A no-nonsense, Weatherfield workout

After more than 30 years as Granada Televisions fitness coach, Irene Estry is still the one Coronation Street stars turn to for a no-nonsense, Weatherfield workout.

Carmel Thomason reports

In the fickle, youth-obsessed world of showbiz it’s perhaps surprising that Coronation Street stars, both male and female are turning to a 72 year old grandmother when they want to shape up. But then again, Irene Estry isn’t your typical granny. I’ve never thought there is a ‘how you should be’ when it comes to age,” says Irene. “Obviously you can’t look 21 when you’re 60, but when you can still be fit and strong for you age. And what is wrong with saying for your age?”

“I was 40 when I started working at Granada, so I’ve always been older than a lot of people I work with. There is something positive in that for a personal trainer. I’ve done the mileage, I know that what I’m saying works. People look at me and think, ‘If she can do it, so can I’.” It is exactly this no-nonsense approach to life that has won Irene the trust and friendship of so many television favourites over the years. She is in the TV studios three times a week or more doing her personal training sessions with the stars who want to keep trim. Discretion is her middle name – hence there is no gossip to print here about any particular actor’s body issues. But while Irene can’t be persuaded to spill the beans on her celebrity clients, in her new book, Growing Old Disgracefully: The Mature Woman’s Manual (Amazon, £6.99), she shares her philosophy for healthy living that has kept them coming back for more more than three decades. So what is her secret? “I don’t sell dreams,” Irene says. “I won’t tell anyone that I will make them younger or thinner. What I’m aiming for is to get people healthy. Forget about the rest. “Women have asked me, ‘Are there any calories in this lettuce?’ and ‘Is water fattening?’

An obsession with dieting and physical appearance will make a woman thin, neurotic about food, insecure about her body and self-absorbed to the point where relationships are strained. “I’ve met lots of women who don’t eat because they are frightened of food, and women who spend thousands of pounds on fixing things about themselves that aren’t broken. It doesn’t have to be that way.” Irene’s common sense approach involves working from the inside, combining healthy eating, moderate exercise, doing things you enjoy, and making quality time for your friends and family. The daughter of a meditation teacher mother and boxing coach father, she grew up understanding the importance of looking after both your mind and body. And while her message may seem a simple one, it is clearly one that is much needed. “Life can move at a speed and pace that is all too hasty and I like to think that by making life simpler I can bring a bit of calm.”

Irene explains. “People often convince themselves that they don’t have time to cook healthy food or to exercise. Well they need to make time, after all it’s their life and health – nothing should be more important that that. That’s why I don’t talk about diets. For long term vitality you need an eating and exercise pattern that can easily become part of your lifestyle. If it is something that is going to make your life more complicated and has you panicking because you can’t do it, then it’s only going to make you feel worse about yourself. “If any of the diets out there worked long-term, why would there be thousands of alternatives? “Exercise is the key, eat well and move around. It’s simple, it’s safe and it works.”