Football is a huge help for my mental and physical health

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: broadcaster and journalist, Caoimhe Ní Chathail

Gail Bell

Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

If it's a gym day, I head there for either 7am or 9.30 am – depending on the day. If I'm not going to the gym, it's usually a shower, breakfast and listening to the radio before I open up my laptop. I am definitely guilty of scrolling first thing though, so each step of my routine is slightly delayed...


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

Porridge made with almond milk and dotted with banana, blueberries, linseed and honey. I'll also have some orange juice and a coffee.


Lunch will either be a salad, soup or leftovers from the night before.

Evening meal?

Whatever I make, I try to add as many vegetables to it as I can, but usually it will be a curry, fish, pasta or tacos. I also became obsessed with making ramen over the last number of months, so I may need to think of a more summer-friendly version.


Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

Yes, nutrition is important, definitely, but I mostly try to eat healthy food and only supplement with some multivitamins and omega-3 in the mornings.


Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

My only diet has been eating everything in moderation... and sometimes not in moderation.


Weekend treat?

I love eating out, so whether it's brunch or dinner with friends, I love to try new or well-loved restaurants at the weekend. I also enjoy making brunch at the weekend, which is usually just a vehicle for all the brilliant Irish-made condiments now available. My fridge is well stocked.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

Football is a huge help for my mental and physical health and I train and play with Irish language GAA team Laochra Loch Lao in west Belfast. I also train in the gym three times in a week. Training is always a good opportunity to switch off from the world and from work.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

I would say walking when you can, but I am definitely guilty of not always following my own advice. Walking is always easier to fit in with longer, brighter days, though.


Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I really enjoyed sports and PE in school and was happy to play on any team I could – GAA, soccer, basketball, tag rugby and athletics. We were lucky to get lots of opportunities in Gaelscoil Adhamhnáin and Coláiste Ailigh in Letterkenny, as they placed a lot of emphasis on extra curriculars.


Teetotal or tipple?

A tipple or two...


Stairs or lift?

I would say the stairs, usually, but I have rarely walked up the stairs in the BBC...


What book are you currently reading?

I have started Let's Talk by Richie Sadlier and I am really looking forward to hearing his perspective. I think it's an important book. I have to give a special mention to Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens which I have just finished listening to. Although I was a bit late to the party on that one, I absolutely loved it and cannot wait for the film to come out.


Best Netflix?

Currently, it's Elite as I desperately try to learn Spanish. Although, I'm not sure how much their scandalous secondary school lives are going to help me make my way around Mexico later in the year.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself over the pandemic?

That I like to relax. I'm always on the 'go', which I enjoy, but it turns out lying on the couch and watching TV or reading is something which I really look forward to. I have definitely learned to value 'down time', which in turn makes me much more effective in my working life.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I started knitting during the pandemic, but I am possibly the slowest knitter in Ireland. My scarf will be completed sometime in 2025.


How do you relax?

I really enjoy catching up on some TV series with my housemate, Edel, but I also listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks and I find they take my mind off work and any stresses. I always have a number of 'TTV' (Trash TV) series on the go, as my Granda calls them, as they help totally switch my brain off. I think Real Housewives is more highbrow than he does, though.


What are your goals for 2022?

To travel as much as possible. I have a flight to Mexico City booked for July and I don't plan on returning until Christmas.


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

I go to bed around midnight, but I think I could always do with more sleep. Scrolling through my phone is definitely the biggest sleep thief.


Biggest gripe?



Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I think as I get older that I am more aware of how important it is to enjoy life. I have always been lucky with the family and friends around me, but I definitely now prioritise spending time with them as that is what makes me happiest.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

Again, I think it has definitely made me re-evaluate and realise the importance of spending as much time with friends and family as possible and to keep enjoying every minute. I was lucky to spend a number of months with my family in Donegal during lockdown. A silver lining in what has been a difficult two years.

Caoimhe Ní Chathail presents the new four-part BBC Gaeilge series, Croí na Ceiste le Caoimhe on Mondays at 10pm on BBC Two Northern Ireland. All four episodes are also available on BBC iPlayer.

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