For Kildare native David Nolan, sport has inhabited his life for many years. Like many people, he started off by playing it as a young teen.
“From secondary school, I would have started. Quite traditional, I would have played Gaelic games throughout my teenage years. I did martial arts also,” he said.
After school, David moved West to study at the University of Limerick. While getting his degree in Sport & Exercise Science, David developed a keen interest in strength training and, in particular, powerlifting, something he was actively competing in before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Once he finished up his studies at UL, David moved back closer to home and took up a research role with UCD, specifically in the area of nutrition. What was supposed to be a three-month position turned into 15 months.
He would then move to DCU to continue research. In between, he had a brief stint with a health diagnostic company, helping to run medical screenings and interventions nationwide.
At DCU, his research focused on older adults and the benefits of different nutrition and exercise methods.
It would be at DCU that David would start his PhD, something he is close to finishing up.
“So, I’m just finishing it off at the moment.
“Initially my PhD looked at weight-cutting in strength sports. It’s something that’s very common in combat sports, cutting weight for a fight. The same is also done in strength sports.
“I would have published some stuff in that domain but with Covid, like everything, the funding dried up, so I had to change direction.
“My PhD now looks at sex differences in the adaptations to resistance training. Basically, I’m looking to answer the question, “Do females need to train differently to males?” and look at some of the factors such as the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptives on performance and adaptation to exercise,” he said.
It’s not just research that David has worked on over the course of his career. His first role was as an S&C coach for the Kildare GAA minor football team in 2016. Since then, he has worked with individual athletes and clubs at various levels.
He is also the co-director of the Irish Strength & Conditioning Network since May of 2021 and is heavily involved in how they are run.
David has been teaching at Portobello since October 2021. Initially applying for a different position, David joined Portobello to help develop and eventually lead the Insitute’s MSc in Performance Analysis. He has enjoyed his time with Portobello thus far.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time so far. The staff are very friendly. The holistic approach to student support is something I would embody in my own teaching philosophy. I think what Portobello does for its students is very good.
“We have a very diverse range of students. Getting to engage with students from different backgrounds and experiences is quite unique and also challenging, in a good way.
“When you don’t have such a homogenous group of students, you’re able to get diverse opinions and you’re challenged in different ways.
“When you’re working in academia it forces you to be much more evidence-based and be up to date with all the current knowledge and research. But it’s a two-way street. Working as a practitioner allows you to give a more enriching student experience because you can bring real-world practical insights to your teaching.”