Bondings: It started with a 'wow' moment
John Lally was smitten with Yvonne Stringer as soon as he saw her. Now married, the couple have two sons, but also a business in common
'IT WAS one of those 'wow' moments," is how fitness trainer John Lally describes seeing Yvonne Stringer for the very first time in 1999, when she was 22 and he was 25. It wasn't the most seductive of occasions, as he had joined a gym and she was tasked with conducting his initial assessment, taking his measurements and analysing his body fat. Not that there was much fat there, as he was a competitive cyclist.
While John thought Yvonne looked fantastic, and asked her out quite early on in the proceedings, she remains perplexed as to what attracted him. "I wasn't wearing any make-up, and the tracksuits we wore back then were baggy and not at all flattering," she says. "He asked me out a couple of times, but I wasn't into him, although I thought he was a gas and really easy to talk to."
While John attended Yvonne's spinning and boxing classes, she suddenly began to notice him and his mates popping up in the pubs and clubs that she frequented. "Why don't you go out with him? It's not like you're going to marry him," said her pal.
Then, one day, she saw him walking down Grafton Street with a girl on either side, and suddenly viewed him in a new light. "I was raging," she admits. "So I asked him out and this time he said no!"
Luckily, the next time she suggested going out, John happily agreed, and soon the attractive pair were dating and having fun. He liked that Yvonne was interested in fitness and also had a great personality, while she loved that he was a little wild and spontaneous, and was a great dresser.
Fitness was always in Yvonne's background, dating back to when she grew up in Coolock. The middle of Eddie and Mairead Stringer's three daughters, she and her sisters swam competitively as youngsters. Inspired by their dad Eddie, who formerly worked in Aer Lingus and has a black belt in judo, Yvonne completed a diploma in sports and leisure management at Colaiste Ide. Then she began working at Total Fitness, where she met John, and moved to Westwood gym.
John was a cyclist – like his dad Sean, who represented Ireland internationally and also worked in the ESB. John grew up in Raheny and is the youngest of Sean and Pauline's five children, and trained as an electrician.
Six months after they started dating, Yvonne and John went off to Australia for a year, followed by a few months in New York. They had an option to stay on, but came back as Yvonne missed home. They bought a house in Ashbourne, Co Meath, and were married in Rome. It was a very intimate and special ceremony, as Yvonne's dad had been diagnosed with bowel cancer, and she was thrilled that he was there to walk her down the aisle.
"I bought my bouquet from the street, did my make-up myself and picked my dress in 10 minutes," she said. "All I cared about was that my dad would be there."
Thankfully, her dad recovered and, as part of his rehabilitation, he threw himself into fitness. He still trains in the gym, aged 64.
Yvonne and John now have two sons, Max, 10, and Christian, 5. Yvonne worked for a few years as a personal trainer and swimming instructor, and John worked as an electrician, while gaining his personal training qualifications along the way.
Yvonne then opened Stringer Fitness in Ashbourne in 2008, and John joined her as a personal trainer. She runs 29 classes per week, along with John and two other trainers, John and Adrian. She went to New York to train in the popular TRX suspension fitness system.
While they offer individual personal training options, they have a wide range of kettlebell, TRX and pilates classes, as well as Nifty@Fifty classes for older people and The Black Dress Club for women. There is also a movement class for children from six upwards on Mondays.
John does a lot of personal training with athletes, and his clients include comedian Jason Byrne, who is currently training to run the New York marathon in aid of Temple Street Children's Hospital.
Yvonne and John are encouraging and positive, and don't favour the tough, strictly disciplined approach that some gyms use. While they have achieved great results with clients, they believe that even if you don't lose weight, once you are moving again and getting stronger, you have achieved something.
When it comes to diet, they say they eat healthily 80 per cent of the time, and they encourage their clients to do this as well, as they believe you need balance, and have to be able to live your life and enjoy yourself. The fact that so many of their fiercely-loyal clients have been with them for years, demonstrates that they are taking the right approach.
Life is busy with two children, and Yvonne says she doesn't know how she would do it all without John's support. They love going to the cinema and out for dinner, and they enjoy a glass of wine at the weekends. What she loves about John is that he is very laid-back and easy to live with, and what drives her mad is that he isn't organised and has no concept of time. "I have to kick him out the door sometimes for the classes," she laughs.
John says that Yvonne is always in great form, and the only thing he teases her about is that she is a slight control freak when it comes to the business.
"She's my soulmate," he says. "We work together, have a family together and live together, and there aren't enough hours in the day for us."
Stringer Fitness, Main Street, Ashbourne, Co Meath. Tel: 087 780 5490, www. stringerfitness.com . Check out their YouTube channel for fitness tips.
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