Time To Inspire: Donna Larkin

My first interaction with Donna was through Facebook – we got talking about competitions and as they say, the rest is history! Donna is one of those people who when you talk to her you feel like you have known her for years, she is such a warm and loving person – you know you could tell her anything and she won’t judge you! Donna has an impressive athletic background ranging from kickboxing champion to CrossFit to races, and is also a CrossFit coach so she really is a massive inspiration to all! She’s there for me when I’m having a bad day or need that extra push in training, and I’ve never heard her say a bad word about anyone! I wanted to celebrate what Donna has achieved, so it was natural to include her in the “Time To Inspire” series!

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What has been your proudest “Fitness Moment” to date?

Winning an Irish title in Kickboxing back in 2009. I started kickboxing when I was 17 and after having several successful fights, I was in contention for an Irish title. Unfortunately, it took many years to actually win that title, as I was unsuccessful in my first few attempts. When it finally came, the win itself was far from easy. The fight was an all out war, the result was a split decision and it really could have gone either way. Thankfully for me I edged the win! It was definitely a very proud moment for me, as I had worked so hard for it and battled through a few losses along the way.

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How has fitness changed your life?

I feel I have changed massively since I started out on the fitness path. I would have always been pretty socially awkward, I struggled with confidence, and would be uncomfortable speaking in front of groups of people. So to see myself now, as a coach, it’s kind of bizarre to see how far I’ve come! My love of fitness has grown so much that it has changed my career path. Going from office worker to a full time coach after 14 years! I’m still a little bit awkward socially but It’s definitely made easier by the amount of amazing friends you make through fitness. You share the same interests and they support you in everything you do. I especially found this in the CrossFit community. I look forward to going to various events and competitions, catching up with them and cheering them on.

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Now that’s what I call Motivation Monday!!

Time to Inspire: Eamonn Boylan

Myself and Eamonn go way back before burpees and barbells. I think the first time we met was at a house party – he had a guitar, I had a voice and a singsong took place! Fast forward a few years and Eamonn and Jody happened to set up Operation Sandbag in the park very near my house. Getting fit and hanging out with friends seemed like the best idea ever – I left the gym I was in and embarked on this new adventure with the Lads. Some people chase the wrong goals in life and I can truly say I’ve only ever seen Eamonn chase his passion and turn it into a career, and you can’t help feel inspired by that!

I asked Eamonn: What’s the biggest lesson coaching has taught you?

I’ve been coaching in some format for a while now and I have to say it’s been tough to try and pick the single biggest lesson! The path I’ve chosen has taught me so many lessons with many mistakes along the way.

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There are obvious requirements to become a full time coach including education, a decent level of fitness and a solid understanding of the craft that you hope to teach. All that said, there is a different level of engagement with people that isn’t really explained in any course or text book. I personally feel that a massive part of my day at Ronin CrossFit consists of connection. Tuning in to the frequency of so many different faces with their own stories, goals, anxieties, abilities and potential barriers that could prevent them from maximizing their potential.

The actual process of becoming fitter on a physical level at Ronin is not complicated. Just show up and the rest will happen. The mental game is huge and I become more aware of this as the years go by. All of the fancy gym equipment in the world won’t keep members. The real secret to this CrossFit lark is the fact that as a member you feel like you’ve got somewhere to train that you’re really comfortable. Your ‘third place’.  Everyone knows everyone and the atmosphere is all about progress.  So I suppose the biggest lesson for me is how important all of these factors are. How crucial it is to try and steer the vibe in a particular direction. To not just give in to the commercial gym feel and let the revolving doors begin. At the risk of sounding like a totes hippy I feel like I’m consistently trying to provide a more holistic approach to fitness. And that’s across the board, all the way to the CrossFit games or the average guy/gal dropping some bodyfat, it all starts and ends with the mind. To sum up – it’s not just the daily grind. It’s mind, body and soul.

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Time to Inspire: Jola Nowosada

I still remember the first time I met Jola – It was after the first WOD at the Waterford Throwdown and I was hiding in the changing room feeling pretty defeated (it was my first competition and that first WOD floored me). We started talking about where we trained and lived etc, and Jola gave me some inspiring words, got me up off the seat and we went out to stretch and get some snacks. Throughout that day she inspired me to keep going; “you can do this” she kept saying (even when I felt I couldn’t), and she reminded me of my strengths and not to give up! Meeting Jola that day really helped me stay positive and keep going. I was so happy to see her finish up in 3rd place, she is a great athlete and never stops pushing herself! Unfortunately she got injured after the filthy 150 last year and I know first hand how tough it’s been for her, but I know we will see her back in action very soon! I asked Jola 2 questions in this weeks series.

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I asked Jola: What does being healthy mean to you?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease”. Health is also the condition of being well and free from disease.

To me health means being content with yourself, with your body and mind regardless of how you look or what you do. Once you can accept your little flaws, you’ll feel good mentally and physically! Never let any negative thoughts or people get into your life and make you feel bad. Keep going strong throughout your life following your dreams and you won’t regret anything! So don’t worry, be happy and be grateful for every single thing!

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My second question: How did you keep a positive mindset throughout your Injury?

It was horrible, a really tough time for me. I was never in that much pain before. It was after competing in The Filthy150 last September, I was left badly injured. Moving around hurt, I couldn’t take deep breaths, never mind laughing. Even getting up from the bed was excruciating. At first I thought I had just pulled a muscle. Stupidly, I continued training with the injury, hoping that it would go away but it just made it worse. Over a month later, I went for an MRI scan and discovered I had badly fractured ribs, this came as a huge shock to me. Especially as it meant only one thing – REST!!! All that ran through my head was no training, no gymnastics, no weightlifting, no CrossFit; not being able to do what I love most was like the end of the world for me! It was tough seeing everyone smashing WODS, I was really upset and even left the box with tears in my eyes on a few occasions. I  rested for a few weeks and went back training hoping I’d be fine. Unfortunately the pain in my side came back. I was frustrated at this stage but after talking to Jamie our coach I decided to concentrate on the stuff that I could do – LEGS!

Fast forward 4 weeks and a big part of me wanted to give up as the pain just wasn’t going away. I thought, maybe CrossFit isn’t for me? Should I just quit? I ran these questions over and over in my head all the time. My confidence as an athlete was gone. One day I was sitting at home watching videos on YouTube of CrossFitters doing WODs, and I said to myself: I can feel sorry for myself all day long but where this is gonna get me?? Is is gonna help me recover? Is it going to make me feel better? The answer was NO, of course not! I decided to work around my injury, do as much as I could without hurting myself. I began to concentrate on isometric movements for my legs and arms and work on my core strength (this was always one of the weakest part of my body). Because of this, I managed to get single arm handstands and even freestanding handstands within 2 weeks!

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I was absolutely delighted, and I realised that having an Injury made me work on my weak points which I hadn’t made time for previously. From that time I started looking at my situation from a different perspective; there was a lot of things that I could still actually do. I wasn’t completely at a standstill and I should be grateful for that!

Injury taught me one other thing which I think is the most important point – CrossFit isn’t only about competing, it should be about enjoying training with other people as well. I’m naturally a very competitive person, I always have been and that’s probably why I got injured. Not taking enough rest, ignoring signals from my body and a poor diet put me in that situation. I look at things differently now. I learned to really enjoy training now that I’m more relaxed. At the end of the day CrossFit is only a sport like many others, one day you’re winning, the next day you may be losing but that’s still OK. It’s not all about a big score on the white board, it’s about improving yourself every single day, taking one step at a time and trying to be better then you were yesterday.

So if you’re in a similar situation going through hard times, dealing with injury – don’t ignore it. Listen to your body and rest if you have to. Don’t give up on your dreams, keep fighting and doing stuff that makes you happy because things will get better in the end. Injury will not only make you wiser but a better and mentally stronger athlete!

I’m not fully back to CrossFit training yet but I’m feeling better and stronger every day, and I will be back to the grind very soon, so watch this space!

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Time to Inspire: Odharnait Ryan Kiernan

I met Odharnait when she joined Ronin Crossfit, and she just radiates good energy. With her amazing sense of humour there has never been a class where she hasn’t made me laugh. Odharnait is someone who wants the best for everyone and always give out great advice, for me especially! She has always supported me on my journey and I’ll always be grateful for that. What I love about Odharnait is that she is such a great Mam, the love she has for her kids is so beautiful and organic, I love hearing all about them in the gym. I wanted to celebrate what Odharnait has achieved, and it seemed natural to include her in the “Time To Inspire” series!

Fun Times at the Christmas Party!

Fun Times at the Christmas Party!

I asked Odharnait: As a mother, what does you time in the gym mean to you?

When I joined Ronin I was the usual me; awkward and pretty uncomfortable, and by trying to force myself to act in a confident way it made me even more awkward. By my second WOD at Ronin everything changed; I felt calm in the environment and it became so much more then a gym.  As time has passed I’m more confident, self assured, value myself more and have made incredible friends.  Everyone fits in at Ronin; There are no groups or types of people.  Everyone is a Ronin and everyone is equal.

I’m the classic misfit. Socially awkward at first, never quite fit into any groups but wasn’t an outsider either. When I became a mother I devoted everything I have to my kids, I still do and always will! At times I kinda lost myself. I’ve dipped in and out of darkness and thank God I know enough to recognize it and react. I wouldn’t have massive confidence, and can be a bit of an introvert at times. All of the above is why I NEED to exercise. The same reason I’ve always exercised until I found Ronin Crossfit. I go to the gym now 3 to 4 times a week on a good week. I’m aiming for 5 but Jacko’s not mastered sleeping through the night as of yet!

Winning her Achievement award!

Proud moment: Winning awards from Ronin Crossfit!

My hour at the gym is my social outing, my counselling and my confidence builder. I love seeing my progress, and regardless of whether it’s just surviving a tough WOD or getting closer to my ever elusive pull-up everything is positive and celebrated. I love the chats with the girls and I get to be me. Not a Mam or wife or anything else, just me! This is so important for me as I want my kids to see a confident independent woman in their Mam. I want for Elvie to be strong and confident, so I gotta lead by example 🙂 This directly impacts my life and how I interact with everyone in it.  I’m happier and healthier because I go to Ronin and everyone benefits. I surround myself with gorgeous positive people at the gym and feel so privileged to be part of it.

Plus after three kids I kinda like that the gym kicks my ass, challenges me and makes me feel good about myself and my body.

Time to inspire: Maeve Mahon

Maeve is someone who lights up a room with her beaming smile and her electric personality. I know her a long time as we were neighbours from when I was born until  I was about 15. I looked up to Maeve so much and used to follow her around as a kid.  It’s amazing how you can lose contact with someone as you go on your own journey and find yourself back on the same path again years later; this lady is superfit and came our “100 Burpee Challenge” charity event at Ronin CrossFit and smashed it! Maeve is such a beautiful person inside and out and is currently studying to become a personal trainer, so no doubt she will pass her good energy and inspiration on to those who will work with her 🙂

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I asked Maeve: “What has training has done for you?”

I’ve always exercised, from a young age I was running, swimming or gymming. I used to think it was because I liked working out but it wasn’t; I just wanted to be skinny. I thought “if you’re skinny, you’re happy!” Boy was I wrong. Going without food and working out everyday was probably the unhealthiest and unhappiest I’ve ever been. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I finally cracked it. I suffered with post natal depression after I had my son and I can honestly say training saved me.

Initially I went just to the gym to get out of the house as I’d always worked and was struggling being at home all day. Then one day I met a trainer at my local gym who had five children. She was on her own with those five kids and worked out every day . After chatting she told me she too had struggled with depression after her first child and told me how with training and the correct diet she came out of it healthier and mentally stronger than ever !

After that chance meeting everything changed for me. I stopped looking at exercise as a way to just lose weight and started seeing it as a way of life – a happy, healthy life both physically and mentally! Three months later I was a new person! A happy Mum who was enjoying life with her new son. Eight years later I’m still that person and studying now to be a personal trainer myself. My goal is to teach people that exercising and having a clean diet (most of the time) shouldn’t be a thing you do for a week, 6 weeks or a couple of months, it should be how you live your life. And once you do, that life will be a long, happy and healthy one xx

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Time to Inspire: Claire McGrath

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There are some people that you meet in life and it seems that you were destined to become friends. Claire is one of these people for me; we became friends by chance and then through competing in CrossFit competitions together this year. We only know each other about 6 months but it feels like we’ve been friends for years. Claire is also my yoga instructor and this lady is a yoga expert (and will most likely be found hanging around upside down). I’ve learned so much since joining her class both mentally and physically. She is fascinating to watch as she bends her body in ways you wouldn’t think possible! Claire is someone who radiates good energy and positivity, so it was natural to include her in this series.

I asked Claire: Can you explain what health means to you?

Health to me is feeling balanced on a mental and physical level. I find when my body is happy and feeling good, my mind is automatically happy and also feeling good. We have to go through the gross (aka the body) to get to the subtle (aka the mind). Health is also the absence of disease, so if we feel ill or uneasy in our bodies, it affects our mental state. Equally if we feel uneasy in our minds it affects our bodies.

Ever get injured in a training session after a particularly stressful day at work? Or get an upset stomach when you are stressed? Coincidence? I think not! When I picture health I don’t necessarily picture a perfectly sculpted figure, I picture smiling. When you are healthy and you feel healthy it shines through like sunbeams in your face, regardless of your body composition. A six pack does not necessarily equate to healthy body and mind. If you have energy to do the things you love to do and feel the fire burning bright inside, and you go about life in a positive manner treating people with love and respect, to me you are the picture of health.

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Time to inspire: Karen Patchell de Ladera

Over the next few weeks I will be asking some people a question, one that really makes them dig deep inside themselves. The idea is to inspire them to really think about their journey to date and also to think about themselves, which is something we can forget about with our busy lifestyles nowadays. I hope it will also inspire anyone who reads it, and that’s why I’ve called this series “Time to inspire”.

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The first person up is my big sister Karen. Karen has always been a massive inspiration to me and has taught me so much, especially when it comes to writing! Karen always made up stories to tell me before bed. My favourite being “The boy who never brushed his teeth” – it’s safe to say that even to this day I always brush my teeth before bed lol!! She is an avid writer and blogger herself, and will most likely be found with her head stuck in a book! Karen emigrated to San Francisco 2 years ago to marry her long term partner and while I do miss our chats after a few glasses (bottles) of wine (that could go on until sunrise) I am so happy to see her follow her dreams in America.

I asked Karen: “What does good health mean to you?”

I’ve come to learn that good health is about finding balance. Too often we think of being healthy as solely about the physical, but to be truly well, you need to nurture your mental health too.

When I was younger, I always cared about what everyone else thought, not taking the time to think about what I thought. All of my fears, anxieties, and negativities were festering in my mind, and I think that tends to affect your overall energy and focus. When I finally concentrated on what those negativities were, I also asked myself how I could change them.

As I took those initial (frightening) steps to change the negatives into positives, my motivations and energies began to increase. Instead of seeing a workout as something that took a lot of effort, I found myself eager to let the muscle memory take over, and let me focus on my thoughts. That being said, I also think it’s important to find an activity that works for you, and that you find fulfilment in.

For me it was dragon boating. I couldn’t wait to get out on the water every week. It became almost meditative for me.Since making these changes, I’ve become a different person. If something is bothering me, rather than trying to push it away and ignoring it, I address it, even if it’s painful or makes me admit to myself that I should have done things differently. Throughout this process, I have come to love and accept who I am, and what I am, and with it, I’ve become a happier, healthier woman. I may have lost 40lbs, but the mental baggage I’ve lost weighed so much more.

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