Brendan Quinn: I used to play hurling for Antrim, so I'm well used to having a healthy diet

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Former Antrim hurler-turned Belfast singer-songwriter, Brendan Quinn


Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

I get up around 5.30am and hit the gym at The Devenish - Gym Co - with my friend, John Joe. We do a good work out which usually lasts from six o'clock until seven. Some weights and a bit of cardio definitely set you up for the day. When I go home, I make breakfast and then head out - from Monday through to Thursday I go to Belfast Metropolitan College as I've recently started a diploma in Biomedical Science.


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

I try to keep healthy. I eat a substantial breakfast of either a cheese, ham and mushroom omelette or some scrambled eggs and toast.


A chicken sandwich or chicken and pasta. Lunch is usually something handy.

Evening meal?

I love steak and any type of spuds – roast, baked or mashed. I'm also loving my slow cooker and once a week would make a stew or casserole in it.


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

Nutrition is important to me. I don't take supplements, but I try to eat as many foods as I can that give me energy. I used to play hurling for Antrim, so I'm well used to having a healthy diet.


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

I've never been on a diet, but I do train a lot and eat healthily. I may have gained a few pounds, but I think that's just part and parcel of getting older.


Weekend treat?

You can't beat a Little Italy pizza which in Belfast is located beside The Crown Bar. It is, undoubtedly, the best pizza in town. The 'Bella Bella' has everything on it and, in between weekend gigs, I often sit in my car and devour the whole pizza. If I'm going for out dinner, The Barking Dog on the Malone Road or Stix and Stones do a great steak. For lunch, I might head to my friend's place, Stacked Gourmet Sandwich Bar on the Glen Road.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

As I said before, every morning I go training and once a week, normally at the weekends, I do cold water dipping in Helen's Bay with friends, which is not only great for the recovery of muscle aches, but also for your mental health. I've been doing cold water dipping for years now. When I lived in Dublin – which I did for 11 years - I often went to Howth or the Forty Foot for a sea dip. A brisk walk on the beach or going for a run also helps clear my head.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Just get started, even if it's only out for a walk. You can talk yourself out of exercise very quickly, but partnering up with a friend makes fitness more fun and means you're less inclined to let them down.


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

At St Mary's, I played loads of sports - hurling, Gaelic, water polo, basketball, soccer – you name it, I played it. I've great memories of PE in school. Eleven of my class mates all went to the same nursery and primary school with me, so there was great camaraderie, craic, banter - and healthy competition.


Teetotal or tipple?

I do enjoy a drink on the rare occasion, as I'm usually gigging at the weekend and during the week, I go to bed early as I have to be up for training the next morning. I like the odd beer and vodka and coke.


Stairs or lift?

The lift, especially if I've got loads of gear - guitar, PA systems etc.


What book are you currently reading?

I'm re-reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull [by Richard Bach]. It's a really good, inspirational, positive mental health book. I'm looking forward to starting the Tyson Fury autobiography I was given as a Christmas present.


Best Netflix?

A series called Baptiste, about a French detective.


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

I stayed pretty positive throughout the pandemic and took this time to write new material and think about how I really want to fulfil my dream and play as much music as possible. I wrote loads of songs during the pandemic and have shortlisted the best five for my new EP, which I plan to launch in the spring. Over the pandemic I also had a great appreciation for being able to spend time with loved ones.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I took up boxing training with friends Conor Doherty and Tony Dunlop.


How do you relax?

I love going to the cinema or just chilling out at home watching a movie or listening to music. Music helps me de-stress. I'm listening to a lot of Foy Vance at the moment - his song Guiding Light really helps you drift off.


What are your goals for 2023?

To release my EP, tour Europe with it and do more collaborations with other musicians. I'll hopefully also get to complete my biomedical science diploma.


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

During the week, I go to bed around 10pm, but at weekends it's never earlier than 2am after my gigs.


Biggest gripe?

Not being early for a gig.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

Yes, definitely. I worked as a full-time teacher, but have given that up to focus on my music.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I realise, like a lot of people, that it's important to do what you love to do and be true to yourself. You only get one chance at this life. Make every minute count.

:: Brendan Quinn will be performing at Féile an Earraigh in March and is soon to release his EP, The Journey Home