Tuesday 20 August 2019

'I go on a strenuous six-hour walk twice a week'

How I do it: Joan Neill

Joan Neill from Mallow
Joan Neill from Mallow

For nature enthusiast Joan, exercise is a way of life. Living in Mallow, Co Cork, the 71-year-old has become fitter as she has aged but not consciously. For her, the real joy in movement is what it does for her mind as much as her body. Her fit physique is a happy by-product of the hobbies and activities she so thoroughly enjoys.

"To be honest, I never think about fitness. I've always been passionate about nature, history and spirituality, and those interests have been the motivation behind my hillwalking and Tai Chi.

"I'm a member of Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club, so every Sunday and Tuesday I go on a strenuous five to six-hour club walk.

"We can be anywhere from the Galtees, Knockmealdowns, Comeraghs, Ballyhouras or Kerry mountains.

"I love the spaciousness and silence of the mountains, the seasonal changes and the wildlife.

"In 2007, I was suffering badly with throat problems and when conventional medicine didn't help, it was recommended I try Tai Chi. I began with a night class and since then haven't looked back.

"I usually train two hours a week with my teacher, Ann McIlraith and practise for at least an hour at home every day.

"Tai Chi involves a lot of partner work which teaches us how to connect on more subtle levels, while the gentle movements strengthen the core and it's an incredible form of meditation.

"Both my hobbies have enabled me to stretch beyond my limits and discover inner resources and reserves of energy that I can call on to meet the challenges of everyday life.

"In terms of my diet, I'm a very mindful eater. I'm a vegetarian so porridge, brown bread, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils are the staples of my diet. Exercise lifts my spirits and invigorates me, and I love sharing activities with my friends."

Top 3 Tips

* Establish a regular exercise programme with a club to support you. Having a schedule or plan each week is a great motivation.

* Set realistic, achievable goals. Give yourself self-approval when you achieve them but don't beat yourself up if you don't.

* Keep trying. Trust your innate ability to achieve more than you ever thought possible. And above all, have fun!

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