Active Future Programme – Week 3 – Resistance Training, Hydration & Thought Awareness.

You can find an overview of the project here

You can find the blog relating to week 2 here

This week marked week 3 of the Active Future Programme where we welcomed 2 new participants. Participant numbers are now up to 22 which is more than initially expected! I am really happy to see the same participants returning each week. It really makes your day when you see 22 adolescents, having fun and engaging in physical activity with a smile on their face! Well, lets get into it and see what topics we covered this week!

Physical Health Input

The topic of conversation this week was hydration – how much, how often, and how to know if you are dehydrated. Did you know that males should take in 3l of water a day (12 glasses)  and 2.2l for women (8 glasses)? However, this may vary depending on the weather, how much you have exercised or if you are sick. Our body needs water for many different functions such as maintaining temperature,removing waste and lubricating the joints, so it is important to know if you are dehydrated. You can do this by looking at the colour of your urine – a dark yellow colour would signify dehydration. A slight tint of yellow in the urine would signify that you are optimally hydrated.

Physical Activity Input

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This week the Sports Science students delivered a session on resistance training. The students explained the importance of a balanced circuit i.e. upper body and lower body exercises incorporating push and pull movements. The students discussed the differences between last week’s HIIT session and this week’s resistance session. They explained that last week’s focus was more on increasing fitness levels whereas this week’s session was to focus on strength. The participants were then given the task to design and balanced resistance training circuit (including upper and lower body exercises) without the use of any equipment. Needless to say they passed with flying colours and created a very comprehensive session! Have a look at the video above to see what activities we covered!

Mental Health Input 

Michael Byrne of the Tullow School Completion Programme did an excellent job exploring thoughts and how to move away from unhelpful thoughts. He explained that our thoughts can be categorised into 3 areas – factual thoughts, helpful thoughts and unhelpful thoughts. Factual thoughts are evidence based thoughts that are proven to be the case e.g. physical activity is good for your health. Helpful thoughts move us forward towards our goals, they help us or others e.g. I might enjoy this new activity. However, unhelpful thoughts tend to stop us from doing things, and hurt us or others e.g. I won’t be good at that activity I am not doing it. The students were given the task to take note of  their thoughts over the next week and categorise them as they come into their head. If we can change or thoughts as they come into our head we can move away from unhelpful thoughts towards helpful ones. Example – ”I don’t want to go to the party I don’t know anybody there, I won’t have fun (unhelpful thought)”. However if we think ”One of my friends will be there so I can talk to him and I might make new friends. If i feel uncomfortable I can leave early”.

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Sports Science students explaining the resistance training session.

The Active Future Programme is an 8 week programme based in Ireland aiming to promote physical activity,  and overall health & well-being. We strive to challenge some stigmas and misconceptions surrounding mental and physical health whilst encouraging further education amongst this cohort. The Active Future Programme is run on the campus of I.T. Carlow in association with the Tullow School Completion Programme and the Tullow Secondary School. This blog is updated each week and follows the progress of the programme. If you would like more information on the programme or have any questions in general you can contact me by email – or


Youth on the MOVE

Active Future Programme – Week 2 – HIIT, Portion Sizes and Relaxation.

You can find an overview of the project here

You can find last week’s blog post here

With week 1 off to a flying start I was excited to hear how week 2 went down with the adolescents of Tullow Secondary School. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to week 2 as I was attending a conference, but I was confident it would run just as smoothly when left in the capable hands of our team at I.T. Carlow. It is really encouraging to know that a programme can run smoothly when a member of a team is missing and I can’t commend enough the great work of Michael Byrne (Tullow School Completion Programme) Danni Callanan (Sports Science Intern) Liam Kelly (Master Student), Dr Paula Fitzgerald (Sports Science Lecturer),  and the Sports Science students. There were 5 new participants this week bringing the total number of active participants up to 20. The feedback I received on week 2 was really positive with particular praise for the physical health input on portion sizes delivered by the Sports Science students. Here is what we covered this week!

Physical Health Input

An excellent physical health input was delivered by the Sports Science students on portion sizes.The students informed the participants on the appropriate portion sizes for boys and girls, and for varying levels of physical activity. The students then tested the knowledge of the participants on portion sizes with in some really innovative ways. The participants had to match according to size,  portion sizes of various macro nutrients  with common household items. Did you know a portion size of pasta roughly equates to a baseball? Or a baked potato should be the equivalent of a computer mouse?

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Participants measuring out cereal portion sizes

Physical Activity Input

The focus of this week’s physical activity session was high intensity interval training or as most know it HIIT. The Sports Science students put the participants through their paces with a fun and engaging session using various exercises such as ball slams, battle ropes, and resisted sprints to keep it interesting. HIIT training involves a period of intense cardiovascular exercise followed by a short bout of rest in this case – 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. The students then implemented a cool down with a focus on relaxation through stretching which led nicely into the mental health input.

Mental Health Input

As always Michael Byrne of the Tullow School Completion Programme delivered an excellent and interesting mental health input, this time on relaxation. The participants listed out relaxation techniques with walking, meditating, music, reading, and sleeping commonly cited.  Michael went on to describe how relaxation can be passive and active, with the potential benefits including clearing of the mind, helping with injury prevention in sports, slowing down of heart rate, and helping with stress levels. Michael informed that relaxation techniques work best when in ‘the flow’ – when an individual is in the moment where nothing else matters. He guided the participants through a ‘Body Scan Technique’wherein individuals focus their attention on different parts of their body from the feet upwards which created a sense of calm whilst controlling the breathing.

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Students relaxing through stretching.

Drop by this blog next week to see how week 3 went with our participants!

The Active Future Programme is an 8 week programme based in Ireland aiming to promote physical activity and further education amongst adolscents and strive to challenge stigmas and misconceptions around mental and physical health. It is run on campus of I.T. Carlow and in association with the Tullow School Completion Programme and the Tullow Secondary School. This blog is updated each week and follows the progress of the programme. If you would like more information on the programme or have any questions in general you can contact me by email – or

Active Future Programme – Week 1 – Fun Games, The Food Pyramid & Understanding Behaviour.

You can find last week’s blog post here 

Last week’s blog mentioned the importance of self-doubt – something I should have revisited  in the hours leading up to the start of week 1. I couldn’t stop my mind from racing and wondering if things would run smoothly, if everything prepared, if the participants would like the food or if anyone would even turn up?  To my delight the first week went off without a hitch, and judging by the feedback from everyone involved, it was a huge success! Fifteen participants engaged with the programme on the first week and an equal amount of Sports Science students were there to facilitate the various inputs. See the video below to get a quick overview of what we did on week 1!


Physical Health Input

The third year Sports Science students of I.T. Carlow  delivered an excellent and very comprehensive presentation on the food pyramid. The students covered the basics of the food pyramid and why each food group is important. They also provided a really tangible way of ensuring how to eat the correct amount of each food group with the Eatwell Guide. The Eatwell guide is a visual representation of how different food groups contribute towards a healthy balanced lifestyle. There were some really interesting discussions between the students and the participants on their  eating habits and how low or high consumption of certain food groups may affect their energy levels and recovery times after intense activity.

Physical Activity Input

The physical activity aspect of the programme has the overall focus of promoting alternatives ways of being active outside of structured sports. This week Danni led an excellent session around fun orientated games. Both the Sports Science students and participants were involved in the session which started off with some fun warm up games and finished with some relay races. We incorporated what we had learned on the food pyramid into our physical activity session to test what had been learned! Participants passed with flying colours as they raced against each other carrying  bean bags that represented various food groups and placed them in their correct position in a food pyramid at the end of the room. 

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Danni Callanan (Sports Science Intern of I.T. Carlow) delivering an excellent session.


Mental Health Input

An superb session on understanding behaviour was delivered by Michael Byrne exploring the different types of human behaviour. The 4 types of human behaviour are thoughts, actions, body feelings and emotions. For example if we wake up with a headache ( a body feeling) we might think (thought) that we are sick. We might feel (emotion) upset that we are sick and go (action) to the doctor. The behaviours in which we have the most control over are our actions and thoughts and Michael guided participants through how best to control these behaviours. 

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Participants learning about the food pyramid.

Drop by my blog next week to see how week 2 of the Active Future Programme goes!

The Active Future Programme is an 8 week programme aiming to promote physical activity and further education amongst adolscents and strives to challenge stigmas and misconceptions around mental and physical health. It is run on campus of I.T. Carlow and in association with the above partners. This blog is updated each week and follows the progress of the programme. If you would like more information on the programme or have any questions in general you can contact me by email – or

Mentor Training – Competence, Confidence and Striving for Self-Efficacy.


If you missed my introductory blog last week you can find it here 

The Importance of Mentors and Managing Self-Doubt 

The importance and benefits of having a mentor(s) is irrefutable. At some point in your life, through sport, music, work or other interests, you may have considered someone your mentor.  What made them standout in your mind? Their experience? Their advice and support? Maybe it was the way in which they gave advice – with empathy and understanding.  To me a mentor is someone who could provide me with trusted advice, support, and guidance at a level I can understand in a non-judgemental manner. Whoever your mentor may have been or still continues to be, motivates you to be the best and inspires you to be even more.

”Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction” John C.Crosby.

I have always sought out a mentor to guide me in the right direction. For me I have mentors who are friends, family members, sports coaches and college lecturers. These people have life experience and education in areas I want to improve in. To me these people are experts, who have attained a certain level of mastery in these areas – fully competent and confident in their ability. But often, this is not how they perceive or see themselves. A certain level of self-doubt exists in all of us but that is not to say that self-doubt is a bad thing. Self- doubt is what makes us stop and search for alternatives,what makes us question if we are doing the right thing – self-doubt,ultimately, is  a means to prepare. Self-doubt  becomes destructive when it consumes you and undermines your self-worth but self-doubt that leads to resolution, is a powerful trait that must be cultivated. Indeed,  Galileo professed self-doubt as the ”father of all invention”.

Self-doubt ”the father of all invention” Galileo.   

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Michael Byrne (Tullow School Completion Programme) delivering the mentor training.

Active Future Programme Mentor Training

I had my own  self-doubts with the Active Future Programme soon approaching. Will it run smoothly? Will it reach the people who need it most? Will it be worthwhile and benefit the participants? I had self-doubts about my own capabilities in co-coordinating the programme, but most of all, I had self-doubts in my ability to be a mentor. How could I be the best possible mentor to the Sport Science students delivering the programme and to the participants engaging in the programme?  I was also concerned that the Sports Science students might have similar self-doubts about mentoring.  This is why mentor training is so important when designing programmes of this nature – to nurture confidence and competence and strive for self-efficacy in delivering the programme.

Michael Byrne – the co-designer and coordinator of the programme – delivered an excellent session on mentor training with our Sport Science students this past week. The focus of the training was to provide our students with the tools necessary to be the best possible mentor, to answer any worries or concerns they might have and to educate on child protection and health and safety practices.

The mentors engaged in group discussions exploring how to effectively deal with various scenarios. Some of these scenarios included how to involve participants who don’t want to participate, how to deal with bullying issues and what to do in the event of participants becoming physically aggressive. An input on managing behaviours proved to be very useful to the students, outlining the do’s, don’t and tips of managing behaviours. Some interesting things I learned to consider when managing behaviours were; (i) to consider how you (as a mentor) are feeling (stressed, angry, distracted) and how this might impact managing behaviours (ii) what does the young person need, want, or feel – how do you provide or support this in the correct manner  (iii) who else is involved – others within earshot might further distress the individual and (iv) your surroundings – blocking off a participant’s route to leave the surroundings might further cause distress and potentially put yourself at risk.

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Mentors engaging in group discussions. 

Michael guided the mentors through leader boundaries and responsibilities some of which included; avoiding connection with participants on social media, how to develop a professional, supportive and appropriate relationship with participants, and how to handle different types of disclosures from participants. The mentor training was wrapped up with a very comprehensive health and safety input covering mentor safety in engaging with this cohort, child protection in sport, and screening  equipment to ensure it is fit for purpose.

I know I found the mentor training extremely useful and I believe the mentors did too. It certainly has made me feel more capable to engage with the participants, dismiss some of my fears and  deliver the inputs in the best possible way. If it wasn’t for self-doubt none of this would have been possible!

Follow my blog next week to get an update on how the first week of the Active Future Programme went.

The Active Future Programme begins the 7th of October. This blog will be updated each week to follow the progress of the programme! If would like more information on the programme or have any questions in general you can contact me by email – or