Operation Transformation fitness expert Karl Henry says fellow marathon runners jeer at him

‘It happened a couple of years ago too. It was ‘oh you’re the fella from the telly, I’m fitter than you’. People are funny’

Karl Henry

Karl Henry

Leo Varadkar and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau jogging in Phoenix Park, Dublin.

thumbnail: Karl Henry
thumbnail: Karl Henry
thumbnail: Leo Varadkar and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau jogging in Phoenix Park, Dublin.
Eugene Masterson

Fitness guru Karl Henry has revealed the cruel jibes he gets from members of the public who sneer at him with claims they’re fitter than him.

Operation Transformation favourite Karl confesses he has been on the receiving end of such abuse while running marathons.

“Everyone does that. I was running a marathon and someone comes up beside me and says ‘I’m running a marathon quicker than you.’ I say ‘good for you’. It happens, I’m not an Olympic medallist. I don’t particularly care what time I run a marathon in,” he says.

“It happened a couple of years ago too. It was ‘oh you’re the fella from the telly, I’m fitter than you’. I was like ‘well done you, that’s great’. People are funny, people are strange. But in the same sense you go ‘good for you’ and you kill it with kindness as oppose to getting involved.

“Anyone in the public eye it’s there for them unfortunately and it’s not a good thing, absolutely not, but it’s just unfortunately something that’s there.”

Karl describes himself as an “awkward runner” who has done 18 marathons since his mid-20s.

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“I’m not a fast runner, I’m not a naturally good runner,” he says.

“For me 3 (hours).39 (minutes) is my personal best and the fastest I will ever go. I have no interest in trying to go faster. It’s now about the enjoyment of it, the headspace of it. Just very much the physical conditioning of it. I just enjoy the feeling of feeling very fit when I run and when I run well.”

He is now training for the upcoming Dublin and Loch Ness marathons.

Karl Henry

“It’s the enjoyment and solitude of it is what I like. Long distance runners will tell you that, the headspace of it. I’ve gone further, I’ve done ultras, I’ve done Ironman. Marathon as a distance it’s just long enough,” he points out.

“I cycle, mountain bike, surf, lots of different things bar just running.

“Ultra marathons or anything longer. They generally start at about 39.3 miles. I’ve done four or five of them. I’ve tried two one hundred milers, but haven’t managed to finish either of them. It’s on my to do list at some stage in my 40s is to go back and finish them.”

Superfit Karl also likes to take time out to do less competing routines.

“I like to do the runs on my own, my cycles on my own, just ticking along. Because what I do from a work perspective, you’re on all the time. It’s lovely just to jump on your bike and go for a spin for a couple of hours and not talk to anybody. From a head space perspective, it’s really nice.”

Karl’s confession about the abuse he gets comes on the back of having Leo Varadkar on his Podcast – the Tanaiste has himself been the victim of brickbats while out jogging or in the gym.

But Karl believes Leo’s public fitness routines are “inspirational”, including when as Taoiseach he went jogging with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“That Trudeau picture was one of the best things I’ve ever seen because on a global scale it wasn’t just ‘let’s go for a pint in the pub’ like most of those pictures tend to be it was ‘let’s go to the Phoenix Park and go for a run’,” he stresses.

“The beauty of having people like that, who are in the public eye, whether it’s the doing a selfie of his fridge, or his gym or out running with Justin Trudeau, of positive healthy imaging and it’s really important really really important and we need to see more of that because these are people with phenomenally heavy stress loads, They need to move because if they don’t it impacts just like everybody else, but it’s showing people this is the norm.”

The Dubliner is married to GP Jean and the couple and their family have just moved into a new house in his wife’s hometown of Clonakilty in west Cork.

“It’s all beaches and water, it’s really nice. It’s certainly a slower pace, that’s for sure which is lovely.

“As she’s from Clonakilty, so a lot of her family are from here, her friends and stuff, so we know it well. We’re kind of here a good bit.

“All through Covid it’s been really busy and at the end of it we decide just to have a little adventure. Everyone talks about quality of life kind of concept that Dublin’s really stressful and outside of Dublin is much better, so we thought ‘let’s try it’”.

Karl is currently promoting vitamin supplement Immuno10, which he maintains should be taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise routine.

“Basically, its function is it helps everything, your bones, skin. It’s good for everything,” he notes.

Among the vital vitamins many miss out on are B12 and D, the latter which is got from sunlight.

“It’s sunlight and we don’t get enough,” he confirms. “ It’s important to use a SPF in term of sun protection, but as a society because of where we live – but it’s getting better because of climate change – we don’t get enough of it. Having all the B vitamins, including B12, they are important really in in terms of fatigue, tiredness. We have had two and a half years of Covid. People are exhausted.

“Getting the vitamins will make a big difference in terms of your fatigue levels and in terms of just your metabolism, but also your tiredness and how tired you are.”

Leo Varadkar and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau jogging in Phoenix Park, Dublin.

He believes people need to exercise more not only for their own health but also to inhibit the aging process and recommends 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, where a person feels slightly out of breath.

“We lose muscle strength from our mid 30s onwards, so that has a really important role to play in overall health and we need to encourage people to do more weight bearing exercises,” he points out. “ It can be simple stuff like standing for the day, or lifting weights, doing press ups or squats, but we need to do more weight bearing work. We sit too much and that impacts on our muscle mass and it ages us quicker.

“If you combine your exercise with 15 squats and 15 press up, and we need to do that. We need to do it for our muscle mass as we get older. So, if you don’t use it you lose it.”

He also encourages parents to exercise with their children as a family unit.

“The best thing for children’s health is family health. We know the family unit that’s where it’s really at in terms of children’s health. It’s a family unit being healthy, it’s the parents leading by example,” he advises.

He confides he does not watch much television and did not get to see his former Operation Transformation buddy Dr Eva Orsmond’s new TV series, during which it emerges she has permanently split from her husband Wyatt.

“I very much enjoyed working with her and you know as a country we know we have a weight issue, we know we need to lose weight and her heart is absolutely in the right place to do that.”