My first experience of any kind of weight training was at the age of about fourteen. I was in my second year of secondary school, on the under 16 football panel for the school -up until October of that year I had never lifted before. I remember this experience because of the level of difficulty I found lifting even the lightest of weights. Our coach at that time had us do a circuit of the school gym. I suppose for convenience and to get everyone use to everything available to us in the coming months.
I can even vividly see the moment today, when I attempted my first pull up. Just about reaching chin over bar with a slight kick from the legs to assure the rep. Everyone on my team skipped that piece of equipment. I guess to avoid the embarrassment from the on looking seniors who could easily knock out 10 solid reps without fatigue. The only reason I could do a rep was probably because of my nimble frame at about 60kg, I was meek compared with my colleagues. Since then I have always had an appreciation for the pull up bar. And so began my slow addiction towards lifting..
I removed myself from as much football as I could opting for the lunchtime weight room sessions. I was looking to get faster, stronger and basically bigger. I didn’t know anything about nutrition or supplementation. I just did what we were asked during our sessions, enjoying every minute until we had to return to class for the remainder of the day.
I thought about applying my new-found strength into the football which I never really had an interest in any way, I was more a hurler. But I just wasn’t seeing any return from football, winning matches didn’t have any real meaning to me other than an opportunity to continue to keep training in school. I’m not saying I didn’t like the team-play or the friends i made In playing, i just felt I didn’t have the heart for the game. I could see it in my peers faces when we lost in finals or knock-out stages of championship games etc.
So I found myself saving, myself for training rather than matches I would push my limit in the weight room and somewhat “going through the motions” on the field as my coach use to say when we were losing a game -just playing the matches as they came along. I still continued to hold my position partly because I would say due to my commitment to attend and I wasn’t playing any major position on the team at the time. I still deserved my spot.
Time had passed, I became a senior with a focus on the books in my final years of secondary. I was never that strong at school so working hard in my last years was important to getting what I wanted in college. For others it seemed they could hold sports and any other activity that came in their path on my football team. Eventually it lead me to stopping completely any team sports just to do my best at this leaving cert gig.
I started my own gym set up back in third year at home. Originally it began with a small bench, two dumbbells a chair and a piece of carpet, which I all got for free. This was all held in a garage just in front of my house. That winter I spent a lot of cold hours after pain killing study doing push ups, benching and sort of CrossFit style circuits without realising it was in fact “CrossFit”. I looked forward to it, training becoming an outlet from my typical day, which involved school, study repeat. Results were always there with the consistency of the training.
I started reading up on weightlifting, taking on board a better diet than my normal eating habits which were atrocious to say the least. I found many you-tubers and blogs from Irish athletes to internationally recognised. I found the most helpful guys were the less know non-professional kind athletes. I would say this is because they had more time to fuel their readers with information on programming and strength building.
The summer going into sixth year I used some money I saved to buy more iron and basically better gym equipment. My dad lucky enough after years of complaining to put a new roof on the shed I was using, did that indeed. The asbestos leaking roof was no more! I spent no money on machines just going free weights which I read up on were the best choice for my goals. My first buy was a squat cage/rack and a power-lifting bar with 140kg of iron cast plates. I used this frequently after school study that year and continued to grow it buying any cheap equipment I could muster off Amazon or eBay. Any extra money I got from birthdays to Christmas went into it!
I got into college thankfully!! In Dublin I arrived not knowing what to expect only it was bigger than my usual town experience. I did some research on where I was staying and was assured getting a gym session in my week was not going to be a problem with so many options available nearby.
My first year of college from a gym prospective involved a dedicated 5 day split, bodybuilding sort of routine with the odd circuit added in. I had been reading up on CrossFit the past few months and wanted to try some of their signature workouts out, which I fancied I would be good at. I did these during the weekend as the commercial gym style environment at the time, didn’t seem welcoming towards it! I also wouldn’t have had the confidence to do a “Fran” sort of workout, knowing everyone would be looking!
During that year I also met many people who shared the same enthusiasm for training as I did. One of whom happen to be in my class group which allowed me I suppose in a way share my habits as well as learn new ones. It also meant it was somewhat acceptable to bring in prepared lunches for the day which included chicken usually and some sort of plain carbohydrate that was very unappetising, but we were too busy with college work to think about that :)
The following year I joined a CrossFit gym with my college buddy which was the start of something for us both I feel. CrossFit gave us a purpose to train! We were both in good condition starting there so we were quickly adapted to the new style of training. Nine months later we had done our first CrossFit competition, the CrossFit open, realising our weakness we also knew where we stud globally in the CrossFit ranks. Not as close as I thought to Rich Froning’s standings but close enough :P
I moved home that summer (2014). My friend continued at another CrossFit gym a bit closer to home for him. I starting lifting in a barbell club, which he also joined. My goals have changed since then focusing now more on Olympic weightlifting; snatch and clean and jerk to be exact. While my friend works between the two sports.
I competed in my first competition July 19th in Capital Strength weightlifting club in Dublin. I prepared well for this event but suffered a small injury the week leading into it. I still competed knowing my coach would only have us lift 90% of our max (because it was our first) which was manageable. I achieved 5 out of 6 on the day, knowing the 6th was there if I was 100%. The lifts a snatch three attempts and clean and jerk three attempts for a combined lift total from one each. But apart from the minor injury on the day I loved the competition and am looking forward to my next one!