I met Colin a few years ago in Madrid. We were put in touch because Colin was looking to move away from the world of teaching and become a personal trainer. We spent a few evenings in the gym, with Colin working-out and me recording him with my camera. I was, of course, helping him make content for his website, Properly Built. I wasn’t being a weirdo.
Since then, we have become good friends, and Colin has moved back to Ireland, expanding his personal training business while also establishing his fantastic range of beard oil products. I talk to him about his plans for the future and about how he’s dealing with the COVID-19 quarantine.
Colin Murphy: Personal Trainer
Colin is one of Ireland’s best HIIT trainers, and he does one-to-one and group personal training, while he also offers fitness classes. His videos can be seen on his YouTube channel, where he does workouts against stunning backdrops in both Ireland Spain.
His love of fitness came from his father, a strong, fit man. Naturally, many sons idolize their fathers, and Colin was no different. Pushed by a desire to impress his Dad, Colin cycled for a number of years, winning a few races in the process, before he started to generally love working out. In addition, he was a proficient Gaelic footballer, Ironman competitor, Triathlon athlete, and he represented Munster with distinction at U20 and U21 level, all the while rubbing shoulders with players that later pulled on the green jersey of Ireland.
It’s unsurprising that this natural sportsman gravitated toward personal training. In his 20s, he got a lot of attention because of his obvious fitness, and he was frequently asked for fitness tips from guys wanting to get in shape. In his own words, ‘this started the ball rolling’, and he got the necessary qualifications.
As an English teacher in Spain, he realized that he got a great buzz from teaching, but his fitness needs were not being met. It was at this point, as described above, that I met him, and he established his website and started directing classes. This business has grown and grown.
In Ireland, he sometimes does beach classes.
The biggest one was last year, 260 people… that was for Down Syndrome Ireland; all proceeds go to Down Syndrome Cork for that. It’s a great buzz doing something like that… giving back in some way.
Colin attributes this demand for better fitness to the quarantine, but also people in their 30s and beyond are looking to work out just to feel physically and mentally good, and they get a boost from doing something in a group, with many perhaps missing the team sports of their youth.
Colin is also the man behind West Cork Beard Company.
One of the things I like about Colin is that he’s a doer, a raring-to-go, let’s get this done machine. This was apparent when he explained to me how he got started in the world of beard products. After exiting Spain and the classroom, his beard was growing out for the first time, and it was getting itchy. In fact, his beard started to become a distinctive feature. Suddenly, he was the guy with the beard doing YouTube workout videos.
He tried a few products, but none were to his liking. He had the same thought many people would have had: I can make something better, but, unlike most people, he actually went out and started a new company.
Colin was motivated to release a product that wasn’t too expensive, and one whose label was free of a long list of impenetrable ingredients. After experimenting at home, the Corkonian fine-tuned his oil, tested it for safety and quality in the UK, and started selling it. His product is made from four ingredients, and the result is a wonderful blend for any beard. One that not only serves Colin’s needs but also those of the local community. It is a local brand run by a local, and the response to it has been very positive.
Generally speaking, West Cork is seemingly a great place to start a company, with its open people and entrepreneurial spirit. What is more, beards are back in fashion because of the quarantine; free from the demands of an office, men are embracing a new look.
Colin jokes that if knew how complicated it was going to be, he wouldn’t have started. Apart from mixing the ingredients, he had to design the label, ensure that it wouldn’t peel off in men’s washbags, and consider a whole host of other issues.
But, he also reveals that now he’s been through the process, starting another company would be easier. After learning the ropes, he would spend less ’emotional energy’ on a new venture.
The coronavirus epidemic has forced the whole world indoors. In these strange times, offices are silent, sports pitches remain untrod, and people are cut off from one another. Here in Spain, my classes have moved online. But I have been fortunate – our tours, writing, and translation can be done from the safety of a coronavirus-proof room.
But how have Irish people been affected, and what does the quarantine mean for Colin and his businesses?
Colin Murphy: Personal Trainer in an Irish Quarantine
For Colin, the onset of the quarantine provoked, as it did for many people, uncertainty and concern. But interestingly, this enforced hiatus from the normal routine gave the Cork man a chance to breathe and to assess his professional life with fresh eyes. Prior to COVID-19, he was working long hours as a personal trainer. Now, he has supplemented his lost gym classes by expanding his beard oil company, and he’s happier for the change.
Nevertheless, Zoom classes can be found on his Properly Built website, so you can stay fit while being house-bound.
This realisation chimes with my own experiences, and with that of many others. Despite the disruption caused by the quarantine, we have also been given a chance to take stock of our lives and recalibrate.
Colin is also a lover of Spanish culture. He enjoys the terrace culture and how Spanish people prioritize the right-side of the work-life divide. The epidemic has thrown everything up into the air, and he’s disappointed that he can’t make it over to Madrid for a while. He works hard in Ireland, and Spain is a way to relax and unwind. For now, the promised land of the Spanish capital is out of reach.
With that, we bid our goodbyes, our fare-the-wells. The chat over WhatsApp was a reminder of how much we rely on these tools to communicate now, of how we need a respite from the grind of living under lockdown. I had to go back to my online work, as did Colin. And as we both figure out our day-to-day in an ever-changing landscape, there is one certainty: Properly Built and West Cork Beard Company will go from strength-to-strength.
You can go on our virtual tour of a historic neighbourhood in Madrid. Listen to our podcast for more cultural pieces, and head to our online shop for some literary-inspired fashion. You can also buy our book on Amazon and in many bookshops around Spain. Finally, check out our latest interview with the fantastic Spain Speaks.
Thanks for reading the story of Colin Murphy: Personal Trainer & Entrepreneur!