The Reluctant Athlete – How Fitness Transformed My Life

I feel it’s best to give you a brief look into both sides of my life so that you can both understand my past and my present and to help you create your own image of how fitness transformed my life and maybe your’s too.

The Before

07/03/15 – (3 years ago)

I almost fall over yet again while walking up the footpath of the building site I am working on, but I haven’t tripped or lost my footing, I am depressed to the point that I can’t lift my feet and tripping up like this is a usual occurrence. The depression has gotten so bad that the smallest of tasks seem to require huge amounts of energy and I worry about how much longer I can hold up my front and keep telling people that I am doing ok. I hate my job and I hate everything about myself for still doing it and I lack the confidence I need to quit. I ask my co workers regularly “is there anything more to life” but they simply reply “this is as good as it gets”. They are happy, I wish I could be too, what is wrong with me?

I have worked in construction since I have left school and I have always considered it to be ‘short term’ or until found my path in life, but now 7 years on and I still haven’t found what I am looking for. I feel stuck and my world seems so small, I am terrified to try anything new. I pray every night for someone to help me. I can’t remember my last happy day.


I have been drinking heavily to numb my own thoughts of how worthless I am, the pain inside me is crippling but at least I have found a way to escape it, even if it is short lived. The depression has gotten so bad that I have lost all regard for my life, I have gained a lot of weight and lost even more energy for everyday tasks. On the upside, because I have lost all regard for myself, quitting my job doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore and I have decided to go to Ireland to see my family, I need to be cared for and I feel very lost.

I return to Ireland and nothing improves, I have binge drank almost every day and night and I feel worse than ever. I try to talk to my family but I am so frustrated with how I feel about myself that it almost always turns to anger and rage, this upsets me even more. I can’t help myself, and I cant let anyone help me incase they see just how messed up I really am. How has my life got so bad?


I wake up lying on a pile of gravel on the side of the road, its raining and also 4am, I didn’t make it all the way home from the pub and must have collapsed here. I walk back to my parents house and go to bed. The next morning I wake up and I have decided I have enough, I cant carry on like this, and I need help. I figure that I have been very negative and that I say ‘No’ to anything that could help me as deep down I am terrified of changing and trying anything new. I need to become open minded and feel like I have hit rock bottom so it wouldn’t harm to try some new things.


I have become a yes man in the last 3 days, I have gone for dinner with a group of people, which I would have never usually done because I lack confidence to speak publicly. I have also agreed to running a 5 kilometre race with my brother and sister on Sunday, I have never ran before but I figure it can’t hurt much more than that of what I am already going through.


Race day. I wake up to my brother and sister trying to drag me out of bed. I am still drunk and can’t remember coming home. I want them to leave me alone but my brother is also beating me with a broken leg from a table and I fear if he hits me one more time that I will get sick and have to sleep in my own puke. I get up and go to the race event wearing the only pair of runners that I have which I picked up from a market in Thailand. They are terrible. On the way to the event my brother keeps telling me “don’t worry about running the race just recognise how you feel after it”. When the event starts his phrase is all I can remember and it keeps repeating in my head, I must finish the race so that I can find out what this feeling is. Some 30 – 40 minutes later I cross the finish line, there are photographers there and for the first time in months ,I crack a smile. My brother and sister are both there along with my mum who congratulate me and tell me how well I done. I feel amazing, I have just done something challenging and more importantly I feel like I have achieved something for the first time in my life. I wonder if I do more of this would it help me feel better?


I return to Australia. I have ran 3 times per week in the last 2 weeks, I have also done some swimming and even a few gym sessions. My stomach is in a world of pain from using equipment that I clearly wasn’t qualified to use, but I feel much better than when I first returned to Ireland. I have learned that I feel good when I exercise and it may be something that can help me get my life back on track.


I decide to quit alcohol in order to improve my life and have set myself of goal of getting a 6 pack. I have joined the gym and hired a personal trainer to help me achieve this, I have also taken back my construction job but feel I am in a much better place and that it wont be for ‘long term’ this time.

The revolution

12/07/18 – (3 years later)

I am sitting on a plane on the way to the Philippines and onwards to Greece for 17 days. I find it hard to imagine the person above anymore, but the deep down feeling of pride ensures me that I was in-fact that person and I did in-fact turn myself into who I am today. In the past 3 years, I have transformed my body and my mind, travelled much of the world, ran many races including winning a 42km trail marathon and completing a 50km ultra marathon. I have competed in boxing, Mixed Martial Arts in Sydney, Thailand, and Japan and was hand picked to be coached by the famous John Cavanagh, coach to Conor Mc Gregor in a televised MMA series in 2017, just to list some of the many things I have achieved. I firstly pursued a career in becoming a pilot and managed to obtain a light aircraft license before realising that my true passion was in fitness and helping others travel the same journey as I once did. I studied as a personal trainer and fitness instructor in November 2016 and although there were many battles in following my passion including having to jump between construction work and personal training, I am proud to say that I have been my own boss for the past 6 months and have been running my own successful fitness business in Sydney. On the 06/09/18 I will be 3 years sober, I was never an alcoholic but I realised there was so much more to life that didn’t involve alcohol. Each year to mark the date that I decided to turn my life around I embark on a new challenge to remind myself of how far I have come and how far I will go. This year I will be cycling over 5100 kilometres across the Australian continent, my biggest challenge to date. More importantly than all of the above, I am happy, and that is worth more than anything. I love my live and am very proud of who I have become through all of my experiences.

The lessons

This blog would be pointless without a lesson and my only reason in writing is with hope that I can teach you something from my experience. I have learned in the past 3 years that anxiety is normal, depression isn’t. Depression is a state which forms when we don’t act on improving our situation or listen to the anxiety we have been feeling surrounding the circumstances.

Lesson no.1

Listen to your anxiety, it is usually there to tell you something and the only thing that is holding you back from making the changes you need to make is fear. Fitness helped me overcome these fears, it made me feel like I was getting stronger and stronger both physically and mentally and it helped me improve all areas of my life because I became confident enough to make the changes that I needed to make. Depression is one of the most crippling things I have ever felt in my life, I have boxed 10 – 12 rounds with some of the best athletes in the world and depression has hit me harder. Set a fitness related goal and keep setting them, this will help you to move your life forward and eventually excel.

Lesson no.2

Cut out the things that will hold you back or that will not serve you on your journey of who you wish to become. Alcohol and construction work equally didn’t serve me well. I was not challenged enough at work and I found my job very unfulfilling, this led me to thinking too much and beating myself up everyday as a consequence. It is important to feel fulfilled in your workplace, because your job takes up a large part of your life. I tried everything that I could to find out what my passion was until I realised it was staring me in the face, from then on it was a matter of developing it. If there is something that you are passionate about try to develop it and then make a career out of it, this alone had the biggest impact in my life. Alcohol was a go to for escaping the thoughts I had about changing my career and feeling worthless, I had to stop drinking so I could eventually listen to those thoughts and tackle them. Cut out the things that will hold you back in becoming who you wish to become.

Lesson no.3

Be open minded to all new things, you will never ever know what fortune something new might bring to you. Nothing grows in your comfort zone and you cannot change, help or improve your ways by trying to keep control of how certain experiences will affect you. The very first step in changing my life was by letting go of the control I was trying to have over everything. By becoming a ‘Yes’ man I found myself in so many new experiences and found myself not only having the best time while doing them but I was also learning new things about myself by doing them. I was learning that I was more strong minded than I thought, more confident than I thought and more influential than I thought. This helped me direct the course of my life and navigate myself to a new and improved one. Be open minded to all new things. 

I hope you found this helpful or inspirational and take from it what you need to help or improve your own life just as I did mine. Thank you for reading and please follow my Blog, my Instagram and my Facebook below to stay up to date with more motivational content.

Yours truly

Paul Kilroy @ Paul Kilroy Fitness




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