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Dreaming big


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Westport bodybuilder Eoin Ring talks competing, how exercise helps his mental health and the rise in bodybuilding

Ger Flanagan

IF for any reason you happen to be passing through Westport at the crack of dawn any time soon, and you see a young male wearing a hood and walking intently along the Castlebar Road, don’t be alarmed.
The cynic inside you may be suspicious, but that person is in fact Westport native Eoin Ring, powering through his daily 6am cardio session that will be followed up by a 8am gym session in Westport Leisure Park – all before work at 9am.
To the average Joe it may seem like lunacy, but for Eoin, it’s part of the daily grind as he prepares for the Miami Pro bodybuilding competition set to take place in London on Saturday, October 22.
In the bodybuilding universe he is at ‘the last stages of prep’, or to you and I, the bounds of physical and mental exertion.
“When you are this close to the competition, it gets very hard,” the 23 year old told The Mayo News recently. “The dieting gets a bit extreme, carbs are very low and my activity is very, very high.
“The only thing that keeps you going is your mind, because if that is not there you’re not able to push yourself. My body is screaming for food and rest, but you just have to ignore it and keep going.
“To be honest, this stage of prep is not the healthiest, but for anything extreme, you have to push through it. It’s the mental strength that keeps you going … but I enjoy it, and it’s the only way I would have it.”
When I sat down with Eoin Ring to conduct this interview, he was open, honest and engaging, he spoke with the kind of positivity that that people heavily involved in the fitness world have, and he was tanned! (He had just recently come second in the NIFMA Physique Championships).

‘A bad place’
In a broad chit-chat before the interview began, we met on common ground discussing the huge mental benefits of physical exercise.
And as the conversation escalated, it soon became clear that the gym has provided so much more to Ring than one could imagine.
“When I went into Fifth Year I was kind of in a bad place,” he admitted. “I was very depressed, and I didn’t know why because there was nothing wrong in my life. So I was putting myself down thinking I had no reason to be depressed.
“Then I noticed when I started to train with weights that I’d feel a lot better after. So I got addicted to that as a release. I have been prescribed stuff by doctors and everything, and nothing has helped me more than exercise.”
What began as a release soon turned into a passion, particularly when Ring left school and completed a Personal Training course.
“I had no interest in my Leaving Cert, and I had no interest in studying anything in college, so I decided to be a personal trainer and learned how to train properly, got my nutrition in-check … and from there I was hooked.
“When I do something, I have to do it 100 percent – it’s a blessing and a curse. I haven’t had a week off training in maybe four or five years. It’s my go-to thing for stress.”

Sport on the rise
Ring has noticed a huge rise in the number of bodybuilders in the west of Ireland, and admitted that he can only see it increasing with the amount of information available to the younger generation.
“You see the likes of John Van Den Oosten from Castlebar winning a national competition last spring, and it’s a massive achievement,” he stated. “ You have John Carney, Ranjit Dhillon and Aaron Neary from Castlebar. Blessing Awodibu, who is originally from Castlebar, is now famous worldwide and has won six shows this year.
“I see a lot of guys in my gym that are in Fifth Year and TY, and I’ve said it to them, they started out so much younger than me and they’re already building physiques, so when they get to their 20s they will be incredible.
“I feel this generation of kids has access to so much more information than any other, and it will only grow the sport.”
But from the outside looking in, the sport of bodybuilding often receives bad press due to the  prevalence of steroid usage throughout the ranks.
Ring admitted that it is a problem that he feels will never fully be prevented, but he also insisted that people can be blinded by the perception that every bodybuilder takes steroids and are unaware of the work and the discipline that’s needed.
“There’s always going to be steroids in bodybuilding,” he candidly admitted. “But it’s not to say that the guys who take steroids don’t work their asses off.
“I don’t look to other bodybuilders for inspiration, I look to my friend, Cian Brennan. He competed for the first time two years ago and showed me firsthand where you can take your body with just hard work and discipline.
“It’s an easy way for people to comfort themselves by saying ‘Look if I was taking that then I would look like that too’, but the simple fact of the matter is that you wouldn’t because you don’t work half as hard as those guys.”

Future plans
So what does the future hold for Eoin Ring?
“I am going to be bodybuilding for the rest of my life,” he stated. “It is a lifestyle and an aspect of life that I will never give up.
“Bodybuilding has prepared me mentally for absolutely anything in life. It really has strengthened my mind and I feel like I can take on the world.
“At the moment I am dreaming big. The future is not clear, but the thing is I feel that I am going somewhere big. It may sound stupid, but I feel if I keep working as hard as I can, I feel that I will get a break.”
One thing is for sure, you do not want to be standing in his way when that break comes around.