Irish race walker Rob Heffernan says there's no denying that Dancing with the Stars is "tough" but reckons he's starting to pick up the moves a lot quicker.

The 39-year-old athlete admits he's been training between eight and twelve hours over the last few days in preparation for this week's Movie Night theme, and says pressure is high.

Speaking to RTÉ Entertainment, the Cork man, who is paired with professional dancer Emily Barker, said: "It's been a tough week in studio. I'm back to square one and trying to learn a new dance again and everyone is under pressure. It is tough to be honest. 

"It's a mine field. I'm doing the samba this week and it's completely different to the previous dances I've done," he added. 

"Then again, I'm picking things up a lot quicker each week."

Robert Heffernan is paired with pro dance Emily Barker

Heffernan, who is married and has four kids with his wife Marian, says his family are very supportive, but admits he struggled to dance with another woman at the beginning.

"At the start everything was completely mad. Imagine being married with four kids and having to dance with another woman, and looking them in the eyes, and all of the active intimacy. It was very strange and I found myself kind of looking away.

"Emily comes down to Cork, so she has met all of my family, and the kids love her. My small one, who is four today, is obsessed with dancing, and is always asking for Emily.

"I think at the start they were half cringing but when they saw me they thought 'he's not doing so bad'.

"They are very supportive - if they weren't I wouldn't be able to do it!"

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Heffernan said it was "very tough" seeing Dragons' Den star Norah Casey being the first contestant to leave the competition on Sunday.

"It was very tough. Obviously, there was myself and Emily, Marty [Morrisey] and Norah left at the end. It was mixed emotions when Norah was called out because you're so terrified yourself.

"Norah has been really, really good to me behind-the-scenes. She's a really good businesswoman and said if I need a hand with anything she'll be there. She's a lovely person and it was tough to see her go."

Norah Casey was the first contestant to depart DWTS

Find out who makes it through to week five on Dancing with the Stars, Sunday, 6.30pm, RTÉ One.

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