It gave me the motivation to eat well and exercise, so I suppose it was a sort of epiphany.

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

A friend of mine who had suffered from mental health issues always told me that exercise is good for your health, both physically and mentally, and that is so true. I find running quite therapeutic as it helps clear my mind of any stress. In relation to that, I am passionate about raising awareness around mental health issues and I’m proud to be an ambassador for Darkness Into Light. The walk from darkness into light is an extraordinary experience, providing hope for many people whose lives have been touched by suicide. Just the very act of walking together can be a very powerful thing – there is a very real sense of hope when you walk in unison with others as part of a movement against something that affects so many lives.

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

There isn't one person in particular, to be honest, but I do look at friends and family who have achieved personal goals such as completing marathons, triathlons or even just couch-to-5k events and that gives me motivation to set my own personal targets, fitness wise, and then strive to achieve them.

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

I probably don’t get to sleep many nights before 12:30 or 1am, but I think, in an ideal world, I should turn the TV off a bit earlier and try to get more shut-eye.

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

Yes, I do; I take every day as it comes and try to live life to the full.

:: Diarmuid will be walking from Darkness Into Light, supported by Electric Ireland, on Saturday, to raise funds for Pieta House, Dublin, for suicide prevention, bereavement and self-harm. A total of 12 Northern Ireland walks are included – to find one close to you, visit

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