Stay moving — helping others helps Pat Divilly take on the world

To describe Pat Divilly as determined is something of an understatement. One gets a sense that there is literally nothing he cannot do. The 27-year-old does not set limits and is constantly pushing himself outside of his comfort zone. His life motto is to keep moving forward, and that he is certainly doing.

From small beginnings, the Galway based health guru has kicked off a serious fitness revolution which has grown into an immensely successful business. He has built an impressive online fanbase with a whopping 135,000 followers on Facebook and a significant presence on other social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter. Mr Divilly was also one of the first trainers in Ireland to introduce the public to the concept of online courses, and this aspect of his business continues to grow apace. To date, 7,000 clients have used his gym in Barna, or trained with him online, while 25,000 have bought one of his two books, 21 Day Jump Start and Naked Paleo Food Stripped Bare.

In tandem with building a business empire, Pat is the youth mental health ambassador for national suicide prevention and bereavement charity Console, and it is patently obvious he is extremely passionate about the work undertaken by the organisation. The entrepreneur is definitely not just another well-known face putting his name to a good cause for the positive publicity, due to knowing what it is like to hit rock bottom and rise from the ashes.

Hard times

In 2011, following the completion of a master’s in nutrition science, forays into the world of fitness training were not proving too successful, and he suffered a bout of depression. “I went to Dublin to see if I could make a go of things up there and it just did not work out. I moved back home with my parents as I had no money and I just started to get really down. I was working as a waiter in Fat Freddys at the time, people were coming in asking what had happened in Dublin, as on social media I had pretended work was going really well but it was all just a pretence. I set the bar very high for myself and I was frustrated that I was 24 and things were not working out as I had planned. There were some days I could not even get out of bed.’’

Luckily his passion for health and fitness did not wane and he managed to turn his life around by successfully organising bootcamp classes on the beach. “I literally printed up about 5,000 flyers and handed them out everywhere I could think off. The first morning I had five people. I had no equipment, bar two cones, but it worked, and within weeks it took off and got bigger and bigger. I think it was as much about what I was saying to the clients - changing their mentality - as the actual exercises we was doing.’’

The saying that hard work yields results is fitting, as 12 months to the day after beginning the bootcamp classes he achieved a lifelong dream by opening his own gym in Barna. It was a landmark moment as he also signed his first book deal the same week. The public seemed to resonate with the non preachy, common sense approach of 21 Day Jumpstart which went on to become the best selling health and fitness book in Ireland for two years.  

In his own quietly determined way, he is now taking the fitness world by storm and there is no end to his ambition. The success of his online fitness courses, the books, and motivational speaking has meant taking a step back from the gym, and in June he handed over the reins to Geoffrey Sheridan to concentrate on developing other aspects of the business. 

It is clear he is getting huge fulfillment from helping others. “The thing with the online courses is they have a global reach as location is not an issue. I have about 700 subscribers every month and my aim is to increase that. There are four aspects to the courses; 1 ) training, with five workout videos provided every week, 2 ) nutrition, which incorporates a shopping list, recipes, and meal planning guidelines, 3 ) mindset, which includes motivational videos and pep talks to keep clients on track, and 4 ) the community forums, where clients can chat to fellow subscribers of the same mindset.’’

‘A leader is someone who shows people what is possible’

Getting back to his work for Console, Pat has undertaken a number of fitness challenges in an effort to raise funds for the charity, and now plans to travel to Las Vegas in November to partake in the World’s Toughest Mudder event. This is the culmination of the Tough Mudder global calendar, and takes the concept to a whole new level. It is an extreme competition which incorporates a gruelling 24-hour obstacle challenge and is designed to push entrants to their physical and mental limits. The race is a five mile circuit with 20-25 obstacles which could include anything from electric shocks to a cliff jump. The event winners will be the man, woman, and team that achieve the most laps in a 24-hour period. 

It is a challenge that is only designed for elite athletes and most certainly is not for the faint hearted. His goal is to stay moving for the 24 hours, to finish, and to obviously raise money for Console. Already having managed to raise €30,000 so far this year, the aim is to get to €50,000. To do that, he is hopeful that some local businesses will come on board with sponsorship.

The irony of doing World’s Toughest Mudder is that by the Galway man’s own admission, he is not the biggest lover of running which is obviously an integral part of this challenge. However it is at times like this that his strength of character come to the fore. “The average most people get through is 30 miles, I would like to do more than that. A lot of my clients would be better runners than me and the training between now and then will be pretty intense to get myself up to standard. I ran 24 miles last weekend and I will be running a lot to build up the cardio. The only thing I have going for me is I am stubborn enough not to stop!”

There is no doubt that Console is a cause that will always remain close to his heart. As well as his own experience with mental health issues, a close friend lost his life to depression nine years ago. “When I was a teenager, I was hugely into cage fighting. I used to go to the States every summer and my best friend there took his own life. He was an amazing person - the kind of guy that could see the good in everybody else but not himself. Through my work with Console, I have also met and worked with countless people who are crippled with depression, anxiety, and fear.’’

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