Hong Kong super mum and Spartan Race obstacle course runner discovers it’s never too late to learn a new sport

Signing up for Hong Kong obstacle race galvanised former teenage gymnast and multi-sports enthusiast Anna Gamvros, a lawyer and mother of three, to finally take up running in her 40s

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 1:52pm

Backflips, kettlebell swings, Gaelic football, back-country snowboarding and obstacle races: it’s an eccentric mix, but it’s a combination driving mother-of-three and legal powerhouse Anna Gamvros to be motivated and healthy.

“I like [training] when there are little challenges along the way – it keeps me interested and my mind occupied,” explains the 44-year-old Australian and long-time Hong Kong resident. As a partner at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, Gamvros finds offsetting her work schedule with a varied fitness regime is key to firing on all cylinders.

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“I’m also competitive and like variety in my training, so when I have something to train for I’m more motivated – both in the gym and in life.”

Despite her range of accomplishments, one sport has long eluded her: running. “I’ve always found it a bit uninspiring, to be honest.” Gamvros, who trained as a competitive gymnast in her teens and early 20s, explains running also caused her injuries.

That changed this year once she signed up for the Spartan Race, an obstacle course race which was held in Hong Kong in November 2016. She enlisted personal trainer Alex Poole to get her running for the first time in her 40s guided by the results of DNA testing.

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“The DNAFit test uses genetic information to guide ways to eat, train and recover which are best suited to your body. The results showed I respond to power training – consistent with my preferences, but also meaning cardio training is possible for me with the right technique.”

Under Poole’s guidance Gamvros started “power running”– intervals of 800 metres to one kilometre sprints, gradually building to eight kilometres.

It’s not the first time she’s started something afresh in her 40s. After a 20-year hiatus from the gymnastic sport of tumbling, in which she represented the Australian state of Queensland, she started adult gymnastic classes and performed her first back somersault in 20 years aged 41.

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“I had often dreamed of gymnastics, but it was more of a nightmare – I dreamed I couldn’t do anything. I did yoga, and still had a few party tricks up my sleeve, so I knew I was still flexible. But I didn’t know what was possible until I got back in the gym. It’s nice to still be making improvements and adjustments in my 40s.”

What’s your advice for someone’s who’s given up a sporting passion, or thinking of taking up a new one?

If you used to get a thrill or pure enjoyment out of a sport when you were younger, or if you think a sport would still appeal, why not try? That’s why I was keen: I’ve been on a fitness journey in recent years, getting strong again after three children, and I felt like the infrastructure was there to give [gymnastics] a go again.

Do any fears hold you back?

I had a lot of confidence in the coach, an ex-member of the HK National team, and although I’m pretty sure he wasn’t used to a 40-year-old woman throwing herself around, he knew what he was doing, and that gave me confidence. We also worked our way up to the harder moves – it was a natural progression.

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Apart from power running, what else changed in your fitness regimen since DNAFit?

I also learnt I have a high injury risk and low recovery rate. Previously I would train five days in a row and take the weekend off. Now I take rest when I need to recover – I never used to do that. It means I’ve gotten stronger, and I’m spending less time out of action while injured or recovering.

What’s the attraction of the Spartan Race?

It’s just my type of sport: it’s got lots of different activities in one race; it’s not just a running race. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a great runner, you can still feel you’re achieving something. It was fun and everyone participating was supportive of each other. The monkey bars were one of my strongest obstacles, but it was also one that many participants found difficult, so I found I powered through to lots of cheers. I can’t wait for the next race, and I’d also like to participate in the Spartan overseas.

What does your regime bring to your professional life?

A clearer mind and a feeling I’m doing something for myself. Some days it’s not possible to fit in an exercise session, but I really try not to miss it by blocking time in my calendar in advance. You have to make that commitment.

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I’ve long since given up on workouts at night as that is my time with the kids. Instead, I ‘time-shift’ that hour in the gym from day to evening. People say they don’t have time, and that’s a valid excuse. Truth is, something has to give to make it all work. For me, that’s an hour on the couch with a glass of wine at night that I work instead. Pick the things that make you happiest.

Are you conscious of being a sporting role model to your kids?

I just hope to be someone they can be proud of. My job is intangible to them; it’s not like I’m a pilot, and they think ‘Mum’s cool because she flies planes’. But they know their mum can do backflips, and that makes me ‘cool’ in their books. It’s also about keeping up, and being healthy for them. Being in your 40s as a mum of three small children [aged eight, six and three], you’re an older mum, and I think you really owe it to them to be the healthiest, the most energetic, and the most fun mum you can be.