Health and lifestyle: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger - and fitter!

All the savvy fitness fans are ditching the treadmill and the aerobics class and taking over the weights room.

All the savvy fitness fans are ditching the treadmill and the aerobics class and taking over the weights room.

The Leinster Leader’s Laura Coates took on a four week weights and diet overhaul challenge. Read on to find out how she got on.

So, obviously I had to take up the challenge presented by John Dwyer of the newly-opened Health Compass gym in Naas Town Centre. Could four weeks of training on a free weights programme help me tone up and build lean muscle?

My programme incorporated the benchpress, squats, deadlifts and shoulder presses, plus stability and core work. Each session, and there were two a week, lasted about an hour. Here’s the thing to note about personal training sessions - there is literally nowhere to hide and no fooling yourself that you’re working out when you’re really faffing around the back of the gym watching telly. Every angle is measured, every posture is corrected and every attempted cheat is spotted.

Week one, and who’d have thought rolling some tennis balls down your back could cause such agony? The foam rolling warm-up was definitely working out the knots in my back.

One exercise had me simply crawling in a straight line up-and-down the floor, to work on my balance and coordination. My eight-month-old niece would have been embarrassed at my technique. Hat tip to all babies out there, it’s harder than it looks.

The first ‘proper’ weights workout was very challenging, in that it takes repetition and concentration to get the movements down correctly. It didn’t seem at the time like I was working hard, but my legs were like jelly and my heart galloping after it.

Week two and I was whingeing because the deadlifts were taking the skin off my hands. I decided it would look too girly to invest in a pair of gloves, so I take to the proffered bowl of chalk and channel my inner Soviet gymnast. Switching grips during lifts helped immensely.

In my days ‘off’ from the gym I incorporated as many long, brisk walks into my routine as possible, such as quick 40 minute spins in the evening, or opting to get the bus to work and speedwalking the 15 minutes to the stop.

By week three, my mobility had improved immensely and I could finally do a split squat. Foam rolling also didn’t hurt as much as at the start.

Hitting weights targets become an enjoyable mental challenge and I’m thrilled to bits when I smash my number of squat reps.

John also spotted that I have a slight pelvic misalignment, and gave me some exercises to do which might prevent me developing a hopalong gait in the future.

Four weeks in and my movement was much more fluid and the challenge of doing just one more rep or at a slightly heavier weight had become addictive.

Unsurprisingly, at my retest, I’d lost inches all over and had gone down a jeans size. My stress levels have decreased and my joint mobility feels significantly smoother and the joints less achey.

More importantly, I’m thinking I’ll be keeping this up - I’m not quitting without hitting that 50kg bench press and 80kg squat.

John Dwyer of Health Compass explains why strength training is of benefit

There is a common misconception that the gym is a dangerous place. People are afraid of getting hurt when they see free weights and barbells.

However, if you find a good gym and are getting a well-designed training programme and a well-supervised session, the gym is the safest place to get fit and healthy.

Strength training has many benefits that can help you lead a healthier and happier life.

Some of these include an increased metabolism, osteoporosis prevention, better hormonal balance and boosted energy levels.

At Health Compass, there is a rather unique intake process. In the evaluation you will be asked to fill in a stress indicator form, take a Heart Rate Variability test and do a 7 point movement assessment.

I will then take these results and interpret the results to design a program specifically tailored for you. The reasons I use these tests is because the Heart Rate Variability test gives me a valuable insight into how well your body is functioning and how well it can cope with stress.

If your body is already struggling to cope with stress, for whatever reason, then your training sessions are going to have to be planned and delivered differently, and a programme can be developed to help you reduce stress. To neglect what is going on in your daily life would be a complete disservice because you only spend between 2-4 hours a week in the gym and outside, you can unconsciously be destroying all the positive changes you have been making.

Before any weights are lifted you do a specific warm up and movement correction exercises. The main training will be done with free weights; there are no machines and no cardio bikes or treadmills.

Free weights are far more functional to everyday life. The results are longer lasting because you are forcing the whole body to work the way it is designed to.

Leinster Leader Special Offer

Try six classes at Health Compass in Naas for just €50, when you quote ‘Leinster Leader Offer’.

To book, call John at 086 0836979 or email

Health Compass

Unit M4 Naas Town Centre,

Dublin Road, Naas

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