How many times have I heard the following phrase (or variation of) in the last few months?

'I’m not really a gym go-er’ …
‘I don’t really like the gym’ … 
‘I hate the gym’ …

So here’s a thing that may come as a surprise. ME TOO!!!! I might run a gym and spend a lot of time in it. But I am SO not a gym person. Like everyone else, I live in Chamonix for the outdoor lifestyle: the running, biking, climbing, skiing …
The thought of staring out of the window at passing cars while plodding on the running machine. Or an hour of the latest ‘new’ exercise trend (that’s actually not new at all). Or rowing to nowhere, with no water in sight. Oh my God. Seriously? It fills me with the same dread as all those ‘non-gym-ers’ who apologise, but then look slightly smug, as if I’ve missed the point of being in Chamonix ;o)

It took me a while to get it. Most of us have to experience something for ourselves before we truly believe it. My own gym revelation came with a combination of being injured and studying. Fed up with not being able to run, constrained by time, a dodgy hip and an even dodgier ankle, I was given a challenge by a coach: ‘Don’t run for the next 3 weeks, just do the weights programme I tell you, and I’ll bet you’re a faster runner at the end.’

Yeah right. I NEED to run. And be outside. And burn energy. And move. Or I’m a bad, bad person to be around. And there is no way I can get faster at running without running. 

But after just a week on the ‘no run’ programme, I started to notice a difference in my body. Another week and I was actually
getting a buzz from doing weights - and genuinely enjoying getting stronger. Weirdly enough my hip and ankle both felt better(funny that!). By the end of week 3 I could hold a plank for several minutes, do twice as many press ups and burpees, and my balance was so much better.  I'd 'woken' up muscles that had got lazy with lack of use. I felt stable and purposeful in my movements. And rather than bulking up, I found myself feeling leaner, taller, stronger, and full of beans. I had thought I could only get that buzzy endorphin rush from running.

So then came the actual challenge. I hadn’t run for 3 weeks. I felt totally out of practise. Press ups and planks, bring it on. But running? Hmmm. Convinced I'd fail, I refused to even give it a go. I hadn't even had a practise run. But a bet was a bet. I was dragged back to the running machine. No pressure!

So I started running. Slowly. And felt surprisingly ok. So I went a bit faster. And still felt pretty good. Amazing even. I was sustaining a pace that had previously been a short sprint. I never thought I’d be able to keep going at that speed. But I did. Quite easily. And to my complete shock, I knocked a full 2 minutes off my previous best 10km time. I’d started easy, so I could probably even have gone a bit faster! Next time ...   

So, there we go. I was WRONG.

The whole gym thing works. If you know what you want out of it. And if you work at it.

That was a year ago. I’d still rather be outside - and am at every opportunity. But the gym has now become an invaluable partner to the other sports I do in Chamonix. Without it, I’d be weaker, wobblier, weedier - and probably a whole lot more injured. So, whether you’re after flexibility, weight loss, power, injury recovery, endurance, or better posture: Use the gym wisely and you’ll reap the rewards for years to come. 

Thanks for reading. Now: try it for yourself!

Ps. Chamonix Gym is not dark, stinky, full of meat heads or intimidating. It’s friendly, new, clean and shiny enough to take the edge off the fact that we’d ALL rather be outside! The music however, is notoriously crap. So bring your own.

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