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Inspiration Over Lunch: Exercise And Mental Health According To James Hanley

I’m not exactly what you’d call a gym bunny. I’m not one to check in on Facebook while I’m running and I certainly don’t take selfies while I’m lifting dumbbells. As far as I can tell, the joke of “if you didn’t check in on Facebook, it did’t happen” is still a joke that I’ll choose to laugh at. This is the laughing that gets to happen as I use exercise as a method to take care of my mental health.

Fitness expert, weight lifter and gym owner James Hanley is all too familiar with the online and offline world of fitness. When we chatted about the recent mental health awareness month, he offered some valuable insights into the impact the trending world of exercise is having and where it’s heading.

Considering the world of fitness on the emerald Isle, there’s clearly been a surge in terms of the amount of gyms popping up. Meanwhile, the country’s love of healthy food is getting stronger with artisan butchers and health food stores becoming more than a passing trend. As highlighted by James, people are investing more in their health and have a better perspective of what healthy really is.

When it comes to exercise, the phrase “He’s not the sort of guy who gets ulcers, he’s the guy that gives them” rings true for James. When speaking of how people deal with stress, he says “it basically stems towards three points – you can release stress by shouting at someone/something, hitting someone/something or exercising it out”. Looking at these, it’s pretty clear which is going to have the greatest benefits.

As touched on in my recent posts on mental health, James also hit on the point of not being idle:  “Having an outlet, somewhere that’s not allowing you to stew at home and instead, being able to meet and interact with other people is one of the biggest benefits of being in a group exercise program”. Exercise not only keeps the mind and body occupied, it creates endorphins which means less stress.

Being time-poor is one of the obstacles to effective self-care in today’s day and age. So if you’re in need of a stress-reliever in the form of exercise but your schedule seems too jam-packed, how do you fit it in? Well, getting a notepad is where to start. James’ method of figuring it out involves the following ” From the moment you wake up, write everything down that you did every fifteen minutes for the previous fifteen. It will take some time at first but do it for 7-14 days and it will do one of two things: It’ll validate the fact that you are busy and make you find more time to train. OR it’ll make you realise that you aren’t as busy as you initially thought you were and show you where you’re wasting time, dossing or being otherwise inefficient. From there, all you have to do is make a decision whether what you’re doing is making you happy. If it is, keep doing it. If it isn’t, change something.”

So say you figure out the time, how do you then decide which exercise works best for you? There could be a trend of people lifting weights amongst your friend group, does that mean it’s for you? Definitely not. Likewise if running bores you then keep away. On this note, James’ advice is find something you love and give it 100% – “The best exercise is the one you enjoy the most and can stick to”.

From James’ endless experience of the positive impact of exercise on any given human, the only negative that he considered was what’s happening in the online world of instagram, check-ins and the dishing out of ‘healthy living’ advice by those that consider themselves experts. According to James, “The fitness industry in failing us right now. Influencers are creating a highlight reel on social media and misleading everyone into believing they have everything they want, love their body and have the perfect life.” Married with insecurity and unhappiness, James explained that at times the same people who are dishing out advice (mostly young girls and guys) will delete posts if they don’t get enough likes upfront and censor comment streams for fear that the writings there will destroy their planned narrative. This translates to poor mental health in such influencers real-lives.

In a world where there is a range of mental health challenges, insecurities and unfortunately, still a stigma behind talking about mental health, James offered his advice: “You don’t have to pretend to be 100% all the time. Vulnerability is cool. Not being OK is OK. Talking about how you feel with friends or trusted sources isn’t a show of weakness, it’s a show of strength. ESPECIALLY for guys”.

While mental health awareness month has passed, we still need to keep the conversation going. Got something to share? Hit me up via social media or in the comments’ field below.

If strength training, strong mindset and/or health living is for you then I’d strongly suggest checking out James’ site, social media and if in the area, his gyms. To learn more, you can visit him here.

Inspiration Over Lunch: Pauline’s Journey To Her Back And Beyond


“Writing is my therapy” were the words uttered by Pauline Harley as she excitedly told me of being accepted as a writer on Arianna Huffington’s new site ‘Thrive Global‘. Having overcome some pretty big obstacles in her life, it wasn’t a surprise to learn that a world-renowned entrepreneur found Pauline to be an inspiration. I have found throughout my time of knowing her – it was hard not to feel inspired by her.

And so, it began. Forty-eight minutes of Pauline’s passionate telling of stories of how trials and tribulations became triumphs that strengthened her beautiful soul. Starting with an illness called Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation to the bowels and gives the feeling of food poisoning and endless discomfort, Pauline has had lots to contend with. Working in a highly stressful job during her twenties meant that her lifestyle was far from healthy. Long hours in meetings led to tiredness that felt remedied by alcohol, smoking and over-consumption in general. Such a lifestyle meant being overweight became an issue.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago when she was in the bank one day and her legs went from under her. Two weeks before the fall, she had had a massage which had evidently uncovered a weakness in her spine. It was six months later when Pauline found herself having a serious spine fusion surgery that she described as a time that she wanted to be taken away from the pain, for good. Having lost her mother previous to the surgery, it was the strength of such a bond that got her through the painful experience.

The list went on. I’ve never met a strong human being with an easy past and Pauline is no exception. Numerous miscarriages, removal of half her womb along with a vicious attack on her husband on what was supposed to be a celebratory night out, all followed what had already built a stronger Pauline – inside and out.

She has taken part in three body-building competitions in her life, the most recent being in September of this year. Her resilience and strength saw her totally transforming her body, losing over five stone and building a new mindset. As she puts it herself, “It’s all about mindset”. When getting to where you want, achieving goals and reaching your potential, Pauline vouches for this throughout. During the interview, it was also what seemed to have become the common denominator to her success to date.fb_img_1477349825415

The only thing as strong as Pauline’s resilience is the love for her family. Speaking of date nights with her partner and the pride she has for her son, it was obvious that she surrounds herself with those who lift her up. When speaking of the people one spends the most time with and how they influence us, Pauline and I agreed that we become like those we spend the most time with. This was based on a reflection of her past and a time when spending time with people who would share similar challenges was the norm for her. Those in tricky situations being around her impacted her own pain, adding to it rather than building the strong mindset she so prides herself on, today. Now, instead of feeling needy, Pauline knows her own intuition and self awareness and highlights how this drives her forward.

Before finishing the interview, Pauline highlighted once again how her mother had been the drive in her life. Although she has passed on, she looks to her for guidance along with the other strong forces in her life.

Having just completed the diploma in Life and Executive Coaching, Pauline is now working as a coach and offers a range of services through her website. She’s also available for speaking events, interviews and sharing her journey with others.

When asked how she would suggest that people going through challenging times feels stronger at a given time, her advice is to “face your own truth”. In doing so, it’s expected that you’ll deal with what’s happening head on and work towards the best outcome. 

Inspiration Over Lunch: Affirmations And Attitudes with Sarah Doyle


It’s not everyday I do an ‘Inspiration over lunch’ piece. Indeed, it has been a while since I’ve hit publish on a post and possibly, it’ll be another while before a new one gets written. A focus of quality rather than quantity and wanting to share the very best of the best is vital from my end.

This week, I had the pleasure of spending time with Sarah Doyle. A life coach and motivational speaker, she’s got serious mojo when it comes to supporting other people, helping them feel confident in themselves and grabbing their natural power back.

A self-proclaimed ‘affirmation queen’, Sarah finished our interview with several strong messages – the most powerful being “Happiness works for you, you work for happiness’. Having heard the story of Sarah’s background and interests while feeling the energy projected by her fabulous personality, it wasn’t difficult to figure out why such a motto is her favourite.

As a keen and successful professional back in the day, doing a course in life-coaching seemed like a productive idea to unstick her from a rut she had found herself in. Working long hours and feeling overwhelming stress on a daily basis even when in her ‘safe place’ – the gym, was enough to spur her to create an exit strategy. Such a plan would lead her to work for another year in her job while working on her business in the background.

In 2012, The Better Life Project, a business that has been featured in the Irish Times, Mirror and more recently, Spin Radio, came into fruition. Since that point, it has gone from strength to strength and to date, Sarah has helped 1000’s of people become their best selves.


As Sarah described, there were some key moments that spurred on her decision to start the business. The one that seemed to stand out the most was when she arrived home one day to find out that a family friend’s eighteen year old son had commit suicide. Not knowing him personally didn’t matter, it had struck a chord with her. Life is short and all the procrastinating up that point was done with – it was time to make a plan and get things moving. It’s now 2016 and Sarah hasn’t looked back – except to see how far she has come.

When asked what one thing she couldn’t live without, Sarah’s face lit up as she spoke of her partner James, “Without him, The Better Life Project wouldn’t exist”. It wasn’t the first time I had heard of James, having trained with him then having written a post about him and his equally powerful mantras in 2015. More importantly, Sarah’s dedication to him had come up before – several times actually, in this very same conversation. James was a huge support to Sarah – something which she highlighted as being a key factor to success.

Not surprisingly, when I asked Sarah if she felt having a strong support network was necessary when it came to starting up her business or starting a new journey in general, she of course highlighted its importance.

The future sounds excited for Sarah and her business. It’s pretty clear that we’ll be hearing loads more from her in the coming months and years.

Wellfest takes place in Dublin in September where Sarah will be presenting and giving talks on wellness and confidence.

-The recent launch of The Better Life Project TV gives huge insight into Sarah, what she’s about and a range of interviewees who have advice to offer. Those interviewed come from the world of fitness, entrepreneurship and general, awesomeness.

-Sarah is a personal trainer at Revolution Fitness where she lifts weights and highlights just how amazing we can be and what our bodies can do.

-But of course, Sarah is a life coach and offers her fantastic services which can be enquired about on her website. Whether you’re making a life change, embarking on an adventure or simply, want to work on your confidence along the way, Sarah can support you.

Feeling inspired yet?

I thought so.