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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 21 February, 2020

Living in the fast lane, both on and off the track: A day in the life of Ciara Mageean

The Olympian shares her training regime, nutrition plan and talks life in general.

Pop up Races and Ciara Mageean Sponsorship Announcement Ciara Mageean was last month announced as brand ambassador for Pop up Races. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

MONDAY: 20 MINUTES in the morning and 60 minutes in the evening.

Tuesday: 20 minutes in the morning and a training session in the evening — 15-minute warm-up, stretch, 6x1000m or 8x800m or 12x400m, and then a 15 minute cool down.

Wednesday: 20 minutes in the morning and 60 minutes in the evening.

Thursday: 20 minutes in the morning and 60 minutes in the evening.

Friday: A rest day, but there’s still a 30 minute run at some point.

Saturday: Another session day. A 15-20 minute ‘shakeout’ first, and a similar session to Tuesday evening’s.

Sunday: Long run day. About 70 minutes, sometimes 80.

Ciara Mageean’s week is a fairly intense one. And that’s just the running side of training — without even mentioning the gym, the recovery, physio, sports psychology and other commitments.

Two gym sessions have to be boxed off, and they’re usually done on a Monday and a Thursday, depending on when the Portaferry athlete sees her physio.

Most weeks, she has a quick chat with her nutritionist at some stage and then once every so often, she checks in with her sports psychologist.

“By the time you’re finished all of that, your week’s kind of full,” Mageean smiles. ”I have to fit in eating and sleeping, and trying to be a normal person on top of that!”

Her double-run days are pretty straight forward.

The runs are normally done on the roads, while the Tuesday and Saturday sessions are predominantly on the track, especially at this time of year.

“I love getting out on the track, and maybe getting into spikes if Jerry [Kiernan, her coach] lets me. It depends what he has on the cards for the session.”

Many athletes and sportspeople across the board see their gym sessions as a chore, and would much rather hone their skills on the track, on the pitch or in the pool.

The 25-year-old is a big fan of the gym though.

Ciara Mageean on her way to finishing fourth Source: Sasa Pahic Szabo/INPHO

“I absolutely love being in the gym,” she continues. “It’s a nice wee novelty and a change from being out running the roads.

“I actually love the change of scenery and the new challenge, because running is so familiar to me.

“I go in and Martina [McCarthy, her S&C coach at the Institiute of Sport] challenges me and gives me press-ups every session because she knows I’m terrible at them and I don’t overly like them. I like that challenge because it’s a completely different type of pain than I’m used to feeling on the track.

“I think it’s good to put yourself out there and to try something new, and it’s nice to mix it up. A lot of people aren’t confident in the gym, and that puts people off. They feel that they don’t know what to do so they stick to the familiar.

“I always say to people ‘Don’t be afraid to go and ask for help at the gym’. Ask the instructor, go in and say ‘I want to start a programme, can you give me some advice?’ These people are there to help and they’re professionals. Don’t be afraid.

“The gym is for everybody. It’s not just for these big buff gym lads, us girls can show them how to lift too!”

In terms of her own hours in the gym, for quite some time it was all rehab work as she was returning from an injury-plagued stint. Then it was on to prehab, but she’s back firing on all cylinders now.

“Over the last while, I’ve been able to push it towards much more performance-based [training], so I’m delighted that stuff is getting me ready for racing and getting fit.

“With my gym programme, I’ll be dead lifting or squatting — doing quad, hamstring type work. I have my big lifts but a lot of it will be finer tuned stuff which hones into more sports-specific stuff for me, playing on any weaknesses that I’ve had and trying to strengthen them.

“My programme is a combination. But to be honest S&C and strengthening, it’s all still injury prevention.”

A newly-qualified physiotherapist herself, Mageean says that she has a healthy diet, but isn’t too strict on herself either.

“The lads were laughing because they have a wee cup of tea and a criossant here, and they said ‘I suppose you won’t eat a croissant’” she laughs, as she was announced as a brand ambassador for Pop Up Races.

Ciara Mageean celebrates winning a bronze medal Source: Karel Delvoije/INPHO

“I was like ‘lads, I’m hungry, I’ll eat anything!’”

“I do have a healthy diet though. If you went into my cupboards and fridge at home, everything’s fresh. I’m very much into having fresh fruit and veg, and meat.

“I get a combination of protein from all of my food. I have animal protein, I have plant protein. I really just have a good mix of a healthy diet.

“I eat a lot. People would probably be surprised. And even at that, I find it hard to eat as much as I have to eat. Anytime I go to my nutritionist, she’s like ‘You need to eat more food.’ I’m constantly eating.

Here’s how a typical day of eating for the Olympian looks:

“For breakfast, I really like granola, although my coach would prefer I eat porridge. Sometimes when I’m with Jerry, I’ll mash in a whole bowl of porridge. I love Glenilen Farm from Cork, which is a really nice source of protein. It’s like a soft cheese but it doesn’t taste like cheese, I like having that and a whole lot of fruit and berries and grapes, and some granola on top.

“I’ll probably have that and two slices of wheaten bread. I usually have wheaten bread before my run, and I’ll have that after as a second breakfast nearly.

“For lunch, it’s usually leftover dinner from the night before, it could be anything. It’s usually pretty much big carb-based, and I’ll have my protein and have my plants. I’ll have veg in there as well.

“I’m constantly grazing and snacking throughout the day. I’ll always be grazing on nuts and seeds, fruit and anything like that. And then I’ll have my dinner.

“Don’t get my wrong, I do have a very good healthy diet, but I like a biscuit every now and then.

“After my dinner, I’ve a terrible sweet tooth. I’ll have a little bit of shortbread with my cup of tea before I go to bed. I’m quite good though, I’m like a squirrel, my Daddy says.

“I don’t eat a lot, I’ll eat one or two. I’m the type of person who can eat two biscuits and put the rest away, whereas my boyfriend comes and eats them all. I think everything in moderation.

“I’m fond of a little square of dark chocolate every now and then. You have to have a nice health approach to it. I train that hard so I’m allowed a little treat every now and then.”

Ciara Mageean on her way to finishing second and qualifying for a semi-final Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

So, what’s next for Mageean? She has her eyes firmly fixed on the World Championships in London in August, which she qualified for in June.

She’s a full-time athlete at the minute, but off the track, she has some exciting prospects on the horizon too.

At the end of the summer, shes’s starting new employment in her former college, UCD. She’ll be working a few hours a week as a physio there, so it’s something she’s looking forward to.

“I’m embracing the full-time athlete life for now.

“I’m delighted to be going back into the UCD physio department. They were absolutely fantastic during my time as a student athlete, and they appear to be happy to be flexible with me as an employee, so I can’t thank them enough for that.

“For now, I’m just a full-time athlete. Well, not just, I am a full-time athlete, and I’m kept pretty busy! And trying to be a normal person at some point,” she grins.

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Emma Duffy

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