Belfast Telegraph

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'I don't regret any experiences as they've brought me to this point'

Fionnbharr Toolan (27) is a personal trainer and strength coach. He owns Virtu Gym in Belfast. He says:

I had always planned to do GCSEs, A-levels and then go on to university to study business, but it didn't work out that way.

I ended up with mostly Cs and Ds in my GCSEs which I really wasn't happy with. So I spent another year studying exactly the same subjects again, the next time coming away with Bs and Cs.

At that point though I felt I was done with school.

I wanted to get out and start learning a trade so I could earn some money so I started an apprenticeship as a bricklayer - my dad is a well-known one in the trade.

Bricklaying was fine until I reached 20 and knew I didn't want to do it anymore. I went to Belfast Met College to do a crash course in A-levels for a year - getting two Cs and a D - which wasn't good enough for the university course I wanted to do. At this point I called it a day on study - I felt like I had wasted the year. Instead I went to Australia and worked there as a bricklayer for a year to save some money.

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Fionnbharr Toolan

When I came home a year later I was unemployed for eight months, but used the money I had saved to get all of the accreditation I needed in fitness and personal training. Sport and fitness is something I have always been interested in so it seemed like a good thing to do.

Then I got a job as a fitness attendant with Belfast City Council and was able to work as a personal trainer part-time. That sideline really took off and now I own my own gym.

Because of my career I get to fly all over the world as a strength coach.

I wouldn't change the way I did any of it. I don't regret any of the experiences I've had as they have all brought me to this point.

Working for the council meant I learned a lot about customer service and working with people. That was really valuable experience for owning my own business.

These days you can have all the qualifications under the sun, but if you can't talk to people then they won't do you much good."

Belfast Telegraph

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