independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Planes, training and feeling good

Juggling a busy career between three cities, Kirsteen O'Sullivan's active lifestyle keeps the TV presenter ready for her close up and feeling great.

Kirsteen O’Sullivan

Originally from Fife in central Scotland, outdoor activities such as skiing and water sports are what take Kirsteen O'Sullivan's fancy. "My mum laughs about dragging me up hills in Scotland as a young girl. She had to bribe me with sandwiches to get me to the top but now I can't go a week without a good dose of the outdoors. That's all down to her; she instilled that love of sport in my sister and me from childhood. It makes me really happy; I love a physical challenge and the sense of achievement I get afterwards, which also means I can treat myself."

Living in Ireland for more than 15 years now, the 34-year-old finds it is not too dissimilar from her home town of Dunfermline and emphasises her strong connection with the country.

"With its beautiful rolling hills and farmland, there are some stunning coastal towns in Fife too. Perhaps that's why I feel so at home here. I'm an O'Sullivan, which is my mum's maiden name, so it really is part of who I am now."

The sports junkie started skiing at five years of age and also dabbled in badminton and gymnastics. "I was also a competitive synchronised swimmer, which I got a lot of stick for at school. So sport is most definitely in the genes."

The pretty blonde traded Scotland for Ireland and moved to the seaside resort of Portstewart in Northern Ireland when she was 17. "I was smitten and in more ways than one. I met my husband David through the surf club at the University of Ulster at Coleraine, though we spent a decade apart after graduation and didn't marry until 2008.

"I went to this university in the North on a bit of a whim and little did I know it would shape my entire future."

In those 10 years after leaving college, she moved to Norway and studied for her postgrad in Cornwall but again was drawn back to Ireland.

"I had left to work with GMTV Scotland in Glasgow as a reporter when my husband David proposed and we moved to Dublin in 2008. Our lives now involve lots of travelling between London, Dublin and Scotland. I think I spend more time in my car than at home."

Admitting to getting bored easily in the gym, Kirsteen tries to keep her activities varied to keep her in shape, including pounding the pavements.

"Some weeks I'll manage five workouts and other weeks only one but the gym is an integral part of my life. I try to go as much as I can. It can be tough, especially getting the gear on and out the door after a crazy day filming or travelling but taking care of my body is very important to me. I mix it up with classes and regular gym work.

"When I'm in Dublin, I like to run to Blackrock, and the parks in London are great too, so there's no excuse. I've started timing myself, which I've found really motivates me. I also spend 30 minutes stretching each day, which I think is therapeutic. Going to the gym or for a run is the best way I've found to boost my mood too. If I'm feeling low, a good workout is an instant fix."

Careful not to eat processed foods and instead opting for greens and wholesome food, Kirsteen keeps her figure in check.

"I love cake and lasagne; if it's cooked from scratch and homemade I don't feel guilty one bit. I get so much pleasure from cooking a beautiful meal. I don't aspire to be thin but rather to be strong and healthy. I love my body, I care about it and I don't want to put bad food in it. I do have a weakness for chocolate and red wine. I take algae supplements and vitamin C.

"I rarely eat out, so if I do it's a big treat and I want to go somewhere the food is special. I think Ireland has phenomenal choice in this respect. My favourite café is The Happy Pear in Greystones, Co Wicklow. It's wonderful for lunch, especially in winter after a brisk walk by the sea. Shells in Strandhill, Co Sligo, is also up there. Incredible, creative, delicious cuisine with a sea view.

"While I do watch what I eat, I don't count calories or weigh myself. If my clothes are tight, it's time to cut back on goodies. Life is too short and being healthy and happy is more important than anything else."

Married to Sligo man David who is a pro surfer, it was a shared love of the sea that brought them together.

"David has been surfing since he was five; he's very talented and passionate about the sport. We met at the surf club in college when I was 17 and he taught me how to surf."

Going surfing as regularly as her hectic schedule allows, the couple's favourite way to spend time together is a road trip in their car.

"We would rather drive to Kerry, Scotland or Cornwall than go anywhere else in the world. We've just been to the north of Scotland on a surf trip; it involved getting changed in the howling wind and freezing rain and dodging the cow pats.

"The scenery was breathtaking, though, and the surf was unreal. I'll admit it's not glamorous but it's our idea of fun."

Spending so much time with an expert surfer means Kirsteen has also become hooked on the pastime but, she modestly admits, they compete at different levels.

"One couldn't compare us. David was brought up by the sea whereas the mountains were my playground, so skiing is my true forte. David is unbelievable in the water; I think it's his natural habitat. We surf as often as we possibly can and whenever there's a swell.

"We live between Dublin and London but ultimately the dream is to live somewhere by the sea that gets really good waves. The north-west of Ireland is amazing and together David and I have explored it all. Strandhill is our top place to surf, though -- it's just magical."

With 10 years of news under her belt, the roving reporter started her career in TV3 news in 2009 as a freelance journalist, fascinated by people and their stories.

"I felt a bit stifled in news, it's formulaic by nature and I'm quite a creative person at heart but news has honed my skills. As a presenter, I'm comfortable with light content but also tackling serious subjects that require an entirely different approach."

Presenting TV3's coverage of the UEFA Champions League in 2010, her bubbly and infectious personality was an instant hit with the nation's football fans.

"The opportunity to work in sport was a bit of a surprise to me, in truth. I have a huge passion for sport, so it's brilliant to get paid for something I genuinely love.

"It goes without saying, growing up in Scotland, football is ingrained in me. I never had the opportunity to play at school, though, which I regret. In a parallel world, I'm a great striker."

Currently presenting and reporting on the Premier League, Kirsteen is working on various projects, both in the UK and Ireland. "Covering games for the Premier League is a bit of a dream. While London is hectic and vibrant, it's great to have the contrast of Dublin."

Also a car fanatic with a passion for the wheel, Kirsteen drives a Skoda Yeti, which she calls her "freedom".

"I first really fell for this car while filming Xccelerate, a motoring show for TV3 three years ago. I drive a lot of different cars on television but this one just clicked with me instantly. It's hugely practical in terms of space and fuel efficiency. It's a really nice car to drive, it's super comfy and it's quite sporty too. I wouldn't want a flashy sports car, even if I could afford one."

Now having presented two series of Driving Seat on TV3 -- Ireland's only car review programme with car expert Aidan Timmons -- Kirsteen has tested some of the newest cars to hit the roads in Ireland this year.

"I'm fascinated by cars, particularly when it comes to new technology. I can appreciate a beautiful car but I'm more interested in how it will work in a practical way and for whom.

"I'm lucky in that I get to have a go in all the high-spec models but, at the end of the day, it's not about the heated seats, is it? It's about a car that ticks the right boxes at the right price."

While Kirsteen seems like a real lad's girl with a passion for all things fast and furious, she showed another side to her personality when she did a stint on celebrity gossip programme Xposé, as cover for host Aisling O'Loughlin who went on maternity leave at the time. O'Sullivan's first official Xposé interview was with Tommy Hilfiger in London.

"I wish I could tell you I'm a tomboy, or a girl's girl but I genuinely get on as well with women as I do with men. I think most women would say the same. I have a cheeky sense of humour and can be close to the bone at times. I'm also caring and feminine. I don't fit in a box, that's true, but then most women I know don't either.

"I loved Xposé, though not for the reasons you'd expect. It required constant creativity and offered a huge amount of autonomy you don't often get in TV. I had the opportunity to brainstorm and make a shoot I'd dreamt up happen the very next day.

"It was hard work but very rewarding and heaps of fun. I have very fond memories of my time there.

"I had a wonderful year working with the team, who are an outstanding bunch of folk. I was ready to move in a different direction, though, and it was a natural point for me to move on to pastures new."

Having worked very hard to carve a career in television, the Scottish presenter wants to continue firmly on this path.

"I can't tell you where I'll be five years from now, that's the joy of what I do. It's a bit of a double-edged sword.

"It's exciting when projects materialise you didn't plan for. That means living with an element of uncertainly but I've learnt to thrive on that.

"I love new challenges and feel it's important to continue to grow as a presenter and broadcaster. My ideal show would be a sports-based entertainment show or a physical game show.

"I had a blast hosting the gymnastics at the Olympics last year, which was unreal. Who knows what's next."

Kirsteen O'Sullivan, TV3 presenter, launched the new Skoda Yeti and Yeti Outdoor, which arrive in dealerships nationwide this month. See www.skoda.ie

Irish Independent

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