'Our bodies are precious and I want to look after it'
TV and radio presenter Síle Seoige on her renewed love of running
One of Ireland's most-loved television and radio presenters, Síle Seoige, has gone through highs and lows, and has endured more than many of us have so young, but fitness got her through the darkness and lifted her spirits.
She was never a girl who enjoyed sports or physical education class in school. In fact, she admittedly allowed her vanity to take over some days.
"I remember hiding in the jacks and the teacher came in and was shouting my name out, so I stood on top of the toilet so he wouldn't see my legs if he looked under the cubicle.
"We used to have PE first thing on a Thursday, and there was a period of time when the showers were broken. I sweat very easily and I did not want to sit in class in a pair of tights and a skirt looking all sweaty," she recalls with a grin.
However, there were two sports in which Síle participated, but only to a certain extent. "I used to like badminton and I played camogie as a teenager. I'd enjoy holding the stick and wearing the helmet but I'd run away from the sliotar whenever it came near me."
In 2010, Síle conquered Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with only two months of training at BodyByrne, the Dublin-based gym. Personal trainer Paul Byrne was the driving force behind the fitness regime which got her legs and upper body strong enough to claim victory over the 5,895m peak.
The year of 2011 marked an unexpected and unfortunate halt to the newly fit and improved Síle when she was diagnosed with cancer. Her world fell down around her as the operations and treatment commenced in a bid to save her life, an experience she will never forget.
"Being told you have cancer is a real shock to the system and I was lucky that my cancer was treatable, as it only took a year for it to go.
One year on and being told she was cancer free, Síle had another chance in life and came back stronger than ever.
"I felt I was given an opportunity because cancer can be so destructive, but I've been so fortunate. When that happens you get a wake-up call and you realise your health is not to be messed with," she says.
After interviewing adventurer and fitness inspiration for many, Mark Pollock, Síle signed up for the Dublin 10k Run in the Dark with two friends from Newstalk. It was the first goal she set herself after–– reaching the remission stage of her cancer.
She found the run challenging, but much more rewarding when she reached the finish line. "A few kilometres away from the finish line, I said to one of my friends, 'this time last year I was barely able to move off the couch after having two operations and I was weak, down, mentally and physically exhausted and really struggling. And now, a year on, I am able to run 10k'.
"It was hugely empowering. I had such an amazing sense of gratitude that I knew I could do this and I felt so thankful and lucky. I don't want to waste it.
"Our bodies are precious and I want to look after it, and it's a natural high you get and our bodies are so capable of doing so much," she says.
As her mentality grew stronger and stronger, Síle's bravery accumulated and she signed up to do the Connemara half-marathon.
With her trusty trainer, Paul, still on her team, she began to work towards her next goal. "On Tuesdays and Thursdays we would meet up after work at the gym and go for a run. The brilliant thing about running is that all you need to do is find yourself a decent pair of runners and off you go. I'd also do weight training in the gym and go at the weekend on my own".
Learning the importance of healthy eating, especially when coming up to a marathon or event, is something the slim brunette has realised is just as essential as the training.
However, Síle doesn't break her back over what she eats and has not succumbed to any diets.
"I love feeling stronger but it's not about getting slim. There are different shapes and sizes out there but I find people who look healthy look a lot better.
"I stopped weighing myself because I realised how destructive it was. I realise even though I mightn't be losing loads on the scales, I'm looking and feeling a lot better, which is the most important thing.
"I try and eat healthy but I won't eat low fat; I eat the real deal. I try to avoid processed food but I love chocolate and a glass of wine," she says.
The main benefit that she feels she takes away from fitness is the strength it gives her state of mind. "I've realised how intertwined fitness is with your mindset. People also really help each other out when you're in a situation which is gruelling and physically tough. You pull together and it's a real confidence boost."
Originally published in Fit magazine, free every Thursday with Irish Indepdent.