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





Interview with Michael Carroll of Fit For Golf Cork

Interview with Michael Carroll of Fit For Golf Cork

  Art: Michael, delighted you agreed to be interviewed for the CityGym Blog. I know you well from our Sport and Exercise Science days but for those who aren’t familiar with you, can you give a brief outline of your background in Sport, what led you into the field of Strength and Conditioning/Physical Preparation for Athletes, your qualifications etc.?


Michael: Firstly Arthur, thanks to CityGym and yourself for asking me to contribute to your blog.

In terms of sporting background I tried a lot of different things growing up. GAA, soccer, golf, and athletics being the main ones. I went through spells of emphasising one or the other throughout my teenage years. Jack of all trades, master of none would be a pretty accurate description!

I knew from about 16 that I would be interested in working in training or coaching to some degree. I loved the process of breaking down the sport you are competing in and thinking about how you could train to try and improve it. At around this time I joined a local gym called Fitnessworx, where I ended up working after first year in college. (I am still based there). Fairly quickly I could see a link between improved strength and power in the gym and performance on the pitch, golf course, or track. I genuinely enjoyed training and used go pretty regularly before school in 5th and 6th year. I would see the trainers in Fitnessworx training people and thought it looked like it was a great environment to be in.  At around this time my older brother also started studying Sport and Exercise Science in UL. I can remember reading some of his assignments and notes and finding them really interesting and it grew from there.


BSc in Sport and Exercise Science from the University of Limerick

UKSCA accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach (ASCC)

Titleist Performance Institute level 2 Golf Fitness Professional

Art: Before we get into the Fit For Golf, I’d like you to share some of your experiences from your internship at Cressey Performance, Florida, A World Renowned Strength and Conditioning Facility. I acknowledge it was a few years ago now so the experiences maybe aren’t as fresh in your head anymore but what really stuck out for you about the place? What is it that makes them so successful and highly regarded?

Michael: In 2013 I spent 3 months interning at what is now known as Cressey Sports Performance. Three things that immediately stick out about the facility are, the culture and community feel they have in place, the huge attention to detail when it comes to coaching, and the professionalism of the staff and clients training there. It was a great place to work, the coaches were all excellent at what they did and you were dealing with extremely motivated athletes for 7 hours a day. It’s basically like a coaching boot camp. With their internship program you get thrown in at the deep end which is great as you are exposed to a huge amount of coaching. The full time staff and owners there were also always extremely helpful with any questions you might have. It wasn’t until I came home and started coaching again I realised how much more I was seeing when I was watching people.

I believe they are extremely successful because they are excellent practitioners working with very much a niche market. 90% of the athletes training there during my internship were baseball pitchers. Most Irish people who haven’t spent time in America don’t realise just how big baseball is in the US. When word spreads about the quality of service that is provided coupled with the fact you have an extremely specific market I think a business can really gather momentum. This has proved to be the case with Cresseys’ as they have opened a second gym since I came home.

Art: Ok now onto the Fit Fir Golf Cork. This was a project you started up on your own. What is it? What does it entail and who is it for? What motivated you to setup the service?

Michael: Fit For Golf is a strength and conditioning / physical preparation service for golfers. Essentially I try to help my clients increase their golf potential by giving them a better physical starting point. If somebody is in very poor physical condition and has a body that is not able to perform relatively athletically it makes the game very difficult. Most people are familiar with football or hurling teams having a coach that looks after the physical element of training. Fit For Golf does the same thing for golfers.

I am currently working with all levels of golfers from high handicaps to club professionals in both individual and group settings. The process is quite simple. Everybody’s first session is an assessment and screening which involves a chat about how their body is currently and how they think it might be hindering their golf. We also go through a physical screening to see what level and what specific areas we might need to start with. Quite often I liaise with the players golf coach (if they have one) to get some information from them in regards to what they see from a physical standpoint during the swing. The Titliest Performance Institute (TPI) screening protocols have been useful in this regard.

After we have the initial screening and assessment done and a plan of attack has been made there is a number of different training options available to the client.

Art: How important is non-specific strength training (i.e. Squats, bench presses, rows, deadlifts, chin ups, power cleans etc.) for golf performance?

Michael: General or non-specific strength is extremely important as it provides a vital base for progressing onto exercises that might have a greater transfer to the sport. If someone isn’t strong in basic movements it is unlikely they will be benefit very much from more specific exercises. One of the key determinants for club head speed (a very important playing variable) is the ability to rapidly push a lot of force into the ground through the legs. Obviously this is determined by lower body strength and power so this can be a good place to start!

The way I program training for golfers varies massively depending on their current strengths and weaknesses.  For example Arthur, imagine tomorrow that you came to me for help training your body for golf. As you are already very strong in general exercises like deadlifts, squats, single leg variations etc there would not be much point in us training to improve these. You would likely benefit more from work in lateral and rotational patterns, and from learning about the optimal sequencing used in the golf swing. On the other hand, I currently train a golfer in their 60’s, who at their best had a handicap of +2 (2 shots better than scratch). This person has seen huge benefit to their game from getting stronger on “non-specific” exercises because their baseline level of strength was so low.

Art: How important is rotation (and even anti-rotation) training for physical preparation in golfers?

Michael: Training rotation is extremely important. Once an athlete has decent basics in posture, mobility, stability, sequencing etc there are two main areas I try and get athletes stronger and more powerful in. These are vertical or ground reaction force (which is governed by lower body strength and power), and rotational force. If you can push your feet into the ground hard, and rotate hard you won’t go far wrong in terms of training power for golfers. Simple examples of these would be squat jumps, and rotational med ball throws.

In my opinion anti rotation is useful to train but I wouldn’t say it’s a necessity to train directly. In a simple, properly executed program I think the client gets enough work on stabilizing their pelvis. I usually tackle this with exercises like renegade rows, single leg deadlifts, plank variations etc.

Art: When I hear the phrase “Functional Training” I cringe and probably die a little inside as I envisage idiots doing squats on a swiss ball or simulating a punching action while holding dumbbells, but what does the phrase mean to you?

Michael: Speaking of functional training I actually wrote this answer while balancing on a bosu ball while pressing my tongue into the left side of my pallet and sucking my bellybutton to my spine J.

On a serious note though I think there is a basic misunderstanding of the terms “Functional Training” “Sports Specific Training” “Core Strength” etc. It seems a lot of coaches are completely on one side of the fence with limited critical thinking on their own part.

On one side you have the “functional strength” guru who tries to make everything as complex and gimmicky as possible, with “exercises”that often look impressive to the uneducated eye but have little merit in the program. Squatting or swinging a golf club on a swiss ball are perfect examples. Just because they are hard does not mean they are worth doing. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people training balance or doing the odd fun game at the end of a training session as long as it’s safe and not completely ridiculous. Sometimes people lose the plot completely though and have a very poor understanding of how to breakdown a sports movement and what modes of training are likely to enhance it.

On the other hand you have “strength coaches” who believe that getting stronger in barbell lifts and chasing numbers is the holy grail. Taking everything said on t-nation as gospel is a perfect example of this.

There needs to be a balance. Athletes aren’t powerlifters or Olympic weightlifters, nor are they circus performers so they shouldn’t train like them. Analyse the movement, analyse the individual on an ongoing basis, always think of the transfer the training will provide.

To get back to the question, “Functional Training” to me means training that is fit for the purpose it is being done for. For bodybuilders this might be bicep curls, for a sprinter it may be jumping.

Art: If you could go back in time and give a younger Michael Carroll a bit of advice in relation to training or coaching, what would it be?

Michael: Without doubt I would say that most coaches concentrate way too much of their study time looking up exercises, diets, special programs etc. While learning these things is important to I think most coaches will make better long term progress if they realise that they are dealing with humans.

Study how humans learn new tasks. Ie motor learning and skill acquisition

Study how humans interact and behave. In coaching you come across a lot of personalities, if you don’t find ways to get on with someone it’s irrelevant how good your program is and you will lose business quickly.

Practice coaching in as many different settings as possible, young, elderly, elite athletes, desk jockeys, disabled, annoying clients, enjoyable clients. Get as many different perspectives as possible.

Look the part – Image and first impression are key, you need to look like you train and be able to demonstrate things, wear appropriate attire, etc. 

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,