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Irish coach comes through ‘Ultimate Hell’ – Barrett one of three to stay the course on gruelling RTE show

If there is one boxing coach that can turn the ‘do what I say, not as I do’ adage on the head it’s Niall Barrett.

The Kildare strength and conditioning guru works closely with young prospects Gary Cully and Katelynn Phelan.

Although he isn’t head coach for either – those roles belong to Pete Taylor and Paddy Phelan – his guidance translates beyond fitness and into the art of boxing.

Yet, when it comes to fitness, endurance, even mindset, Barrett can now certainly claim to lead by example.

Barrett certainly knows what it’s like to go to hell and back physically and mentally.

The coach was one of only three from an initial 27 men and women that made it through eight gruelling days of what most laymen would describe as torture to survive RTE’s Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week.

In terms of the fighters who work with him, it’s a pure practicing what you preach success – and one that should empower him to continue to push them hard.

“As a coach I constantly tell people to get out of their comfort zone and push a little harder,” The Unite 3 Fitness boss told the Kildare Nationalist.

“I just wanted to show people that I was willing to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I train a lot of kids and I suppose I just wanted to show them what you can achieve if you really put your mind to something. If you prepare and dedicate yourself towards it you can really achieve much more than you could ever expect.

“The attitude I tried to carry, the whole way through, was one of gratitude. Not to look at things like we had to them but look at them like we get to do them. When else in my life will I get to abseil down those buildings or jump off those bridges? It’s an amazing and unique experience that I tried to be grateful for every day. I remember particularly when we were in Glendalough and we had to swim across the lake. I was telling the guys that nobody else gets to do this, you’re not allowed to swim in that lake, so it was an incredibly privileged thing to be able to do,” he added.

To come through what is rather deceivingly described as a ‘training camp’, ‘#13’ as he was referred to on the show did consult some of his coaching tactics to help him succeed.

“My preparation was really good,” he added.

“I have a good knowledge of preparation from training other athletes so I just basically applied all that to myself, I have a lot of knowledge on nutrition and recovery that I applied to myself. I looked at the main reasons that people failed last year and on other shows. The three main things were that they couldn’t handle hiking with really heavy weights, the cold, and injuries were number three. I devised a training programme around that.

“I did a lot of mobility and prehab work to minimise any injury risk. I’m naturally leaner than most of the guys who were there so I knew the cold was going to be an issue for me, and it was. I did a 30 minute cold bath every night just to try get used to it. That’s a good really place to have conversations with yourself because the minute you get in you are like ‘get the f**k out’. I did loads of that but the cold still got to me.

“They had us in cold water every single day, there were six or seven water events over the eight days. The last thing was carrying weights. I bought a weighted vest and went running or hiking four or five days a week to build up my tolerance.”

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com