Bodybuilding is about more than just fitness

The Ireland of the 2010s is a country that has developed an infatuation with fitness and gym culture, and everything associated with the social media universe filled with the latest body trainers and influencers. For some, however, the word bodybuilding still conjures up images of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mr Universe competitions. The City spoke to one of Ireland’s highest rated up and coming bodybuilders Eoin Vahey, particularly about the huge positive benefits, both physical and mental, that bodybuilding can bring to those looking to get involved.

“Bodybuilding in Ireland is thriving, it’s constantly growing and it’s becoming more popular to go to the gym and better yourself,” Eoin tells us. “More people are looking to partake in it, especially with the advent of social media, which to me can only be a positive for bodybuilding.”

While increased numbers partaking in the sport is a positive, Eoin stresses the point that people need to become involved in bodybuilding for the right reasons. “Some people take up bodybuilding as a quick fix to get what for them is the ideal body,” says Eoin. “People come up to me and ask me what it takes to look like I do. They just think it’s easy to get a body like this, I think because of people pushing a certain image on social media. Where a lot of the pictures are photoshopped anyway.”

It is this desire to emulate bodybuilders and other fitness figures on social media that Eoin feels can have a negative effect on people getting involved for the first time.

“It’s training to become a presence on social media, which I think will lead to failure. It’s not the right way to do it. You wouldn’t begin playing any kind of sport thinking I’m going to become an influencer or celebrity. I just think that mindset needs to change,” adds Eoin.

Eoin Vahey Credit Callum Murphy (1)
Eoin juggles his love for bodybuilding with a strenuous student life at UCD // Callum Murphy

Eoin thinks social media has had a positive impact on bodybuilding too, and for him personally, in helping to attract sponsorship and allowing bodybuilders to gain a following by providing a platform for self-promotion. “I’ve recently been sponsored by a gym so if I do a competition [at] home or abroad they will pay for my hotel and cover other costs.”

Eoin’s interest in bodybuilding came from a surprising source – his love of comic books. “Think about it,” he remarks, “superheroes are built the same as bodybuilders, and at 14 years of age I decided I wanted to look like that.”

He remembers having to initially research bodybuilding through magazines and conversing with other people, while noting how much easier it is to get involved in 2018. “It’s easier to get started now – back then I didn’t have the internet,” he explains. “If you’re getting started, just do a little bit of research, go online and look at diets and body plans. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help either. Established gyms will have experienced members. I’d have no issue in helping someone who asked or passing on some advice, and of course, have fun with it too, don’t overthink it.”

Eoin describes how he trains on average five to six times a week, typically done on a three day on, one day off basis. “If I feel good in myself I’ll keep training,” he says. “It’s three or four core sessions during the week which I know are going to help me, with another one or two around that if needed.”

A typical training session lasts between forty-five minutes and two hours, depending on which body part is being worked on. Diet also has a huge role to play in a bodybuilder’s training regime, with Eoin describing how he eats five large meals per day.

“Everyone is different, but for me, high calories, high protein, high carbs enable me to put on [muscle] tissue and recover from training. You need to be meticulous about it, you can’t miss meals during the week. That’s the core of training – your food intake. It’s not what you eat during the day, it’s what you eat over the week. If you have a good week of food intake, you’re going to respond in a positive way,” he explains.

Aside from the obvious physical benefits, Eoin also extols the virtues of bodybuilding in helping to maintain a healthy mental outlook too.

“I have never felt so mentally focused, I think it does absolutely help. Going to the gym and weight training has been proven to battle depression. If you see people battling clinical depression how do they tend to cope with it? They shut themselves away from people, the community and keep to themselves. But going to the gym or partaking in any sport or physical activity releases endorphins and dopamine into your brain which makes you feel good, and you feel like you can better yourself every time you train. Bodybuilding teaches you how to work hard, teaches you a good work ethic which you can apply to other areas of your life, which is mentally positive,” says Eoin.

Like any dedicated sports person or someone undertaking high-intensity physical training, however, Eoin, who works forty hours per week as well as studying in UCD, acknowledges that it can be difficult to balance training with his personal life at times.

“During my free time I do manage to fit in time for the gym, it gives me something to look forward to. My social life has taken a hit, but I’ve always told people that I would rather go to the gym than the pub anyway, it’s just about managing it and finding the right balance,” he says.

On his hopes for the future of the sport in Ireland, Eoin would like to see bodybuilding gain more mainstream exposure and acceptance, perhaps with more media coverage or even the filming of a documentary around the Irish bodybuilding community. He feels that the scene will continue to be successful and see more professional Irish bodybuilders established, both male and female. “Hardcore bodybuilding will always be there,” he states, “and currently it’s thriving.”

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