Fit Foodie: Romantic steaks and lifting weights

This week I’d like to chat about weight training, why I love it and the best ways to get started.

For my recipe it’s my jogger’s beef stew plus a special Valentine’s Day steak for two.

Training as a professional athlete meant I relied on a range of exercise techniques to keep my body strong and powerful to allow me to run the fastest times.

Since retiring, one of the questions I get asked most often is if ‘do you still run?’

The honest answer is that although I love to run, it’s the weights side of things that I’ve kept up more than anything.

If I’m pinched for time and have to choose, weights win out.

Here are the reasons why I choose weights:

1) Strong bones: A lot of health and fitness goals tend to be aesthetic and often overlook our skeleton.

However, osteoporosis is on the rise and the worrying thing is is that it’s a ‘silent’ disease and often you don’t notice anything until it’s too late.

Lifting weights can help improve your bone density. When women hit the menopause, we are more at risk of osteoporosis than men so it’s really important to try and increase that bone density.

2) Increased muscle mass: When you do a weight-training session you get your metabolism boosted and firing.

You’re building muscle mass and the more of this muscle mass you get, the more calories you burn when you’re sedentary.

When you walk out the gym and you stop training, your body’s still burning calories for the rest of the day.

3) Body Confidence: Weightlifting is an effective form of exercise that gives you the tools to sculpt your body and build curves in all the right places.

I like to look strong and fit. Weights get me the best results to achieve this.

If it’s gains you are looking for then using weights is key.

4) Everyday functionality: Having a strong body that can carry you through life is so important.

It allows you to carry your shopping to the car, run around the garden after your kids and function each day.

Strength training will make you an all-round stronger, more functional, and healthier person.

I want to be able to move well throughout my life and weights are really beneficial to that.

5) Supports other forms of training: Weight training builds a strong foundation and the strength you need to enhance other training.

Most of the really good runners I know are also really good in the gym.

How to get started with weights:

1) Hire a personal trainer: Commit to a budget for a period of time (say six-week sessions) and find someone who can teach you how to lift properly and guide you in a plan to do.

In Cork, Gillian O’Sullivan is a personal trainer I’d recommend and in Dublin, I like to go to the Edge gym in Clontarf.

2) Enrol in an online course: Make sure to check credentials and don’t be afraid to ask questions before signing up.

I’m always wary of giving recommendations when I haven’t tested it myself but I recently chatted to Siobhan O’Hagan who works in this area and felt her advice was good.

3) Look for beginners’ weightlifting classes: These exist but you’ll need to do a Google search to find one close to you.

It’s a great way to gain confidence and meet potential training friends too.

4) Video your movements: I often put my phone on selfie mode and record short videos of me lifting.

This gives me instant feedback on technique.

Valentines Steak for Two

This is delicious served with a simple green salad, dressed with a dash of olive oil and lemon juice, plus a glass of wine of course!

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 35mins

Serves: 2

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks

2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

Sea salt and black pepper

1 large rib eye steak, preferably on the bone (14-16 oz)

Half lb full-fat butter, at room temp

200ml full-fat cow’s milk

Salt and white pepper, for mash

6 cloves garlic, crushed

Handful fresh parsley, chopped

Few sprigs of rosemary, chopped

Heat the oven to 180C. Place sweet potato in a prepared roasting dish and put in the oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the parsnips and simmer for 30 minutes or until the parsnip is soft.

In a large frying pan heat the rapeseed oil until very hot and season the pan with the sea salt and black pepper.

Place your steak onto the pan (if you don’t hear a decent sizzle your pan is too cold) and sear for about two minutes each side until nicely caramelised.

Place the steak on a tray, pour over any juices from your pan and put into the oven for 5-10 minutes depending on how well done you want it.

Once cooked, remove from the oven, cover with tinfoil and set aside to rest.

Mash the cooked parsnip and sweet potato in a bowl together with the milk and half of the butter.

Season to taste with salt and white pepper then set aside.

Blend the garlic, parsley and rosemary together with some olive oil to create a paste then combine in a bowl with the remaining butter.

Assemble the steak, mash and garlic and herb butter on warmed serving plates and tuck in!

Jogger’s Beef Stew

If you have 20 minutes to spare before you go out for a run, then you can make this stew.

It takes very little effort and you don’t have to be precise about the measurements either. I prepare this and get it simmering before I go and I love knowing that when I get back, there will be a healthy and tasty dinner waiting for me.

Serves: 4

1 tsp olive oil

400g lean stewing beef, cut into 3cm pieces

1 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

4 celery sticks, chopped

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

8 baby potatoes, halved

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

200ml vegetable stock

salt and pepper

chopped fresh oregano, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large casserole over a medium heat. Brown the beef in batches and set aside on a plate.

Reduce the heat and add the onion and garlic. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the onion and garlic do not stick to the pot.

Return the browned beef to the pot. Add the celery, mixed herbs, potatoes, tomatoes and stock.

Stir well and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for one-and-a-half hours.

Stir occasionally and add a little water to the casserole if it seems dry.

Meanwhile, put on your runners and go for a jog!

When you are ready to serve, season to taste and ladle the stew into warmed serving bowls. Sprinkle over the oregano and serve.

Fitspiration: Siobhan O’Hagan

Siobhan is a Maths graduate turned personal trainer. She’s built a big following and has interesting insights.

She has a few different online training plans and they are very popular. They are worth checking out.

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