Fitness training holiday?

‘Each to his own’ by Greg Murrow, Serre Chevalier

Overweight office workers have been motivated to don a pair of shorts and ‘get fit again’ during their family holidays for years. A British international middle distance runner made good use of his skiing holidays by combining daily running sessions with piste skiing with his kids. The positive effects of altitude training are complex but well understood by coaches of sports that depend on cardio vascular performance. Contrast this with images of highly paid young footballers enjoying the excesses of alcohol, late nights and recuperation from a long hard season playing a contact sport, by wallowing on a sandy beach. ‘Each to his own’?

Serre Chevalier presents a range of opportunities for establishing a solid base of fitness before returning to the normal routine at home. The modest altitude of the accommodation (Briançon is at 1200m asl while Le Monêtier les Bains is at 1500m asl) doesn’t hamper a good night’s sleep. The clear air, which is why the area is a centre for several medical facilities that treat people with pulmonary difficulties, and abundant sunshine (300 days per year) can provide the kick start to a sustained training programme or a break in hard routine that has become a little sterile back on the damp roads of the UK or inside one of the excellent but at times monotonous indoor training venues that national funding for sporting excellence has provided at home.

A specific, athlete focussed programme could be designed by any imaginative coach to make best use of what this area has to offer, involving a mix of formal running over timed distances on the ‘3 laps to the kilometre’ gravel athletics track in Briançon, swimming in one of the ‘biotope’ naturally cleansed freshwater swimming pools, sprinting at altitude on the track at nearby Sestrières where Bubka broke the World pole vault record, or trail-running at higher altitudes easily accessed by driving to park at cols between 2000m and 2600m asl.

Family mountain biking in Serre Chevalier and nearby
Family mountain biking in Serre Chevalier and nearby

Serre Chevalier and the Guisane valley offer a range of outdoor sports that can be combined to great effect and more importantly for families or couples often struggling to tolerate a sportsman’s or sportwoman’s time consuming obsessive lifestyle, the chance to have some FUN TOGETHER, without losing the training effects hard won by months of dedication back home.

[box]What follows is merely a suggestion for a week in Le Monêtier les Bains for an imaginary serious athlete taking a break with his or her partner and teenage children.[/box]

Saturday (arrival day)

Athlete runs up towards the Col du Lautaret following the river Guisane for 45 minutes while family walk to Le Casset. Meet at Chez Finette café for an ice cream and walk back together.


Morning: All drive to Col du Granon at 2400m. Family view and photograph marmottes while athlete does a short interval session on flat or hill.
Afternoon : Family trip to the lake at Roche de Rame (30 mins drive) for sun bathing, jumping out of
trees, pedallos and fresh water swimming. Athlete does 2 x 30 minute swims.


Morning : All hire mountain bikes and cycle off road to Col du Lautaret.
Afternoon : Lazy time at Villeneuve’s outdoor biotope lido.
Evening : All do their first Via Feratta at Villeneuve before athlete has easy run back to Le Monêtier les Bains.


Morning : Family go rafting while athlete rides to summit of Col du Galibier at over 2600m.
Afternoon : Petanque in the shade at the Parc des Colombiers in Chantemerle.
Evening : Les Grands Bains in Le Monêtier les Bains for hot thermal waters and a meal out.


Whole family do the full day via feratta to the summit of Aiguillette du Lauzet.


Early morning : easy descending run for athlete alongside the Guisane to Briançon. Meet family at end of run and drive to lake at Eygliers (30 mins on) for some swimming and canoeing.
Afternoon : Circuit of upper body exercises on trail in the shade of the trees at lakeside.

Friday (last day)

Morning : drive to track at Sestrières (1 hour) for motivational session at 2000m on the famous track,
across the border in Italy.
Afternoon : Family session on the climbing obstacles of the Adventure Park in Villeneuve before some final swimming in the lido.

Saturday (departure day)

Tennis in the morning before heading home.

Roche de Rame
Greg Murrow at lac Roche de Rame – in November! Did he or didn’t he?

Excessive perhaps for some, but the Serre Chevalier area has won titles for being one of the most ‘sporty’ in France.

Don’t be surprised when someone in their late 70s cycles past you on a steep hill!

(You could also catch a ski lift up and read a book on a sun lounger outside a mountain restaurant… ‘each to his own’.)