Portadown footballer Ruairi (25) on a mission to bust diet myths and make fitness fun
A straight-talking soccer player from Castlewellan is making a name for himself as an online personal trainer (PT) with the help of some very funny videos.
Ruairi Croskery offers one-to-one bespoke fitness and nutrition coaching, and focuses on helping his clients find a balanced approach to their wellbeing.
In his bid to be approachable and make fitness fun, he has filled his social media with tips and videos, using humour, and the occasional bit of bad language, to get important points across.
From busting diet myths by munching bowls of spinach to donning a red waist-length wig to discuss women’s health, Ruairi’s TikTok and Instagram content is winning him a large following.
The down-to-earth footballer, who played for Portadown and spent four years at the Manchester United training academy as a teenager, recently launched a cookbook filled with no-nonsense nutrition and healthy hacks on family favourites.
“For me, fitness is all about balance,” says Ruairi (25). “I want to be relatable to the average person. Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to be shredded 24/7.
“I used to be a bit of a class clown, so my videos are a way of busting all the stupid fitness myths out there while at the same time making people smile.”
Fitness has always been an important part of Ruairi’s life. He was 14 when he was invited to move to Manchester and join United’s academy.
He spent four years living with a host family in digs and attending school in Manchester around his training.
But aged 18, he wasn’t offered a contract, so he returned home to Northern Ireland.
“It was an incredible experience. I was living the dream, but when it came to an end, I didn’t really view it as a setback,” he explains.
“My mum and dad, Dolen and Roisin, brought us up to think about qualities and perspective in life.
“Dad would always say, ‘Dust yourself off and keep going’, so that’s what I did.”
For years, Ruairi had been dating childhood sweetheart Sarah McArdle — the girl who he says used to “steal his football” in school. But the relationship was really put to the test when he was offered a soccer scholarship in America.
He moved to South Carolina to study and play for Limestone College, graduating and returning to Castlewellan in early 2020, when Covid hit, and signing for Irish League team Portadown.
“It was in the States I first really started paying attention to my diet,” he says. “I was drinking at weekends and eating all this junk food — burgers, pizzas and wings. I put on a bit of weight.
“When I came back home, I started training with local PT Sean Casey because I wanted to drop body fat. He became a mentor for me.”
Sean was the one who pointed out to Ruairi that he could be a personal trainer himself, having gained the relevant qualifications as part of his degree in the States.
“I started out putting content on TikTok and it just blew up,” he says. “I just wanted to offer something that was really real — really me — and make people smile, while at the same time getting rid of all the stupid fitness myths that really irritate me.”
Ruairi now has a limited number of online coaching clients because he likes to offer a tailored service.
“I only coach people one-to-one,” he says. “I find out all about their lifestyle, their work and family life and their goals, then we look at how we can make their fitness and nutrition work for them.
“I never ever copy and paste programmes from one client to another. It’s all personalised, and they have access to me whenever they need me.
“For me, it’s about teaching people about sustainability and balance, so they can go on, take the tools they’ve learned with me and run with them.
“I always say a personal trainer is like a driving instructor — you shouldn’t need them for ever.
“I like to educate and empower people, then they move on themselves. They shouldn’t need to be with me indefinitely. I want to help people build healthy habits that they can take on through their lives.”
Ruairi also dedicates a lot of time each day to creating his online content and tries to post on Instagram and TikTok most days.
“At first, it took me hours to make my videos, but I’ve got the hang of it a bit more now,” he says.
“I just like to have a laugh and make fitness more accessible. It doesn’t have to be about posing at the gym or showing off your six pack in perfect lighting.
“One of my most hated myths is the belief that carbs are bad for you. It’s just not right. Carbs are so important for fuel.
“I don’t actually believe in cutting anything out of your diet. Making foods forbidden only makes you crave them more. I’ve made a few videos about this because I really believe that moderation is key. Life still has to be about enjoying yourself.”
Ruairi confesses that in his younger years he would not have been able to boil an egg, but becoming interested in nutrition led to him teaching himself how to cook.
He and Sarah (26), who is now his fiancee, are currently living with Sarah’s mum, Bredge, while they save for a place of their own, and Ruairi says Bredge has acted as a taste tester for his new recipe book. Ruairi’s Recipe Book launched in March and is available for download online.
“There’s 45 recipes and I show you how to make healthy versions of foods a lot of people love, like meatball subs and mac’n’cheese. It’s about still being able to enjoy your favourite foods,” he adds.
“Once I couldn’t even boil an egg, so if I can do it, anyone can. Sarah’s mum has been testing them, so I know they must be okay.”
n Find Ruairi on Instagram @rcroskeryfitness, or on TikTok @ruairicroskeryfitness, where you can also buy his recipe book and apply for coaching