Life after rugby isn't as 'selfish' - Gordon D'Arcy
"A professional sportsman has to lead a selfish life, but it’s not fair on my family for me to keep doing this while precious time ebbs away with me in one country and they in another."
When Donncha O'Callaghan announced his retirement from professional rugby in April, he wrote about how he was looking forward to changing gears and concentrating on family life.
O'Callaghan, who has 94 Ireland caps and was part of two Lions tours, has four children - Sophie, Robin, Anna and Jake – with his wife Jenny, and spoke about the relief retirement would bring.
A former Ireland team mate of O'Callaghan's, Gordon D'Arcy (38) agrees with O'Callaghan's words - that life after rugby isn't so "selfish".
D'Arcy and his wife Aoife Cogan have a daughter Soleil (3) and a son Lennon (1).
"There's a huge amount of being a professional athlete that is selfish by nature," D'Arcy tells Independent.ie. "And it's in a really positive light [that it leads] to excelling at your sport. While you're in a team sport you're an individual in that you need to prepare yourself in as best a possible way. It's all about marginal gains, small little two per cents here, sleeping, all those things that don't really fit with young kids."
"So yeah it's nice just to forget about that and spend time with them at the weekend. And when you're going down the park and it's warm, give them an ice cream, and having one with them, and not be worried about calories and things like that, and just trying to have a healthy outlook."
D'Arcy, who owns Form School, a reformer pilates studio in Dublin with Aoife, says preventing injury is still very much in his consciousness. Every morning when he wakes, he does a 15-minute stretching routine in his wardrobe at home. Travelling with rugby and training in basic conditions in places like Tonga, where he'd stretch on terrain that was 80pc shale, means that a carpeted wardrobe is as good a spot as any.
"Everything is interconnected, so if you hurt your back, you can't parent when you're sore, you can't pick up your kids, you can't do anything. Our kids are at the age where they want to be picked, they want to be thrown, they want to do everything like that so in a funny way, looking after yourself helps with all the other stuff."
"The last thing the kids want to do is to be cooped up in the house because Daddy can't do anything because he's got a sore back."
"I had a hip operation in 2007 just before the World Cup. I got it done in Melbourne and the doctor there was a huge advocate of reformer pilates. That was a form of the rehab at the time."
"I try and start my morning with a routine, my whole thing is about trying to keep your body in as good a shape as you age."
He added: "I would get into the studio at least once a week. We have these great little lunch time classes which are just 30 minutes, so I try to go to one full class and one lunch time class as well."
Classes are not for everyone, he admits, but D'Arcy is a huge advocate of pilates, no matter where you do it.
"YouTube is very good. There's always going to be a budget-friendly alternative. Somebody will cater for something along the way, and I think once you get the fundamentals of it, you can do it at home."
"Some people like the camaraderie of being in a group class and that's just about 'well this is functional, I want to learn how to protect my back' and a lot of people go to physios and a lot of physios will have the training."
"It's just harder to do it [on your own]. The mental shift to go off the couch, over [onto the mat] to do it. For some reason getting into your car and driving to a class, you feel there's a validation towards that."
He's left the days of competitive sports psychology behind, and now mindfulness is a tool he uses in his daily life.
"It started me on a very interesting journey about being self-aware and being mindful... Mindfulness is a big part of it and I try and use Headspace a lot, I'm a big advocate of that, rather than sports psychology, more about being comfortable in who you are and understanding yourself and being happy in yourself and how important that is, that's probably way more important to young children."
Gordon D'Arcy was speaking about the role of pilates in good back health, at the launch of Opel’s wellness seats for vehicles.