Why New Year's Resolutions Don’t Become Realisations

It’s coming to the end of the year, a time where people start to make big promises to themselves that the next year will be different, that you will be different in the new year. You may promise yourself that you’ll get the dream job this year, you’ll do a better job at the one you already have, you’ll quit smoking etc. We’re not life coaches or addiction specialists but we do know an awful lot about the biggest one out there “this year I’ll get the body I've always wanted”...... “this year I’ll become fit and healthy”.

This is not a bashing of people who begin their fitness journey in January, or saying that you are you are doomed to fail. We want to highlight the road blocks you may face and help provide some solutions towards them.

Right Intentions But Wrong Execution

You have taken your first step and you went to your local gym and bought your membership for 2018, great work big props to you! You are super stoked to get started, you have goals and you want to achieve them. Your motivation is through the roof, you're ready!

You walk in and it dawns on you, you’ve no idea what to do, how these machines work, what correct form looks/feels like and you’re kind of like... Well kind of like this

Regardless, you persevere, machine images, watching other gym members and YouTube videos provide most of your guidance on technique and if all else fails jump on the treadmill. Your muscles feel sore the next day so something is happening!

You continue doing this every day. You work super hard day in day out and after a month of this you expect great, wonderful and magical things to happen, but they don’t. This is a very realistic thing and can be quite damaging to that spark of motivation that you had at the start of the month. This could discourage you from going back for another month.

This would be the most common outcomes we see when people approach the beginning of their fitness journey. Some ideas to stop you running into these issues:

  • If you don’t know what you’re doing get someone that does to show you

  • Put a plan in place with someone who is well versed in training and nutrition. If you were looking to work on your car and you weren't familiar with cars, you'd hire a mechanic. If you want to work on your body and you don't know what to do, hire a coach

  • Track progress so even if you don’t see it (we all generally have a warped view of our own reality) you can see it in the data. Tracking morning bodyweights and forming weekly averages to see trends, body fat tests in the gym (Most body fat tests aren't all that accurate but keep using the same method for consistency and make sure the numbers are going in the right direction) and keep a training log to see progress over time

  • Try not fall for gimmicks, sadly this industry is filled with them. If someone claims to be great, investigate. What's their education? Who have they worked with? Have they got results with someone like you before? Look for proof, don't take someone at their word!

  • Don’t do exercises that cause pain or that you are unsure about how to execute the move

Keep motivation high, outsource what you don't know to a trustworthy proven professional and enjoy your sessions!

Radical Change Isn't a Good Thing

Most people are led to believe that in order to achieve their resolution every part of their life needs an overhaul. For example they believe that from January 1st onward they will never eat a take-away again, they will cease drinking alcohol and will never spend their time sat on a sofa all night watching TV.

Sounds like the perfect healthy lifestyle right?

Sure it’s ideal but is it realistic? Absolutely not. We do those things because we enjoy them, we do them with our friends and family as social occasions. Pursuing your ideal physique or fitness level will require small sacrifices and a certain level of restriction but a lifestyle overhaul is unwarranted and also may be hindering your long-term progress.

By overly restricting their diet to an extreme, you will probably see progress relatively fast. What happens after this? If you haven’t developed a lifestyle that you can consistently keep up once your goal is achieved you begin to revert back to your old non restrictive lifestyle and in many studies has shown your rebound weight far exceeds your previous starting weight.

Instead we want you to think about making small life changes that can be kept consistently over weeks, weeks will add up to months and months will add up to sustainable years. If you aren’t particularly active get more active but don’t jump into the deep end and kill yourself, if your eating habits are poor make a few changes towards a healthier day, don’t demonise every food you ate before just eat in moderation and substitute foods with a lower calorie more nutrient dense option.

Find A Gym That Cares

Most training facilities work on a model like a 90/10. This is, 90% of the people that sign up don't actually attend the gym for most of the year while the other 10% of "hardcore' members seem to never leave. This make sense when you think of how many members most gyms boast about. "5000 Members Strong", but when you look around that gym you'll think to yourself that only about 200 people could fit in their at any one time. 

They do this by pushing cheap memberships, "15 Euros Per Month", which is enough for you to think that it's low enough not to attend and not care but not enough to actually go in and cancel it. With this business model they profit from you failing your goal. If you don't turn up, they still make their money and they don't have the running costs from you being there using electricity on machines, water in the showers and less usage of equipment.

A logical solution is shop around for a gym that invests in you! Where the staff aren’t staff but coaches, constantly helping you in order to make progress. Where if you don’t understand something they can break it down so that you are capable of it. If you’re carrying an injury they understand how to work around it. 

Luckily there has been a rise in Private and Semi-Private facilities that do this. Where at no point is there not a coach on the floor looking out for you and what you want to achieve. These gym’s don’t work off the 90/10 model. They work off communities of people striving to better themselves each time they walk in the door.

These are the facilities you want to be in if you really want to make change in 2018.

Happy Christmas and Happy New Years,

Coach Dons

Liked this? Shoot me a mail at dons@citygymlk.com or find out a little more about me on our Team page here

Body Image Troubles - Coach Dons

Our society is bombarded by images of modified unrealistic expectations of the human form. We should all know this has led to a rise of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. But I’m not here to to talk about that. I want to talk about how I dealt with the insecurities cause by society. Recently a friend showed me an app where, like in the media, you can alter facial and body structures. Model editing accessible on your phone…. We have been made so insecure, we are now promoting unrealistic expectations of ourselves, causing other people to be made feel insecure about you’re unrealistic promotion of yourself.

“ The 5 minute transformation”  guess I can stop lifting now everyone will think I'm massif on insta!

The 5 minute transformation”  guess I can stop lifting now everyone will think I'm massif on insta!


Irony? Everyone can feel insecure, that does not have to be a bad thing…. I’m going to use myself as an example: Before i started training at 16, I was overweight essentially my entire youth and teenage years. So I trained like a madman! Literally….. Took a year or so of nothing but salads, mini circuits in my room twice a day and the occasional cycle from Rathkeale to LimerickCity. I wanted to be cool and didn’t think I was cause I was fat, probably is more so cause i’m weird lol. One year and there wasn’t a pick on me.

Donnacha journey from 15years old on the left to 20 on the right    

Donnacha journey from 15years old on the left to 20 on the right


Was I Happy? No! I couldn’t say I was fat but now I was lanky. I Got this bodybuilding craic wrong! So I studied, read and watched everything I could and became a “BRO”. Worked hard and up until the past year not the smartest but I've made sizable progress I know that. Still insecure? Certainly….. Am I mad bro? No. Look what it’s done for me. Without being insecure i’d have never of started. I would never of completed my goal of first show by 20 (and not look like crap lol). I wouldn’t of learned what I’ve learned and met the people I’ve met. Most importantly help others overcome the same feeling I feel! Give in to your insecurities and let it be the driving force to make positive changes to your life. I can’t guarantee you you’ll ever not be insecure, but if you work hard and smart you will be able to look back to where you came from and see the progress you’ve made. Look at where you are now and where you have come from and continue to make progress, don’t focus on the distance of the destination.

Take home point: Don’t let your insecurities cause unhealthy behaviors. Use it to make you work hard and safe. It will take longer but you will be better everyday. If your insecurities don’t stop never stop your journey to the greater you!

Coach Dons





Lifting with Cystic Fibrosis

Lifting With CF - An Article By Rob, a CityGym Member

May 2015 I was a completely different person. My Cystic Fibrosis (C.F.) had progressed to the point where my lung efficiency had fallen to below 40%, I was seriously underweight and my Liver was beginning to fail me so I was now being assessed for the Liver transplant list.

Having heard about Gar’s personal story through a mutual friend I went hesitantly and met with him. Instantly I knew he wasn’t full of crap and what was to be a quick meet and chat turned into an hour and a half of us both swapping hospital stories.

Here was someone who had brought themselves from a place of ill health to the embodiment of health, fitness and energy. This is the kind of person I need to train with.

We started training in June 2015. In the beginning it was slow and tough. I was constantly tired and couldn’t do much. But we chipped away at it, making the smallest of changes here and there. If anything this also taught me patience.

Fast forward to today and all I can say is I never thought I would have the quality of life I have now ever again.

My lung function is increasing slowly, my weight has increased thanks to more tailored nutrition and muscle mass and my Liver is no longer on red alert at the moment so I can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being.

Simply put I owe Gar Benn more than he knows for helping to give me a quality of life my family or I could only daydream about.

Don’t get me wrong I have a long road ahead of me, with plenty more challenges but being healthier and stronger leaves me better equipped to deal with those challenges and as of right now for the first time in a very long time I’m feeling normal and normal never felt so good.....and for anyone hesitant about lifting weights and the dangers of pushing yourself in exercise I recently heard a quote that sums up my feelings perfectly....”You think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak, being weak is very dangerous”

- Rob Sheahan

Arthur Lynch - Dealing with the disappointment of a bad training session

Dealing with the disappointment of a bad training session


This article aims to deal with a very specific time in a person’s life, the sad feels immediately after a bad training session (not a workout, a term which implies you do no train for anything in particular)

Don’t worry friend, all gains have not been lost!


To illustrate this point I will use myself as an example. A few months back I was due to bench press 140kg for 4 sets of 4 reps. Going into the session I knew it was very doable.  Set one went well, set 2 was very tough but I got 4 reps. Then came set three…everything fell apart! After a slow second rep, I descended for my third and got stuck on the chest. I tried to make up the missed volume by adding extra sets but in reality, my head was gone, I was out of the game. Then we moved onto Overhead press. More missed reps! The same thing happened on Dumbbell Bench Press and at this point I was just fed up and left.

Then a few days later I was due to hit 88kg for 4 sets of 2 on the overhead press. After what felt like a very, very heavy first set of two it started happening again. I started missing reps again. Then my shoulder started bugging me (probably from my degraded technique). Then I started warming up for bench press with the goal of hitting 4 sets of 7 with 120kg. However, after my second warm up set I decided to stop. I had realised that my head was not in the game and that continuing was doing me more harm than good. So I abandoned the session, did some low-load blood flow restriction training for 30 minutes and got the hell out of there!

At this point after having two bad sessions it’s easy to feel frustrated, feel like all gains are lost, FOREVER! And you should feel like that, because you know you’ll never be in the gym ever again after that, you won’t ever have another opportunity to make up for those bad sessions. In case you can’t tell I’m being extremely sarcastic. The reality is you will be back in the gym again soon and you’ll probably smash those numbers sooner than you might think.

4 days later I repeated that second session described above. I hit 90kg for 4 sets of 2 on the overhead press and 120kg for 4 sets of 8 on the bench! 2 weeks later I repeated the first training session described above and got 4 sets of 4 reps on the bench press (with the potential to do a fifth set) and didn’t miss anymore reps on the other exercises in the rest of the session.

What changed?

Surely I didn’t get that much stronger in a few days. Well, in the aftermath of a bad session, you have to analyse where you went wrong. According to Elite FTS owner, Coach, former Powerlifter and Bodybuilder Dave Tate, missed lifts always come down to any one (or a combination of ) 3 factors: Physical, Technical or Mental. We will use this as a framework for why my sessions were going poorly!


1. Physical:

  • Did you eat enough today and yesterday?
  • Did you perform any activities in the last 48 hours that may have left you in a fatigued state coming in to this session?
  • Did you get to bed early enough and did you get enough high quality, uninterrupted sleep last night?
  • When did you last train and have you any lingering muscle soreness or fatigue in general?
  • Have you grinded much in your training sessions recently (i.e. have you recorded a lot of RPE’s in the 9-10 range) (Zourdos et al. 2015)?
  • How stressful is your life lately? Are any of your relationships with any of your family members, work colleagues or your significant other causing you to stress out lately?
  • Is there anything going on in your life that is causing you a lot of stress (e.g. money worries, a loved one very sick, work very stressful this week etc.)?

These are all the questions you have to ask at this point. And one stressful event that eats into your recovery ability can have a knock-on effect on another factor. For example, you may be well able to recover from a heavy deadlift session and able to train the bench press the next day no problem, under normal, low stress conditions. However when things get hectic at work, to the point you get stressed out and you start to miss meals accidentally. Then you accidentally snap at your friend who means well but just manages to say the wrong thing to you at the wrong time (Edit, Arthur really hurts our feelings when he's hungry). Then you land yourself in a big, stressful argument, which serves to further deplete your recovery sources. Then you go and do that brutal deadlifting session. Think you’re in an optimal state to recover before your next session now? This is illustrated brilliantly in Figure 4.6 below. Which is taken from Greg Nuckols and Omar Isuf’s recent e-book “The science of Lifting” (highly recommended by the way, they’re much more intelligent than me).The blue line represents recovery capabilities under low stress conditions, whereas the red curve represents recovery capabilities under stressful (i.e. compromised) conditions.



2. Mental:

  • Have you been looking forward to this session or do you not even want to be in the gym today (this can be indicative of over-reaching)?
  • Was your arousal level optimal before this session/set (see Figure 1)?
Figure 1 - Yerkes-Dodson Inverted U-Theory of optimal arousal levels for a given task

Figure 1 - Yerkes-Dodson Inverted U-Theory of optimal arousal levels for a given task

  • Were you overthinking the lift before you attempted it?
  • Had you in your head, 100% convinced yourself you were going to get it?
  • Was your mind elsewhere (the stress inducing factors mentioned previously for example)?
  • Did you draw on a memory of a past performance that did not go well for you (i.e. did you think of another previously missed lift)?
  • What was your training environment like? Were you training on your own or were you with others who support you and help motivate you to lift better?

3. Technical:

  • Did you change your usual bar speed, particularly on the eccentric (i.e. if you went much slower on your descent for some reason)?
  • Was your breathing/bracing off?
  • Was your bar path off? Why? (For example sometimes I can bring the bar down too low on my chest and/or over-tuck my elbows if I get nervous on a bench press)
  • Was something not kept tight enough (e.g. core, legs, upper back)
  • (Note: This is a key example of why it’s crucial to video your sets, and from an angle that provides as much feedback on the movement as possible).


On reflection, that week of poor training was accompanied by some very hectic days at work and some nights of poor sleep. With me being someone who pushes hard regularly and leaves little room for error, something even as small as that can put me off. I also noticed that when I was lifting the bar out of the rack on the bench press that I was losing upper back tightness. Finally, and this last one may be related to nerves but my bar path was very inconsistent particularly on the way down (the eccentric portion) from rep to rep. So I also addressed this in the next session.

Now in my own scenario, I was able to address my poor sleep and hectic increase in stress at work. Someone else may not be as capable of dealing with these outside stressors. For these people the most important thing is to be aware of these external influences. We’re not robots that just move bars up and down. So many different factors go into determining whether or not you’re going to perform well in the gym or not. Outside stressors have a profound effect, particularly on advanced lifters. I would recommend you back off in training (especially your volume) and a little bit in intensity if necessary as well. Perhaps take an extra rest day between sessions to allow you to recover better. Outside of that, always attend to your form (but you should be doing that anyway). Finally, keep calm! Nothing good comes from getting frustrated and giving up. You have to accept that whilst X stressor is around, recovery resources and adaptation capacity are going to be compromised. But once X stressor becomes less and less or if you adjust your training accordingly, progress can still be made long term.  


Nuckols, G. and Isuf, O. (2015) The Science of Lifting.

Yerkes, R. M. and Dodson, J. D. (1908) "The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation",Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 18(459–482).

Zourdos, M.C., Klemp, A., Dolan, C., Quiles, J.M., Schau, K.A., Jo, E., Helms, E., Esgro, B., Duncan, S., Merino, S.G. and Blanco, R., 2016.Novel Resistance Training–Specific Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale Measuring Repetitions in Reserve.The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30(1), pp.267-275.


New Years Resolution(6 Steps to completing your NYR for 2015)

With 2015 quickly approaching, I've heard many New Years resolutions already. I've helped coach a few people through what could have been a failed resolution by finding loop holes in their plan and guiding them to a solid plan that has the potential to meet their goal. The big "secret" will be honesty with yourself above everything else. I've also included a CityGym tip for success at the very end.

1. What were your biggest preventable failures in 2014?

This may seem easy but really think about the issues that came between you and your fitness/health goals this year. What action could you have taken to overcome a certain situation? Really reflect on this point and search for the warning signs that emerge so you can take these on to next year.

2. What foods have the worst effect on you?

Everyone has a few foods off the top of their head that they know effect them badly but we want to take this a step further. I want you to identify the foods, write them down as a list and put it in your kitchen/wallet/phone to keep you conscious of the fact that they have a bad effect on you. By having this higher consciousness and being reminded consistently you are far less likely to consume this food. 

3. The abstract resolution

"I'll be fitter in the New Year", "I'll walk/run/gym more in the New Year", "I'll eat healthier in the New Year". These are all great starts for someone looking to live a fuller and fitter life in 2015 but what is the problem with these goals? They're vague and abstract. There is no start or finish line to these goals. I get people to quantify goals. For example take "I'll gym more in 2015". How many times are you going to the gym now? We'll say it's once to twice a week for the sake of the example. For success here you need to say to yourself "I have been going to the gym twice a week on and off every month", your new goal could be "I'll go to the gym twice a week, consistently every week, for 60-90 minutes per session with a plan that has been made for me" Now you have a real plan to work with and the start to achieving the goal you've always wanted.

4. Accountability

So far, we know where our biggest failures have occurred so we can avoid them next year. We know what foods to avoid like the plague with a higher consciousness of grub. We have quantified our goals instead of having a wishy washy plan. Now we need accountability

Trust me when I say that you're more likely to suceed when you have someone else to report to. Even if it's a quick text every second day to a friend to say "I'm performing better at activity X, and down Y% bodyfat" it'll make the difference. What works even better than a random friend is a friend who is willing to partake on a similar resolution to yourself so ye can message each other about progress.

5. What or who stands in your way?

What or who could possibly stand in your way for your goal? Is it a person who always suggests a Chinese take-out every single night or beers a few times a week? Is it yourself? Are you a procrastinator and if so why? Is it a fear of failure? This requires a little more thinking so  take your time to search and find the answer.

(This was my own take on Marks Daily Apple http://www.marksdailyapple.com/11-questions-to-ask-yourself-at-the-start-of-a-new-year/#axzz3NJJVMwM1 If you liked this read Marks version here, he's a great author with many great articles.)

CityGym Tip:

Our secret tip is very easy to use. Pick a "habit" or even two. For example: "Drink 2L of water today", "Get 8 hours of sleep", "take 5 minutes of my own time to relax". Write these down, take a picture and place it as your background and also use postets to leave these two habits in your most visited rooms like your sitting room, the office etc. We use this highly effective method to help people overcome the most overwhelming or tedious tasks on a day to day basis and it hasn't failed yet.

Enjoy your New Years Eve everyone,

Thank you for reading,