Lake Annecy provides all the fitness inspiration you need

Getting fit doesn’t have to mean pounding the treadmill at the gym. Instead a fitness holiday may be just the ticket to boost your health. Lucy Fry puts her body to the test amid the stunning French scenery of Lake Annecy.

Just 45 minutes drive from Geneva airport lies Annecy, a quaint, relaxed old town, often called the ‘Venice of France’, thanks to a river running through its centre, which leads to a freshwater lake surrounded by vast, majestic mountains.

The scenery alone is rejuvenating but the capital of Haute Savoie offers more: its landscape is perfectly tuned to suit all types of athletes. For swimmers, there’s a cordoned off area in the lake; for cyclists and runners, there are flat lakeside trails well as steeper climbs, on and off road, up into the mountains. In the winter, skiers head for resorts like La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand and Manigod. There’s also paragliding, kayaking, canyoning and horseriding, not to mention events like L’Etape du Tour; a 160km-long (100 miles) mountain ride and the only stage of the Tour de France open to members of the public.

activeannecyRunning, paragliding and kayaking around Lake Annecy
Adventure in the Alps / iStockphoto Thinkstock

Given all this, it’s unsurprising perhaps that Lake Annecy’s ski resorts have reported a 10% increase in spring and summer visitors over the past three years. The region has also become host to an increasing number of fitness and wellbeing holidays, like those offered by Adventures in the Alps. Founder Pip Watkins established the company three years ago with a view to offering athletes’ training camps, but discovered interest from singles, couples and families wanting as much to rejuvenate as well as be active. To meet that demand, Pip now offers pilates, yoga and walking weeks as well as trail running and alpine cycling.

My adventures begin

One of the company’s most varied trips is Fitness Week designed to ‘give non-athletes a taster of different types of training in a beautiful environment.’ Earlier this year, I booked the course, led by coach Pete Mcknight. And so it began: a group of non-athletes sampling what the local landscape had to offer their muscles, starting with a slow potter up a very big hill before returning for tea and heading out again for an easy run on an undulating trail.

The next day things got a little tougher, with a morning of circuit training and an afternoon of cycling. Still, so far, so good – I thought - until the third day, when, after an early open-water swim, (it’s so warm, you’ll not need a wetsuit), we found ourselves up in the trees at the Forest Rope Course at Parcours Adventure in Taillores (, scrambling across netting, hauling ourselves up rope ladders and teetering on the edge of zip-wires in abject terror.

RopesAnnecyHead for heights anyone?
Adventure in the Alps

“Just jump!” Pete commanded me as I wobbled fearfully on the edge of the Tarzan-wire, an adrenalin-pumper that appeared about halfway through the course. “You know you can do it, don’t wait!”

A leap of faith

His voice boomed through the trees and, not wishing to disappoint, I leapt, squealing, and appeared a few seconds later, on the other side. But I didn’t have too much time to self-congratulate – there was a longer zip-wire still to come - and after two hours of clambering, balancing, jumping (at all times safely harnessed), I finished feeling bizarrely refreshed, having focused only on the matter in hand, as if emerging from a long and lovely meditation.

Thankfully, Fitness Week didn’t specifically include anything higher than the option of doing the more hardcore Cliffhanger Course at Parc Adventure – just imagine stepping out on a single wire over a 50m (164ft) drop. This is gentle in comparison to the spine-chilling Via Ferrata (meaning ‘Iron Way’), an optional challenge which involves traversing mountain ridges, climbing cliff faces and crossing precarious wooden bridges at 2,000m (6,561ft) high. A series of protected routes developed by the Italian army as they crossed the Alps during World War II, conquering these has become something of a sport that any reasonably fit individual can take part in - indeed some come to Annecy to spend days or weeks doing only that, provided they are accompanied by a guide and have nerves made of something akin to the steel cable that runs as one of various climbing aids along the rock face.

LodgeannecyRewarding views from Domaine du Paron
Adventure in the Alps

By the fourth day, Pete glibly dragged a portable squat rack out of his van and set it up overlooking the valley so that he could help me learn some Olympic weightlifting moves overlooking a view better than that of any gym I’ve been to. Afterwards I was surprise to find that I wasn’t tired at all. Quite the opposite in fact – I was energized. The alpine air, astounding views and great company seemed to have staved off fatigue and what little muscle soreness I had was swiftly pummelled away by a visiting local masseuse that afternoon.

And then there was the hot tub….Bubbling away at 1,200m (3,937ft), offering a birds eye view of the crisp, blue lake, with our gorgeous lodge in the background, this was luxury, not punishment.

Adventures in the Alps offers a Fitness Week from 7-14 September starting at £1,000pp for all tuition, food and included activities, including accommodation at Domaine du Paron. Flights, alcoholic drinks and dinner on the final night excluded. Discount of 10% available for bookings before 1 August.

For more info on the region

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