Rugby star Claire Molloy must be one of the very few who is trying not to lose weight in January, writes Clodagh Finn.
The player who captained Ireland at last year’s rugby World Cup is anxious to eat well and maintain her body weight as she embarks on a tough training programme ahead of the Six Nations.
However, she’s not one for New Year’s resolutions. “I would avoid making goals. It’s such a cliché that you break them, so they have little meaning.
"For me, the new year is a time of reflection; you are reeling in the year and thinking about what you have achieved.”
The year just gone was an exceptional year for Molloy, with many highs and lows. One of the highs was being named Six Nations Ireland rugby captain in the year that Ireland hosted the championship.
Playing England in the Grand Slam match to a packed Donnybrook was a great moment, even though the result (7-34 to England) was bitterly disappointing.
“It was a very tough experience but I learned so much from it. Things will not always go your way but you have to bounce back and sport teaches you how to do that,” she says.
The benefits, however, extend far beyond the pitch. “I was not the most confident
teenager and [sport] gave me a whole new lease of life,” she says, urging young women to get involved in team sport.
Molloy, an Irish Life Health ambassador, says research from the health insurer shows that Irish parents strive to keep their children fit during the winter months: “I’ve always found team sports are an amazing way to keep fitness up as the camaraderie and support help keep spirits high all year round.”
Team sport is also a wonderful way of teaching young people to cope with the highs and lows of life.
“It’s OK to fail”, she says, recalling that she didn’t get the points to study medicine in Ireland and moved to Wales to study. She now works as an A&E doctor in Abergavenny, north of Cardiff.
“I would urge young people to experience failure to cope with it. Sport is a great way of doing that.”
As for keeping the January blues at bay. It’s not all about forking out on the full-package at the gym and stepping out in matching Lycra.
“People underestimate the value of something as simple as getting out for a walk. It helps you to sleep, to relax, there are so many benefits,” says Molloy.
As for food, planning is key. She batch-cooks stews and soups and really feels the difference on the days when she has to resort to a shop-bought sandwich.
If you are thinking of trying to change your diet, January is not a good month to start, says Neil O’Brien, mental fitness coach and fellow Irish Life Health ambassador.
Before trying to make any change, he says it’s a good idea to measure your mental fitness — that is, your current level of self-esteem.
“There are times when we have high self-esteem and at other times it is lower. When it is low, a person tends to have poor habits and poor discipline. If you don’t like the month of January when it’s dark and cold and you’re broke, then don’t join anything.
“Never buy a self-help book when you are low. The first page will make you worse. We should devote January to improving our habits, discipline and structure,” he tells Feelgood.
He says the road to wellbeing is to love yourself, love someone else and love life in that order, and he suggests that people invest the month of January in valuing themselves.
“Maybe take up one new good habit,” he says. “It can be as simple as going for a 10-minute walk at lunchtime or choosing not to have that biscuit (or three) with a cup of tea.”
Do four of those simple things per week over a three-week period and each time you succeed, chalk up your tiny moment of victory, or what O’Brien calls, “an internal ‘yes’ moment”.
“Internal victories are very much like a natural Lucozade; they leave you feeling energised,” he says.
For more tips, see Neil O’Brien’s book, Time to Fly.
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