Coaches Bio

The Arthur Lynch Story

The Arthur Lynch Story

Introduction

I will preface this article by saying my story can never match that of my colleague and friend Gar. I was never lying on a hospital bed with a serious illness, I was never close to death and I've never had to live my life knowing my lung could collapse at any moment in time. Given what he’s gone through and what he’s still managed to achieve is phenomenal. Nonetheless, I will tell you my story and hopefully you stay interested long enough to finish it.

 

Over the years I've noticed that the great majority of serious male weight trainees all began as either one of the following:

 

A). A skinny young fella who badly needed to gain some muscle

B). A heavier guy who badly needed to lose some fat

 

Unfortunately I was the latter. Now let me be very clear on this,I was never even close to seriously overweight or obese. My heaviest as a teenager was 92kg (just over 14 stone/200lbs) at 5 foot 6 inches and 15 years of age. So I was never going to be able to get on “Supersize vs. Superskinny” or anything like that, but still now and again I would be reminded that I was fatter that most of my peers and I did get slagged about it from time to time. Back then I was playing rugby so having that extra weight was no harm and I definitely used it to my advantage on the field. But because I was always that bit fatter than most people around me, I always had that desire to get leaner. I always wondered what a six-pack would look like on me. However my knowledge of nutrition, exercise metabolism and the science behind improving body composition was on par with a dog’s at the time. I would routinely eat sweets by the bag, biscuits and chocolate by the packet on top of plenty other food throughout the day (a lot of it good food just far too much of it) and it would not cross me a thought. 

When s*** just got real

In the summer of 2009 my rugby club Shannon RFC were running a summer strength and conditioning course for players on the under 16 team of the season that had just elapsed. This meant we were all going to be training in the UL Arena gym for the summer. The first night of that program we got an overview on nutrition for performance, what to eat, what to avoid and what to reduce/increase etc. That evening ultimately changed my life. Not necessarily for the information given but for the interest it generated. It was like planting a seed. From then on I sought out as much information on nutrition, dieting, hormones etc. that I could find on the internet. The second night of that program the first strength training program was outlined to us. I began to like weight-training very quickly. The instructor was very knowledgeable, paid great attention to detail and I liked the idea of having a structured plan laid out before even entering the gym (i.e. these five exercises, this many sets and reps etc.). Over the course of the summer as I continued to eat better and train more and more frequently, my body fat started to go down without too much effort. I was noticeably leaner, but I wanted more…….

 

Once the summer finished we were done training in UL. With it being my leaving cert year it would have been impractical to fit in gym sessions out there in addition to rugby training with my school (St. Caimins Community School in Shannon town) as well as my club. So I joined a nearby hotel gym. Not the best equipped gym in the world but certainly better than nothing. It was at this stage I started following more typical “Bro-Style” training (i.e. train each muscle group once per week, absolutely annihilate the muscle with multiple exercises, short rest periods between sets and if you get less than 6 reps of an exercise the muscle won’t grow). It was complete and utter lunacy and only for the UL instructor having shown me safe lifting techniques during the summer I would probably have injured myself during this time due to my crazy intensity of effort. 

The brighter side of all this

Once I was hooked on weight training in UL that summer, I wanted to move out there and study Sport and Exercise Sciences more than anything else. For a typical C student who didn't get higher than a B in his Junior cert (well bar CSPE, but we won’t count that), this was a tall order. In 2008 I remember checking the points for courses the previous year, seeing a course for 365 points and thinking to myself “that might be doable”. However, weight training and dieting had instilled a discipline in me that could then be used towards school work. I studied very hard whilst I continued to get leaner and leaner throughout the year. I achieved considerably more leaving cert points than I required to be accepted for Sport Science in UL. There was just one problem though, once the exams were over, I had faded away to a sickly 69kg. At the time I had developed a distorted image of my own body and would not accept that I needed to gain weight for ages for fear I would lose my six-pack. This despite having worryingly low energy levels, being much weaker than before and needing coffee just to heat my body and to get me through each day. I persisted until about the December of my first year at University, when I finally decided I needed to eat more and gain back some weight.

 Jan 2011- Nothing too special

Jan 2011- Nothing too special

I slowly continued to add weight whilst staying pretty lean for the next 18 months or so when I decided “It would be really cool to enter a Bodybuilding Show”. So I upped my training even more from then on (July 2012). I dieted down and got in the best shape I had ever been in.

 Not bad for a former fat boy eh?

Not bad for a former fat boy eh?

I was delighted with how the whole process went. And people who hadn't seen or heard from me since I had left school got quite the surprise when they saw the photos. I was determined to come back even better the following year, but I gained too much fat in the off-season and left myself with too much to do, I was 2kg heavier than the previous year but I was clearly not as lean. Whilst I didn't produce the same great results as I had in 2012, it was still an invaluable learning experience that you have to go through first-hand in order to fully appreciate. 

 2kg heavier but not as lean

2kg heavier but not as lean

After my second Bodybuilding show, I needed a break from the Sport, I wanted something different, due to a combination of factors. It could be that I felt more irritable when I was that lean, feeling cold all the time and I suffered a lot of strength loss in the gym during my dieting period. Also, being in Ireland, there is a very narrow window within the calendar year where you can go around without a shirt on, for the most part we spend our time covered up which created a problem for me, after 4 years of training, I barely looked like I lifted weights!Finally, Bodybuilding was something I had always done on my own and I missed having friends and team-mates around to support me, which I would have had playing rugby. 

Enter Powerlifting

What was the one Sport I could allow my Body Fat to creep up while still looking reasonably lean, enjoy lifting weights and getting stronger, do what I’m (fairly) good at, go to competitions with friends and other competitors who would be there for moral support and that was also fun to do? That’s where Powerlifting came in in 2014. I did my first meet this year with the Irish Drug Free Powerlifting Association (IDFPA), loved the organization, the people involved and the whole euphoria surrounding the event and I am determined to come back better and stronger in 2015. I will probably go back into Bodybuilding in a few years as I feel I've unfinished business in the Sport, but for the time-being, Powerlifting has brought new happiness and excitement into my life.

 UL Powerlifting Team, Arthur is far right here

UL Powerlifting Team, Arthur is far right here

Here's what I look like currently, still pretty lean with just a little more bodyfat.

Whilst naming all of them individually would likely take up an entire page I want to briefly acknowledge all those who helped in whatever way large or small during this time period, if you are reading this then you know who you are.
Arthur Lynch

The Gar Benn Story

To give people a better insight into the people behind CityGym we will be writing a little piece on each coach, starting with Gar Benn, owner and founder of CityGym.

From starting up a little company – to where I am now has been a long time coming around. I made a lot of moves in the wrong direction, and had so many setbacks that I thought I’d never be here... I suppose it all started when my lungs collapsed for the first time.

To be more specific, my right lung collapsed. I can’t describe the pain that a patient with this condition feels; only someone who has suffered a collapsed lung can appreciate what I’m talking about. Spontaneous pneumothorax is the official term for a collapsed lung. Pneumothorax is the collapsed lung part, and it’s described as spontaneous because, to this day, doctors all over the world can’t figure out why it happens. (To find out more on our “CityGym Spontaneous Pneumothorax Support Group” click here) Now, imagine lying in hospital after a very painful surgery in which a tube was placed in to your lung to drain any remaining air while you were still awake on the table.

After this, there is a doctor at your bedside telling you he doesn’t know why it happened. He even went as far as consulting a medical textbook, which said it occurs 90% of the time in, “Tall, thin, young males, and more commonly with fair hair, between the ages of 18-23”. This perfectly describes me at the time my lung first collapsed.

I wasn’t the tallest by any means, but I was eighteen years old, and under 10 stone at 5’11”. My diet was abysmal, and basically non-existent; I lived off Rice Krispie bars, Jaffa Cakes, and fizzy drinks. My only healthy eating in a day was whatever my mom made for lunches and dinners. I had no interest in what food could do for how I felt on a day-to-day basis, nor had I any interest in exercise. I was also an official cool dude with a car that didn’t need to walk anywhere. I had a part-time job, which meant I no longer played football anymore because my weekends were jammed up in the shop where I worked. Did I make up for this by putting in physical activity other times during the week? Of course not. I got lazy – I mean really lazy.

After my three-month stint in the hospital, I took a lot of time out of school. I frequently suffered panic attacks, and spent a lot of my time writhing around in pain with scar tissue. I did my leaving cert after missing most of my senior cycle in secondary school. I got a course that I thought would suit me. Like every other leaving cert student, I didn’t get much information before picking my course. I ended up in something that I didn’t particularly like, but I was determined to stick at it because I had started it.

Coming towards the end of my first year in college, just about when my panic attacks had stopped and I had come to believe that my lungs were not going to collapse again, my worst fear came true: my right lung collapsed a second time. A double strike in the pneumothorax world means a trip to the head thoracic unit in Dublin for major surgery. So, here I am 366 days later. One year and one day after my first attack, and I’m in Dublin facing this frightening surgery in which doctors will cut off an outside layer of my lung in order to fix it up. Fast forward another four months of hospital time, and I’m in the healing process again. My weight has dropped down dramatically to just over 7 stone! This time, coming to my own conclusions, I realized that I’m unfit and that’s why this is happening. I returned to do my exams in college, and passed through to second year. The only problem is I’m running myself into the ground trying to get fit. Putting in 5-6 weight lifting sessions a week, on top of 4-5 cardio sessions, without using solid nutrition to recover optimally and it had disastrous repercussions. I ended up sleeping badly, feeling terrible on a day-to-day basis, and feeling moody all the time. As a further blow, all of these affect my appetite, and cause me to eat less and eat poorly whenever I do eat.

We’re now up to the point where I decided to change my life. If you can believe this, my right lung has been put in place for life. But, out of the blue at the end of second year in college, my left lung goes. This time, I didn't even really care.

I just accepted the fact that it had happened, and that I had to put in place a plan to change my life completely. As soon as I left the hospital, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to change how people live and how they feel every day, whether it is how they feel when they wake up, how they feel when they look in the mirror, or how they feel when they enter a gym and know they are going to achieve something out of the ordinary. The problem was that I was still enrolled in college. No worries, I thought, I’ll just drop out to become a personal trainer. So I just went and did it. I admit now that it was a rash decision to drop out so unexpectedly, but luckily enough it worked out. I had wanted to try a PT course part-time for quite a while at this stage, and had been looking into different courses. I became a PT but that course alone wasn’t enough, however. I wanted to cover the nutrition side of it. I went with Precision Nutrition. I can see why it’s so widely accredited; it provides an excellently structured take on a complex subject.

 After that last collapse, I was left a skeleton once again at just over 8 stone. However, I was determined not to be the “tall thin male” whose lungs collapse every year, so I pushed myself every day to become who I wanted to be. One doctor asked me before I left the hospital, “Gearoid, have you any hobbies?”, and I told him that I loved weight lifting and running. He told me any gym work was dangerous, and that I should never lift weights again. Intending no disrespect, I asked him how he came to that conclusion if nobody knew why a collapsed lung occurs. He was left baffled, and I was more determined to lift as big as I could. But I wasn’t going to lift big at my weight of just over 50kg, and my posture had been warped inwards from so many months of lying in a hospital bed. I worked on my posture and scar tissue every day, and kept eating right while training hard until I was up at 72kg. I then decided to enter my first power lifting contest, and ended up setting the national record in my weight class.

ipo medal.jpg

That brings us all the way up to starting Personal Training Limerick, my first project with two great friends and fellow coaches Mark and Trish. Our small Personal Training and Circuits Company moved between 4 gyms in Limerick and we’ve been blessed to meet so many great people day in and day out and they’re the ones who make our job so fantastic. Every day with Personal Training Limerick I tried to find the best way to do something new for my clients and for myself. People picked up on our enthusiasm and the fact that we looked at the whole picture rather than just the gym. We took apart peoples nutrition, how they moved on a daily basis and talked mindset day in and day out.  Just 51 weeks after Personal Training Limerick was started I celebrated my 25th birthday and opened my own facility-CityGym. It has been both humbling and exciting to start a gym and receive so much brilliant feedback from the people I've been lucky enough to train with. We’re still hungry and constantly planning for a bigger and brighter future for everyone involved here at CityGym. I can’t thank everyone enough who has set foot in this facility and the rest of our coaches here for the support they have shown me. I am truly grateful.

Gar

CityGym