Derval O'Rourke: Planning your training sessions and making food to match

This week I’m chatting about planning your training sessions.

Planning is a key part of training if you are working towards a fitness goal. I’m also sharing my no bake coconut protein bars recipe plus a simple brown scone recipe.

Training as an elite athlete meant that having a structured workout schedule was important. Being in peak condition 24-7 was the top priority.

To this day, I still rarely venture into the gym without some sort of plan.

I love my training but between work and family life, I simply don’t have time to lose when in the gym.

I’m sharing my top tips for planning your fitness.

1. Schedule it in

I like to look at my week and determine how much time I can realistically devote to exercise. Aiming for 2-3 x 30 sessions is a great place to start; I try to schedule them into my diary as I would with work or meeting friends.

2. Stick with your goal

I believe it’s important to have goals to keep you focused, consistent and motivated. SMART (specific, measurable, realistic and timed) goals will help to guide your training too. Goals vary massively depending on the person so be sure to identify your goal

3. Choose enjoyment

Be sure to choose a style of training you enjoy. Be it HIIT, weight training, running or walking, you will achieve far more doing 30 minutes of something you love and are more likely to stick with it long term too. Mixing up your training is a great idea.

4. Session format

This heavily depends on your goals. My current goal is to maintain fitness and run a 5k race in November. I do this by running twice a week, one easy run and one harder session which is 6 x 1k, with 1 minute recovery. I lift weights twice a week and aim to hit whole body exercises. The running is dictated by the 5k goal and the weights are dictated by me wanting to stay injury free and toned.

5. Short and long term planning

I plan each week out for training but then I make sure this fits within a overall plan. The overall plan is generally 6 weeks long followed by a rest week. My rest week has no structured training in it, I simply take time to relax and plan the next block of training.



I trained here when I lived in Dublin and found the team and facilities to be top class. Sean Paul, a PT from the Edge, worked with me recently doing a group training session at a health festival. It was hard but great fun. Give them a follow.

No bake coconut protein bars

There is no actual cooking in these. If you want to be really organised, you can bake a big batch and then wrap and freeze individual bars. Eat these straight away with a cup of coffee or pop them in your gym bag for pre/post workout.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves: 6-8
  • 250ml coconut cream
  • 150g vanilla protein powder
  • 200g tahini
  • 300g oats
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • Optional toppings:
  • A handful of almonds
  • A handful of cacao nibs

Line a baking tin with greaseproof paper.

In a small saucepan, gently melt the coconut cream over a low heat.

Place the vanilla protein powder in a large bowl, pour in the melted coconut cream and whisk until smooth. Add the tahini and mix again.

Stir in the rolled oats, cinnamon and salt and mix until well combined. If the mixture is too stiff for a wooden spoon, use your hands to form a crumbly consistency.

Pour the mixture into the baking tray, flatten the mix and press down firmly.

Scatter the almonds and cacao nibs over the top, making sure to press them in firmly so they don’t fall off when you slice into bars.

Place in the fridge for at least four hours to set.

Cut into roughly 12 bars.

Homemade brown scones

Warm scones topped with real butter and jam then served with a cup of tea really one of the life’s simple pleasures and with this recipe, they couldn’t be easier to make. It’s a great one to bake with kids on a rainy afternoon or is perfect to whip up if you have unexpected guests.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Serves: 8-10 roughly
  • 75g whole meal flour
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 25g oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 45g butter, cubed
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 100 ml ice cold milk, plus extra to glaze

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

In a bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the butter and rub it in using your fingers until you achieve a breadcrumb like consistency.

In another bowl, beat the egg with the milk.

Pour about 3/4 into the flour mixture and mix together, adding extra egg and milk mix as needed, to form a soft but not sticky dough. Don’t over mix here as the quicker and lighter the mixing, the higher the scones will rise.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out with a rolling pin to 2-2.5cm thickness. Cut to shape with a knife or scone cutter.

Place the scones on a lined baking sheet and brush the tops with milk. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden brown

To check they are done, lightly squeeze the sides, the dough should be springy.

Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack.

These are best enjoyed within an hour or so of baking while still warm.


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