Fail to prepare, prepare to fail is pro boxer Cathy McAleer's key fitness advice

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Northern Ireland's only female professional boxer, Cathy McAleer

Cathy McAleer – I am always keen to be the best I can be to prevent illness or the health issues my parents have later in life. Picture by Mark Marlow

Boxer Cathy McAleer at Breens Gym, Belfast. Picture by Mark Marlow


Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

When training for a fight, I would be up 5.30am to feed my big Samoyed, Ace, and then I go for a run. I like to get out on the road early morning when it's quiet and everyone else is in bed.


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

I love porridge with berries and seeds and a hot cup of coffee . I usually visit @fivepercent coffee shop as their porridge is amazing.


I tend to have my dinner at this time, so ‘lunch' would be any meat with vegetables and maybe sweet potato or rice as an accompaniment.

Evening meal?

I keep this light, so it will usually be a chicken salad, omelette or tuna.


Is nutrition important to you?

Nutrition is so important to me and my sport – I am a bantam weight, weighing in 53.4kg. To maintain this, but to keep strong and have enough fuel to complete all my training, I need to eat right and at the right times.


Best meal ever?

My favourite meal is steak and great vegetables – or porridge. I could eat porridge for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's very strange because, as a child, I hated the stuff and would never let it pass my lips.


Do you have a guilty pleasure?

love ice-cream and it would be a favourite treat. Savoury food-wise, I'd choose a pizza from Nicos's Pizza shop which would be my top ‘cheat' meal if I was having one.


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

I don't do diets, to be honest, as I don't believe in them. I have done a 15-hour fasting cycle, though – from last meal at night to first meal in morning, if I need cut weight quickly or if a fight has come up at short notice.


Do you take health supplements?

I don't really believe in supplements when I am not in training camp, but when I am preparing for a fight and training two to three times a day I would find it difficult to eat enough protein, so I will have a protein powder drink, within 30 minutes after a session, to repair muscles. I also take vitamins for the immune system and aminos during fight preparation.


How do you relax?

I love taking Ace for a walk. He's an amazing dog and has been with me for 12 years. He's full of mischief and always stealing my stuff. I also love going to the cinema and watching a good comedy.


Teetotal or tipple?

Teetotal – I don't like the taste of alcohol. When I was at university I would have had a drink but the suffering the next day was awful. I realised, as I got older, that I don't need to drink to enjoy myself.


Stairs or lift?

Stairs – I feel so lazy if I take the lift.


Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Yes, if in camp for a fight, I would have a set plan each day. Coming close to a fight, this would tend to be cardio early morning – mainly running or interval training – boxing mid-afternoon with pads, skipping and bag work, and sparring in the evening with another professional fighter. If my coach thinks I'm on track, I might get to rest.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

I believe very much in the ‘calories in, calories out' approach. Don't over indulge and, if you do, be aware you need to get out and burn them off – with some sort of exercise that you enjoy, even a walk or swim.


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

Coming into a fight, I'm a 10. I train to my peak, so I can go into the ring knowing I could have done no more.


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

I have tried yoga but it wasn't for me. I do enjoy going for a relaxation massage or sauna, though, to rest and repair.


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

I loved school sports and in primary school, I pestered the PE teacher to let me into the boys' football team. I played soccer for Rosario youth club and Gaelic football and county football for Down ladies and also league badminton, alongside my karate training the whole way through secondary school.


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

When I was studying at university, I put on weight with the stress of exams and eating junk and when I came home from Scotland one Christmas, I remember my karate Sensei, Terry Boyle, asking: "What the heck have you been eating and drinking?" This give me a big kick to change and I was glad he was so honest.


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

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.


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

From a very young age, about eight, my karate Sensei was my inspiration for his fitness, mental attitude and professional approach in sport, work and life.


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

I need my eight hours a day to feel good. I tend to climb into bed early after a full day of work and training.


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

Yes, very much so. I am always learning about health, nutrition and the body. I am in tune with how I feel and I am always keen to be the best I can be to prevent illness or the health issues my parents have later in life.

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