Belfast Deputy Lord Mayor Áine Groogan: Hot yoga is where I retreat to when I’ve had a hard day

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Belfast Deputy Lord Mayor and Green councillor, Áine Groogan

Serving as Deputy Lord Mayor is "an unexpected bonus", says Belfast councillor Áine Groogan
Serving as Deputy Lord Mayor is "an unexpected bonus", says Belfast councillor Áine Groogan Serving as Deputy Lord Mayor is "an unexpected bonus", says Belfast councillor Áine Groogan

Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I don't know if I have what you'd call a 'routine'. I'm not much of a morning person, to be honest, so I'm usually just frantically trying to get myself out the door without being too late.


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

Coffee – strong and black. And toast, usually.


I'll try to have leftovers from the night before, but if I'm running about between work and events, I'll usually just grab something 'on the go'.

Evening meal?

I do love cooking but, unfortunately, I don't get much time for it at the minute. I really like spicy food, so I tend to cook things with lots of chilli, garlic and other spices. Sometimes, though, I end up having toast for dinner more times than is probably right because of my schedule.


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

Nutrition is important, but it's the first thing to go when things get busy. I suffer with gallstones, so it is important to eat well or I'll suffer a flare-up. I'm not a big believer in supplements unless you actually have a deficiency, so I only really take B12 as that's one I tend to be low in.


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

Absolutely not – I find the whole idea of dieting to be incredibly damaging. It comes from unrealistic, societal expectations that tells women they need to look and be a certain way. I've always pushed back against that. I think the dieting industry just capitalises on and preys on women's insecurities and I won't buy into that. Eating well is important for your health and wellbeing, of course, but that's very different to dieting which is focused on losing weight.


Weekend treat?

A cinnamon roll from Brew & Bake on the Lisburn Road in Belfast – they're incredible.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

I discovered Hot Yoga Belfast about a year-and-a-half-ago and I love it. It's some people's worst nightmare, but it makes you feel amazing afterwards and I love that you have to be 100 per cent in the room with the heat – your brain can't wander.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Walk more.


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

Yeah, I did actually love sports and PE, as long as it wasn't cross-country running. I hate running for the sake of running – you need to tell me to chase a ball about in order to disguise it. I was very clumsy, though, and used to regularly trip over my own hurl a lot.


Teetotal or tipple?

A tipple – I love nice wine, whiskey and gin. I've started to get more into whiskey lately, thanks to a friend who has just started a whiskey club for women and non-binary people called The Angels' Share. There's a real resurgence in Irish whiskey and there's some great ones out there. My current favourite is Killowen's Rum & Raisin.


Stairs or lift?

Stairs. I'm terrified of lifts unless it's a glass one where I can see out. I get really claustrophobic, otherwise.


What book are you currently reading?

I've always been a big reader, but I read so much for work now that I struggle to concentrate on a book unless I'm on leave. I love Margaret Atwood or good historical fiction.


Best Netflix?

People are always surprised by my terrible taste in TV. I love reality TV – The Kardashians, Married at First Sight, Vanderpump Rules... It's escapism for me.


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

I coped okay, but I don't know if it changed me massively.


Any new skills or hobbies?

Like everyone I think, I baked a lot more over the pandemic, but that slipped when life started getting busy again.


How do you relax?

Hot yoga is where I retreat to when I've had a hard day. I'll also go out for a few drinks with friends or stay in watching awful TV and chill with my cat, Jinkx.


What were your goals for 2023?

The big one for me this year was to get re-elected and thankfully I managed that, but I never thought I'd have the privilege of being able to serve as Deputy Lord Mayor, as well. That was an unexpected bonus.


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

I'm a night owl; I always have been, so I think I'm just used to never having enough sleep.


Biggest gripe or regret?

I regret not putting more effort into learning to speak another language when I was younger. I studied Irish to A-Level, so I have a decent understanding of it, but I didn't have the confidence around speaking it and now I've forgotten so much. I'd love to be able to at least hold a basic conversation in French or Spanish as well – I can just about order a glass of wine.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I think my perspective has changed a lot over the last two years. I've had a lot of change personally and professionally in that time and it's definitely made me more resilient, but also a bit more accepting of change. Not everything has to be or should be permanent and that's okay. I hope that attitude sticks with me because life is never static and you never know what's round the corner.


Has coronavirus – or any health epiphany or life event – changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

Not towards my own mortality. I don't really like thinking or talking about death; I've never been comfortable with it. I just try to get on with things and enjoy the time we have with the people we love.