Irish rower Philip Doyle: 'You have to break a body down to built it up'

Rower Philip Doyle believes there is no gain without pain when it comes to training. “You have to break a body down to build it up,” says the 27-year-old matter of factly.
Irish rower Philip Doyle: 'You have to break a body down to built it up'

Rower Philip Doyle
Rower Philip Doyle

Rower Philip Doyle believes there is no gain without pain when it comes to training. “You have to break a body down to build it up,” says the 27-year-old matter of factly.

However, he’s had to adjust his gruelling training routine now he’s working as a hospital doctor.

When the Olympics were postponed in March, he moved from Cork to his hometown Banbridge, Co Down and immediately started working in Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital.

He is relishing the challenge. “I’m really loving being back with a team of people... being able to think on my feet.”

But, much as he is enjoying working on the frontline, he remains fiercely committed to his sport and gets frustrated when he can’t keep up with teammates who are training full time. “Sometimes I can’t dial in the same times as the rest of the group because I’d be in work.”

But that doesn’t stop him from going flat out at home.

There are some days when we’ve certain workouts on the rowing machine that are so intense that I have to get my mum to stand behind me.

Her task? To tap him on the back if he slows down and to tell him to keep his head up.

“As soon as we get back to full-time training, I’d be a big believer in you need to push the body to the limit to see how far it can go, otherwise you’ll never know what your limit is.”

Philip is supporting New Circle K ‘Little Thank Yous’ initiative. For details see

What shape are you in?

I usually train twice a day for a minimum of three hours. About 90% of my training is on the rowing machine. I also use weights. I’ve started implementing some running into my gym programme as well.

I try to use apps as little as possible just for the mental break of not having someone looking at your figures.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

First and second breakfast are probably my healthiest meals of the days. First breakfast would be high carbohydrate based like wholewheat bread, some nice Irish butter, honey or a fruit-based jam for some quick energy. It means I can train straight away then.

Afterwards, I’ll go for more dairy-heavy food like Greek yogurt, a lot of berries, and a natural sugar like honey. I try to get protein in each meal. I have a lot of veg with my meals even though sometimes I’ll be doing the leeks in butter in the pan. I consume about 8,000 calories a day.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

A Marks & Spencer home-baked cookie and some ice-cream. Usually, I break the cookie off into the ice cream so it becomes a dessert. Gourmet.

What would keep you awake at night?

The pains in my legs sometimes.

How do you relax?

I love to sit out in the back in the sun with a cup of coffee. Although I do go on caffeine holidays every now and then.

What’s your favourite smell?

It would have to be coffee. Any kind of coffee.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I’d a gap in the front of my teeth fixed with braces when I was 13 but it created another gap on the left-hand side. It’s so annoying. And I’d love to be able to put on a bit of girth on the legs. And I’ve never been able to grow the size of my legs even though they are getting stronger, faster.

When is the last time you cried?

I couldn’t tell you. Tears of joy are always a bit of an enigma to me.

What traits do you least like in others?

Lack of self-belief. I find that very hard to relate to. I think everybody has so much potential.

If you don’t have self-belief then I struggle to relate to that. You don’t have to get everything perfect. Not everyone is born in tip-top shape with eight-pack abs.

Not everyone comes to the gym for the first time and is massive. You have to work at something and have a bit of self-belief.

What would cheer up your day?

The dog cheers me up big time. She’s a 13-year-old border collie called Fern.

I don’t get to spend time with her when I’m down in Cork, so any type of dog interaction when I’m away from her cheers me up.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Apart from the country I live in, it’s Cape Town in South Africa. It took my heart when I went there. It’s the most amazing country.

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