Fit Foodie: Derval O'Rourke's fitness routine and healthy recipes

THIS week I’m cooking up a healthy basil pesto plus my take on a spatchcock roast chicken. I’m also sharing a quick squat circuit which I hope will get you moving this weekend.

Pictures: Miki Barlok

Strong glutes are incredibly important. However, spending the day sitting is not good news for them.

Over time, lack of stimulation means the glutes become weaker and surrounding muscles like the quads can start to compensate.

This can result in an increased risk of injury and imbalances further down the line. To put it simply you need to keep moving!

I try to consciously get up and move every hour. If I’m doing a long car trip I’ll factor in time to stop and get out of the car. I drive to Dublin most weeks and I know all the stops on the motorway. I always take time to get out of the car. It makes longer journeys far more forgiving on my body.

This week I’ve written out a squat circuit. Squats are a go-to exercise when I hit the gym. They get your entire body working. If I had to pick one exercise I wish everyone would do it is squats with good technique.

Squat Circuit

Exercise 1: Front squat

Stand up tall with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and your feet turned outwards.

Grip the bar with an overhand grip and rest the barbell on top of the chest.

Keep your head and chest up throughout.

Inhale and slowly squat down until your thighs become parallel to the floor. The knees should be in line with your toes, if they go past that point you may be putting unnecessary pressure on them.

Pause at the bottom of the squat (count to two) and then quickly drive your hips back to the starting position, squeezing your glutes at the top.

Repeat x 10 reps

Exercise 2: Squat and overhead press

Start in the same position as your front squat, holding the barbell with an overhand grip a little wider than shoulder width apart.

Rest the weight onto your shoulders with arms bent. Keep your elbows high and close to your body.

Keeping your chest up and core engaged, bend at the knees and lower down into a squat.

As you drive up out of your squat press your arms above your head.

Hold this position briefly (count to two) and then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.

Repeat x 10 reps

Exercise 3: Squat jumps

This is similar to your basic squat but you are going to jump as you come back up.

Place a barbell on your upper back with an overhand grip, your feet will be shoulder-width apart and your toes rotated slightly outward.

Drop your hips to partially squat down, keeping your chest up and knees sturdy.

Drive through your legs and glutes as you come back up and jump off the ground.

When landing, absorb the shock by bending the knees slightly

Repeat x 10 reps

Aim to repeat each of these exercises x10 reps. Repeat the circuit 3 times.

Take 1-minute recovery between each circuit.


@bencoomber is a performance nutritionist who has a great podcast. I recently featured on it! He is well worth a follow on social media for lots of tips and tricks about training and eating.

Basil Pesto

Basil pesto is super tasty and this is quite a healthy version. It is versatile and can be enjoyed in sandwiches, as a dip or spread or as a sauce for pasta. You could substitute the Parmesan for Pecorino or Grana Padano and it will taste equally delicious so use what’s available.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Serves: Makes 1 jar

2 cups of fresh basil leaves

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/4 cup pine nuts

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

The pesto will keep in a jam jar in the fridge for up to ten days. Just make sure you pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top before you put the lid on as this will seal in the flavour and keep it from darkening in colour.

Spatchcock chicken

I love roast chicken. It’s so easy to pop it in the oven and when you come back a little while later there it is in all its tastiness. This is my favourite way to cook it at the moment. The lemon, herb and garlic marinade adds a beautiful flavour to the chicken, which is complimented by the sweetness of the honey. This chicken is perfect for cooking once and eating twice. It’s lovely served warm with some new potatoes and vegetables but also tastes delicious added to a salad the next day.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Serves: 2

1 bunch of fresh thyme

1 bunch of fresh rosemary

2 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 lemon, juiced

1 tbsp honey

4 cloves of garlic

1 small free range chicken, if you are unsure of how to prepare the chicken simply ask your butcher.

Preheat the oven to 1800C

In a food processor blend all the ingredients to make the marinade for the chicken.

Place the spatchcock chicken skin side up on a shallow metal oven/ roasting tray and massage the marinade all over the skin.

Roast in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out hot and the juices run clear.

Serve warm or allow cooling and storing in an airtight container in the fridge.


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