Damien Stork and Chris Beedie: CHX

Our stress response has evolved to escape real threats, but now it’s triggered by the morning commute. It’s not as simple as cutting out alcohol or sleeping more. We need to teach people how to take control of their lives.


What it means to be healthy. We have this idea that health and wellness overlap, but the word ‘fit’ can mean different things. Chamonix Hard Cross is increasing performance by inviting individuals and businesses to consider another idea: that ‘fitness’ is really about being matched to your environment.


Times have changed since the ‘Friday payday’ mentality. The younger generation is more aware of work/life balance. The problem is that we have also become more detached from our natural environments, largely due to technology. For thousands of years we have been perfectly suited to our surroundings, but these days we could exist with thumbs and index fingers.

So why must health be part of a company’s DNA? Company culture is now on the agenda and employers are aware of the importance of ‘purpose’ and ‘relationships’. In the ‘80s they offered perks, in the ‘90s it was about benefits, now it’s total reward. But companies must offer more than a gym membership if they want to empower people to take control of their lives.


Damien and Chris set up Chamonix Hard Cross, which is made up of mountain experts, academics, scientists. They run a series of experiential learning events and interactive workshop-style seminars to demystify health and teach people about the four pillars of motion, nutrition, sleep and environment – and how to use these as a vehicle for improved performance. 

This started 20 years ago when Damien and Chris met while running a marathon. A decade later they took a joint trip up a mountain in Chamonix. Chris, who was a good athlete with a PhD in sport and exercise science, struggled with the climb. This led to a long journey of discovery to find out what changed and explore the ways that the brain and the body interact.

When we think about fitness, we often think of energy – running around, having fun. But these are outward displays of energy. Humans are energy storage devices. If you think about a polar bear: they have small ears, lots of fur and a slow metabolism that makes them fit for their environment. If you took a polar bear out of their natural environment, they wouldn’t be ‘fit’.

The same is true of someone in a meeting who might not look ‘active’, yet they are concentrating and thinking and engaging on a number of emotional and cognitive levels. Similarly, a sumo wrestler might look unhealthy, but they are perfectly suited to their sport. Most of our ideas about physique come from the Ancient Greeks (and were originally a display of military power).

Today, bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger are still chasing these same ideals. Functioning well is not about lifting weights or going to the gym ­– it’s about finding a balance with our environment rather than compensating for what is missing. Companies who offer free gym membership as a quick fix are stopping people doing what they would naturally do – moving around.


Movement is powerful and ‘exercise’ is only a limited form of movement. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, measured or communicated on social media. Chamonix Hard Cross are challenging the orthodox view that ‘exercise is good’ and working with businesses to create a healthier, happier culture.