Saturday 3 December 2016

Mind and body: you've got to take care of your health

Published 24/05/2015 | 02:30

Alan Quinlan
Alan Quinlan

Having spent many years as a professional rugby player with both Munster and the Irish squad, I have learnt that my health is a top priority. To be at the top of my game, I had to be physically strong, fit and be mindful of my diet and nutrition.

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The focus on physical fitness is likely to rise following the OECD Report on Obesity, but we also need to focus on our mental wellbeing. I have struggled with maintaining my mental fitness, and what I have learnt over the years is that you have to be kind to yourself, and looking after your mental health needs to become a key focus in the same way that we focused on diet and exercise.

Perfection is the enemy of very good

Playing for Munster and for Ireland was a dream come true. But with it came a huge responsibility to my team mates, to the coaching staff and to the fans. Pursuing perfection is the goal of every athlete, but when it becomes all-consuming it can be hugely detrimental to your professional and personal life. Perfection is the enemy of very good, and sometimes very good is good enough. It's important to recognise this and not get so caught up in trying to be perfect that you lose sight of the original goal.

Healthy workplaces are a no-brainer

Working as a professional rugby player, nutrition and wellbeing were part and parcel of our workplace. What I've come to realise is that this focus shouldn't be confined to professional athletic grounds.

I got involved with Aramark's Right Track Challenge campaign, a programme dedicated to improving the physical health and wellbeing of those working across the almost 1,000 workplaces in which Aramark operates. I believe that employers not only have the responsibility, but also a vested interest in supporting the health of their workforce.

Healthy workplaces lead to improved morale and reduced turnover among staff. It can also give a boost to productivity, as well as the image of the company.

Build a supportive network

No person is an island and it's important to have a network of family and friends who will support you through good times and bad. Taking the first step on a new health and fitness regime can be daunting, but the right support network can make all the difference.

This year, Katie Taylor - who is also Aramark's Health and Wellness Ambassador - and I are part of a support network for those taking the Right Track Challenge.

We have created a specific three-tier training schedules targeted at various levels of fitness with nutritional advice and motivational coaching to all Aramark employees and customers. What we want to achieve is to show people that physical activity needn't be daunting. It doesn't just mean playing rugby or going to the gym. It can be through smaller, simpler activities like getting outside for a walk over lunch.

Eat yourself well

Food is fuel and what we eat and when we eat does affect how we feel and act. Just like our heart and stomachs, our brains are extremely sensitive to what we put in our bodies.

I've tried to maintain a healthy diet since I left professional sports, but it isn't always easy - especially on match days when I'm doing TV commentary. But again, it's about balance.

It may be a cliche, but a healthy body does equal a healthy mind. Alan Quinlan is Wellness Ambassador for Aramark's Right Track Challenge

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