There has been quite a lot of talk about ‘gymtimidation’ recently.

Those who know me well or anyone who’s kept an eye on my career and pursuits know what an outdoor girl I am. But it might surprise many others to hear that I’ve never been the sort who loves the conventional gym environment.

My fondness of outdoor activities was forged years ago by my parents when I was little more than a toddler. Those earliest outward bound adventures subsequently led me to push myself to some extremes in dense remote jungles, burning deserts, distant rivers and seas, up some of the highest points in the world including Himalayan peaks (and on one occasion a life threatening bout of altitude sickness – not convenient when leading a film crew at 21,000ft but that’s another story) and all manner of weird, wonderful and testing environments.


I’m not saying gyms are ‘bad’

For somebody who has spent quarter of a century immersed in the fitness industry and a few successful years in international fitness competition, it might surprise some to know that I’ve never felt entirely at home in a gym setting. OK, so I wasn’t intimidated by the setting – though of course there are always those who might make you feel a bit uncomfortable and none of us need that. Thankfully they are rare. For me it is the indoor, enclosed nature that doesn’t suit. There are benefits of course; convenience being the dominant one.

There are fabulous gyms, terrific gym equipment, inspiring and engaging trainers and tremendous peripheral facilities. Of course there are counterpoints to all those comments but such is life.

Joey Bull thinking outside the gym_3

The sheer range of equipment in even the most ordinary gyms is often impressive these days and a far cry from when I was a youngster. The ability to train in all climactic conditions is a massive convenience. And the prevalence of gyms means there is pretty much one within range of most people. However it is a false environment of re-circulated air, fluorescent lighting and physical activity simulators.

I’m simply not a fan

With the great technological advances in both resistance and CV kit and all the accompanying PR and marketing around treadmills, bikes, rowers, cross trainers, steppers and ski machines, it is easy to forget that they are actually simulators for the real thing. Approximations of your outdoor running routes, road or mountain bikes, staircase, canoe/kayak and cross country skis. They do 101 things brilliantly and produce good data. But they don’t get you outside where so many benefits lie…

If you tend to put on an extra layer of fat during Winter, have a think about how much exposure to natural light you get. When we’re lacking light and the serotonin it makes the body produce, we’ll look for other means of production – namely eating.

It’s important to get outside, even in winter

Getting up at dawn and going to bed at dusk isn’t exactly the way forward in this technological world, but it is what we were designed to do. The gradual change of light has an effect on an individual’s energy, alertness and has been known to quite quickly (within a few days), act as an anti-depressant. So get outside, whatever the weather and also reposition your work space so that you get as much light through the window as possible.

Think about it.

When you are outside, there is infinitely more neural messaging, more stimulus and more communication going on for the body. A run through the woods means changing stride lengths, avoiding roots, ducking under branches and changing pace to adapt to the geography. A thousand subconscious calculations fizzing through our head at all times. And on a bike the information is processed all the faster. This is being in the moment and dealing with the here and now. So refreshing, invigorating and de-stressing.

Remember – There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing! 

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