Down GAA star Daniel Guinness's top fitness tip? 'Champions do extra'

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Carryduff man Daniel Guinness, Down GAA ace and key player for Queen's University Belfast in the recent Sigerson Cup

Down GAA player Daniel Guinness in action. Picture by Philip Walsh
Gail Bell

Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I usually get up at around 7.45am, check my phone and then grab breakfast. I’ll catch up on the NBA (National Basketball Association) and any sport from the night before while I’m having breakfast and then I head into uni – at around 9am, most weekdays.


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

When it comes to food, I like to keep it plain and simple. For breakfast, I’ll go for porridge and eggs.


I try to make my lunch before heading to uni, so I’ll usually have a chicken sandwich and a protein bar.


Again, with dinner, I keep it clean with meat and carbs, so it’ll either be chicken or beef with some sort of pasta, rice or noodles. Nothing too fancy.


Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, nutrition is really important, as I train and play so often for both Down and Queen’s University. For the uni team, we've been training and playing matches for the Electric Ireland Sigerson cup, so I need to make sure I’m fuelled for training or a match that night. Nutrition is also key to recovering from training or a match the day before.


Best meal ever?

It’s hard to beat Stix and Stones in Upper Queen Street, as I love steak, or a French Village breakfast. I go to Queen’s, so French Village is a regular stop-off point before a lecture.


Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Yes, it has to be Dominos or Boojum, if I’m looking to really treat myself.


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

No, I haven’t been on a diet. I’m lucky, in that I train and play most evenings, so I don’t feel it’s necessary to be on a strict diet. Being so active lets you have some freedom in what you eat. I don’t stress myself too much about counting calories or anything like that.


Do you take health supplements?

I wouldn’t say it's a health supplement, but I do have protein in my porridge in the morning and a protein shake after the gym or after I've been training.


How do you relax?

Just the usual, really – I like to get home and watch television, especially sports, play some PS4 or go out with my friends.


Teetotal or tipple?

After a win, it’s hard to say no to a pint with the lads... so I would have to say tipple.


Stairs or lift?

I’m normally running late, so I’d have to say stairs. I never leave myself enough time to wait for a lift. I suppose it helps me get my steps in for the day as well.


Do you have a daily exercise regime?

I don’t really have a strict regime, as my training schedules vary weekly, depending on matches etc, but usually I try to get some sort of training or gym session in every night after uni. I can’t say I’m a fan of morning sessions; I much prefer to get a lie-in and then head to the gym in evening.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Just try and do something every day, even if it’s going for a walk or fitting in a quick session in the gym. You rarely ever regret doing a session, but you do tend to have regrets if you miss one.


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

Probably, I'm about an eight at the minute, with training for matches, but there is always room for improvement in some area – otherwise, we wouldn’t be training!


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

No and no. I’m a big fan of tried and tested medicine, so alternative therapy wouldn’t be up my street.


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

I have to say that my memories of sports in school are mostly the best memories I have. We tended to have more success with the soccer team than the Gaelic team in school, so losing the MacLarnon Cup in my final year, which signalled the end of school Gaelic, was definitely a tough one for me. It’s been great to be able to play Gaelic at university level, as I get the chance to play with boys I would usually be playing against at county level, so the Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup means we can carry on the school memories through to uni.


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

No, not really – or maybe I should say, not yet. I’ve always played sport, since I was around four or five years old, but probably when I started going to the gym in fourth year of secondary school I had a big change in attitude which made a big difference to all aspects of my fitness and lifestyle in general.


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

'Champions do extra' – short and simple and really applies to all aspects of both training and life. It's something I definitely try to keep in mind when I’m on the pitch.


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

As I’ve said, I’m a big fan of the NBA, so I’ve always looked up to the late Kobe Bryant and his attitude to practice and training, as well as his success outside of basketball.


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

I normally get to sleep at around 11.30pm or midnight, which isn’t great. It’s probably one of the big things I could improve on and I know I should try to get another hour or two every night. When I do, it definitely makes a difference – especially if I have a match the next day.


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

I suppose at aged 21 you don’t really think about mortality much, but I think that keeping fit and healthy for as long as possible is the aim – and whatever happens, happens.

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