The shape I'm in: Catherina McKiernan, cross-country runner

BEFORE you kick up your heels and hit the road with dreams of Olympic glory, it might be useful to look to the east. 

Based on tai’chi, chi running helps athletes to develop a natural style that helps to minimise injuries.

Former Olympian and a worldclass, cross-country runner Catherina McKiernan offers one-day chi running workshops for new and experienced runners. 

“It’s about teaching people good mechanics, to prevent injuries, to clear up injuries to make running easier,” she says.

“I love to help people — with the workshops I can do that. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction when I’m able to give them the knowledge from what I have learned down through the years.”

Technique aside, what matters most, she says, is determination. 

“My advice is to keep training, to get advice from athletes that have been successful and, most importantly, enjoy your sport. There is always going to be setbacks but stick with it and you will be rewarded with success.”

Born in Co Cavan, she now lives in Castleknock, Co Dublin, with her children, Deirbhile, 14, and Patrick, 10. 

The shape I'm in: Catherina McKiernan, cross-country runner

* Catherina will be competing in the Dublin Half Marathon, at The Phoenix Park on September 23.

Entry for registration closes on September, 9. 


What shape are you in?

I’m fit and healthy, thank god. I would run most days, anything from five to 10 miles. I’d try and get a good hour’s exercise most days. I go to the gym twice a week as well. 

It’s an addiction — no doubt about it. I know if I didn’t exercise I wouldn’t feel good in myself. It gives me a great sense of wellbeing. 

It’s a social outlet as well. I run a lot of races around the area where I live and you meet the same suspects all the time. 

We all want to do our best, wherever we’re at. In my view, 99.95% are there to prove a point to themselves.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I was a professional athlete. It was never an issue to eat healthily. Some people would have felt they were deprived but I never found it like that. 

I carry a lot of those traditions with me. I keep my diet fairly simple — fruit, lots and lots of vegetables, porridge for breakfast and chicken and meat. 

I don’t think any one food is a superfood. If you have a balanced and varied diet that’s the road to go.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

I’d have cream in my porridge every morning. Apple tart and cream is nice too.

What would keep you awake at night?

Thinking too much. Sometimes the mind races and when you’re lying down and you start thinking the worst. Your mind can rule you to a certain extent. You really have to be careful and not allow that to happen. 

As the saying goes, we are here for a good time but not for a long time. All we can do is our best.

What do you do to relax?

I ‘d have a lot of friends I would go running with but what I like to do most of all is to meet friends for a hot chocolate, a chat and a bit of a laugh.

What’s your favourite smell?

Lavender. It’s nice and relaxing. We used to go on holidays to Portugal and with the heat of the sun there would be a lovely smell of lavender. Good memories I suppose.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

I like to be among people who are positive. I can express myself more with friends.

When is the last time you cried?

I am a strong person physically but when it comes to emotional stuff I struggle somewhat.

Over the past three years, I have had some very dark days. I have just gone through a separation which knocked my confidence and self-esteem. 

Without the support of a fantastic family and great friends, I wouldn’t have got through it.

What traits do you least like in others?

I try to see the good in a person. I think that is much better than to find faults.

What traits do you least like in yourself?

If I’m out of my comfort zone, I would be shy with some people. 

Shyness and lack of confidence — they are the two things I have to work on.

Do you pray?

Absolutely. I would find loneliness a big issue. But you’re never lonely — God is always there and He wants to help. 

My mother and my family would be very religious. Knowing that if you talk and pray to God things always work out, that’s ingrained in me.

What cheers you up?

I like the simple things in life. Just seeing the children laughing and playing with their friends. That makes me happy.


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