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This Irish mum-of-four turned her love of fitness into a career

by Meg Walker
22nd Feb 2020

Ahead of her appearance at Thrive Festival next weekend, fitness enthusiast, blogger and mum-of-four Cliona O’Connor shares her tips for keeping everything in balance.

Tell me about your journey from stay-at-home-mum to blogger to collaborator, brand ambassador and now public speaker… how did the transitions come about, and did you feel you had to jump out of your comfort zone at any point?
Like anyone, I feel a huge pile of fear leaving my comfort zone. I think anyone who wants to do a good job does. It’s normal. But I used to work as a medical rep, and standing in front of a roomful of doctors to talk about a disease process and choices of treatments taught me a lot. It’s not like you could bluff your way through it, so being prepared is half the battle. The other half is just belief in yourself, practice and realising that no one is sitting there hoping you’ll fall flat on your face. Well, I hope not anyway!

What is your favourite role – aside from being mother to your four children – what is it you love to do most?
I love so many things! From going to the gym and the feeling afterwards when your body and mind have been challenged to cooking at the weekend for family and friends.

When you’re at your busiest, how do you squeeze in time for yourself and your fitness?
It can be hard, and some days I simply don’t, but for the most part, it’s all about balance. I figure out what nights my husband is around and plan to go then or early mornings at 6.30am or when the kids are in school. It’s never ideal – what is? But you just have to realise that you can only do your best.

What’s your advice to anyone who feels they’re “too busy” or don’t have time for exercise?
A workout doesn’t have to be 90 minutes in the gym. You can take 30 minutes and commit to it – no phone, no distractions. Just headspace and concentration. You’d be surprised what you can fit in once you find something you love to do. If the gym doesn’t appeal (and it doesn’t for lots of people), try a class or yoga or hill walking. Incorporate a social element, be it a masters team in GAA or swimming. Whatever… once you enjoy it and it adds to your wellbeing and health.

What about healthy eating – any tricks you’d suggest for simple ways to enhance nutrition and making daily meals healthier for busy people on a budget?
Take some time to write a weekly meal plan. Even if it’s only for five days a week. You buy less and throw out less. Plus, it gives you headspace too. Also, set aside a little preparation time. Chop a pile of vegetables and store them in the fridge in sealed boxes, ready to go. And make soup. You use all the leftover vegetables (cooked and uncooked), and it makes a great lunch.

Any other “musts” in your daily routine? Meditation or other rituals you need in your day to feel fulfilled?
I need to meditate… I don’t, but I could do with it. I’m so impatient with myself sometimes… in lots of ways. But I’ve realised that you will have a to-do list on the day you die. So just stop trying to do too much. Set a few tasks you want to clear weekly, and actually be happy with what you achieve. And drink two litres of water a day! It really helps me to function better on many levels. I got my daughter a journal recently, too. So we focus on what was good that day and goals/aspirations for the next day. It’s very therapeutic.

What will you be speaking about at Thrive Festival?
I am speaking on a panel. I love panel discussions, as they go in all sorts of directions and you get a real feel for the people involved as a result.

And who are you hoping to catch at the festival for your own inspiration?
I would like to try F45 and also the sleep talks. I am becoming sleep-obsessed lately. I need to sleep more… Who with small children doesn’t?

What’s next for you – do you have exciting plans for 2020?
My plans are very simple. To get even better at making and editing fun food videos. I love doing them so much. Fun, simple food. My other plans are simply to get through the year alive and happy.

Thrive Festival runs at The Convention Centre Dublin on Saturday and Sunday, February 29 and March 1,