2020. A year that started with so much promise, and under-delivered in the most epic way possible. As physical barriers were thrown up for our protection, I looked for ways to connect with the new world we were living in.
It began with a new follower on Instagram. @claw_global stumbled across my account on a Tuesday morning so I fired off a quick message to introduce myself and say “hello”. Within minutes they got back to me and it became clear that we had very similar beliefs around sport’s potential to inspire change.
“It’s always worth a cup of coffee,” is the advice I was given by of one of my great mentors and all round good guy Ian Braid, something I like to repeat to myself especially in times when my schedule is jammed or my motivation is running low. So over my lunchtime coffee I found myself speaking to the team at CLAW Global.
By the end of the phone call I had signed myself up for a World Record attempt.
I am going to be part of the largest team of disabled people to scuba dive in the open sea.
This is just one small step in a much larger journey. CLAW Global is bringing people together from across the globe to break three world records. The purpose is to shatter perceptions around disability by conquering the elements of land, sea and air.
It started, as many good ideas do, with a chance encounter. Special Forces operator, Major Vivek Jacob had a parachute malfunction which resulted in a spinal cord injury. While he recovered in hospital he met an Airforce officer who had been permanently paralysed in an accident. As their friendship developed the Airforce officer asked him whether he would ever be able to scuba dive, and Jacob made a promise that he would find a way to make it happen. This conversation changed the direction of his life. Jacob retired from the army shortly after this and formed a team of likeminded people with an important mission:
Jacob and his team took no money and self-funded this cause. They travelled the length of India and trained over 100 disabled people in scuba diving, including the Airforce officer Jacob met in hospital. They also created opportunities for some of these people to gain meaningful employment. But to get the world to wake up and drive change on a much larger scale they had to think bigger. They had to act bolder. And this is where the idea of the triple world record was born.
So why did I decide to team up with CLAW?
Sport is a powerful vehicle for change, and the world badly needs changing. Disability is still one of the most marginalised population in the world. Barriers touch all aspects of disabled people’s lives, which are propped up by grossly outdated stereotypes and misunderstanding. All that truly matters is ability - what a person can do - but the sad reality is that this often gets overlooked. Instead people focus on the wrong thing, judging disabled people by what they can’t.
A shift in perception, a change in thinking lays a solid foundation in breaking down some of these barriers. Without changing our attitudes towards and understanding of disability we cannot hope to challenge the stigma, prejudice and isolation that still thrives in the world.
The World Records are just a start, one piece in a complex jigsaw. They are a catalyst for change, a chance to see disability as it truly is.
In February I will be joining the team in the Maldives where I will receive training before heading out to the open sea. I’ve never been scuba diving in my life, so this is a big step out of my comfort zone, as is travelling in the current climate. I’m excited, and nervous, and determined to see it through.
I may be a tiny cog in a very large wheel, but it quickly gains momentum when more players join forces. We all have the capacity to make a difference and together we can change the world.
What a fantastic morning we had with Danielle Brown MBE, at Kings Cliffe Primary School, for their Resilience and Adaptability assembly, which we had the pleasure of delivering virtually to the whole school. The magic and the power of Danielle’s sporting story, her life and accomplishments, in and out of the sporting world, were still just as impactful and valuable for the young people at Kings Cliffe Primary to listen to.
Danielle delivered an incredibly inspirational presentation that she made very interactive for the students to listen to during the morning. Danielle talked through her sporting journey to success, and the children were intrigued to learn how Danielle had started taking part in archery and what inspired her to continue. It was very important for the students to learn more about Danielle’s disability, which she has always seen as part of her life and something that has never stopped her getting involved in sport and physical activity, or pursuing a very successful career along side this journey.
The presentation was split into two halves by Danielle, who showed video and images at the start of her presentation for the KS1 students, who then had the chance to ask any questions they wanted halfway through. Some of the best questions from the start of this presentation were;
How does it feel when you win a competition?
How do you feel before a competition?
When did you realise you had a disability?
Which gold medal is your favourite one?
What was the first competition you did?
How old were you when you won your medals?
The children were extremely attentive when listening to Danielle’s responses and got to learn a lot more about how Danielle adapts with her disability and how she has shown extreme resilience in the face of setbacks and challenges. Danielle responded to the children when they asked how she keeps motivated and how she responds to a challenge, by saying, “there is only one direction you can go and that is forwards!”.
When moving through the second half of the presentation with the KS2 students, Danielle focussed on why it is important to be open minded and find ways to solve and rework problems and challenges, when you are faced with them in your future. It was a brilliant message for the children to hear all about how Danielle has used her experience in sport, and in her working life, to develop her own resilience and how the children can do this too in their lives.
Danielle was extremely intrigued to know what the children thought success was and what it means to them in their own lives. Danielle did this interactively and created a word board that recorded some of the answers. It was great to hear that for some of them, happiness was their measure of success, which was incredibly humbling to hear.
As part of the KS2 session, the students had prepared some questions for Danielle, which were extremely well thought out and linked well to their own schools’ ethos and learnings around mental wellbeing. Some of the best questions from this session were;
How do you make such a precise shot?
Who is your inspiration?
What is your biggest motivation?
How do you concentrate?
Do you take part in any other sports?
Year 6 asked some incredibly thought-provoking questions, which we hope helped lots of the other students in the school to listen to as well.
What does it feel like to be under extreme amounts of pressure and how do you remain calm?
Did you ever doubt your ability to achieve your goals and how did you overcome these doubts?
Do you have any physical habits that help you maintain physical and mental healthiness?
Who helps you to prepare and maintain your mental healthiness when you are performing at a high level?
Danielle finished off her presentation with some words of wisdom for the students, after being wowed by the questions she was asked!
We thoroughly enjoyed working with the staff and students at Kings Cliffe Primary School this morning and we are so pleased that they could benefit from this Virtual Programme with Danielle Brown MBE.
If you are interested in a Programme with Danielle Brown MBE or any of our other Mintridge Ambassadors, or you are interested in a Virtual or Physical Programme with one of our team of inspirational Ambassadors, then please get in touch via the Mintridge website at www.mintridgefoundation.org.uk or with Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org
We know mental health is something we ought to talk about more.
These conversations shouldn’t just be reserved for times of crisis either. For when stuff has spiralled out of control, when we need to reach out and ask for help.
Instead, it needs to be an ongoing conversation. A regular check-in where we explore how we're doing, where we need extra support, and when we’re doing really well. Acknowledging this enables us to stay healthy and puts us in control of our thoughts and feelings, rather than the other way around. It can prevent little niggles from escalating into more serious issues, and ensure we have a strong support network around us.
“How are you?” is a question we get asked all the time. And it’s absolutely meaningless.
It’s a platitude, a polite conversation starter, and we stop paying attention to it.
But we shouldn’t.
The reason is simple. If we don’t understand how we are and what is making us feel happy or unhappy, then it’s very difficult to improve things.
Our happiness levels fluctuate depending on our circumstances, tiredness levels, stressors, and a whole range of other factors. We won’t be happy all the time. There will be days when it comes easily and days where it’s as difficult as nailing jelly to a tree.
It’s important to get a really good understanding of yourself in order to properly look after yourself, so I was super excited about trying out the new Moodbeam One. The wearable device captures our emotions, acting as a thought provoker, conversation starter and wellbeing manager. It arrived a month ago and has been on my wrist ever since.
So, initial impressions…?
The set-up was nice and easy, taking about ten minutes to sort. It’s comfortable to wear and it looks pretty sleek. A white wristband with two buttons – yellow for positive emotions and blue for negative ones. Press the button throughout the day to log your mood and the app will do the rest, giving you a visual snapshot of your mood.
You can choose what the buttons mean to you. For me yellow signifies happiness, and blue is for negative emotions, more specifically anxiety, fear and dread. This makes the trends more meaningful to your personal situation. To give this a bit more context, there is the option to add details in the app to explain why you pressed yellow or blue. I found this really helpful when analysing it later.
I like patterns. I journal, which allows me to make sense of my thoughts, feelings and behaviours. If I notice a pattern I can figure out the reason behind it and then take action. Straightaway I could see how the Moodbeam would help. I’ve never managed to reliably track my emotional state before and watching it evolve in real time in the app would give me some really helpful data to work with.
The theory made sense. As for the practice?
The data it captured helped me uncover blind spots that took much longer when I put pen to paper. I could look at my day and identify what was triggering negative emotions, but also what was causing the positives. From the data I’ve collected I’ve already been able to adapt my sleep routine and also managed to have some really in depth conversations about where I am.
Sometimes I find it difficult to make sense of emotions. They can be chaotic and messy, and trying to unravel them is hard. Feelings are a fluffy measurement and mean different things to different people, but the Moodbeam acts as a great conversation starter and has allowed me to better explain how I am doing to others.
A huge benefit I wasn’t expecting was that it’s really helped me check in with myself more regularly. Rather than diary dumping in the evening, I spend more time throughout the day casting a magnifying glass over how I’m doing.
Before I tried the Moodbeam I thought I was pretty good at this. The problem is that life happens. I get busy. My mind jumps from one project, to the next meeting, to what I’m going to be having for dinner without taking a break. With the Moodbeam on my wrist I now take a few moments out to explore how I am feeling at regular intervals during the day. This offers me more clarity and a greater perspective, and lets me know that I’m still on track. A really handy feature is the prompt that gives you a little nudge at certain times of the day. This reminds you to check in periodically and allows you to build up a more consistent picture over time rather than just pressing yellow or blue when you recognise a particular feeling.
One month of Moodbeam and I’m really looking forward to the next. It’s a useful device and I’m sure there are plenty more benefits I’m yet to uncover.
If you want to learn more about Moodbeam you can check out their site here. And if you want to try it for yourself get a 5% discount with the code dbrown5.
I was speaking at a conference this week and got asked this question by a parent:
I want my daughter to be the best she can be, but I’m not sure how hard I should push her?
I get it. You want what’s best for your child. You want to give them the best possible start so they can be happy, achieve their fullest potential and lead successful lives.
But… there is a fine line between being encouraging and pushing too hard. Don’t apply enough pressure and the potential that you see might be wasted. Push too much and pressure mounts, which can cause resentment, disenchantment and even anxiety.
I want to take you back to my childhood because the messages we receive as we grow up shape our identity and influence our path to success. I didn’t come from a place of privilege, but I did come from a place of love and support. Growing up my parents gave me two key ingredients for life.
The first was there’s no such thing as “I can’t”. Those words were not allowed in my vocabulary.
Do you remember learning how to play the recorder in Primary School? I hated those things with a passion. I didn’t enjoy it, I couldn’t get the hang of it, and anybody who happened to be in the vicinity when I was practicing might justifiably have been mistaken in thinking I was trying to strangle the neighbour’s cat.
One day I’d had enough, so I stamped my foot, threw the recorder across the lounge and shouted, “I can’t do it!” My mum picked up the recorder and said, “There’s no such thing as ‘I can’t’. We’ll both learn how to play.” And we did.
I got there in the end, if you consider a tuneless rendition of Little Donkey at the school Christmas play a success, but I did it.
The second ingredient was to work hard. As long as I gave something maximum effort and did my best, then win or lose, my parents would never be disappointed with any of my results.
With these two ingredients I grew up believing that I could do anything I wanted to do, be anyone I wanted to be. No dream was too big, no goal outside the realms of possibility, as long as I worked hard and never quit.
I wasn’t pushed in a particular direction, but rather encouraged to explore, try new things and find my passions. If a new opportunity came my way I was taught to jump at it. If I wasn’t great at something I was encouraged to practise. When I got derailed by challenges I had to pick myself back up and find another way around.
This approach did not mean that life was all learning and hard work though. My parents found ways to pique my curiosity. Activities were made to be fun and competitive, and challenges were all the more rewarding for seeing them through.
Perseverance and resilience are core ingredients in the pursuit of any goal, requiring us to keep fighting and keep pushing through our comfort zone. How we support children to develop perseverance is a delicate balancing act.
Here are three tips to help get the balancing act right:
1. Understand your child
We are all different and we all respond to different stimuli. Different personalities respond to pressures differently too, so knowing your child is the first step. Understanding their passions, strengths, capabilities and motivations will help. Ensuring that your child is party to conversations about their interests, activities and career aspirations is key. Engage, discuss and explore – understand what your child wants to achieve and the help they might need to get there. This allows them to buy into the process rather than being dragged along.
Positive reinforcement is a great way to develop intrinsic motivation, self-esteem and perseverance. Praise needs to be meaningful but it needs to be regular, so it is important to praise them at the right times for the right things. Focusing on specific points and drawing out positives even when things haven’t gone as well as hoped are really important, as is praising their effort and tenacity.
Motivation and perseverance are key skills for success. If you would like to learn more about how your child can stay motivated, as well as other crucial success skills like stepping out of their comfort zone, setting BIG goals and preventing being blown off course by instant gratification then you will want to get your hands on a copy of Be Your Best Self.
Written by myself and Nathan Kai, this exciting new book for children is a recipe for success, happiness and esteem. It encourages children to raise their aspirations and turn exciting dreams into a reality. It’s a thought provoking career tool, a vital people skills asset, a modern day confidence builder, an engaging life-hack, and it empowers children to make the most of – and create– opportunities to lead bright and successful futures. Opportunities that EVERY parent would want for their child. Positive and practical, Be Your Best Self empowers children to be happy, be confident and become the best versions of themselves.
We like talking about big goals.
Dream big is a core theme in Be Your Best Self. Setting your sights high and pursuing something bigger than you allows you to push yourself further than you ever thought possible.
I’ve always had big ambitions for my future. My mind was a playground of possibility, where I explored different ideas and passions and I grew up believing that I could do anything I wanted to do, be anyone I wanted to be. The future was full of hope and opportunity, and I couldn’t wait to make my mark.
But despite this drive and determination I faced a challenge that forced me to reassess my life goals.
I have something called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS for short. Thanks to faulty wiring in my nervous system I am in chronic pain all the time.
It started with a burning sensation in my feet when I was eleven years old. It didn’t take long for it to become a permanent companion, burrowing itself into every facet of my life and affecting everything I did. Walking became unbearable and on some days impossible. My existence revolved around hospital appointment after hospital appointment, where medical practitioners hadn’t a clue what was wrong with me for five long years.
And with it came an overwhelming sense of fear and isolation.
It felt like I was stuck in the middle of an epic tug of war. There were these big ambitions wanting to push me forward and these major hang ups that had developed around my self-worth trying to hold me back.
In a world which prizes perfection I was terrified that my aspirations would be pushed out of reach. That other people wouldn’t be able to see past my crutches and wheelchair to the value that lay underneath.
Was my success story over before it had even started?
What made this a million times worse was that people like me weren’t represented in the world around me. Very few high achieving disabled role models made it onto the pages of books or were pictured in illustrations. I couldn’t find them in TV, in magazines or other forms of mass media. And when people with disabilities did make the cut they embroiled in stories around ethical dilemmas, pitied, or misunderstood.
These messages have huge implications.
Underrepresentation and misrepresentation of disability have a profound effect on how we value and identify it. These messages – or lack of them – changed the way I saw myself and those big ambitions I held for my future.
I was different, and different is sometimes a very lonely place to be.
When Nathan and I wrote Be Your Best Self, our vision was to create something that helped young people to realise their dreams and reach their fullest potential, even in the face of life’s adversities.
And we wanted it to be representative.
This wasn’t to tick a box or to be seen as doing the right thing, but because becoming the best version of yourself is something that we can all achieve.
Something that we all deserve to achieve.
Everybody’s dreams are valid. Everybody has the capacity to achieve great things – and we want to help children of all backgrounds and abilities build strong foundations for successful futures.
And it is so important that the illustrations reflect this.
If you can see it you can be it.
We are super proud that our illustrations show a true representation of disability and ethnicity, as well as not conforming to gender stereotypes that are habitually normalised. Nobody is born successful, but it is something we can all learn to achieve with the right support, guidance and skillset.
It is critical that children’s books (as well as other mediums) portray disability as a normal part of life rather than a token or something to be pitied or inspired by. All of our illustrations have been carefully worked to highlight the points we write about - and some of the characters just happen to have a disability.
The human race offers the most amazing spectrum of personalities, talents, strengths, and abilities. These are the things that make us who we are and it is essential that all children feel included, accepted and able to resonate with important messages. We want to provide creative role models that all people can identify with as well as shaping perceptions of others.
Be Your Best Self - coming soon!
Written by Danielle Brown MBE and Nathan Kai, this exciting new book for children is a recipe for success, happiness and esteem. It’s a comprehensive framework that encourages children to raise their aspirations and turn exciting dreams into a reality. It’s a thought provoking career tool, a vital people skills asset, a modern day confidence builder, an engaging life-hack, and it empowers children to make the most of – and create– opportunities to lead bright and successful futures. Opportunities that EVERY parent would want for their child.
Positive and practical, Be Your Best Self empowers children to be happy, be confident and become the best versions of themselves.
I get to meet some interesting people doing what I do. It’s definitely the best part of my job. Each event is completely different, the audience bringing their own ideas with them.
And at one of these events I met Nathan Kai.
Nathan was seven years old when he approached me at a MENSA event for gifted children. I’d been booked to speak about how to unlock your potential and overcome obstacles on the way to success. After introducing himself Nathan asked: “Have you written a book for children about how they can become the best they can be? I’ve been looking for one for ages, but I can’t find anything.”
“No,” I said. “But that’s a really good idea.”
And it was.
There are thousands upon thousands of self-improvement books for adults, each one offering a different perspective on how to maximise our capabilities and live more fulfilling lives. Children are incredible hopers and dreamers who can see a future full of possibility, a life without limits. However, there isn’t much out there to help them turn these dreams into reality. We all have the capacity to achieve great things and this starts by laying strong foundations - and children deserve this developmental support just as much as adults do.
Nathan thought about it for a little while and then came back to me.
"Can I write one with you?"
Like I was going to say no to that. Taking the initiative to think up a solution to his challenge and create an opportunity to make it happen, as well as his obvious eagerness to commit to this had me completely sold. This had the potential to have a HUGE positive impact and I wanted to be involved.
We had some fantastic discussions about what being the best version of yourself really meant and talked about the different actions, tools and advice that could help children achieve this. We both left our first meeting with a list of chapters that we would focus on and I couldn’t wait to get started. I spoke about many of these topics on a regular basis and I was super happy with my first attempt. The chapters read well, it was inspiring stuff and it was going to make a real difference to children’s lives.
I sent it across to Nathan to edit, hoping he enjoyed reading it as much as I had enjoyed writing it. Nathan did a spectacular job at editing – my pieces came back with lots of strikethroughs and constructive comments. The overall learning was good, he said, but the way it had been written needed a bit of work. One piece of advice really stood out to me:
"Children don't like being told what to do."
I don’t like being told what to do either.
When I re-read the text I saw what he meant. I’d been a little heavy handed with the ‘shoulds’ and ‘need tos’ which failed to clarify that success isn’t about following a set course, but about creating your own path. Instead of telling children what they ‘should’ be doing we explored the different areas they could focus on to help them with their individual journey to success.
It took us just under a year to finish our first draft and my speaking agent Diana suggested I went to The London Book Fair. Since we were both equally involved in this project I asked Nathan if he’d like to go too. If I’m totally honest, I was a little bit nervous about this. Getting myself across London is always a bit of a mission, never mind being responsible for somebody else. The goal for the day was to get to the book fair and back without losing him. I normally set myself much higher aspirations, but I was way out of my comfort zone on this one.
If you ever want to win at networking, take an eight-year-old with you. Nathan was brilliant. At each stand we visited he articulately explained why he wanted a book to help him become the best he could be, and how we had written one together because there was nothing out there. And unsurprisingly he was a big hit.
Mission accomplished. Not only did we both manage to get there and back without incident, but we came away with some really positive leads and a few conversations later we signed a contract with Button Books.
It’s an unusual pairing, but it’s one that works really well. Nathan offers a unique insight into the emotional wellbeing of children and important ingredients for success, and I bring my performance background to the table. Together it makes a really powerful combination, and we are both super excited about being given the opportunity to help children turn their dreams into realities.
Be Your Best Self is being released in September 2019.
Written by Danielle Brown MBE and Nathan Kai, this exciting new book for children is a recipe for success, happiness and esteem. It’s a comprehensive framework that encourages children to raise their aspirations and turn exciting dreams into a reality. It’s a thought provoking career tool, a vital people skills asset, a modern day confidence builder, an engaging life-hack, and it empowers children to make the most of – and create – opportunities to lead bright and successful futures. Opportunities that EVERY parent would want for their child.
Positive and practical, Be Your Best Self empowers children to be happy, be confident and become the best versions of themselves.
Children want to be the best they can be. They want to know how to succeed and become super amazing at anything they put their minds to.
When I was 7, like now at 9, I loved reading. I also love listening to Mum’s guiding advice, but I wanted to be able to read it too, and learn from some of the best, most successful people in the world. I think a lot with this mind of mine. So for Christmas I asked my Mum for a book on “how to be the best”.
“That is inspirational, Nathan! How to be the best at what?” she asked.
I looked back a little baffled. She is great at understanding me, but I didn’t mean the best at one specific thing, but how to be the best at life.
I wanted a book on how to be the best you can be.
Always sure to encourage and guide me, she was happy at the thought of providing another opportunity for positive growth and healthy self-development. But there was nothing. Not one single book out there.
Can you believe that?
No comprehensive guidance for children on how to grow into the best, happiest, most successful versions of themselves. No children’s books on how to enjoy life, how to cope when the going gets tough, how to succeed and achieve the things you want in life, or how to manage big emotions.
I know I certainly needed this. I’m a go-getter, with great drive and ambition, and I know so many other young people out there are too. Tell me one person that doesn’t want to be the best they can be.
Who wants to settle for a grown up life of boring mundanities, broken dreams, disappointments and set-backs because of undeveloped skills, missed opportunities and poor coping? That sounds like the opposite of the life I want.
People often say that children see the world differently, that we dream about futures without the limits and lenses that adults wear. But if we are ever going to get there we need the right support and guidance. We need tools and strategies and solid foundations from which we can grow and develop.
We are all unique, we are all brimming with potential - and this make us exceptional. So instead of learning how to fit in we need to be taught how to become the best, truest versions of ourselves. When we learn to do this we can live life to the fullest and be happy and successful.
That was why I wanted a book on it.
And when I couldn’t find one, that is why I wrote one.
Be Your Best Self is being released in September.
Opportunities that EVERY parent would want for their child.
Positive and practical, Be Your Best Self empowers children to be happy, confident and become the best versions of themselves.
We have some very exciting news!
Our first book Be Your Best Self is coming out this September. Written by double Paralympic gold medallist, Danielle Brown MBE, and nine-year-old MENSAN Nathan Kai, YOUNGEST self-development author in the world.
Be Your Best Self is an exciting new self-development book for children, but it’s so much more than that.
It is a recipe for success, happiness and esteem. It’s a comprehensive framework that encourages children to raise their aspirations and turn exciting dreams into a reality. It’s a thought provoking career tool, a vital people skills asset, a modern day confidence builder, an engaging life-hack, and it empowers children to make the most of – and create– opportunities to lead bright and successful futures.
Opportunities that EVERY parent wants for their child.
Our vision is fuelled by Nathan’s determination to become the very best he can be. He wanted a book that would act as a guide to help him realise his dreams and reach his fullest potential, even in the face of life’s adversities. But Nathan found a problem – there wasn’t one out there.
So he decided to do something about this, teaming up with Danielle, a world class athlete, renowned public speaker and inclusion champion, to make it happen.
We all have the capacity to achieve great things and this starts by laying strong foundations. Be Your Best Self equips children with a ‘supply kit’ for success. This kit contains ideas, strategies and suggestions that develop skills in a positive and encouraging way. From helping children understand and figure out what success means to them, to building self-esteem and confidence, to learning the important components of self-care, each chapter gives important insight and practical tools to achieve the success they are capable of. Amidst emotional IQ builders, come chapters on building resilience, making the right choices and ensuring we follow the important components of good self-care.
Above all it lets children know that they are special, unique, valuable and important, and that they can achieve their dreams. We can all be BRILLIANT if we work hard and develop our strengths and weaknesses.
Writing this book has been an incredibly fun journey, bringing together our unique perspectives and skillsets to create innovative and exciting guidance that children can really relate to, and empowering them to become their best selves. Children are capable of achieving extraordinary things with the right mindset and support structures in place.
We are thrilled to be working with Button Books who have shared our vision and helped us turn it into a reality.
A little bit about Nathan and Danielle...
Six months ago I agreed to do the Great East Swim.
As a speaker and coach I spend a lot of time focusing on limitations - or more accurately how to break through the self-imposed and physical barriers that can prevent us from achieving our goals. Challenging ourselves, pushing our boundaries and redefining what we think we are capable of is an important part of our professional and personal development. And if I’m going to talk about it, I think it’s good practice that I actually do this myself.
So when the opportunity to do a 5k open water swim came up I said yes. This was a big challenge for me, as well as a chance to represent The Mintridge Foundation who are an amazing charity that works across the UK. Harnessing the power of sporting role models, Mintridge increases sports participation and helps young people develop essential life skills like confidence and resilience. As an ambassador for the charity I’ve seen the impact of their programmes first hand and how these sessions really transform people’s lives.
Somewhat tentatively I put my name forward.
Mental endurance I can do, but my physical endurance is a bit of an unknown. The sports I’ve excelled at in the past have been very mentally demanding, but not very tough on my body and if I’m honest swimming has never been my first choice when it comes to sports.
My mission was to cross the finish line. I normally have way higher aspirations than that, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m a complete slowpoke when I swim at the best of times, so I was a little concerned that the organisers would see me floundering around like a demented turtle and think I needed pulling from the race.
But I did it. That space outside my comfort zone is one of my favourite places to be – the more I push myself the better and stronger I become. It was hard work, I was super slow and I really enjoyed it. I was still smiling at the end and it’s something I’d love to do again.
I was very impressed at how well the Great Swim team catered for people with disabilities. Sports events aren’t always the most inclusive, especially when they’re open to mixed abilities. Removing barriers to sports participation doesn’t always require a total overhaul of the way the event is run, but often just needs small adaptations to create an accessible, safe and non-judgmental environment. And this makes a huge, huge difference. Many activities I’ve been involved in come with a long list of warnings, rules and advice – along with the resiliently offensive question “do you think you’ll be able to finish it?” – that our able-bodied counterparts aren’t subject to. The organising team and volunteers were brilliant, making me feel like just another participant whilst ensuring that my crutches made it over to the finish line without making a big deal out of it.
As well as the wonderful support team, a big thank you also goes to 2XU for sponsoring me with a wetsuit. Awesome kit, awesome staff and now I have no excuse not to continue with open water swimming.
And thank you to everybody who sponsored and supported me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. If the money raised changes just one young person’s perceptions about themselves or empowers them to pursue a meaningful career in sport or otherwise on the back of it then it’s a job well done.
This year I signed up to do the Great East Swim. 5km in open water to support The Mintridge Foundation because they do some truly incredible work increasing sports participation and improving physical and mental health of young people.
It’s not that I just dislike the cold, but it makes my pain levels much worse. I can’t handle it like most people. Even in spring I dress as though I’m ready to tackle the Arctic Circle. This is because my life is a carefully balanced operation where I avoid things that exacerbate my pain so I can achieve the things I want to do.
I was super worried how the cold water would affect me. Whether I was even going to be able to do it, whether it would cause me to cramp up half way round – or even if I was going to be able to walk afterwards.
But with the 22nd June getting closer I couldn’t put it off for much longer, so I persuaded my brother-in-law Stu to take me – if things did go wrong I wanted somebody I knew there. He arranged a trip to Capernwray Diving Centre with his running partner.
That morning doubts crept in. A part of me thought I’d made a horrible, horrible mistake in signing up to this. That I’d completely lost the plot.
At speaking events I talk a lot about fear and its impact on our ability to perform. The same emotional response that can protect us from harm can also be disempowering – paralysing even. It can take a single thought and distort, manipulate and magnify it until the challenge in front of us looks impossible to tackle. Fear is powerful enough to chain us to the safety of our comfort zone and stop us from taking action.
But we don’t have to listen to it. We don’t have to let it rule our decisions or limit our lives. Confronting our fears head on is the best way to put problems into perspective, stretch past the limitations that we put on ourselves and redefine what we think we are capable of.
So that’s what I did.
I got in the water and I really enjoyed it. The cold wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought - although two wetsuits, dry socks and warm gloves probably helped. The lake was stunning and far more interesting than bobbing around in a pool, and I’m stoked that I did it. It is easy to listen to our fears, but when we do things that scare us it feels so exhilarating and so rewarding.
Having amazing people around us also helps. My family is the best; I was joined by my Dad, my sister, brother-in-law and my dog, and I can’t thank them enough for their support. Stu kept me company, kept me laughing and stuck with my tortoise crawl, my sister leant me her wetsuit and Dad was chief photographer.
Dad also fixed up hot soup in the camper for when we’d finished, knowing that this was where I was most likely to suffer. My goals, both personal and professional, would be so much more difficult to achieve without these guys and I am so enormously grateful.
I honestly can’t praise Mintridge and the work they do enough. The impact that they have on developing grassroots sports and giving opportunities to young people is extraordinary. You can learn more about the wonderful work they do here.
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