The Monday Interview: Simple advice still key at heart of a burgeoning industry

The Monday Interview: Simple advice still key at heart of a burgeoning industry
Paul O'Sullivan. Photo: Jim Coughlan

Nutrition adviser and personal trainer Paul O’Sullivan is adamant that consistency, self-belief, and the enjoyment of small victories within are among the key components of getting healthy in 2018 — most definitely not fad diets, so-called detoxes with no scientific value, or spending a small fortune on supplements hoping for a miracle.

There will be a bombardment of articles and videos flooding social and traditional media in the coming days, many of which will tout the latest fad, wonder pill, or diet system.

Such unscrupulous marketing will ensnare many longing for a miraculous transformation — but such miracles and wonder fixes simply do not exist, says Mr O’Sullivan.

Mr O’Sullivan, based at Dennehy’s Health and Fitness, has become one of the most respected health and fitness 

figures in the burgeoning industry over the past six years, coaching hundreds of beginners, athletes, and women and men of all ages and abilities, as well as teams such as the Blackrock senior hurlers, who reached the Cork county final in 2017 for the first time in 14 years.

A past pupil of Coláiste Chríost Rí, Mr O’Sullivan says the key to his success as a trainer and nutrition adviser is a constant investment in his own further education, thereby meaning his clients will be at the cutting edge of the latest science.

A voracious reader of the world’s leading researchers in nutrition and muscle building, such as Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald, Martin MacDonald, and Brad Schoenfeld, Mr O’Sullivan also attends as many lectures and seminars abroad as possible — a recent trip to Nottingham-based Mark Coles, a trainer of trainers, was particularly invaluable, he says.

“I feel like I need to constantly learn more and always be up to date. As an industry, I believe we need to vastly broaden our knowledge. As well as the education, you are able to network with some of the best men and women in the business.

"However, if you cannot translate that science into something simple and understandable for clients, what good is it?”

Lifestyle changes are key, he says. Small changes and incremental progress mean an exponentially better chance of getting healthy and fit, compared with embarking on crash diets or pedal-to-the-metal efforts on January 1 that invariably lead to burnout and a return to the old unhealthy ways.

“You would not believe just how healthier you will become by sleeping better, drinking more water, and making little changes every week. That leads to stress levels reducing, a sense of victory and achievement within you building and building, and generally becoming much healthier,” says Mr O’Sullivan.

“Rather than overhaul a diet all in one go, I might encourage smaller and more manageable steps such as increasing veg intake one week, upping lean protein sources, or cutting out fizzy sugar-laden drinks the next. Those steps can keep people very motivated, seeing those little victories. It doesn’t have to be a sprint because that will lead to burnout.

“If it’s not enjoyable, it’s not sustainable. Consistency applies to beginners all the way to athletes that I work with. There is nothing more satisfying than a client who may have lowered their cholesterol or stabilised blood sugars through small lifestyle changes. The buzz I get from that is as much as seeing a team win a title.”

It may sound like a cliche but there really is no magic fix, says Mr O’Sullivan. “There is absolutely no point using supplements if the foundations are not in place.”

As the industry grows every year, Mr O’Sullivan urges those looking to become healthy not to be seduced by too-good-to-be-true claims on social media.

“Personal training in this country has come on leaps and bounds, to be fair — there are some excellent trainers and nutrition advisers out there. However, I am wary of anyone who gives medical advice — personal trainers or nutrition advisers are not qualified for that.

“I’m also wary of people falling into the trap of being influenced by those with the most followers on social media, rather than the quality of trainer or nutrition adviser.”

The testimonies and evidence of astonishing progress that can be made over weeks and months on Mr O’Sullivan’s own social media pages are reasons why his reputation continues to grow.

“The more people we can get on that initial journey towards healthiness, the better. Getting inside a person’s head and realising what makes them tick is key. They soon find they are motivated enough to take it further themselves, which is immensely satisfying,” he says.

Mr O’Sullivan works out of Dennehy’s Health and Fitness, which has gyms in Ballincollig, Douglas, and Blackpool.

He can be reached at FacebookInstagram or via email at bespokenutrition@dennehys.ie.

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