Sunday 20 January 2019

Fitness fans pen their own love story

Dominic Munnelly and his wife Grainne Parker have combined their wellness skills to write a book for all ages

Dominic Munnelly and Grainne Parker 'their relationship grew into deep love'. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Dominic Munnelly and Grainne Parker 'their relationship grew into deep love'. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Andrea Smith

If you're going on honeymoon, what's the most important thing to bring? Your brand new spouse, of course, so imagine the look on Grainne Parker's face when she arrived at the airport to discover that her husband, Dominic Munnelly, had somehow overlooked booking her flight to Miami.

In his defence, Dominic was managing a large group booking at the time, because they had first gone to New York as he and a group of his clients, including Grainne's sister Sinead, were running the marathon there. "I didn't mind that much as I know he's slightly scatty," Grainne laughs. "The only seat available on the flight was business class so he had to hand over his credit card."

Grainne (50) and Dominic (41) were married in 2006, and were keen to have children. After several devastating miscarriages, their daughter Eva (now nine) was born and they're thrilled to have her. Life was very busy in the early years as Dominic was building up his fitness business, with the anti-social hours that involves, and Grainne worked full-time as consulting lead at IBM.

Grainne is from Leopardstown in Dublin. She was very happily married before, but sadly her first husband, Ciaran Doyle, passed away while skiing abroad. He was with a group of friends that included Paul and Lisa Fitzpatrick of the Fitzpatrick hotelier family and the late DJ Tony Fenton, but Grainne was too busy at work to go with them.

Two days after they left, on January 11, 1999, Grainne's dad John broke the devastating news that Ciaran had collapsed and died at the side of a mountain from sudden adult death syndrome. He was 33, Grainne was 31 and it was two weeks before their second anniversary. "It was a horrific period in my life, and the pain was so bad, I wondered how I could still be alive?" Grainne recalls. "I went back to work after two weeks and that kept me sane, in a way. The people there were amazing and really looked out for me."

A few years later, in 2002, Grainne's stylish mum Ger passed away aged 59 from oesophageal cancer, which was a very hard time for the family. In the aftermath, Grainne decided she needed a break and went to Rome for seven months to learn Italian and do cooking, yoga and art courses. Her healing began there and she kept in contact with Lisa Fitzpatrick through it all. At one point. Lisa mentioned her new personal trainer Dominic, adding that he was a real slave-driver. "I think you'd like him," she told Grainne.

When Grainne came home in 2004, Lisa decided to set her up on a date with Dominic. He agreed to it thinking she was a potential new client until Lisa set him straight the day before. "I had spent so many years buried in study and focusing on my craft that I wasn't very good at dating," says Dominic, who invited Grainne for dinner at his apartment.

"I was surprised that Dominic was willing to meet somebody who was nearly 10 years older and had been widowed," Grainne admits. "He seemed very kind and really well-read, and I came away feeling that I could certainly go out with him again. The attraction wasn't instant, but that suited me because I had been through such enormous trauma, I didn't feel that I could go down that road too quickly again. I went through a year of therapy to help with my grief, and it helped me to realise that I wanted to survive and didn't want to be lonely."

The relationship grew into deep love and they say they've brought harmony to each other's lives. Grainne liked that Dominic is very tall and has a "great physique". She feels very lucky to have had two great romantic loves in her life.

Dominic thinks she's a "great-looking woman" and never wants her to feel she can't talk about Ciaran. "Grainne is very outgoing and knows her own mind, and I love that," he says. "I'm very opinionated, certainly around my own field, and I wanted someone who would challenge me."

The always sporty Dominic grew up in Newbridge as the second of Kevin and Joan's four children and he achieved his sports science degree in the UK. He set up his own business in 2002, and although he mainly works in Dublin, he and his brother Niall co-own the Performance and Fitness Academy in Kildare ( He has become a bit of a celeb on the fitness circuit, working with many VIPs on their personal training.

Grainne has always loved cooking and did professional cookery and health science courses, and she runs a blog ( She decided to leave IBM in 2015 to work with Dominic, giving cookery and wellness classes to his clients. Their brand is called "The Way" (, and it's about moving, eating and training well at any age. They eschew the whole intense "crush it" and "smash it" approach to fitness that is so prevalent these days. The harmonious pair do a lot of corporate work on employee wellness, and are loving working together to create their programmes.

They've also just written a book together that integrates all aspects of wellness: mobility, exercise, sleep, nutrition and stress management.

"Our second book will be about how to survive writing a book with your partner," jokes Grainne. "Fitness seems to be sold as something for under 25s with a six-pack, which makes me cross, as we all have the right to be fit and healthy and it has to be something we can fit into our busy lives at any age."

Move, Train, Nourish: The Sustainable Way to a Healthier You, by Dominic Munnelly and Grainne Parker (The Collins Press, €19.99)

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