“My name is Danielle Hayes. Most of my life I was overweight. Now I am a World Powerlifting Champion. This is my story continued...”
Like the protective big brother that he is, Darragh took me under his wing. He became my fitness coach, my life coach, my counselor, my role model. Darragh stuck by my side, listened to all my moaning and groaning (and by god was there a lot of that!), coaxed me through my mental breakdowns, and helped me to see the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Having begun to tackle nutrition, it was time to deal with the fitness end of things. I used to run religiously everyday for at least one whole hour, the same route every day, from Northside Shopping Centre up to the Airport and back.
I would think “If I don’t go for a run, I’m not going to lose weight… and what I eat will turn to fat”. Does it sound familiar? I’m sure it does.
This is how a lot women think. Darragh helped me to change my mind set.
Here I am, my first session in the gym, not knowing what to expect. Darragh of course walks straight over to the weights section where all of the men were lifting ‘dumbbells’ and Olympic bars (which, at the time, I didn’t even know the name of) and cursing and shouting “Aaaaaah…. Pfffff… PUSH go on!”
There was not a single woman in sight. Feeling overly anxious, intimidated, nervous, and completely out of my comfort zone, I followed Darragh. I was literally like a lost puppy. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what circuit we did that day, but I can tell you this, I remember thinking to myself “this is unbelievably tough… can I do this? But it feels amazing… this just has to work!” It was from this point on that I developed a passion for weightlifting. And the more I listened to, and trained with, my brother the more I learnt from him.
I became an eager beaver – I wanted to know more!
Eventually I arrived at my goal physique. My journey to that point was all at once the most agonising and gratifying experience of my life. I now eat and lift weights for a number of reasons: to be healthy, to keep fit, to remain mentally focused, to maintain my physique, to boost my confidence and self-esteem, and to fuel my strength in the gym - not to be a ‘skinny minny’.
With my determination sky high, Darragh persuaded me to get involved with power-lifting – to take my training to another level, a competitive level.
So, in January 2013 I began training for my first ever Powerlifting competition. With three months of hard training, coaching and strict adhering to clean eating, I walked away with a gold medal, National title and qualified to compete at the WDFPF World Powerlifting Championships 2013. In awe of this achievement, it triggered the determination and inspiration to continue on my path as a Powerlifter, to where I now stand today as a World Senior Powerlifting Champion.
On 2nd November 2013, I became the 70-80kg World Senior Powerlifting Champion at the WDFPF World Powerlifting Championships in Glasgow. In my most recent competition, the IDFPA National Push Pull Competition in Gorey Co. Wexford, I broke two National Single Lift Records, pulling a deadlift of 160kg and bench pressing 62.5kg.
So now I am not only a National Champion, World Champion, but I hold two National records. It seems surreal even saying that! I sure have come a long way from when I started out on this long, overhaul journey 9 years ago. It goes without saying that I could not have achieved what I have without the constant help, guidance, support, coaching and counselling from my brother and my best friend, Darragh.
He has been my rock since I set out on my journey back in 2004. I wouldn’t be where I am today, only for him.
Danielle Hayes is a secondary school teacher at the Presentation College, Warrenmount Dublin 8. Originally from Santry, she now lives in Artane. Danielle's brother Darragh owns Cover Model Body Gym on Upper Fitzwilliam St - www.darraghhayes.com for more information.