Powerlifting champ Annette Forker (53): With two jobs and four training sessions a week, I don't get much time to relax

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Annette Forker from Lurgan, a 53-year-old dental nurse who won gold and silver medals in last year's Commonwealth Powerlifting Games in Newfoundland

Champion powerlifter Annette Forker from Lurgan
Gail Bell

Annette Forker – the only supplements I take are protein shakes


Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

If I have a PT session with my coach, I'm up at 5.30am and I head to Focus Gym in Craigavon for a 6am session. I come for a quick shower and I'm into work for 7.30-ish. On mornings that I'm not training early, I get a wee lie in until 7am. Luckily, the dental surgery I work in is only five minutes' drive from work, so I don't have a long commute.


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

My breakfast is either hot oats or Greek yoghurt, with peanut butter and honey – and, of course, the obligatory black coffee. I can't function properly without a strong black coffee.


During the week, lunch is usually a bagel with avocado crushed with sweet chilli sauce and three poached eggs.

Evening meal?

My daughter has ulcerative colitis and is dairy-intolerant, so dinner is usually dictated by her dietary needs.We usually have home-made soups or stew, or a chicken stir-fry with rice or noodles.


Is nutrition important to you?

Because of the type of training I do in the gym, it is important that I maintain a high-protein diet. Before a heavy lifting session I need to have had plenty of carbs on board as well.


Best meal ever?

That's an easy one – my sister lives in New York and when I visit her, we always go to the most amazing restaurants. The best meal experience I've had was at a restaurant called Half Moon, situated along the Hudson river. Sitting outside in the sunshine having our meal, while looking up-river to the New York skyline was unreal.


Do you have a guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure has to be Thai sweet chilli crisps with a sour cream dip. It's my Friday night treat.


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

I used to have a really bad relationship with food and was a bit of a 'toy' dieter. I went from being very overweight in my 20s, to being very underweight in my 30s. Over the last few years I haven't dieted at all and I am at a healthy weight.


Do you take health supplements?

The only supplements I take are protein shakes, if I feel I'm not getting enough in my diet. I prefer to try to get my nutrition from food rather than supplements.


How do you relax?

I don't get much time to relax. I work two jobs as a dental nurse. I mainly work in McCleary's dental surgery in Lurgan and also in the emergency dental clinic in Craigavon Area Hospital in the evenings and at weekends. Along with trying to fit in four training sessions a week, it's almost impossible to relax. I do try to get at least one night in front of the television catching up on the soaps.


Teetotal or tipple?

I'm partial to a wee gin and tonic when I'm out with the girls. I also enjoy a nice bottle or red wine if I'm having a drink at home.


Stairs or lift?

Definitely, the stairs. The surgery where I work is two flights up from the reception, so I'm running up and down stairs all day long. I'm sure I do at least 100 flights a day – I count it as my cardio training.


Do you have a daily exercise regime?

My exercise regime is tailored around my powerlifting training. I train four times a week, twice with my coach Paul Magee from Focus gym, and twice on my own. My training involves mostly squat bench and dead lifts. I also love to hike in the Mourne Mountains, which makes for a brilliant conditioning workout.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Find something that you enjoy. Keeping fit shouldn't be a chore.


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

I reckon I'm about a six. I'm never going to be a 10, but as long as I'm healthy enough to enjoy an active lifestyle, I'm happy with that.


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

I've never used it, but wouldn't be adverse to experimenting.


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

I didn't mind school sport, although we didn't have much of a variety – it was either netball or camogie for the girls. I remember many a wet afternoon getting soaked to the skin on the camogie pitch and then having to walk home in our wet clothes.


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

I went on a cruise about 10 years ago and after seeing the photos of that holiday, I decided I needed to do something about my weight. I joined a gym and did a Transform bootcamp. It kick-started a much healthier lifestyle.


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

You can't exercise yourself out of a bad diet.


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

When I went to Canada to compete in the Commonwealth Powerlifting Games with the Northern Ireland team, I met so many inspiring women, both from here and from all around the world. It inspired me to do the best I could in the sport I love.


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

I am a terrible sleeper and definitely do not get enough sleep. I find it hard to wind down at night and I am up from the crack of dawn.


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

I try not to think too much about my own mortality, except to try to get as much as possible out of this one life I've been given. I have two grown-up daughters and a gorgeous wee grandson, Noah, so I want to live as long as I can and see the person he grows up to be. My grannies lived into their 80s and 90s – so I hope I've inherited their genes.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access