Train to be happy and energetic - Vitality Champion Irene Muir


After battling with weight and health issues in her teenage years, Irene Muir turned her life around with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Today, she's a Team Vitality champion and healthier than ever.

If the thought of exercising and dieting exhausts you, the chances are that you haven't put solid support structure in place, believes Team Vitality champion, Irene Muir, 32, a Paarl-based architect. Her friends today are fellow runners, cyclists and conscious eaters and whose history, courage and inspiration helped get her to Diamond Vitality Status.

Muir hopes to make it easier for people to make changes for themselves and take their journey one step at a time, adjusting slowly and easily to create energy-boosting habits. It's no "quick fix," but small and steady steps.

Her own turnaround came after struggling with her weight in high school, due to an underactive thyroid, watching friends get picked first as prefects and on the hockey team. "No matter how hard I tried at school, I just never got there. I didn't have enough encouragement to push myself, so I bettered myself academically and then got lost in the system through seven years of architecture study. But... when I finished my degree at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, I weighed 84 kgs," she explains.

How she turned things around - by not turning around

Her mother invited her to join her a popular fun walk on the Durban beachfront. At 10km, Irene was exhausted and had painful blisters. She begged to throw in the towel and turn back. "My mum simply said, 'it's 10km either way. You can either finish the race, or go back another 10km.' That changed my outlook. I signed up with Vitality, changed my friends' circle, signed up at the gym and kept myself accountable through interactions and commitments," she says.

It's been five years, and her active friends can now see her on weekly group runs or cycles (she and her partner see this as social time in Paarl). She now weighs 56 kg, having succeeded in halving her thyroid medication through daily diet and training.

Conscious eating is a way of life

Muir firmly believes the mind is the strongest muscle in the body, saying people shouldn't deprive themselves entirely. "Keep what you like most and add it to healthier choices."

She adds: "It takes seven days for your body to adapt to a new way. It's the same with exercise and food. Incorporate the old with the new. You start to change the way your mind thinks. For example, add plant-based items to your bread, try a new sport one day a week... acquire the habit, drop the bad, one step at a time."

Her partner, Albert, is also a Vitality Champion and they've recently swopped disciplines, him running and her cycling, each excelling and revelling in the new challenges.

"You know, diet feeds activity and your wellbeing. My purpose is not to win races but to enjoy the run or cycle, whether it's 30 minutes or three hours. It's getting the endorphins pumping. Also, we should not train for weight loss - we should train to be whole and happy. Change is not hard. You just need to make it easier!" she enthuses.

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