Conor Hegarty from Cork is in America with his friends and, as often happens when young lads travel together, they’re running late for a plane.
As the gang dash through the airport, Conor’s thoughts are not exclusively fixed on whether or not they make the flight. Struggling to keep up, he feels that familiar shortness of breath as makes his way through the terminal. This moment was what he called “a real eye-opener” as he sat down to have a chat with me about his amazing transformation in 2020.
Conor, who lost 10 stone in the space of 10 months this year, says that that day in the airport made him decide once and for all that he was “sick and tired” of feeling that way.
“I’d be in a dorm when I’d be traveling with and I’d be snoring like a train. I hadn’t tied my shoes for two years. My friends would be pointing these things out to me but I wouldn’t be taking their word for it,” he tells me.
So what changed? “In the airport, it was the last straw, I feel. Just the thought of missing the flight made me realise that this was actually affecting my lifestyle. It was a real eye-opener and a bit of a shocker.”
Conor took his realisation into 2020 and started to act upon it. He began his journey on January 6. Instead of staying in bed until the very last minute before work, he began to set his alarm early for daily 30 – 45 minute walks. He began to cook at home using low-calorie recipes from RTE’s Operation Transformation app. He used an online calculator to track his Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and his Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). He started slowly with three gym sessions per week while making sure he accrued his 10,000 daily steps.
“Before I started, walking to work or to the Luas when I was living in Dublin was torture,” Conor says. “But I could feel my mood getting better every day and I was starting to feel more confident.”
Conor remembers February 26, 2020 as the day he almost packed it in. In a post on his Instagram page, @HegoGetsHealthy, Conor wrote that ‘I could feel myself about to give up, opening a pack of Doritos and forgetting about the weight loss until 2021. I went for a run, took this picture (below) and promised myself I’d see this journey through to the end.
Not long after this, Ireland went into lockdown. For many people, the commute to work was put on hold and gyms across the country closed their doors. How did this affect Conor’s progress?
“I was worried,” he admits. “At the start I was worried that I wouldn’t have a gym to go to and I wouldn’t be able to meet up with my friends who were good at keeping me going.” The moral support of Conor’s friends is something that he mentions a lot throughout our conversation.
Eventually, Conor began to use the lockdown as the perfect opportunity to keep going. He invested in a yoga mat and took inspiration from The Body Coach, Joe Wicks. Workouts went ‘back to basics with push-ups and sit-ups’ and included ’20/30 mins of a HIIT session which is probably more beneficial than my hour in the gym was anyway where my eyes would be glued to the phone 50% of the time.’
Conor’s page is full of tips for anyone looking to embark on a similar journey. When I ask him what are the first steps people should take, he is adamant when he says “start small, with something that almost feels insignificant. Then you can build on it. I began by leaving my walking gear and my runners out before I went to bed. This was great for the discipline and really prevented me from hitting the snooze button in the mornings.”
“I used to hate mornings but now I enjoy them. Just little routine changes can go a long way, even switching from regular coffees to flat whites.”
As someone who has come close to giving up when things got tough, Conor empathises with those who think they might fall off the wagon. “The thing is not to beat yourself up. You need to recognise that you’ve completely shifted your mindset. Remember how far you’ve come and how much progress you’ve made.”
Speaking over the phone, Conor sounds every bit the confident 24-year-old. Chatty and energetic, he spoke with an infectious enthusiasm about everything he’s learned this year. As he explains himself, he hasn’t always been like this. “My mood has improved 100%,” he says. “I’m more productive than ever and it just feels like I have so much extra time in the day. I’ve gotten an hour back each morning, I’m listening to podcasts and I find myself reading a lot more. I’m even getting a lot more sunlight and fresh air which is great for the mood.”
Conor only set up the @HegoGetsHealthy page in October and it’s already accumulated a strong following. He says himself that his motivation for starting the page was to ‘hopefully help even just one person get out of a rut and get moving.’ If you’d like to keep up with Conor’s progress or you feel like his regular snippets of advice might be helpful, you can follow him via this link.
It’s been a busy 2020 for Conor and it’s fair to say he’ll be a lot more confident about making that plane the next time he’s in an airport.