From Irish dancer, to aspiring femaile bodybuilder, 21-year-old Dervla Kilmartin from Sligo has always been a fitness fanatic.
She spent her youth juggling every sport under the sun and took a keen interest in dancing and track and field.
She was so dedicated to her sport she competed in the All-Ireland track and field, just three days before sitting her Leaving Certificate.
Despite a routine jam-packed with activities, the young athlete’s education did not suffer and Kilmartin decided to amalgamate her love of sport and education and went on to study Sport and Exercise Science in University of Limerick.
She enjoyed the Fresher fun of college but soon after, decided she wanted to do something more serious.
“I always wanted to have an athletic physique to match my sporting background, and even more so now having to work with professional athletes and to be taken seriously as a woman in this industry,” explained the keen sportswoman.
Kilmartin’s boyfriend, also a bodybuilder, introduced the gym junkie to the world of bodybuilding. While attending one of his shows, her attention was grabbed by the body fitness/figure category of women and the obsession began.
As part of her college course, she obtained a six month placement in NSW Institute of Sport in Sydnesy, Australia. It was here her love for body fitness blossomed. She admits, like any other profession, first impressions are important, especially in the fitness world.
“Let’s be honest,” she says, “image is an important factor. I wanted to feel and look strong to feel more confident in the career I wanted.”
Training began regularly while studying in Sydney. She gained valuable knowledge and training tips from various strengthening coaches and nutritionists around her. It was here Kilmartin met Jaslyn Hewitt and Kat Millar, fellow female bodybuilders, who were always on hand with tips and advice.
What others may consider torture, Kilmartin thrived in: “There were days I cried during the training I was pushed so hard. I loved it!”
The women Kilmartin has trained with she would consider real, honest athletes. Recently, bodybuilding has become somewhat of a fad in the media with the emergence of glamour model Jodie Marsh entering into the body fitness world.
For Kilmartin, she sees Marsh as “an insult more than anything to bodybuilding”.
“Jodie gained fame from training for only few weeks compared to the athletes in this industry who train for years and years to improve their physique constantly.”
Now training up six times a week and concentrating vividly on a healthy diet, it is a wonder how a normal lifestyle can be led.
“Obviously there does come sacrifices,” admits Kilmartin. “I would say my social life has suffered a little bit the fact I don’t go out much anymore, but that’s not the life I want to live”.
Living an Irish student life and obtaining her level of commitment are certainly two clashing lifestyles. “I have gone out partying with my friends many times sober now over the past year and a bit and I have had great fun. You have to enjoy the process too and live a balanced life.”
While Kilmartin has received nothing but support and encouragement from family and friends, it has not all been friendly feedback for her. “I got a lot of negativity from boys about my pictures. Many insulted me and mocked my pictures or statuses”.
“Women used to think I was going for the “bodybuilder” look and thought it was disgusting and I would be a tank and become huge”.
As Kilmartin’s training has progressed she says now “I do get a lot of positive comments now from both males and females as they can see it’s not a fad and it’s a lifestyle for me and my commitment and dedication shines through.”
“From skinny/fat to strong is a healthy approach with many benefits and I would choose this look any day. Plus I get to eat extra food to feed my muscles and the feeling after a good workout is extremely satisfying and you learn so much about yourself psychologically and physically.”
Kilmartin ends on a positive note, something we could all live by: “You are only young once, so make the most of it by living a healthy active life.”