For 12 years my whole world revolved around sport and running; that was my job and my focus. I started running from a very young age with a goal in mind, specifically the Olympics, and I don’t think any other job I will ever do will be as all-consuming as that was. In hindsight, I was very lucky that my job and my passion were one and the same and that my love of running remains to this day. I love to be fit and healthy, and living an active life is so important for me and my family. I find doing little things daily that are good for your mind and your body is the best way to keep healthy.
I use sport to enjoy quality time in the outdoors, keep my body moving and to socialise with my friends
It’s only now that I’ve retired from professional athletics that I can look back and genuinely appreciate the lessons sport has taught me about mindset. When I won gold at the hurdles of the World Indoors in 2006, I struggled with being happy and content with it. Now I try to use physical activity to work on my mindset and use the little voice inside my head as a tool, rather than seeing it as an obstacle.
Of course, running has remained a huge part of my life but now I have a different goal. I use sport to enjoy quality time in the outdoors, keep my body moving and to socialise with my friends. Last week I played hockey for the first time in 20 years. I laughed, ran in the fresh air, sweated hard, scored an own goal but, more importantly, met some great new people.
I’m very aware of inactivity in my day-to-day life. If I have a day that I’m sitting a lot, for example, a full office day, I’ll make sure I take a short lunch and go for a walk or walk in the evening. I try to get 10,000 steps a day using a watch as a tracker and find this helpful. I also have a 20-minute “rule” which is that 20 minutes is better than nothing and that’s a very useful mantra on busy days. I will jog or do a short stretching/circuits session.
I’m a big fan of stretching, I do basic stretches for my hamstrings, quads and back regularly. I also do lots of core exercises to strengthen my body. I’ve found this particularly useful since having a baby. Plank is my go-to exercise to strengthen my core. I had to work really hard to get my core backfiring after having my daughter three years ago.
As I get older, I’m noticing the different stages of health, the importance of looking after your health, and how your perspectives can differ over time. It’s true, your health is your wealth, and I love nothing more than taking time out to keep active, eat well and be happy. Invest in your health and wellbeing. You have only one life. Live the best one possible.
Derval is the ambassador for Pfizer Health Index 2018.
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