Saturday 26 May 2018

How I do it: David Gillick

A former Olympic runner with a successful, healthy living cookbook under his belt, David Gillick certainly knows a thing or two about what it takes to go the distance. Now retired, his approach to health and fitness has changed significantly since his more competitive days; he’s no longer as tough on himself, but he enjoys it a lot more. He shares what he’s learned with Caroline Foran, and gives an insight into his health and fitness regime. 

David Gillick
David Gillick

The exercise programme: “My week is pretty mixed from an exercise perspective. When I first retired I didn’t want anything to do with running; I wanted to get as far away from the sport as possible. The level I was competing at was incredibly intense and very hard work. I did love athletics but it got to a point where the injuries were so frequent, I began to resent it.

“When it goes beyond the sport and becomes your career, and there’s a huge amount of pressure to deliver, it can take the pleasure out of it. When I retired I didn’t care about nutrition. I didn’t exercise, but soon realised the effects that would have on both my mental and physical health. I got back into it but made sure to keep it varied.”

Gillick punctuates his week with two “intense but short” track sessions. On Mondays you’ll most likely find him at a Pilates class working on his flexibility and mobility. “I’m getting older so I’m not as agile as I’d like to be,” he jokes. He stresses the importance of developing the muscles most abused during running. “It’s so important that you take a holistic approach to running and incorporate things like yoga or Pilates. Any kind of resistance training will hugely help limit your chance of injury.”

Other days of the week, he’ll pump iron at the gym, working with weights and strengthening his core, because for Gillick, variety is key. “I stay motivated and interested with variety; I like to spice things up and set myself goals to work towards and give myself some challenges.”

As much as his emotional relationship with sport has been somewhat tumultuous, it’s something he couldn’t live without. “I’m now enjoying exercising in the same way I did as a kid, and these days, it’s as much about mental health for me as it is about staying in shape, 100pc. I go crazy if I go too long without exercising; I thrive on that release of endorphins. It really helps to clear away the thoughts that can often run around my head.”

An issue that concerns Gillick, however, is the tendency for people to go overboard, something he knows all too well. “I was incredibly anal about training and what I ate back then and now I can really see it; the whole healthy eating thing is taking control of people’s lives, it’s gone completely the other way with things like orthorexia. I could relate to that obsession when I was competing; I wouldn’t go out with friends, and if I had one meal where I couldn’t control the carbs, that would really dictate my mood.”

The food programme: Now a father and with more balance in his life, Gillick applies that same philosophy to his relationship with food. “I’ve always had an interest in food and cooking, but I wouldn’t be as regimented now as back then. I try to make good choices, and eat real, whole foods, but I’m human, and I’m no longer at the level I was, so I can afford the odd treat. In general I have a more relaxed approach with food, but I steer clear of processed foods mid-week. There might be an occasional burger on the weekend.”

With his cookbook, David Gillick’s Kitchen, this VHI ambassador for the Women’s Mini Marathon adopts an accessible approach to healthy eating: “I’ve looked at a lot of cookbooks over the years, but if I walked into my local supermarket, they wouldn’t have half of the ingredients needed to make the meals. I wanted to really focus on the stuff you could get nearby and offer something quick, healthy and easy that doesn’t send your costs sky high.”

David Gillick’s top 3 tips

* I love this quote, “A goal without a plan is a wish.” Build your exercise and healthy eating into your routine with effective planning and it will be far easier

* Eat real food. We all know what that is. But remember, one bad meal isn’t going to make you fat and one good meal isn’t going to make you lean. Try not to be obsessive about the healthy stuff and don’t dwell on the bad stuff

* If you want to take up running, you need to incrementally increase your distance and speed. Train with a friend or a group because the social aspect will see you through. Set a goal and work towards it

Veg vs fruit juices

Pure vegetable juices can be tough at first, says Brian Lee of Chopped. If you’re new to juicing, opt for a ratio of 60pc fruit to 40pc leafy greens and veg. Start to introduce more greens as you get used to the earthy taste and work towards a 70:30 ratio. A good green juice can give the body an instant boost of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and chlorophyll. Cucumber and mint leaves are a great way to add more palatable flavour to veg-heavy juices.

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