Gym? “No, Thanks”, Says The Gym Grouch

My Relationship To Gyms

Well. There is none. As an outdoorsy person I don’t see much of a point to run on a treadmill in a place where there is an subtle pressure to compete with each other. I prefer running in my next door park in fresh air (if you don’t think about the high-traffic main road that’s running right next to the park) under blue sky, and if I have to even in rain. There is also the benefit that it’s free although the Stoke Gifford Parish Council is thinking about charging park runners 1£ to use the park (What?!).

And there are even some apps out there that help you in your training, motivate you, push you and boss you around. (Thank God, mine is a female trainer, otherwise the app could have jumped in the lake).

Virgin Active #MyWorkoutFor Adventure

Station 4

Big Plans

Now, I’ve got big plans for this year and hopefully finish it with climbing Kilimanjaro. And admittedly, a bit of additional training wouldn’t be too bad. Just running won’t help me to climb that tiny volcano of 5,895 m. How handy that Virgin Active has a #MyWorkoutFor Adventure class that I attended last Saturday. It’s a workout particularily for trekking, with various stations to mirror lugging around a heavy bag to working on those leg muscles.

The Workout

Station 1:
Curve run: It’s like running on a treadmill but it only moves when you move.
Purpose: Leg endurance for walking all day.

Station 2:
TRX row: Lean back and hang in there.
Purpose: Upper body/back strengthen for carrying backpack all day.

Station 3:
Walking lunges with Bulgarian Bag: The additional weight of the bag over your shoulders puts good stress on your upper legs.
Purpose: Leg endurance for walking all day.

Virgin Active #MyWorkoutFor Adventure

Station 3

Station 4:
Squat to shoulder press with ViPR/Barbell.
Purpose: Leg strengthening for trekking / shoulder strengthening for manoeuvring bags.

Station 5:
Step ups/jumps across 3 boxes of different heights.
Purpose: Leg endurance and walking over different/uneven terrains.

Station 6:
Farmer’s walk with TiYR: Get into the 40kg tyre, lift it and walk with it.
Purpose: Walking while carrying heavy bags.

Virgin Active #MyWorkoutFor Adventure

Station 6

6 exercises – 30 seconds on the stations/10 seconds rest after each station – 3 rounds – 3 ‘tough minutes’ after each round (60 secs of tough bodyweight exercise) – 30 secs rest between rounds.

What Does The Gym Grouch Say?

I wish I could say that I stayed longer after the session, tried every equipment in the gym and got home completely fullfilled and exhausted. But I didn’t. –> Gym grouch.

But it was fun. I haven’t done curcuit training for ages and I definitely trained different parts of my body than usually. I could have done 1 or 2 rounds more as I had the feeling I just started sweating when everything was already over again. Although, I had sore muscles basically immediately until 4 days later. So maybe it was good that there weren’t any extra rounds :-). It’s good that someone is there to push you and it’s much more motivating to workout in a group.
I might even make signing up to the gym my next New Year’s resolution ;-)…

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Where is the Matterhorn?

If you’re into winter climbing you’ve probably heard of Matterhorn. You’ve probably seen spectacular videos of climbers summiting it with breath-taking views over the surrounding peaks and the prominent ridge towards the summit. But where is the Matterhorn??



The Matterhorn is part of the Alps in Central Europe. Being the one of the highest peak (4478m) in the Pennine Alps, the Matterhorn is exactly on the boarder of Switzerland and Italy. The closest towns are Zermatt in the canton of Valais in Switzerland North-east of the Matterhorn and Breuil-Cervinia in the Aosta Valley in Italy South of the Matterhorn.



Where is the Matterhorn – Overview:

Continent: Europe
Region: Alps
Sub-region: Pennine Alps
Country: Switzerland Country: Italy
Canton: Valais Valley: Aosta Valley
Town: Zermatt Town: Breuil-Cervinia


Pennine Alps

Where is the Matterhorn – Details:

The Alps are a massive mountain range in central Europe spreading over 8 countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Lichtenstein, Slovenia and Switzerland. With 4478m the Matterhorn is the 12th highest mountain in the Alps, just 330m shorter than the highest mountain Mount Blanc.

Pennine Alps:
The Alps are divided in different sub-regions. The Rhone-Valley divides them into the Bernese Alps North of the valley and the Pennine Alps South of the valley. The Pennine Alps cover the Western Alps in Switzerland and Italy. They are so prominent because many of the 29 four-thousenders are located here and the Matterhorn is only one of them.

Switzerland and Italy:
The Matterhorn is located on the border of Switzerland and Italy. The nearest approachable towns are Zermatt in Switzerland and Breuil-Cervinia in Italy. Both towns are typical mountain tourist towns from where you have an excellent start to summit the Matterhorn over a period of 5-6 days.

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How To Save A Fortune On Train Fares Around London

Taking the train to the countryside and spending a fortune on train fares? Looking to save money on your train journeys? Living in or near London? There’s a solution for everyone!

1) The problem: Spending a fortune on train fares

If you’re taking the train on a regular basis (in my case to go hiking in the counties around London) you probably spend quite some money on train fares and have already wondered if there is any way to reduce the costs.
Let’s say I take the train twice a month down to Surrey, to the coast, to the Chilterns or wherever, but close to London and pay £20 for each of my return tickets. That makes it £480 per year only for train fares and leaves very little pocket money for the mandatory cake at the end of each walk.

2) Half of the solution: National Railcards

Thank God there is National Rail offering different types of railcards. You probably have seen wall papers on the train stations advertising different types of railcards: for the 16-25 year olds, for 60+, for the disabled ones, for couples or the family & friends railcard if you travel with children.

Well, what if you don’t fall in any of these groups which applies probably to half of us. There is railcard even for you, National Rail just doesn’t advertise it: the Network Railcard.

3) The full solution for Londoners: The Network Railcard

The Network Railcard is available for everyone above the age of 16, costs £30 a year and gives you 1/3 off the ticket price on weekends and after 10am during week. You can take up to 3 adults on that card who also get 1/3 off and up to 4 children who get 60% off. The limitation is that it’s only valid for a defined network around London (main parts of Southeast England) and not across the country. There is also a minimum fare of £13 from Monday to Friday, but in my experience it’s still cheaper than any other return ticket and if you would pay less without the Railcard the ticket machine would tell you.

See the full network map here and for more information, application forms etc. go to

Have you experience with the Network Railcard or Railcards in general? Are you happy with them? Do you know any tricks to use them?

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Very Early Morning Walk in Richmond Park

31 October 2015
5km – with Prasana.

I think I’ve never been in Richmond Park so early. 9am sharp. Hello Park Runners. But we were not here for running. God, I hate running. I’m far too lazy to move all my flab. Walking is enough :).

I’ve been to this park quite a few times now and it looks totally different in the morning. Or maybe it was because it’s autumn.

Terrace Gardens - Richmond Hill

Terrace Gardens – Richmond Hill

Terrace Gardens - Richmond Hill

Terrace Gardens – Richmond Hill

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

What to do:

Richmond Park is well worth a visit at any time of the year in any weather for any outdoorsy activity. Walking, running, cycling. Or just a cup of tea on the terrace of Pembroke Lodge. (Even if that’s not really an outdoorsy activity :).)

How to get there:

Richmond Park is huge and you can approach it from several directions. Trains and tube are running in Richmond. From the train station it’s a 20 minute walk to the park via Highstreet and Richmond Hill. There are trains and buses from Kingston and Roehampton, respectively, as well. There are 6 car parks across Richmond Park, too. Just leave your car there and start walking.

For the kids:

Did you know there is deer in Richmond Park? You might be lucky to see some. They are mostly together in a herd. So if you see any then mostly several. And if you don’t then because they all are together in another place of the park. But it’s well worth looking around when you’re there.

More information: Royal Park Richmond

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Walk2Walk Holidays Pedometer – Review

This year, Walk2Walk Holidays sent out free pedometers to encourage people to walk more. I was one of the lucky ones who got one. It counts the steps I take, burnt calories and calculates the distance I walked.

Pedometer ReviewFeatures:

– Display of total steps
– Display of burnt kcal
– Display of distance in kilometres
– Clock
– Timer

Additionally, there is a sub section under ‘burnt calories’ where you can set up your own body weight between min. 20kg and 150kg to calculate the burnt calories. Under ‘distance’ is a sub section to enter the length of 1 step between 30 cm and 200 cm to calculate the distance.

Dimensions: L 6.5 x H 5 x D 2.5 cm

How it works:

The pedometer didn’t come with instructions but the navigation is pretty straight forward. The navigation works with 3 buttons: S, R, M.

S = (I call it) steering button
R = Reset button
M = (I call it) main menu button

With the M button you jump from main feature to main feature. If you want to go into sub-sections press S. To change the value in the sub section (like body weight or length of a single step) use R. With M you come back to the main menu.

Pedometer ReviewPros and Cons:

+ Small
+ Easy to attach
+ Good features, including setting up body weight and length of steps for better calculation of burnt calories and distance
+ Easy navigation

– The navigation for body weight and length of step only works in one direction: if you miss the number you want to set up (for example your body weight of 70kg) you need to click your way up to 150kg, start from 20 again and then up to 70.
– No instructions

There were 2 things I wondered about:
1)   The calculation of the distance: How long is 1 of my steps? I didn’t know. So I measured it in my living room. But I’m sure the length of my steps varies depending on if I walk fast or slow or when I take the stairs.
2)   Where do I need to attach the pedometer? When I hold it in my hand and walk nothing happens. When I shake it it starts counting. The pedometer reacts to vibrations but where would it feel it best?

For whom is it?:

The pedometer is for everyone who wants to start walking a bit more. It is encouraging to see how many steps you walked and how much they increase.

There are lots of initiatives going on. In September, the NHS encouraged people to walk 10.000 per day. That is around 5 miles (8 kilometers) and a man (age 45, 70kg) would burn 400kcal. However,  the average person walks only 3.000 – 4.000 steps a day. The pedometer would encourage you to walk more; perfect for someone trying to stay healthy or even loose weight.

Personal experience:

I tried the pedometer on the 3-peaks-challenge in the Chilterns. I started it the minute I left the house and only looked on it again when I was back. 28167 steps, 800 burnt kcal and 18 kilometres on an 18-mile-challenge (plus ways to the train station, to the starting point, back to the train station and walking home). Hmm… something didn’t go right here. Maybe, the reason was that I wore the pedometer in the pocket of my trousers – not on my hip. Apparently (and this is something I learned AFTER I used it), the pedometer measures the swings of your body as you walk. Each swing counts as a step.
I tried the pedometer again on a work day. Walking to work, a walk in the park at lunch time, walk back home again gave a more accurate picture: 5088 steps. But the distance said 1.5 kilometers. That’s definitely wrong.


The steps option seems realistic and encourages to walk more. The distance calculator, however, is not reliable. Despite that, it’s a nice toys to increase your daily work out in the form of walking.

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Surrey Young Walkers – Hikers in Their 20s and 30s

Walking in Surrey - Denbies Wine Estate

Denbies Wine Estate

24th October 2015
16 km – with Surrey Young Walkers.

Unfortunately, hiking seems like sport for the middle-aged ones. Why is that? I don’t know, because I’m in my 20’s and I love hiking.

After my interview with Chris about the Ramblers I checked out the Surrey Young Walkers, a local Ramblers group. Walking with the Ramblers was on my to-do list for a long, long time. So I searched for a walk on Saturday on the Ramblers walk finder website and found the ‘Ranmore Ramble’ around Dorking organised by the Surrey Young Walkers (formerly Surrey under 40’s Ramblers Group).

I contacted the walk organiser if it was ok to join them on that day and got an email back that there was no need to book or reserve a place, I just had to turn up at the start location and introduce myself. Cool!

Hiking in Surrey - Ramblers Surrey Young WalkersThe Group

When I arrived at the Dorking train station the group of 15-20 people was already waiting. A friendly ‘hello’, a first chat with the other newbies and we set off for the walk. Throughout the day I could chat with the one or other member and learned more about the group. The youngest is 20, half of the group is around 30, and the other half on the upper end of 30. They organise hikes almost every week, led by one of their members, usually in and around Surrey. Some hikes start at a train station, some in the middle of nowhere near a car park. If you’ve got a car you definitely have an advantage. If not, just pick the hikes that start at a train station. Apart from day hikes they also organise weekends away and social events.
Many members are in the group for several years, but new ones are constantly joining and more than welcome. I had the feeling that unlike in a commercial meetup group like Outdoorholics or AAA London Group (both organise trips around/outside London), these people are a group, an entity. They all know each other, they know each others names, they come on a regular basis, they are more than an interest group. They are sort of friends. (Obviously, I didn’t have a deep insight into the group, but that was my impression.) Oh dear, I sound like a spy. But I swear I have the best intentions.

Becoming a member

Everyone can join any Ramblers group on a walk 3 times. Then you’re expected to become member. It costs £34 per year for an individual membership and £45 per year for joint membership. There is also currently a monthly membership option of £3 per month single or £4 per month joint. Which I find a fair price. It’s not that they want to make money with you. Your membership fee is used to maintain the group but also the footpath network and to expand it.

Hiking in Surrey - Ramblers Surrey Young WalkersThe Walk

This walk started at Dorking train station, through Denbies Wine Estate (the largest in Britain) on the North Downs Way. We had fantastic views over Box Hill and the vineyard as we walked to Ranmore Common.
Walking though the woodland and the parkland we passed Polesden Lacey where we stopped for lunch. Unlucky with the weather we had to abandon our benches in the rain and hide under the roof of the café until the rain was over.
Through the woodland of Norbury Park we returned to Box Hill & Westhumble for a social in a near-by pub.

I’m not really a fan of autumn. It’s cold, grey, mostly rainy, but this year I’m inclined to change my mind. The autumn colours we saw around Surrey were amazing.


I finally, finally found a hiking group with young members. Not that I mind the more mature generation but I do appreciate people with the same interests in my age. All were very welcoming and happy for anyone joining. I have the best intentions to join them again for another walk.

More information: Check out their website or their Meetup group.


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Careful on ridges

Hiking on Ridges

Ascent to Scafell Pike

Every adventurer hiking in the mountains will walk along a ridge at some point. I love adventures. I love mountains. But I’m not a friend of heights. Ironically. That is why walking on ridges always makes me feel sick. I know you’re not supposed to look down, and I don’t. But just that image in my head that it’s going down a few hundred meters next me turns my stomach over.

I haven’t walked many ridges but I remember the day when we climbed Scafell Pike and had to pass one of these stomach-turning spots on the ‘Corridor Route’. We came from Windy Gap and half way to Scafell Pike we had to  scramble down from a rock formation to get onto a narrow path right on a brink. The advice for people with a fear of height ‘Don’t look down’ wouldn’t have been a good one here. I HAD TO WATCH WHERE I STEP!! Unfortunately, the brink was right in my field of vision. The fact that there was quite a traffic jam and lots of people waiting to pass this spot in both directions didn’t make it easier. It sounds quite dangerous but it wasn’t that bad. We just need to be careful and preferably not stumble. Otherwise we would have fallen … for a while.
But that belongs to hiking in the mountains and adventures: Facing your fear and have a bit of ‘butterflies in your tummy’ makes it even more exciting.

I’d love to some ridge walks, just because these places look so awesome. I’m thinking of Slieve League in North-West Ireland, Helvellyn in Lake District or the ridge walk in Glencoe, Scotland.

Do you know any other ridges worth seeing? How do you feel about heights?

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The Ramblers – UK’s Leading Hiking Club – Interview with Chris Greig

Who are the Ramblers? What do they do? Are there groups for people in their 20s? How can I join? Can I volunteer?

Dearne Valley Ramblers

Rambler Chris Greig

The Ramblers are one of the biggest walking clubs in UK. Originally from Sheffield, Chris Greig joined the Dearne Valley Ramblers (DVR) in January 2012 after deciding that he needed to lose weight. He was struggling to find walking-for-health schemes that suited him as he had a full time job, so he searched online for walks in his area and joined DVR on a Sunday walk. He was so impressed with how well the group was run and how welcoming the members were that he joined the Ramblers that same night. Now, Chris is the Social Media Officer of his local group, handles some of the group publicity and leads a few walks.

We recently caught up with Chris and asked him a few questions about the Ramblers.

Q: Who are the Ramblers and how are they organised?

A: We’re an association of people and groups who come together to both enjoy walking and other outdoor pursuits and also to ensure that we protect and expand the access to places where people go walking.
Our roots are in groups of walkers who wanted access for the public to the countryside. To this day most of our work is done by members who volunteer their time.
There are over 500 groups in around 50 areas, all run by volunteers plus additional affiliated bodies. We have an elected general council and volunteer committees at area and group levels. The Ramblers also have a board of trustees who are also volunteers. There are a few members of paid staff at higher levels.

Q: What is the Rambler’s mission?

A: We aim to represent the interests of walkers across Great Britain. We aim to promote walking, safeguard paths, increase access to walkers, protect the countryside and educate the public.

Q: How can I join walks and is there a membership fee?

A: Just turn up… In some cases it’s advisable to inform the walk leader that you wish to join them. It’s also a good idea to make sure you know the location of the walk’s starting point well beforehand as the leader may not be able to answer questions and give directions on the day due to poor mobile signals etc.
In regard of membership fee: There is a fee to join up which is £34 a year for a non-concession adult. This entitles you to walk with all the Ramblers groups thoughout Britain on all of the walks all year long. Being a member also grants you discounts at some retailers… However you will NOT be expected to join up straight away. Ramblers groups will allow you to walk with them as a non member for a while so you can get a feel of a group and see if it suits you… this is usually a month or 3-4 walks.

Q: How can I choose a walk or group?

A: You can see the walks being led in your area using the Ramblers website walk finder, its simple to use and will display all walks and their respective groups. Some groups will request that you inform them that you intend to join the walk, others have a more relaxed way of doing things…either way you will be welcome to join them.
Most groups have a website, social media stream or both which will help you to decide which group in your area will suit you….the best way to find out however is to try out a few walks. They may even host social events where you can meet the members and have a chat first.

Q: I’m in my 20’s and want to meet like-minded people my age. Is there a group for young people?

A: Absolutely… Most areas will have groups that are geared towards younger members: 20-30s or  30-40s, for example. I’d like to think that all groups would welcome a new face no matter their age etc.. Walking is a past time that can be enjoyed by all together so try out the groups in your area till you find one that suits you… You may find that an “older” group actually suits you better!

Q: I’ve got a dog. Can I bring him to the walks?

A: Dog walkers will be welcome on all walks where practical. However, it is always advisable to check with the walk leader first. Dogs should be kept under close supervision at all times and owners must have their dogs on leads when told to do so by the walk leader. At certain times of year dogs aren’t allowed into areas where there’s likely to be ground nesting birds.

Q: How can I volunteer and what work would I do?

A: Groups and areas always welcome new volunteers… All groups and areas will host an annual general meeting where roles can be taken on… If you wish to volunteer to lead a walk some groups may have an annual or biannual walk programme. So it’s best to speak to the group’s walk co-coordinator and see if you can help out.
Typical roles on offer could be chairperson, group’s secretary, walks’ co-coordinator, walk leader, publicity, maintenance etc.. All roles have role descriptions which can be found on the Ramblers’ website.
Some groups also have a vibrant social calendar, so there’s plenty of opportunity to help with those ones, too.

For more information about the Ramblers check out their website: Ramblers Website

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Happy Place – Where You Get Your Groove Back

Hiking in Scotland - West Highland WayYes, life can indeed be a bitch sometimes. There are times when everything is overwhelming and you just want to go to a lonely island, keep everything and everyone out and sip your pina colada in your hammock.
But mostly a lonely island is not at hand. So where do you go to get your groove back?

For me it’s definitely on the trail. There are days or weeks that are so intense at work or in personal life that I just want to get out of town into the peacefulness of the English countryside and reboot my energy level. Thankfully, there are 100s of miles in front of London’s door step. I just need to hop on a train for 30 minutes and there I am, in the middle of nowhere. On a footpath through English fields and forests following the bridleway or the acorn.

Where are you going when you need a break from life?

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