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I’m from Los Angeles – land of gyms (and plastic surgeons). The last gym where I worked out before relocating to Ireland had mini refrigerators filled with iced face towels, so people could cool themselves off after a tough workout. Very LA.

Gyms in Ireland are slightly different, to say the least. Most are no-frills, though many are priced even higher than my aforementioned LA place. I tried a few and found very little inspiration; one place had machines so old they barely worked, another had personal trainers who knew little about customized training and worked off the same standard program for every client.

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Just over a year ago, I found The Edge in Clontarf. It’s a very small space, and when I first saw it I couldn’t imagine how they managed classes in such close quarters. I started going to early morning MetFit and TRX classes, each with about 12-15 people per class. I then took up one-to-one boxing and joined a smaller, personal-training group twice a week. With solid but basic equipment, minimal space and a handful of dedicated trainers, they just make it work. And after a few short weeks, I was hooked.

What I love about the trainers at The Edge is that they are all involved in some sort of sport or training outside of the gym. From star rugby players to tae kwon do champions, these guys and gals are dedicate to fitness because it’s a part of their life – not just part of their gym persona when they’re at work. Believe me, a kickboxing class at your local gym is nothing compared to an hour-long session with a 22-year-old MMA fighter at The Edge. I’ve never pushed myself this hard before – and I never thought I could do this level of training. I have never been a fitness fanatic (or even very coordinated, for that matter). So being able to go light years beyond what I thought was my limit gives me a sense of satisfaction and pride that I’ve never felt before. As cheesy as this sounds, it makes me feel I can do anything.

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But what makes The Edge so special and so uniquely Irish to me is the sense of community among the staff and the clients. It’s the gym where everybody knows your name; where one of the trainers will run in during a class and warn us that the parking police are on the prowl so we’d better move our cars; where the other clients will ask how my back is doing because they heard from someone that I got injured; and where those same people will say, “Fair play, Clare!” and give me an encouraging nod when they see me working out in spite of it. It’s just a special place, with special people.

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It sounds a bit ridiculous to say I’ll miss my gym, but I genuinely will. To Sean, Sean Paul, Eoghan, Chris, James, Andy, Louise, David and all the staff, and to my personal training group girls – Karyn, the other Karyn (!), Emma, Helen and Sandra – I really will miss you all. If I can find a place back in the US with half the spirit and craic as The Edge, I’d be pretty damn lucky.