Sean O’Connell

I’m Seán O’Connell, I’m 17 years old, and I’m from the great fields of Athenry. I’m currently in transition year in Coláiste an Eachréidh in Athenry.

How long have you been attending French Vanoli?

It’s been about 6 years now since my brother and I signed up for some Sports Performance classes with French Vanoli, and since then I’ve never looked back. After about a year, two of my friends joined and I’ll never forget those Tuesday evenings just training and having a bit of fun! Those classes taught me the basics of movements like running and squats, and greatly improved my balance. I’m a big sports-person, so to be taught these movements CORRECTLY was a huge help.

How did you hear about CrossFit?

After about three years of these classes, and me getting that bit older, it was suggested to me that I try CrossFit Teens. I was a bit scared to sign up because I’d never heard of CrossFit before, and I thought it might just be lifting a weighted bar up and down, but to my surprise it turned out to be the best decision I ever made! It had everything: barbells and kettlebells mixed in with movements like push-ups and burpees. Since then I’ve moved up to the main CrossFit classes with all the “big guns” and I’ve been in the main class for about a year and a half, going on two years now!

Is there much of a difference between CrossFit teens and CrossFit?

Well, CrossFit is definitely a lot tougher and demands a lot more strength and endurance, but CrossFit Teens is a huge stepping stone towards achieving that. In CrossFit Teens it’s all about learning the movement properly with a reasonably light weight just to perfect it and make sure you’re doing it safely, something that helps a lot if you’re putting +100kg on the bar! Because what’s the point in doing a movement such as a deadlift incorrectly and risking an injury, when you can learn the movement correctly, you know you’re completely safe, and more than likely will be able to add more weight than you could before!

Do you play any other sports?

I’ve been playing golf for about 11 years now and currently play off a handicap of 6 in Athenry Golf Club. That would be my main sport. I was named junior captain of the club last year. I used to play EVERYTHING! Soccer, hurling, Gaelic football, handball, basketball, volleyball…. you name it I’ve probably played it. But it got to the stage that I couldn’t keep it all going, so last year I decided to stick to the golf and the CrossFit and stop the others, and I’m glad I did. Otherwise I wouldn’t have progressed in golf or the CrossFit as much as I have!

Do you find CrossFit helps your fitness and strength for your sport?

100%. There has been a huge difference in my golf game since I started CrossFit. I’d say I’ve gained about 30-40 yards off the tee since, and for those that don’t know much about golf, that’s a lot! Although CrossFit wouldn’t exactly be considered “beneficial” for golf as “bulking up” can affect your swing, CrossFit helped me with the power but also the flexibility, so even though I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve also gotten more flexible.

You did a work placement with French Vanoli last year – tell us a bit about that?

Well as part of Transition year we are asked to do a few weeks of work experience throughout the year, so in around November last year I decided to do a week in French Vanoli. It was a great experience, as it’s one thing to go to a gym and work out there, but it was nice to get to see behind the scenes of how the gym runs and the work that’s put in. I shadowed a few of the CrossFit and Strength and Core classes, and I did some office work as well, so it was varied throughout the week.

Do you think you would like a career in fitness?

I would definitely like to pursue a career involving fitness and sport such as physiotherapy or sports medicine, so it was a great opportunity for me to get to see careers in fitness up close while I was on my work experience. I’m still a bit undecided on my future as I could change my mind in a split second, but sports and fitness would definitely be a bassline for a career for me.

What would you say to teenagers your age about CrossFit?

I would say get your heads out of your phones and join up as soon as possible! It doesn’t matter what age you are I guarantee you’ll fall in love with it like I did.  It takes a bit of getting used to the movements and the intensity, but after about three or four classes you’ll be hooked and never want to leave. And it’s a lot of fun too!! And under Padraig, Donna and Brian, who are all amazing at their job, you know you’re going to be doing the movements safely and maybe even hit targets that you didn’t think you could before!

What’s your favourite CrossFit movement?

My favourite CrossFit movements would probably have to be a Clean and Jerk, Snatch, and pull-ups. I’m a big fan of bar-work, because it’s something that can always be improved on and perfected!

Least favourite CrossFit movement?

My least favourites would probably be burpees over bar, thrusters (especially after 16.5 (let’s not talk about it)), and straight up running. I’d rather do a million unbroken pull-ups with a 25kg plate hanging off me than do any of those!

Best CrossFit achievements/ Goals for the future?

So far my best CrossFit achievements would probably be getting a +100 deadlift for the first time a few months ago, and getting four muscle-ups in a row about two weeks ago. I hadn’t gotten any muscle-ups before that, and I had a nice crowd watching me which was nice!

 My goals for the future would be to take part in a CrossFit competition for the first time, maybe an in-house comp or maybe even Battle of the West, we’ll see how things go!

Another goal would be to finally be able to string a good 50 double-unders together, because that seems to be where I lose time on a workout, and I’m not going to lie, the rope has nearly been thrown across the floor a couple of times!!

Tell us something we don’t know about Sean O’Connell?

Well, I’m a shy person. I used to be extremely shy, especially when I first joined CrossFit. I wouldn’t talk to any of the members, and even the hi-5’s at the end of a class were hard for me because I didn’t really think that I fit in with the others, as I was the youngest person there. But everyone was so nice to me and even cheered me on a few times when they didn’t even know me! And with every “Well done Seán” after a workout, it helped me “come out of my shell” bit by bit. They really made me feel welcome, like I was part of the group. The sense of community is unmatchable in French Vanoli, everyone looks after everyone. And EVERYONE is nice, and I’m not just saying that!