Saturday 17 March 2018

Purcell's pedal power

Rozanna Purcell is rekindling her lifelong love affair with cycling, all in the name of charity, writes Eoghan Young-Murphy

Rozanna training on a stationary bike at Eurocycles
Rozanna training on a stationary bike at Eurocycles

 Don’t be fooled by her profession: model Rozanna Purcell is a genuine, diehard fitness fanatic, not a compulsive dieter.

Her exercise regime includes 6am training sessions several days each week and, at the weekend, she takes in a long cycle of approximately 85k around Blessington, Co Wicklow.

She aspires to complete an Ironman triathlon — 3.9k swim, 180k cycle and 26.2- mile run — in the near future, as well as cycle from her current residence in Dublin city centre to her family home, just outside Clonmel in Co Tipperary. That journey is in excess of 100 miles.

Somewhat miraculously, she has recently been cured of an underactive thyroid, a condition which occurs when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of the hormone thyroxin. Rozanna puts that down to her healthy lifestyle.

“About two and a half years ago, I had an underactive thyroid and I was on Eltroxin medication every day. And I remember, about a year ago, I said: ‘I am going to stop taking it because I don’t want to be on medication every single day for all of my life’,” she says.

“An underactive thyroid slows down your metabolism and you would have a lack of energy and everything. And I was like: ‘No, that’s in your head. I am just going to get over it. I am not going to have it for the rest of my life, like the doctors say.’

“And I just really pushed my fitness and ate every two or three hours to get my metabolism really fast. And, within a year, I went back to the doctor to get my bloods done and the problem had resolved itself. And my doctor was like: ‘I can’t believe that is happening’.

“I just have a really good training programme, making sure I eat every two or three hours, and I am really, really healthy.

“That regime cured my underactive thyroid — 100pc; I didn’t change anything else. And my cholesterol went down and everything.”

Over the past two months, Rozanna’s exercise regime has been intensified greatly. She continues to work out at the crack of dawn in Pat and Karl Henry’s gym in Dublin most days, but her love of cycling, in repose for some time, has been reignited recently.

Her grá for the sport was inherited from her father, John, while the remainder of her family — sisters Rebecca (31) and Rachel (25) and mother Cecily — are also exercise enthusiasts, just like the former Miss Universe Ireland.

“At Christmas, I went to La Santa with my family, which is a training resort in Lanzarote, and we were cycling 60/70 miles per day on the bike. We went there for 10 days,” she says.

“I‘ve been cycling since I was 11 or 12. My dad got me into it. He wanted to find a sport that he could still do but the impact wouldn’t be so bad.

“He started cycling and the whole family jumped on board. At the weekend, my family will always go for a long cycle.

 “But, I suppose, when I moved to Dublin at 17, I found it quite hard because I didn’t really see where I could cycle around here. “I was so scared with the traffic situation around the city.

“So the only chance I ever got to cycle was when I’d go home and, unfortunately, I don’t get home that often,” she adds. Of late, she has teamed up with cycling chain Eurocycles Eurobaby, as she explains.

“I was sick of being stuck in a gym. So I took it upon myself to get more serious about cycling in Eurocycles — we have teamed up now in a really great partnership and I am going to be cycling with the team,” says the down-to-earth 22-year-old. “They have shown me so many routes that I can go on, which I didn’t think I could, which are just a few minutes outside Dublin. I am just going to take it more seriously.

“It’s amazing because the last few years, when I have been cycling, I have been taking my dad’s or my sister’s bike when I have been going home.

“And I used to come in from bike rides and I would be like: ‘My back is sore.’

“But now that I have a bike that fits properly, I come back from a cycle and just feel great.”

Those who have accompanied Rozanna on her long, weekend jaunts around Co Wicklow provide glowing testimonies of her ability. One opines that she has the ability to be a pro.

At present, she is preparing for her first major challenge — a charity event called Cycle Against Suicide, which starts in Dublin on April 22 and concludes on May 5.

“It’s 100k a day for 14 days. I am really looking forward to it. It’s not like it’s a race — it’s going to be taken nice and easy,” says Rozanna.

“Everyone is just going to enjoy it. In the middle of it, I am going to be a little bit wrecked. That’s why I just need to gather up my miles now and get ready for it.”

She plans on taking part in a series of other cycling events this summer, including the Seán Kelly Tour of Waterford in August, but she has other ambitions also. “I will do a couple of triathlons during the summer, including one in Skerries, Co Dublin, on June 23,” she says.

“It’s always good for me during the summer because I have more time.

“It will make such a difference when the evenings get a little bit longer because that’s when I’ll have my time off, and it will be nice to just get out on the bike.

“During the week, it’s a little tougher because I have work during the day and then it will be dark. Now the summer is approaching, you just get along with training.”

Another ambition, which may take a little longer to fulfil, is to follow in the footsteps of her sister, Rebecca, and complete an Ironman.

“I would love to do an Ironman. One of my dreams would be to do it with my sister — for her and I to do it together,” says Rozanna, who, evidently, comes from a close-knit family.

“I would be a little bit competitive, but it would just be a really nice thing to do.

 “I would really love to do it, possibly the Florida one — or even in Lanzarote because I know the track so well, from training.”

‘Wine? I can’t think of anything worse’

Rozanna Purcell (22) is targeting an Ironman — which includes a 3.9k swim — but she is only now learning how to swim properly.

“It’s a lot tougher than I imagined; there’s a lot to it. I swam when I was young, but I didn’t really swim that much when I moved up to Dublin because a lot of the gyms in town wouldn’t have the facilities,” she says.

“When I went to La Santa in Lanzarote over Christmas, I was getting lessons there, but getting lessons in an Olympic-sized pool probably wasn’t the best way to start.

“I practise usually at the weekends. My backstroke and my breaststroke were great, but, in front crawl, I had an issue with breathing and getting my head under the water. It was just a bit nervy for me.

“There was no real reason because when I was younger, I was perfect at it. I suppose it was just years of being out of the pool. “And I realised that a lot of the events I wanted to do with the triathlons are in the sea and are in lakes, which is going to be a lot scarier. I just had to get stuck in.”

Her swimming technique might not yet be as proficient as she would like, but in other ways, she would be a model triathlete. Firstly, she neither smokes nor drinks.

“My grandparents were pioneers and I was never around drink. I have obviously tried it and I just never liked it or developed a taste for wine or anything. “My friends would be like: ‘I’d love a glass of wine’. I’d be like: ‘I can’t think of anything worse — I just want a cup of tea.’

“It kind of helps with my training, I guess, as well, especially at the weekends because I don’t go out.” Secondly Rozanna has a passion for baking and eats healthily.

 “I really, really enjoy cooking. I like alternative baking as well,” she says. “I make gluten-free desserts. “I am definitely not one of those people who can go on crazy diets — I love my food.”

This article originally appeared in Fit Magazine.

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