Putting Fitness at the Forefront for 2022 at Ashridge Gym
By Amy, Ashridge House’s Resident Blogger
From Hesitant to Hopeful
Every new year starts with a promise to ourselves to take better care of our bodies. We seem to spend the first two weeks of January in this ultra motivated state, running, swimming, doing yoga and generally eating better. And then comes a seemingly inevitable slippery slope back into a world of stress, tiredness and busy schedules. The first thing to fall by the wayside is the fitness regime we so wholeheartedly believed in. Then we start eating for convenience or comfort and before we know it we’ve reinstalled the Deliveroo app and are collapsing on the sofa rather than heading to that spin class.
I’m always hesitant to make grand lifestyle goals for New Year as the disappointment when the failure comes can taste so very bitter. Well, not this year.
There’s something about 2022 that just feels different. Maybe it’s having been cooped up during lockdowns and working from home. Maybe it’s a realisation that moving the body actually feels good, and when movement is restricted, suddenly it’s missed. Maybe it’s because working at Ashridge House I’ve got access to one of the most wonderful gyms I’ve ever been to.
Discovering The Gym
Nestled behind the famous Monk’s garden with its calm walkways and manicured shrubbery, we find Ashridge Gym. A not-so-well-kept secret among Berkhamsted locals due to its enviable location and brilliant fitness suite. How many gyms can boast being in the grounds of one of England’s most famous stately homes? Once a hunting lodge for King Henry VIII, (who could have done with a few sessions on the elliptical trainer himself) Ashridge House is now blessed with a multitude of exceptional offerings. The house flows from an exquisite and cinematic wedding venue, to a fine dining affair. It draws in locals and internationals for educational conferences and entices country walkers with artisan coffee and a delicious menu at the Bakehouse and Storehouse. Everything about the place is remarkable.
I’m starting my 2022 with a fairly unremarkable but tangible goal. I want to be able to run five miles and swim two – comfortably and without clutching onto my stomach with a stitch. I make my way through the gardens, past the tennis courts and am greeted by Harvey, the Ashridge Gym Manager. He’s immediately warm and inviting as he shows me inside the gym and begins to talk excitedly about what’s on offer and plans for the future.
You can feel the friendly atmosphere as soon as you walk in. There’s no pretentiousness or mirrored rooms pumping out offensively loud music while buffed up fitness fanatics pump iron. I breathe a sigh of relief. I think I’ll fit in here.
A Wealth of Experience
Harvey has worked at the gym for six years and is a firm believer that having a regular fitness commitment improves not just your physicality but your mental well-being too. He is a Level 3 Personal Trainer and has sports massage, gym and spinning instructor qualifications too, so I know I’m in good hands. He tells me all the instructors here genuinely care about their clients’ fitness journeys, that they want to see us improving in all areas of our lives, not just on the treadmill.
It’s incredibly reassuring to know that I’m in a place that is compassionate and caring, as well as strength and stamina focused. There’s a real community feel here, I witness many interactions between members who seem to know each other and are really supportive during workouts. Who knows, I might even make some new friends here too!
When a new member joins up, they are entitled to a health assessment, which measures blood pressure, weight, height , flexibility and peak flow. Once that’s done the team will talk through goals and design a programme card to meet the clients needs. They then run through the programme card with the aim of sticking to it for six to eight weeks before being assessed again and moving the goalposts if need be. I like the sound of this, it feels bespoke, individual and based on achievable targets.
A Class Act
The gym has a vast array of different classes, ranging from the endorphin raising HITT to Yogalates and Pilates. There’s aqua aerobics, spinning, body balance and pumps – an excellent range from light exercising with mental challenges to pushing your body to the limits. I tell Harvey that I need to improve my stamina. He playfully suggests while I’m here I might as well try pumps to see if I can sculpt my body a bit whilst getting to my goal of running five miles without collapsing.
After a tour of the state-of-the-art machinery I’m even more impressed. They have cross trainers, running machines, elliptical trainers and a full weights room too. Harvey shows me how to work the elliptical machine, complete with a place to play your own music and suggests I give it a try. Within a couple of minutes I’m bobbing away to my favourite dance tracks to keep me motivated. Harvey has skilfully managed to get me exercising without me even realising it. It’s surprisingly enjoyable and has a nice view of the pool and gardens beyond, I could definitely get used to this.
Twenty minutes sail by and Harvey joins me again. We pop over to the weights room where he assesses my strength levels and comes up with a weights schedule that actually doesn’t look too frightening. I’ll never be able to bench press like a pro but the 5kg weights look like something to aim for. They are all Ashridge branded too which is a nice touch.
Weightless In The Water
I’m about ready to feel the support of the water and I’m shown to the pool. It’s a decent size for lane swimming and not too busy with about six other swimmers doing their daily laps. I sink into the heated water and immediately feel my body relax. I manage about ten lengths of amateur breast-stroke which Harvey assures me will improve with practice.
It’s about this point that I could really do with a full detox in the sauna. As luck would have it, there’s a new one being built here – due for completion in mid January. So I’ve only got a week or so to wait and I’m delighted.
As I get changed I have a feeling of triumph. I’ve made the first commitment to sticking to a carefully planned out exercise regime and I’m actually looking forward to it. There’s even talk of doing classes outside in the beautiful grounds once the weather improves. I very much doubt any other generic local gym can offer me anything as luxurious as that. There are even tennis courts here, and mountain bikes to hire for riding around the grounds. It’s not just a place to come and pump iron for gains. It’s a place to explore, to feel supported and encouraged by a community centred team.
Breakfast In The Bakehouse
It’s also a place that has the delicious Bakehouse café serving up home cooked food just across the way. You can have a healthy breakfast ready and waiting for you when you are done sweating it out.
I don’t think there’s any other gym that can offer what Ashridge does. It’s got everything you could want with a side helping of palatial splendour, topped off with acres upon acres of woodland and country air to fill your lungs (and belly) with the ultimate health experience.
I’m for the long haul. Committed and signed up for the next few months and certainly more with the incredibly reasonable pricing. For the first time I actually feel confident that I can achieve my fitness goals, improve my health & well-being and actually stick to something. I think that anyone who comes here will feel exactly as I do, and I’m excited to meet new people and maybe even some coffee buddies to enjoy the post workout nourishment with.
Here’s to 2022 and putting my fitness to the forefront at Ashridge Gym!
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