Eat, whey, love: meet the couple redefining fitness
Husband and wife Dominic Munnelly and Grainne Parker have a lot in common, not least their 'sensible and sustainable' approach to well-being, writes Meadhbh McGrath
When personal trainer Dominic Munnelly (42) was asked to meet a friend of one of his clients, the stylist Lisa Fitzpatrick, he agreed on the assumption that it could mean potential new business. Only the night before did he learn that it was actually a date, with Lisa's long-time friend Grainne Parker.
"I didn't know what I was getting into!" Dominic jokes of his first meeting with his now wife and business partner.
Grainne (51) had recently returned to Ireland after living in Rome. She had moved to Italy following the loss of her first husband, Ciaran, who died from sudden adult death syndrome while on a ski trip in 1999. When she arrived at Dominic's apartment for dinner five years later, she admits she was tentative about dating again.
"I was being quite cautious. Dominic was a number of years younger than me and I suppose I have a reasonable amount of baggage - which I didn't pack myself, I always say. But I knew I came with stuff in the background, so it was quite slow, to be honest," she says. "We both liked each other's energy and our interests were quite similar," Dominic adds. "I loved Grainne's zest for life and that she was obviously very resilient. She was in great shape and she looked great as well, so what's not to like?"
At the time, Grainne was working as a business consultant with IBM, but she ran cookery courses in the background for some of Dominic's clients. Three years ago, she decided to take the leap and retrain as a health and wellness coach.
"I had a number of very defining moments of stress in my life, and it seemed like the right time to study that and learn more about it," she explains.
The couple joined forces a year later, and now offer individual, group and corporate services in personal training and wellness coaching. This weekend, they will be sharing their philosophy for a sustainable, healthy life at Vitality Expo.
"I've seen more and more people wanting to get in better shape but not accounting for lifestyle factors that are preventing them from getting in shape," says Dominic, who has a degree in sports science and 20 years' experience as a personal trainer. "That's what I would call the soft skills, but they're actually the most important because, today more than ever, we're seeing people going into the gym, trying to kill themselves with all their workouts, and yet their lifestyle and their recovery is not set up to support that.
"That's what the fitness industry is constantly selling: More! Grind! Burn! You just don't want it bad enough! All those messages, I find, are highly negative when you consider that nearly 50pc of our population is either overweight or obese. That 50pc is not even getting off the sofa because they think, why should I bother? It's going to be so hard and so painful, between leg day, arm day and big toe day…"
With the boom in high interval intensity training, 'beast mode' and monster workouts, Dominic advocates focusing on "consistency over intensity".
"People don't need harder workouts, they need more consistent workouts at a manageable pace, focused on the three tenets of overall fitness: sort your mobility out, get yourself a bit stronger and work on your conditioning," he explains.
Dominic and Grainne encourage a holistic approach to wellness, one which they describe in their book, Move, Train, Nourish: The Sustainable Way To A Healthier You.
"A lot of what would have been published in the past would have been 'get a six-pack' or 'the 28-day plan'. They seemed to be aimed at the very young, plus they were sort of one-dimensional. We have chapters on happiness, on sleep, on stress, and how it's not all perfect in our lives," says Grainne. "We get that you don't necessarily get to exercise every day, or sometimes you're too busy to cook, so what's the best thing you can do that day?"
The couple, who live in Cabinteely, Dublin, have a 10-year-old daughter, Eva, and as busy working parents, they emphasise that their method, called 'The Way' (thisistheway.ie), is realistic.
"Sometimes I cook something for Eva, and she looks at it, hasn't even tasted it, and she'll say 'I'm not eating that, don't like it'. You want to bang your head off the wall, because you've had a busy day. Nothing's perfect - we have this amazing daughter, but it's not like she never asks me for sweets or never refuses vegetables. We have the same challenges all other parents have, and I think that helps people relate to us," Grainne explains.
Dominic adds: "People are maybe a little bit tired of the Instagram expert. We're getting to that point where they want somebody who is actually qualified, who has a good reputation in whatever field they're discussing, and [Vitality Expo] is a good place to find them. Beyond the '10-minute workout to knock yourself into shape', we need some concrete science behind it. Who better to talk about stress and resilience than Grainne, who has worked in corporate life for 20 years and had a lot of major challenges to overcome?
"I'm a sports scientist, and that's a massive difference from someone who has done an eight-week or a weekend qualification. It's easy to deal with a 20-year-old girl that moves like a ninja - anything will work with them. Show me the principles you're putting down on paper that apply to the 70-year-old as well as the 17-year-old."
At Vitality Expo, Dominic and Grainne will be delivering a one-hour seminar in two parts. Grainne's segment is 'Why being stressed-out and sleepless doesn't have to be the new norm', while Dominic looks at 'Sensible, sustainable' workouts.
"We'll be going through what we do with people to help them stay healthier, fitter, happier and stronger for longer," he explains.
Vitality Expo 2018 takes place in Dublin's RDS on September 8-9. Grainne and Dominic will be speaking at 12.30pm on Saturday and Sunday on the Sustainability Stage. Tickets available at vitalityexpo.ie/tickets. Under-12s go free.