G’day sport: Is exercise easier in Australia?
Since moving Down Under, these Irish people have discovered a passion for fitness, they tell Ciara Kenny
Noel Barrett: “We are lucky with the weather here, but you have to motivate yourself to get up, out and exercise.”
Freda Murphy: “Through my triathlon experience, I have realised we can achieve almost anything when we put our minds to it.”
Australia sits at the very top of the OECD’s Better Life Index, and with its sunnier climate and more outdoorsy culture, it’s no wonder so many Irish people who move there talk about how drastically their lifestyles have changed since leaving Ireland. We asked three Irish people who have made the move down under in recent years about their new fitness and exercise regimes.
Noel Barrett: ‘In Sydney there is more an emphasis on wellbeing and taking care of yourself’
When I left Ireland in August 2008 I smoked 20 cigarettes a day on average, but two months after arriving in Australia I decided to give up. It was a good opportunity for a clean slate. I had never thought much about exercise in Ireland; I was in my 20s and having a good time.
Since giving up cigarettes and starting to keep fit seven years ago, I feel like a different person. I have run a fair few half marathons since then, the last one in late November on the New South Wales Central Coast, about two hours north of Sydney. It was a great run and weekend away with friends.
I run with a couple of mates (and Aussie and South African) every Friday and Saturday morning, which we follow with a swim and a coffee. They are far better ocean swimmers than I ever will be; all that malarkey of putting on pyjamas and swimming down to the bottom of the to pick up a brick on Saturday mornings in St Anne’s swimming pool in Raheny did little for my ocean swimming capability. But I am planning to put that right this summer.
I used to be the guy that hit snooze on the alarm clock ten times, but now I attend a team training gym most weekday mornings. It’s a high-intensity 45-minute training session in a team environment. This is addictive, and makes you feel great at the end of the day.
We are lucky with the weather here, but you have to motivate yourself to get up, out and exercise, even when it rains. Not everyone here is chiselled and has a six pack; I certainly don’t! But in parts of Sydney there is more an emphasis on wellbeing and taking care of yourself, something I never opened my eyes to when living in Ireland. I never thought I would be up at 5.30am on a Saturday to go for a run, and now it is one of my favourite times of the week.
Freda Murphy: ‘Before I moved to Sydney, I saw the sunrise, but only ever at the end of a long night’
You know those annoying people who move to some sunny location in the southern hemisphere, who not only post pictures on social media of beautiful sunsets and beach barbeques, but also have the audacity to alternate them with guilt-inducing exercise photos?
Perhaps a jaw-dropping view from their Monday evening jog? Or maybe an açaí smoothie selfie after a 6am ocean swim?
Well, I’m guilty as charged.
Before I moved to Sydney four years ago, I saw the sunrise, but only ever at the end of a long night. I ran, but never too far. I swam, but in way that might provoke a lifeguard to save me. And I had a clear - and arguably fair - fear of locking my feet into bike cleats. Lycra was a fashion faux pas, not a wardrobe staple.
I only dabbled in exercise to begin with, but then, two years ago on a whim, I tried my hand at triathlon, having most recently completed a Half Ironman in Cairns. Crossing that finish line was so far from what I could have imagined myself doing before I moved to Australia.
Through my triathlon experience, I have realised we can achieve almost anything when we put our minds to it. The many everyday heroes of triathlon I’ve come across - those who overcome physical and personal obstacles every time they train or compete - have also pushed me to try to achieve more. My personal favourites are Turia Pitt and Team Hoyt, who are both worth Gooling for their remarkable stories. But everyone who competes in triathlon has their own tale to tell.
I apologise for continuing to pollute my friends’ social media feeds with all those pics, but I’m just so happy with the shift my life took. A new fitness bug seems to be spreading across Ireland recently too, so I know I’m not alone in my journey, just a little warmer perhaps.
William Ralph: ‘I’m so much fitter since my daughters and I took up Crossfit in Melbourne’
In our neighbourhood, an affluent, bayside suburb in Melbourne, activity starts early. The weather makes a huge difference. As soon as the sun comes out, everybody gets up to run, walk or cycle from about 7am on weekends. I don’t think anything stirs in Gorey at 7am on a Sunday, unless you count the drunks struggling home from an all-nighter.
Our family left Co Wexford two years ago. Now I walk to work, and my two teenage daughters walk to school. We have one small family car and use public transport if going into the city.
I used to exercise quite regularly in Ireland, mostly weight training, but I’m so much fitter now since my teenage daughters and I took up Crossfit here in Melbourne. My wife, who has always exercised, continues to do body pump and spin classes, which I find terribly boring but she loves.
Crossfit is a mix of all different types of sports, including Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, running, jumping and skipping. The club we’re in, Schwartz Crossfit, is one of the best in the world.
I was super fit in my 20s. I’m in my 50s now but I feel really great, and that’s because of Crossfit, which we do three to four times a week. Because we exercise hard and often, we have to eat well and regularly, as well as keep hydrated; clear pee is the aim.
Until recently I trained in the teen class with my daughters, because the adult class terrified me, but they asked me to leave. So I’m now a fully-fledged adult Crossfitter, and completely addicted.
I bore all my friends talking about rope climbing, box jumping, double-unders or clean and jerk. My wife has invested in earplugs, and if I keep it up, she says she’ll be investing in a new home too.