For Mignon Sich, food for the soul has been as vital as a lifetime of healthy living.
A pioneer of the Barossa fitness industry, Mignon says surrounding herself with food and family has sustained her and filled her life with positivity, energy and vitality.
Now officially retired as a fitness coach and master trainer, Mignon’s empathetic but no-nonsense approach to coaching helped hundreds of Barossans improve their health and wellbeing.
She also worked tirelessly running a highly successful mobile catering business for four decades with husband Peter, bringing food and hospitality to local tables.
“I had huge loyalty to our family business and to him. Happily, I’ve loved both my jobs,” says Mignon. “I was so lucky to be passionate and good at what I did.”
Mignon’s belief that life is what you make it stems from her own life experience and a childhood she describes as “very difficult.”
“I didn’t have a mother – she died when I was born,” says Mignon. “By the time I started high school I had lived with five families.
“I hadn’t had security, so I became terribly independent and driven in order to cope with the constant changes happening in my life.
“Everything I achieved, I did because I wanted to do it myself.”
Her upbringing also shaped her attitude to motherhood and family.
“All I wanted to do was be the mother I never had,” Mignon says.
“Family is everything to me, and I know my family would say the same thing – I’ve had a beautiful life with my children and grandchildren and I’m so blessed.”
In fact, Mignon’s great capacity to nurture others was the catalyst for entering the fitness industry, after the birth of her three sons Derek, Evan and Leon.
“It was a passion of mine, helping people,” says Mignon.
“And not just fit people but people with disabilities, people with special needs, older people, mothers with babies.
“These days we have physios and rehab but when I first started there was no training.”
Mignon became a trailblazer in the fitness industry, studying and eventually writing courses and lecturing for the Industry of Fitness and the Department of Recreation and Sport, as it was then known.
“I did the first every aerobics training course – it wasn’t called aerobics, it was ‘exercise to music’,” laughs Mignon.
“The headbands and legwarmers and Reeboks – it was all brand new.”
Mignon’s skillset grew with the rapidly expanding fitness industry, introducing class after class to the Barossa Recreation Centre and making exercise accessible to everyone.
“They must have hated me – I was never satisfied,” laughs Mignon. “Once we had a gym I wanted a pool and I became an aquatics instructor and weights instructor.
“There was no certificate I didn’t have.”
Mignon introduced hydrotherapy to aid in rehabilitation, and developed a special interest in antenatal care.
She says it was a privilege to support mothers-to-be on their pregnancy journey, and later to provide postnatal care as well.
“So many mothers took my voice with them into birth, knowing what to do, how to breathe and listen to their body,” says Mignon, who was present at the births of her own grandchildren.
“You can imagine the relationships I had with my clients. People came to my classes for 20 years – they still stop and hug me and tell me they remember my classes.”
As a personal trainer, Mignon was also acutely conscious of the impact of healthy eating, long before the importance of nutrition was well understood.
“You can do very little about your pre-determined health issues, but you can do everything about your fitness and nutrition, and with a healthy body comes a healthy mind,” says Mignon, who still swims 60 laps of the Rex in the morning and regularly takes the dance floor with the Valley Rockers.
“I think I influenced a lot of people in a positive way.”
Always looking to the next challenge, Mignon’s most recent venture, Precise Pilates, continues to run under her watchful eye, although she has stepped away from teaching classes.
“People think I’m over-the-top, but when you’ve got that drive, you always want to do more; I’m never bored and I’m never still!” says Mignon, who has served on countless kindy, school, sport and community committees in her time.
“My family know I’m into anything and everything. The Barossa is built on community, and I’m not happy unless I’m up to my elbows.”
Peter has been steadfast throughout her journey, knowing when to speak up and when to observe.
“I was so fiercely independent but when I met Peter – and he has been an absolute rock, we’ve been together 56 years – I suddenly found there was somebody in my life that would look after me,” says Mignon.
“He comes along with my ideas happily, and I’m still happy to have him looking after me!”
As the matriarch of a large and voracious family, Mignon’s most satisfying days are now spent in the kitchen planning the next meal; a dinner invitation on the family group chat is likely to see more than a dozen people “rock in.”
“The whole house is designed around how our family live, eat and cook,” Mignon says.
“That’s why there’s so many chairs around the table – it’s who we are.”