Third age: Paddy never runs out of enthusiasm

SINCE he was a boy, Paddy Mangan has enjoyed running.

“My target, in life, is to be the fittest man in the cemetery. I just want to keep on running, until I physically cannot do it anymore,’’ he says.

“At the moment, I run approximately 30 to 40 miles a week. When I was in my prime, it would have been 70 to 80 miles a week. I run with Dunshaughlin’s Athletic Club. We have a great group of people of all ages. But, I am afraid, I am the oldest statesman of the group.’’

Aged 54, Paddy, from Dunshaughlin, County Meath, is noticing how ageing is affecting him and his exercise regime.

“I have found, since I turned 50, that there have been significant changes in my body. I think I am reasonably fit. But, now, my recovery rate has slowed down. I have been lucky and never had any serious injuries, but, now, I am getting calf problems and lower-back problems,’’ he says.

“It is all part of the ageing process. You have to take stock of your age and make modifications to your training, your stretching, and, most importantly, your diet.’’

Twenty years ago, Paddy started suffering from stomach problems, due to stress and his job. As a bridge repairer for Iarnrod Eireann, Paddy travels around the country, often working at night, and can be so busy he has no time to eat.

“I really couldn’t be guaranteed to have one good meal at the end of the day. So my secret, now, is to make sure I have my breakfast and I swear by a good bowl of porridge. My dad and his best friend use to eat it every day and they both lived to be 88,’’ he says.

“When you do shift work and working at funny hours, you can end up eating at strange times. It upsets your whole body routine. I find that porridge actually settles my stomach now and it will, basically, sustain me all day. It’s great nourishment, but is not a heavy meal either.’’ Fitness expert and personal trainer, Karl Henry, agrees, and says it is vital to have a good breakfast, like porridge, especially if you are exercising.

“When you are running, you are using energy from the muscles. To get the most out of your run, you need to ensure that you have those energy stores topped up with the right type of fuel,’’ he says.

“Oats are high in complex carbohydrates and soluble fibre, which means they release energy slowly. Ideally, eat a bowl of porridge at least three hours before the run itself, so that you can give your body enough time to digest the foods and be in perfect shape to race.’’

Paddy also says running has helped him stay motivated. It also de-stresses and is social. He says that it is never too late to start.

“It is so important to keep on exercising, especially as you get older. It motivates you, it keeps you going, both physically and mentally, which is just so important,’’ he says.

“Running allows you to switch off. It’s like a mind-clearer.

“If you have had a hard day at work or at home, I find, after a good run, you are like a completely new person. Your mind and body has been replenished. It is just amazing.’’

* Karl Henry has written his top tips for running on www.flahavans.ie


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