Sunday 21 December 2014

Setting a model example with the Fit City Series drawing closer

Tanya Sweeney talks to Race Ambassadors model Michele McGrath and Raheny AC athlete Martin Kelly about their fitness routines

Fit Ambassador and model Michelle McGrath gearing up for the Fit City Series 5k and 10k in the Phoenix Park on March 9. To register sign up on www.fitmagazine.ie. El Keegan
Fit Ambassador and model Michele McGrath. Photo: El Keegan
Martin Kelly taking part in a Dublin City Marathon. Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Given her near-slavish devotion to the body beautiful, it's almost hard to believe that model/dancer/club hostess Michele McGrath suffers 'gymtimidation'.

"Oh, I hate the gym," she states. "There's all these gym bunnies and massive (guys) in there, and I'd rather be doing an activity than going on a treadmill for 45 minutes anyway. I prefer going to smaller gyms ... in the bigger ones, I definitely get a little scared."

Happily, Michele has discovered that variety is the best way to keep herself motivated: these days, she likes to run along the Clontarf seafront, take Zumba and dance classes, and do kickboxing training alongside her cage-fighter boyfriend Cathal Pendred.

"Of course you want to be with someone who looks after themselves," she notes. "It's a huge thing for me. I don't want to go out with someone who sits at a desk and just eats everything in sight. I wouldn't find that at all attractive, and I'm not sure who would."

Kickboxing aside, Michele has found that living with an athlete has its fringe benefits: Cathal is a big fan of Fighter Food (www.fighterfood.ie), a home delivery service that provides clients with ready-made meals. Michele has followed suit, and has already noticed a dramatic difference to her wellbeing.

"I didn't do it for weight loss or anything," she explains. "It was more because Cathal was doing it, and it was just easier for me to do it too. Recently, I felt I could eat what I want because I worked out a lot, but in fact it's more 80pc diet, 20pc going to the gym to fine-tune things."

Based loosely on the Paleo diet, Fighter Food make meals using lamb, turkey, chicken, salmon, sweet potato, green beans, carrots, broccoli and other nutrient-dense foods.

"For breakfast most mornings I'll make a smoothie with berries, yoghurt, seeds, flax linseeds and a drop of honey, or I'll have natural yoghurt with nuts and berries and a cup of green tea," says Michele. "I'll snack on carrots and celery and hummus at 12, then lunch is chicken or tuna salad. Dinner is usually one of the Fighter Food ready meals."

Michele's current obsession with kickboxing is the latest chapter in a lifelong love affair with exercise; starting, incongruously enough, with GAA.

"Yeah, I used to play GAA with Skerries!" she laughs. "I was a bit of a tomboy, and GAA is massive in Skerries, where I'm from. Bryan Cullen (the Dublin team captain) is from there, too. It was a bit rough at the time but I really loved it."

Later on as a teen, Michele moved into dancing, competing for titles in Irish dancing, which effectively put paid to GAA playing: "When you're at the level where you're going for titles, you have to be careful of injury, which is why I stopped."

Still, her active youth stood her in good stead when she began modelling for Assets. Michele readily admits that scouts and clients prefer a healthy, athletic look in the Irish market: Amazonian invariably thwarts skinny, which is good news for Michele.

"That's what's great about Irish modelling, the fact that there was never any pressure to be a size zero," she muses. "I fluctuate between a size 8 and a 12 ... that's just the way I am. I do see some eating disorders in modelling and people getting obsessed with the perfect body image, so I'm lucky, I'm happy in my own skin.

"Trust me, I've had alcohol and takeways at the weekend and woken up on the Monday feeling two stone heavier," she adds. "I'm like, 'Jesus, what did I go and do that for?', but for the most part it's about a healthy balance."

But what of balancing a music career – what with its pubs, clubs, touring and long studio hours – and a strict wellbeing regime? That's not to mention the part-time hostessing job at nightspot Buck's Townhouse that's also in the mix.

"I drink in moderation these days ... maybe one night out a month as opposed to every weekend," she smiles. "A lot of the musicians like to give off a rock 'n' roll image, but half of them are teetotal. I'm not sure how you'd even do any actual work as a musician if you were hungover all the time."

For now, however, Michele is mastering the tricky feat of achieving balance amid her chaotically busy life. "Investing in yourself is hugely important," she advises. "You just feel so much better ... it's that simple."

Irish Independent

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