The fitness coaches inspiring New Yorkers to escape to Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
Beating a rugged retreat from New York to the west of Ireland
Eoghan O’Kelly and Séamus Keane inside the Hanuman Health Club Gym Space they run in Manhattan, New York City
Working Abroad Q&A: Eoghan O’Kelly and Séamus Keane, originally from Kilkee, Co Clare and Louisburg, Co Mayo, live in Manhattan in New York, where they run Hanuman Health Club, a gym focusing on “movement quality” and holistic health. They now take retreat visitors on wellness vacations from New York City to Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
When did you leave Ireland?
Eoghan: I graduated from NUI Galway in 2009. It wasn’t a great time to be entering the workforce. Like a lot of graduates during that period, I left for the US partly to get something on my CV, but mainly for fun and new experiences.
Séamus: Likewise. I came to New York with three of my closest friends to go on adventure and to travel, shortly after graduating from college in Galway.
Tell us about your work in New York?
Eoghan: Initially I worked in law, but I knew it wasn’t for me, so I made the decision to leave the profession and follow my passion for movement and training. This has allowed me to open and run a successful personal training business in Manhattan.
Séamus: I first worked in finance, but found myself procrastinating on a daily basis. Two months into my new job, I had made an exercise programme and meal plan for almost every person in the office, so I decided to pack the job in not long after that and set the ball rolling to become a fitness coach by attaining certification and training people in Central Park.
Are New Yorkers receptive to fitness and health?
Eoghan: Yes definitely. The unique style of training we offer focuses on movement quality and holistic health over aesthetics and appearances, and this has helped us to work with a diverse group of people, clients range from a 90-year-old lady to an Olympic athlete ranked number five in the world. I have also worked with professional and college-level athletes, as well as sports companies and teams from Nike and Adidas to the New York City Cosmos.
Séamus: We run very active adult, youth and kids programmes and regularly take part in team adventure races raising thousands of dollars for charities.
Is breakfast in New York and breakfast in the west of Ireland different?
Séamus: It’s more difficult to get a good breakfast in New York with real food comparable to home. Cream cheese bagels and Dunkin Donuts are generally the order of the day. This is so different to when I was at home last week eating Nora McDonnell’s farm’s hens’ eggs, and bacon and black pudding from JP, the butcher next door.
What is it like living in New York in terms of accommodation, transport, social life? Is it expensive?
Eoghan: I live in Manhattan and it’s a great place to be based. The city streets are a hive of activity and the social life is really good. It truly is a city that never sleeps!
Séamus: Overall, living in New York is a bit more expensive. Accommodation can be anything from $1,000 to $3,000 per month, but transport is very reasonable (one full week’s unlimited ride metro card costs $31). Social life expenses generally cost a bit more, especially if the credit card isn’t left at home!
What events does your health club, Hanuman, run in Ireland?
Eoghan: We currently offer wellness retreats to the west of Ireland, which offer a chance for our members in New York to come to Ireland and put the natural movement we learn at the gym into practice along the rugged Wild Atlantic Way.
Why the west of Ireland?
Eoghan: It’s an opportunity for them to experience another way of life, a more relaxed existence that isn’t always about going somewhere. In the mornings - in a beautiful cottage looking over the tidal River Shannon estuary - visitors start with a movement session or workout. After breakfast, the guests have a little down time before setting off for a local excursion. Hikes, trail runs in the Burren or around the wild and rugged Loop Head, private boat trips to monastic settlements, water-based activities on the estuary or under the jagged cliffs follow.
Have you plans to run more retreats here?
Séamus: The aim is to bring more people to the west of Ireland, as we both have an immense pride and passion for the place we call home. The retreats bring together fitness, adventure, good food and Irish culture to connect people and create life-lasting memories and experiences, while learning how to incorporate activity and recovery into everyday life.
Eoghan: After the first three retreats to West Clare were a massive success, we have now decided to expand the concept and are working hard on adding a Mayo base to the itinerary. Following this, the next step will be to expand our offerings to more of the West of Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way. We also want to open our reach to visitors from all over the world who share an interest in health and wellness, so its not limited to members from the gym space in Manhattan.
Are there any other Irish people in your circles?
Séamus: We are both members of GAA clubs. The GAA is such a huge help, especially when coming over here first as Irish people go out of their way to help you out. It’s a great community, whether you are looking for work or looking to make new friends to hang out with, and it’s very important to keep that connection to home.
Is there anything you miss about living and working in Ireland?
Eoghan: My mother’s cooking, she’s the best chef in the country.
Séamus: Beach swims, Cadbury’s chocolate and Dad’s roast lamb dinner.
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