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Taking up a new lifelong lesson in bodybuilding

Voice Of EU



I was down at the local track in Melbourne recently for a 5,000m seeded-race, where you get to line up alongside runners of a similar ability and ideally running a similar pace.

The plan was to see could I still break 20 minutes over the distance I used to race for real: that’s still running at a half-decent pace, just under four minutes per km sounds good when you regularly jog around at five minutes per km. I wouldn’t dare check the equivalent mile pace, the old running currency of my time.

Earlier in the day I got a call from Carol Kolimago, my room-mate at Villanova University, who moved to Melbourne a few years ago with her family. We were in college together for four years, ran on back-to-back NCAA winning cross-country teams in 1990 and 1991, when running really was our only form of training.

Carol wanted to come and watch my race for another catch up. After 30 years it’s still special to have this opportunity to reconnect with such an important part of my life, especially as I often talk to my daughter Sophie as she embarks on a similar journey at the University of Washington.

I was trying to play down the race, hiding among the men in the mixed field, and it was encouraging hearing Carol cheering for me on every lap, like we were back in college chasing points, or even chasing an Olympic dream. We still have much in common, continuing to run and cycle and challenge ourselves, and Carol has completed a few Ironman triathlons, including the Kona World Championship in Hawaii.

The common thread of endurance training continues to filter through our lives. It’s hard to lose that mindset, believing endless running and cycling and cardio workouts are the best way to maintaining health and fitness throughout your life.

I’m reluctant to let go of any part of my running, especially when I can manage all the little aches and injuries these days, even if heading out the door I sometimes feel like I’m just wearing away at my body, maintaining that lean and lightness while burning as much energy as required.

One day last year we met up for coffee, and on the way back I dropped Carol at this new gym she’d just signed up to. Like most runners, I’ve always done a bit of gym work here and there to try to maintain some general strength and core fitness, at one point in my career that included lifting my daughters Ciara and Sophie when they were very young. I still have my 5kg dumbbells at home, a few medicine balls, but didn’t enquire too much about this gym and new personal training regime Carol was going to.

Carol Kolimago taking part in a Victoria ICN (I Compete Natural) competition
Carol Kolimago taking part in a Victoria ICN (I Compete Natural) competition

Roll on a year later, and Carol has once again stepped far out of her comfort zone, leaving behind the obsession with daily runs or doing some level of daily cardio activity, and committing to a whole different mindset of looking after her body both inside and out by stepping into the world of competitive bodybuilding.

This isn’t what you might think of traditionally; this is all natural bodybuilding, where you fuel you body through copious amounts of clean, simple nutritious food while working specifically on building muscle and transforming your body.

I was keen to hear more, and talked with Carol after my race all about her competition, how she got so strong and confident in just nine weeks once she committed to the Victorian ICN (I Compete Natural) competition, where she won six categories. That alone provides all the feedback you need to keep working hard.

It’s so easy to keep doing the same things over and over again. Sometimes different in name, but essentially the same mindset with whatever activity you do, the foods you eat, and the commitment you allow yourself to give to a hobby or fitness regime.

There’s always another road race to sign up to, marathon or cycle from one end of the country to the other. If you’re programmed to rise to these challenges you just know what’s required and it’s so often just about preparing enough that you’ll be able to comfortably complete the distance. Sometimes it’s also about reawakening the competitive spirit.

Like anything else, when you see results you gain more motivation to do more, and there is no greater concrete feedback than seeing your time as you cross the finish line, reading through the results after, and breaking down the categories

I’ve always known that as we get older weightlifting is something that can benefit everyone. It helps to improve your core and posture, how you carry yourself, still none of that seemed so obvious than with Carol’s transformation and commitment to the gym.

I was inspired to pull out the dumbbells from under the bed, and be a bit more regular with my sit-up routine. I also signed up to a gym for four weeks to train with people and push myself a bit more, to commit to something different, something that is so easily forgotten at the end of the day, when the energy levels are draining and home duties like cooking dinner and relaxing start to creep into your head.

Carol is also getting the same satisfaction from training in the gym as training for an Ironman, only in a different way. Two hours in the gym working hard can deliver results in a fun environment as opposed to pounding the pavement, laps in the pool and hours on the bike outside alone, which can wear you down so much more.

There is a time and place for everything, and the safety of doing what you know over and over again can often outweigh the courage required to do something completely different. Carol also shared her nutrition programme with me, which goes along with the daily gym workouts focusing on different parts of the body each day; four meals a day including protein, fats, vegetables and starchy-carbs in every meal, even if vegetables for breakfast would take getting used to for most.

She also told me the only non-weight training she includes is 14,000 steps per day; no more, and she is as lean as she was way back in Villanova and eating so much more food, building muscle , with very little muscle wastage, by working across all areas of the body each week.

It was definitely food for thought: my next goal is how to get the balance right between weight lifting and running, building up a bit more muscle to get that perfect combination to use one sport to boost another without having to compromise too much.

No doubt the balance changes depending on your goals and targets, whatever you choose to do. After just breaking that 20-minute barrier for 5,000m – 19 minutes, 40 seconds be exact – there’s still plenty of satisfaction from running, but also the wonder is my strength letting me down, and is there more I can do to reawaken and even rebuild the sleeping muscles?

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These little-known towns and villages have become pandemic property hotspots

Voice Of EU



Moving to the country became every city-dweller’s daydream during Covid, with some 700,000 people quitting London for the good life.

Cornwall, the most searched for place on Rightmove, was a favourite destination, while searches for the Cotswolds more than doubled. 

Yet it wasn’t just these two expensive destinations that saw their popularity soar.

Escape to the country: Llangollen on the River Dee in Denbighshire, North Wales, is popular with tourists

Escape to the country: Llangollen on the River Dee in Denbighshire, North Wales, is popular with tourists

Estate agents Hamptons discovered four relatively anonymous regions which, due to Covid, have become property hotspots, recording staggering price increases for 2020-2021.

In demand Daventry: Price growth 17 per cent

Although a pleasant market town, it’s unlikely anyone would describe Daventry, in West Northamptonshire, as a ‘beauty’. Could Hamptons have been mistaken when they named it the No 1 hotspot?

‘Absolutely not,’ says Natasha Cawsey, of Laurence Tremayne estate agents. ‘Our figures show growth of about 30 per cent in the past 18 months.

‘Daventry has good amenities, yet prices are well below those in neighbouring Oxfordshire and Warwickshire.’

The villages outside Daventry are also an attraction. Braunston, on the hill above the two canals, has a busy marina and Everdon is lovely.

‘These gorgeous villages are 30 per cent cheaper than the Cotswolds,’ says property search agent Jonathan Harrington. ‘They have excellent communications, making them ideal for people who work from home.’

Desired Denbighshire: Price growth 15 per cent

The remarkable price growth in Denbighshire, a low-profile county in North Wales extending inland from the Irish Sea, is largely down to Covid.

‘Nearly all my buyers in the past 18 months have been southerners in search of open space,’ says Mark Gilbertson of Fine & Country. 

‘They can walk out of their doors here and meet nobody, which makes them feel safe.’ 

Ruthin has been described as ‘the most charming small town in Wales’ by National Trust chairman Simon Jenkins. 

Llangollen, with its colourful craft on the canal and River Dee, is popular with tourists.

Denbighshire has become so popular, according to Gilbertson, that some wealthy buyers hire helicopters in their rush to view homes like this.

Rutland rockets: Price growth 14 per cent

It may be England’s smallest county, tucked away in the East Midlands, but Rutland’s property prices have boomed since the lockdowns.

‘Lots of our buyers have looked first in the Cotswolds,’ says Jan von Draczek, of Fine & Country estate agents. 

‘Finding nothing suitable for sale they spread their nets wider and discover Rutland.’

Rutland Water, the largest reservoir in England, is a popular with bird watchers and used for watersports and fishing. 

Rutland Water, the largest reservoir in England, is a popular with bird watchers and used for watersports and fishing

Rutland Water, the largest reservoir in England, is a popular with bird watchers and used for watersports and fishing

Villages are speckled with stone cottages under roofs of collyweston slate.

Barrowden, with its Grade II-listed church, is charming while Exton with its green overlooked by the Fox & Hounds pub is pure chocolate box. 

Much of Rutland is within easy reach of Peterborough, 50 minutes from King’s Cross.

Vale of Glamorgan value: Price growth 14 per cent

Drive west along the M4 and you won’t find a signpost for the Vale of Glamorgan, yet this strip of land to the west of Cardiff has seen the most dramatic property price appreciation in Wales.

‘The Vale has always been home for businessmen based in Cardiff,’ says Robert Calcaterra, of HRT estate agents. ‘Now we are also getting incomers from London who snap up the £1 million-plus homes.’

Cowbridge — with its hotel, The Bear, where Tom Jones stops for a pint when he is home — oozes affluence and nearby you find pretty villages like Bonvilston, St Hilary and Llantwit Major before you hit the beautiful Heritage Coast. 

Be warned: 70 per cent of homes advertised are under offer in this booming market. 

On the market… and in demand 

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Leinster hoping lightning won’t strike twice for Connacht at the RDS

Voice Of EU



Leinster v Connacht,  RDS, Friday, 7.45pm – Live TG4 and Premier Sports

Lightning, goes the saying, tends not to strike twice, and Leinster tend not to lose twice in a row. Although it did happen last April/May against Munster in the Rainbow Cup and then La Rochelle, it has never happened to them at the RDS.

In making 10 changes in personnel to an all-international XV following last week’s defeat by Ulster, as well as restoring Rónan Kelleher and Andrew Porter to the bench, Leinster have made their intentions clear. A week out from their December marquee fixture against Bath at the Aviva Stadium, they are pretty much as locked and loaded as they could be.

Jamison Gibson-Park came through training this week and should be available for next week. Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan might return the following week away to Montpellier.

As James Ryan is still adhering to World Rugby guidelines, which has included seeing an independent concussion consultant, there is no clear timeframe on his return.

Beaten here by Connacht last January, Leinster won’t lack for motivation. “The guys were pretty gutted afterwards last week because it only takes the smallest percentage to be off against a team that’s highly motivated, like Ulster were, and like we know Connacht will be this week, exactly the same,” said Leo Cullen on Thursday.

“It’s been a short week for us to prepare but we just need to get going now into this block and get excited about the challenge, and playing in front of a home crowd. There’s plenty of doom and gloom out there in the world at the moment, as we know, so it’s getting back and creating that connection with our supporters, and going out and doing great things on a rugby pitch, and that’s what the team wants to do. I’m sure that’s what the fans that turn up and pay good money to watch the team play, that’s what they want to see as well.”

Three changes

Connacht arrive on the back of sparkling bonus-point wins either side of the Autumn Series hiatus over Ulster and the Ospreys. Andy Friend has made three changes, promoting centre Peter Robb, lock Oisín Dowling and Eoghan Masterson, who replaces the injured Paul Boyle, with Jarrad Butler moving to eight.

Ulster won here with a restricted if well-executed game plan, playing territory and retaining possession, before upping their line speed in forcing errors from their misfiring hosts.

But true to Friend’s mantra of fast/relentless/adaptable, Connacht are committed to their ambitious ball-in-hand brand of rugby. Jack Carty, one of five internationals in Connacht’s side, has a liking for this venue, having scored 39 points on his last two visits here. In December 2018 he contributed handsomely to a 29-12 lead with 12 minutes remaining before Porter completed Leinster’s late three-try salvo in overtime after 41 phases, while last time Carty scored 25 points in their 35-24 win.

Yet to put last January’s win in context, it is Connacht’s only victory in the last six clashes between the two; it was sandwiched by Leinster twice running up a half century against them, and it was their only win on Leinster soil since September 2002.

Accordingly, Paddy Power makes Leinster 1-10 favourites, with Connacht 6-1 to spring another surprise.

LEINSTER: H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; H Byrne, L McGrath (capt); C Healy, D Sheehan, M Ala’alatoa; R Baird, D Toner; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, C Doris.

Replacements: R Kelleher, A Porter, V Abdaladze, J Murphy, M Deegan, N McCarthy, R Byrne, TO’Brien.

CONNACHT: O McNulty; A Wootton, S Arnold, P Robb, M Hansen; J Carty (capt), K Marmion; M Burke, D Heffernan, F Bealham; O Dowling, U Dillane; E Masterson, C Oliver, J Butler.

Replacements: S Delahunt, J Duggan, J Aungier, L Fifita, C Prendergast, C Blade, C Fitzgerald, T Farrell.

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)

Forecast: Leinster to win.

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‘I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish’

Voice Of EU



“For the first time in my lifetime my two cultures were intertwined in the most beautiful way … I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish.”

Doreen McPaul was speaking as she received a Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad for 2021. President Higgins granted the awards to 11 people at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin on December 2nd.

McPaul, of Irish and Navajo heritage, is attorney general for the Navajo Nation. Her award, under the category of charitable works, is in recognition of her fundraising for the Navajo, who experienced extreme hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her efforts led to a collaboration with the Irish Cultural Centre and McClelland Library in Phoenix, Arizona, which gathered more than $30,000 worth of donated supplies to assist the Navajo Nation at the peak of the pandemic.

“The Navajo Nation was so devastated by Covid-19, as a culture and as a community. [It] was really tragic and stressful, and we worked literally non-stop. The highlight of this was talking to people from all over the world …. Specifically with Ireland, we had this huge outpouring of support, and that was really overwhelming because of my own dual heritage and growing up as a half-Navajo half-Irish girl,” she told The Irish Times.

“As soon as people learned that the Navajo Nation attorney general was part-Irish, people reached out to me and claimed me as their own and invited me to all these things and celebrated my dual heritage in a way I’ve never experienced before. Literally they put me on the highest pedestal and that’s what this award signifies to me.”

A graduate of Princeton University, Doreen McPaul has worked as a tribal attorney for 20 years and has spent two years serving as attorney general. “I didn’t know I was nominated for the award first of all. So when the Irish council called to let me know I would be receiving a notice of the award, I literally cried.”

In all, 11 people received awards on Thursday, in a variety of fields. They were: Arts, Culture and Sport: Susan Feldman (USA), Roy Foster (Britain) and Br Colm O’Connell (Kenya). Business and Education: Sr Orla Treacy (South Sudan). Charitable Works: Doreen Nanibaa McPaul (USA), Phyllis Morgan-Fann and Jim O’Hara (Britain). Irish Community Support: Adrian Flannelly and Billy Lawless (USA). Peace, Reconciliation & Development: Bridget Brownlow (Canada). Science, Technology & Innovation: Susan Hopkins (Britain).

Colm Brophy, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora said: “As Minister of State for the Diaspora I am aware of the profound impact our global family has had around the world in a variety of fields. There were 107 nominations for these awards this year, and the level and breadth of the achievements of the people nominated are, by any measure, remarkable.

The contribution of the Irish abroad has been immense, and the diversity of their achievements in their many walks of life, can be seen in this year’s 11 awardees.”

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