Neil Hamzaoui! is one of our newest members to Gymbox Old Street. As a well travelled professional and fitness lover, he finds that being active helps you stay on top of the game. "If you can throw big weights overhead fast, you can take on any meeting" he says. We meet him.
Welcome to Gymbox Old Street, how do you like it so far?
It's a great space. The facilities are good quality and rugged. I enjoy the main studio with the pull up rigs, rings, barbells etc. a gym-rat's dream. Also, Gymbox is generally good at integrating the various breeds of exercisers in an inclusive and fun environment. Congrats to the team!
You’ve just turned 30, how do you feel?
I suppose I feel calmer, but also more driven. It probably did not happen overnight though.
Does keeping fit make you feel young?
It's hard to say if it makes me feel younger. I read on your blog that “None of us can help getting older, but we can take care of ourselves to feel the best we can.” This sums it up.
If you could be anyone in the future, who would that be?
Difficult to be anyone else but yourself, so I would be happy with some improved version of my own self.
You’ve been in London for three years, where were you before?
Before London I lived in Montreal, Canada - I initially moved there to study then I stayed to work. It’s an absorbing city and it has a lot to offer: the nightlife is probably one of the best kept secret in the world, they take food very seriously, and you're only hours away from the wilderness. I just went back with a group of friends to do a camping and canoe trip in the Algonquin Park in Ontario, it was amazing.
How important is travel to you?
Travelling is embedded in my work, family life and holidays. London is an impressive launch-platform to go visit Europe, and the rest of the world. I also travel regularly for work or to see my family in Tunisia. My partner thinks I’m a hermit, but moving and learning is essentially what drives me.
How does Gymbox compare to other gyms you've encountered on your travels?
Gymbox sets one of the highest standards in terms of commercial gym chains in London. All over the world, CrossFit boxes are great, but they can’t always offer flexibility in terms of price, locations, programming and open hours. I lived in Paris and I can’t say I’ve seen any remarkable gyms there.The sports complex at University of Montreal was something else with tennis courts, an Olympic pool and a huge conditioning space - but that's not a fair comparison, loads of space in Canada.
You grew up with Judo, are you still into martial arts?
It's now more important for me to maintain a general physical preparedness than to keep at one specific sport. However, the lessons I took from competing and training in Judo are cornerstones in my mentality: it teaches you a state of mind of assiduity, self-discipline, and that it's OK to feel discomfort (pain?). All these things are familiar and fun.
How does training impact on your desk job?
Any job can be very frustrating at times, and mostly there is something fundamentally wrong with sitting down for 12 hours or more per day. Training gives balance, and it’s a source of calm confidence. If you can throw big weights overhead fast, you can take on any meeting. It has something to do with fear and celebrating small victories! If that makes sense.
You have a wide range of fitness interests - from running half marathons to canoeing - do you have a favourite?
Some people enjoy one type of activity, I like to be versatile and generally fit enough that I can try anything. Long runs are definitely not my favourite – I broke my feet once from a long race, but you have to be able to run well…The best activities are done outdoors, no doubt about it.
What do you find the most innovative about Gymbox as a brand?
You can tell the chain stayed true to its roots and I find it pretty cool that the ring and fighting (sometimes literally) remains the centre of attention. It sends a good cue: “train hard, but have fun”.
Anything at Gymbox you’d like to try but haven’t yet?
The Weight Lifting club at Gymbox Old Street is definitely on my to-do list. I've been training the clean and jerk and snatch on my own for years and I would love some good coaching advice.
What are you aspirations for the future?
Stack millions, lift huge weights, run like the wind! Also, I want to keep improving, do awesome things, more of what I enjoy, less of what I don't, and surround myself with amazing people.
Photos: Vesna Nikolic