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Living a life immersed in fitness while edging Clontarf towards further club glory

Clontarf’s Royce Burke-Flynn spoke to The42 about club rugby and splitting his day job between Crossfit and personal training.

THERE WAS A time when Royce Burke-Flynn completely stepped away from the rugby scene.

Royce Burke-Flynn dejected after his side concedes a try 28/10//2016 Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The Clontarf prop may not have contemplated giving it up for good, but he settled on taking a break.

He had spent time playing overseas. There was a summer in South Africa, a stint with Italian outfit Livorno, some time in France and then the Dubliner linked up with Doncaster Knights.

He moved back home, and took some time to follow a different path.

Of course, his life was still very much sport orientated. He never lost that interest, but he switched the oval ball for something new.

“I moved back from England and I stopped playing rugby,” he tells The42. “I decided to go back to college and get involved with strength and conditioning, and health and exercise.

“When I was abroad, I had spent time under a lot of different strength and conditioning coaches, and put my body through a lot of stuff.”

The path he followed to where he is today is one he kind of just fell upon.

It was back in 2013, and Peter Burke and Gary Featherstone were starting up a gym called Crossfit 353.

“I just got involved and I went from there,” the 30-year-old recalls.

Crossfit is a fitness craze which has come to the fore over the past few years. Basically, it’s a type of training through varied functional movements, which incorporate gymnastics, weightlifting, running and more.

“I know it gets a bad name, but it’s just a form of training and if done properly, it can be very beneficial,” Burke-Flynn continues.”Different Crossfit gyms push different things. The gym I come from, 353, above all else, is about movement.

“You should always be able to move, whether you’re a teenager, whether you’re 20, 30, or in your fifties or sixties, you should be able to move.

“You should be able to pick things up off the floor, you should be able to sit onto a seat without getting stuck and struggling to get back up.

Royce Burke-Flynn Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“If you can’t touch your toes, why not? You should have that movement, your body is made to move.

“You learn something new every week, which I suppose is the best way to be — constantly learning, and learning from each other as coaches. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Crossfit community in Dublin is one that is heavily linked with rugby. Peter Burke, of 353, has both played the game and coached.

Former Leinster and Connacht prop Rob Sweeney works at CrossFit Navitas and there are many other ex-players and current ones, including Isa Nacewa, who are big fans of the fitness trend.

Of course, Burke-Flynn didn’t stay away from rugby for long. Having linked up with the Leinster Academy years previously — after graduating from St. Michael’s College — he returned to the provincial set-up. He signed his senior contract in 2015.

But he moved on at the end of that season, and took his fitness career to new heights instead.

He got involved with another gym, Studio 41, and started working as a personal trainer.

“It’s completely different to Crossfit but when you’re just one on one with a client, you get to know the person a lot better, and on a more personal level.

“You can tailor things just for that unique person then, rather than try find a fit for a class. The personal training is what I’m really enjoying at the moment.”

Balancing both jobs and his own rugby with Clontarf is quite a challenge for Burke-Flynn.


It’s a long, jam-packed day. But he really enjoys it, and it goes something like this:

6am: It all kicks off with personal training in Studio 41. He sees clients in half-hour slots, and is kept on his toes.

“Normally, most sessions start at either 6am or 6.30. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but there’s a massive difference when you start 30 minutes later,” he smiles.

“You talk diet as you train, nutrition, how they’re feeling, how their body’s reacting and then off they go and get the rest of their day started. It’s a great way for people to start their day, to get that 30 minute blast.

He laughs when asked about nutrition: ”I tend to eat quite a lot! But it depends from day-to-day. Some days with clients, it’s difficult to get your proper food in and make sure you’re ticking over and not too hungry.”

Before work, he takes vitamins and some Greek yoghurt, and then it’s straight into health and fitness matters.

8.30am: The time of his first break, and most of his mealtimes, change from day-to-day.

“I’d normally always go for eggs. So four or five eggs, and then another two or three egg whites. I either scramble or poach them, and then have a bit of avocado or brown bread too.

Royce Burke-Flynn scores his side's third try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He continues on coaching clients through the morning.

11am: Burke-Flynn sometimes gets another break just before lunch, before heading to Crossfit 353 for group classes. Food-wise, it’s porridge and honey — “nothing too spectacular but it does the job.”

“At Crossfit then, sometimes I involve myself and do the workout with the class if it’s an easy enough one where you can coach and train at the same time. The days I’m not doing that, lunchtime is when I end up training myself.”

1pm: If he does his own training, there’s always a slight bit of variation depending on who he trains with, and where.

“Because I come from two different backgrounds — rugby and Crossfit, and then the personal training side of things — I train with different people and do different types of training.

“The Crossfit coaches would be just very Crossfit orientated, with that mentality. Whereas in Studio 41, the other coaches would be more just gym work and basic movements.

“At the moment though, I do enjoy Crossfit training. With it, you’re not spending too much time in the gym. You come in, you pick your main exercise to focus on — lower or upper body or a mix of both — and then you try and get a bit of a cardio blast towards the end or a HIIT session”

2pm: “It’s back in to more clients in Studio 41. You’re constantly going. You get good breaks during the day, but it’s a lot of moving and stop-starting as the day goes on,” Burke-Flynn continues.

“If I have more clients, I might have to have another snack. One of the best snacks I’ve learned from the past is just rice cakes with a few slices of turkey. Again, it’s nothing spectacular and doesn’t sound too appetising.

“It is very plain but it’s better than having to stop and get a wrap or a sandwich somewhere, it fills that gap before you get going again.”

6pm onwards: That brings him up to dinner time, which is a pretty standard affair. In terms of Clontarf training, on Monday evenings it’s a team weights session and pitch sessions are Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Pitch sessions often start with video analysis, before taking to the field.

“If there’s any major changes, you implement them. Do all your contact work, and get all the heavy stuff done on Tuesday, so on Thursday it’s lighter and there’s a bit more clarity as to what you’re looking ahead to in the game.

“We normally start with warm up exercises, and you’ve a lot of time to warm up by yourself, whether it’s activation warm up or stretching to help with injury prevention before we come together as a team.

“After that, it’s basic skill work, a bit of play time to work on handling, and then you get into the good stuff — tackling drills, ruck drills, all those kind of things — to work on particular units and breakdown pieces.

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“Then you come together as a team and run plays; lineouts, scrums and practicing what your team wants to execute when it comes to the game.

“Different coaches concentrate on different areas. Between the four coaches they have a fantastic mentality to make sessions fun and interesting.

“One of the ones that stand out for me was using pool noodles from the swimming pool, the floats, and implementing them into training just to make it a bit more interactive.”

Burke-Flynn laughs that Thursdays are everyone’s favourite: “We get a pretty mean meal afterwards. Everyone’s straight in to get fed!”

8pm: Post-training sees the Nutribullet blender come out of the press, along with some meal prep if he’s free for the evening.

“Some fresh berries, banana, maybe some almond butter and a scoop of protein. It gets you everything you need and it’s actually quite nice.

“It’s handy because you can blend it up in the morning or the previous evening, keep it with you during the day and it’s ready to go whenever you get a chance.

“In the perfect world, you wouldn’t use supplements in terms of protein powder and things like that. You’d get everything you need from your food. But in the real world it can be quite difficult to be ready at the drop of a hat, and have a proper meal that will keep you going and not hungry.

“At the end of the day, if you miss a meal for some reason, what’s better – having a packet of crisps and a Snickers, or having a protein shake there that you can take, with a green apple or a few almonds?

“I would be pro-protein. It’s not to replace all the food, it’s there as a supplement where if you miss one meal a day or something like that, but not to be taken every day or constantly.

“I’ve been prepping my food a lot recently. I know it’s huge on social media but it’s a nice peaceful thing to do if you have an evening off. Cook up the meal, and then put it into lunchboxes for the rest of the week and you’re sorted.”


Burke-Flynn and Clontarf are preparing for their Ulster Bank League Division 1A final against Cork Con in the Aviva later today [KO 2.30pm].

Niall Kenneally lifts The Munster Senior Cup Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Northside outfit are on the cusp of their third UBL title in four years.

They’ve had a really strong second half to the season, but old foes Cork Con return to Dublin just a week after winning their fifth Bateman Cup in-a-row.

Burke-Flynn looks back on “bleak times” during the winter, and feels that their gutsy performances have really stood to his side.

“That January block we had a few games in horrendous conditions. The last thing you want to do when you’ve had a long day of work is go down when it’s 2/3 degrees and lashing rain.

“But as a team, it made us work harder as a team and it toughened us up. Even at this stage, it’s really helping us as we go forward.”

It feels like a long time ago now, but tomorrow’s occasion is one he’s relishing.

“With the better weather everyone’s in a really good mood and there’s great energy around the club. It’s great to have the final to look forward to.

“Cork Con are a cup-winning team. They’ll never stop, whether they’re two tries behind, three tries behind, they’ll always keep playing for the 80 minutes.

“We know they’re coming up looking for a win. To beat them, we have to outplay them for the full 80 minutes.”

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Emma Duffy

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