Strength Focus: Peg Hanrahan

Peg has been training with us at the UL Arena Strength Training class since its inception over two years ago, and thus is our longest serving member. Her progress has been remarkable in that time, and not only is she well known to the Arena staff for her athletic endeavours, but certainly serves as an inspiration to all others in the class. She is a very fit and healthy woman, and always comes to the gym with a positive outlook and happy to be there.

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Peg, whilst very much involved in sports and physical activity, had never set foot in a gym previously and she hasn’t looked back since. Full push-ups off the floor, deadlifting over 100kg, squatting over 50kg, kettlebell swings, pistol squats. Chin-ups are next on the list and it’s only a matter of time before we can tick that box. As Peg would say herself, once she sets her mind to something she will eventually get there. There is a lesson in that for all of us!

From the point of view of the coach, Peg’s success over the past couple of years can be put down to a couple of things. First of all is her consistency. Peg has never missed a block of training. Of course, like anyone, life gets in the way every now and again, but she has never broken the habit of coming to the class. She always turns up.

Secondly is her application and effort. A lot of people who come to the gym don’t particularly try and progress what they are doing in terms of load, they go through the motions. Peg works hard, and hard work works. That doesn’t mean going mad and training like a lunatic. Going back to the first and most important point, we need consistency. If you train like a lunatic you won’t train consistently week-in, week-out like Peg. For us that means Peg turns up at every session, takes the program, gets to work without obsessing about the numbers. When energy is high we will finish with a metabolic conditioning finisher, when energy isn’t so high, we leave it out. And then at the end of every month we pick a lift and see how heavy she can do it. Simple. Right out of the Dan John school of thought: ‘Park bench workouts’ and ‘Bus bench workouts’. (Here is an article by Dan that explains that concept, it is long but you can scroll down to Appendix A.)

The third key to Peg’s continued progress is that she enjoys training. Josephine, Mary, and herself, who all work in the University, have been coming together since the beginning. They lift weights, they keep progressing, they have a laugh, they don’t fret, and to make the point once more…they keep coming.


I asked Peg a few questions to get an idea of what makes her tick and to get her thoughts on training and following an active lifestyle in general. The answers are very insightful with some great tips. I think it also really shows that you don’t need a degree in sport science or nutrition to know what to do in order to stay healthy, look good, and perform your best.


Hi Peg, Can you give us an idea of what a normal week looks like for you with regards physical activity and exercise?

I go to the gym 3 days a week, I go for a long walk 2 to 3 days per week, swim one to two times a week, and in summer time I play golf at least twice a week.


What motivates you to keep up such an active lifestyle? Do you find that you need to ‘motivate’ yourself to stay on track and exercise?

Exercise has become part of my lifestyle and is built in to my days work, gym and walk exercise is done during my lunchtime. The other activities are done at the week-end. I enjoy doing all of these and they give me a feel-good effect.


How did you get into strength training initially? Are there benefits you feel from this type of training in comparison to walking, golfing and other forms of physical activity you were previously used to?

Initially I got interested in the strength training from an e-mail that was circulated at work, before this my lunch time exercise was walking, I often thought about going to the gym but never had the courage but when this class was advertised it had many points that were attractive e.g.  expert supervision and guidance, small classes, individual programs & fun. The benefits I feel from this compared to walking etc. are that I can set goals that I can measure on an on-going basis and set targets that are achievable. I feel I have had a good session when I come out feeling a good sense of working hard.


Generally, females are cautious about weight lifting for fear of getting big and bulky. How did you overcome this perception, and what would you say to women who want to get fit but avoid strength training?

There is so much in the media now about the importance of strength training involving weights that I welcomed the opportunity to try weights.  I think when a class has a mix of all types of exercise, and not only weights, that the fear of getting big and bulky disappears.  To me there is a sense of achievement when you see what you can push yourself to do.


Can you give us a picture of your upbringing with regards physical activity and nutrition? Do you think there is much of a difference in the youth of today and modern society?

As a child my main activities were playing outside running around and playing ball.  I played badminton, table tennis and net ball.  I grew up in a home where nutrition was plain simple home cooking with a lot of home grown produce.  Very little sweets or sweet drinks this was the norm at the time.

I think children now tend to play a lot of computer based games and do not have enough outdoor activities.  A lot of their outdoor activities are club based and are not in the general running around making fun amongst themselves e.g. tag etc.  I also think that all children are eating way too much sweets and drinking too many sweet drinks. These should be treats at the week-end rather than everyday food.


With the seemingly confusing nutritional advice that is put out there, low-fat, low-carb, whole grains, gluten free, less meat, eggs are bad, eggs are good.. how do you decide what foods to eat? Have you experimented with ‘diets’?

I have never experimented with diets. As a rule I eat very little sweet things and I use very little convenience food.  At the weekend I plan the meals for the week ahead and shop accordingly. I tend to eat less meat and more fish, I find information with regard what is good or bad a bit misleading so my rule is eat everything in moderation home cooked preferably.


Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get started on the path of a more active and healthy lifestyle?

I think that there should be more emphasis on exercise rather than on fad diets. I think smaller gyms running classes with an instructor who gives individual programmes in a small class setting would go a long way in encouraging people to take part in gym activities.   Most people when they think of a gym immediately think of a treadmill or cycling machines and do not realise all the other exercises that one could do.  It is very daunting to walk into a gym if you have never been there before but with structured classes this obstacle can be removed. Class participation also makes you attend at set times rather than allowing yourself put it on the long finger, so you are accountable to the trainer and to the other class members.

Finally, do you have a philosophy that helps you manage the everyday stress of work and life and maintain a positive outlook?

The only philosophy I have is that it is important to make time to exercise, it is good discipline to work it into your working  day if at all possible. There is a feel good factor after exercising which helps me reduce stress and allows me to have a positive outlook. I do  most of my training at lunch time or early morning at week-ends. The earlier the better to get a real good sense of achievement.


Thank you Peg, keep up the good work!

Author: Cairbre

Cairbre is the face behind Feed Me Strength. Cairbre has previously worked as Strength and Conditioning coach for Arsenal Women FC, Arsenal Youth Academy, and the Limerick Hurling Academy. He has a passion for athletic performance and an endless curiosity about the inner workings of the body and mind.

UKSCA accredited, with a Sport and Exercise Sciences BSc, and Sports Performance MSc from the University of Limerick.

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