I’m feeling particularly motivated and inspired this week, and there are a few very good reasons for that. Aside from the fact the weather is finally becoming warmer and the sun is shining, I’ve seen two events recently which have really inspired me, one in person and the other on television. I love witnessing people perform incredible feats of strength and daring; challenging themselves both physically and mentally and achieving things that most people couldn’t dream of. I find it both exhilarating, and very motivational. I believe that when other people stretch themselves beyond their imaginations, it rubs off. There is nothing more exciting than pushing yourself beyond your beliefs.
Eddie Izzard & Sport Relief
The first arrow of inspiration was a television programme that aired several weeks ago, but I had just caught up on. It was the Sport Relief programme about Eddie Izzard’s attempt to run 27 marathons in 27 days. He choose 27 because that was the number of years that Nelson Mandela was incarcerated in South Africa, and he route he took was also a retracing of Mandela’s childhood and upbringing. I’ve run two marathons, and they were two years apart. For those of you who haven’t run one, a marathon is a very long way. It’s a cliché to say it’s a journey, but it really is. You go through a whole gamut of emotions, from elation to euphoria, to misery and pain.
Setting aside the matter of the combined 707.4 miles, the psychological and mental strength you need to possess to even consider such an undertaking is something that few of us have. Knowing that day after day you’ll be running 26.2 miles in temperatures of up to 40 degrees, with no rest day, is a heavy burden to run with. Running just a single marathon requires mental strength. Added to that, Izzard had attempted the same feat in 2012 but had to pull out after the third marathon because his muscles were breaking down, making his pee a dark brown colour. He was clearly anxious about getting past marathon number three and ridding himself of any perceived jinx.
He did have setbacks and niggles, including a few trips to the same hospital he’d ended up in before, but exactly 27 days after he’d started, Izzard crossed the final finish line and staggered to the Nelson Mandela statue in Pretoria. It was a poignant end to the journey, and Izzard looked humbled and happy to be collapsed at the feet of his idol, a man who has inspired so many of us and continues to do so. During filming, Izzard talked briefly about other adversities he’d had to overcome in his life, not least the taunting, bullying and animosity he’d faced having come out as a transgender man 31 years ago. I have tremendous respect for him and what he stands for; his strength, resilience and principles.
Circa at the Udderbelly on the Southbank
The following week I was at the Southbank in the crazy upside-down purple cow that is the Udderbelly. A small group of circus performers – athletes who perform astonishing feats of strength, flexibility and daring – entertain for a little over an hour using chairs, a trapeze, bodyweight and hula hoops (lots of them). I love anything that shows off what the human body can do if trained and nurtured, and this show is a feast for like minds. The most striking aspect of what they do is the level of trust between the five performers; they have each other’s backs, and they know it, so when they jump, leap or climb on each other, they know they will be secure.
It’s a great example of what happens when people work together. Almost every scene features at least two performers, working in synchronicity and fluidity. It’s timed to perfection, but you still find yourself gasping as one makes their move, or sitting in silent suspense just in case a move by someone in the audience distracts them. If you want to see what the human body can do, when the mind is as sharply trained as theirs are, and courage is in abundance, then go and see this show.
The other interesting thing for me was their physiques. Each performer was as strong as an ox, capable of carrying a person on their shoulders, and sometimes more. What they could ensure from a physical perspective was beyond belief. But with the exception of one performer, none of them were what you would call ‘ripped’. Their bodies had been trained to be strong and enduring, not cut and chiselled into the types of bodies you see on advertisement billboards. These bodies have been trained for functional fitness not aesthetics, and that made them all the more extraordinary to me. No ‘muscle man’ or ‘bikini body’ about these bodies, just pure strength.
I’ve been lifted by both these events this week, and it’s made me consider what I want to do next to challenge myself, whether it’s in fitness or business, or something completely different. I think it’s important to regularly challenge yourself; consider what you’ll do to stretch yourself and push past your limitations. Be brave.
Leanne Spencer is a Fitness Entrepreneur, Author of the Amazon Bestselling book Rise and Shine: Recover from burnout and get back to your best and Founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot specialises in bringing the science of genetics to the world of fitness. Connect with the team @BodyshotPT or Facebook or visit our website at https://www.bodyshotperformance.com/.