(If you have not read the introduction please read here: INTRO - 20-30 minute reading time.)
I have never been a huge fan of pain, emotional or physical. I think that is a general sweeping statement that most of humanity can relate to. If we think of it in the context of losing body fat and getting fit then it is safe to say there is a protective mode that we like to go into. It is the same mode that we revert to when we face tough decisions and challenges in our lives, we get face to face with the question that can drive us forwards or send us cowering into an emotional corner.
Do I want to overcome the challenge, problem or obstacle more than I don’t want to face the challenge, problem or obstacle?
Think about any truly great person in history. Think about things that they have had to overcome to achieve what they were capable of, think about the legend that exists long after they are gone and the stories that people tell of them.
Overcoming great odds is why we revere great people, we make museums and curate their possessions when they die to honour them. We admire them and yet we forget that they are and were mortal. They lived, loved, laughed and pooped just as we do. The difference you could argue would be down to one thing, their DRIVE to be the best, to the do their best. Their drive to be the greatest, to push themselves beyond their societal and personal level of comfort.
George Mallory is a great example, he taught English for a living and to challenge himself he climbed big, cold, scary mountains. He was so DRIVEN to achieve great things that he actually died on Everest.
“People ask me, 'What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?' and my answer must at once be, 'It is of no use. 'There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron... If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.” - George Mallory
Mallory died doing what he loved and that is possibly what he is most known for, other than being physically fit, strong and mentally tough. He is remembered because he pushed the limits – his limits.
The problem I see developing in the world today is that the sense of struggle that previous generations had is forgotten. We are living in an age, particularly in the western world where the sense of struggle has changed our nature. People become complacent with the ability to click a button and receive anything they want. To post a picture and be praised for the ‘perfect selfie’. Instant gratification has stolen the struggle and society has become soft.
If we talk in terms of fitness, everyone has an opinion about the best way to achieve things: vegan, paleo, keto, intermittent fasting, bodybuilding, bodyweight, powerlifting – the list goes on and on. You’ve heard them before:
“Count your macros!”
“Fats are bad!”
“Fats are good!”
“Eat more protein!”
“Protein is bad!”
“Cardio is bad!”
“Cardio is good!”
“Lifting weights is dangerous!”
“Lifting weights is good!”
The world has gone mad with people capitalising on other people’s lack of knowledge, I should know as I am in the business of helping people to lose weight and improve their fitness.
A lot of the time I come across an odd mix of the general public who have been sold a pipe dream by another trainer or fitness magazine, and then another side where people would rather pay for someone else to put the work in for them. What is clear is that there is a general lack of acceptance the only way to succeed with anything challenging is to put in hard frikking work.
In my eyes the greatest challenge as a coach is breaking people out of that shell and helping them to realise that if you want a change it takes persistent, consistent effort. Setbacks will hit you hard in life, but they are only setbacks you have to stay DRIVEN towards your goals. Here’s hoping that my story will help you see that.
I was fortunate to grow up in Zimbabwe, a country that was born out of opportunity and struggle. Despite its trials and tribulations my childhood was amazing! I grew up in a lovely house, we had a huge garden, dogs, cats and exposure to some of the best schooling programs in the Southern Hemisphere. I think that the best part about my childhood was that my sister and I had parents that never held us back and we were taught from an early age that hard work would pay off. We were always encouraged to aim for things that that challenged us, but that we enjoyed.
Somehow when I was about 4 years old I picked up a golf club and started to swing it, I also picked up a cricket ball and managed to bowl it. Being able to replicate movements I see has always come easy for me, movement is everything in life. Being able to play golf and cricket at a young age was something that I didn’t think about, I just did it.
Call it talent, genetics, whatever, I just enjoyed both sports to the point that they became the two focal points of my life. I hated sitting in a classroom though, I hated the idea of sitting behind a desk in my future, just put a bat and a ball in front of me, or drop me at the golf course at 8am on a school holiday, and I could entertain myself for hours.
My sister and I went to Gateway Primary School in Harare, Zimbabwe and it was a very nurturing school. We were some of the first students and their ethos was very Christian, there were strict rules and the bible was a huge part of our lives at school. We were encouraged to pray, and assemblies at school often revolved around singing and praying.
School life was very structured, and each child would be strongly encouraged to take part in two sports per term. Our days at school started at about 7.30am and mostly finished at 5.00pm. Fridays were the half day and chill time in the afternoons. In the summer terms my afternoons revolved around cricket and tennis or cricket and swimming or cricket and athletics and cross country, even though I despised running. The winter term was soccer and rugby, both winter sports played barefoot until we reached the last two years of primary school.
My first exposure to real physical pain was when I was with a few friends on the school field at break time. We’d seen the new aluminium high jump poles set out for the afternoon activities and thought we would have a practice. We knew we were breaking the rules but it was a bit of fun. We managed to break the pole in half and ended up in the head master’s office where he proceeded to line us up one by one and whack us (twice each)with his cricket bat. I was devastated, because I would have to go home and tell my parents and the worst thing a child can do is disappoint their parents.
Our school holidays were some of the best days of my life, I was enrolled in a cricket system called ‘Stragglers’ which seemed like days of endless cricket games against some of the best teams from around Zimbabwe. We’d get dropped off early in the morning and spend the day playing cricket. On top of that I was part of the Zimbabwean junior golf programme and that meant each holiday there were a series of tournaments held at various golf clubs in Harare. One day would be Royal Harare the next Chapman Golf Club and we would tour the golf clubs playing 36 holes a day, there would be daily competitions and prizes and if you played badly then you always had the next day to get better.
My holidays were jam packed full of my favourite sports, 2 weeks of cricket and 2 weeks of golf, life was perfect!
As I came to the end of my primary schooling, I was made captain of the 1stteam cricket, I was the opening bowler and batsman and although we weren’t the best team in the country we had some strong players in our side. It was this time of my life where girls were starting to seem more interesting, it was also a time where I was a podgy little blonde kid. It was clear that I wasn’t going to get very far in life being porky, girls didn’t seem to notice me and sport was more challenging.
I was very slow on the cricket field and with cricket and golf being at the forefront of my mind it was time that I dealt with the blubber and got slim. Especially as my final year of primary school was geared towards high school and it was about choosing a school that would catapult me to the forefront of the Zimbabwean cricket scene.
To tackle the flab my dad bought me a pair of red Oakley sunglasses, the same kind of glasses that all the famous cricket players wore. Each week on a Sunday I would weigh in, if I had lost weight then I would have a reward of being able to wear the sunglasses for the day! It only took a few months before I had reached my goal weight and could have the glasses in my possession full time.
Grade 7 was the final year at primary school and as well as the weight loss, I was made a school prefect which meant I was put in charge of smaller kids and ensuring other people in the school were playing by the rules. Prefects were something to aim for from a younger age and we were respected by the teachers and by some of the students. Mostly it was something to put on your school record that would hold you in good stead later in life. Everything was great and I had gotten attention from about 3 girls too, my confidence was at an all-time high and I couldn’t wait to grow up into a professional cricketer!
As I spent day after day in the cricket nets and weekends either at golf or honing my cricket skills I kept focused on my dream. I dreamed of playing cricket for Zimbabwe and being paid to do something that I loved. In 1998 I got accepted into the high school of my choice and had lost weight to boot, I was ready and pumped to get high school going and make the progress towards professional cricket. Most of my friends went on to Gateway High School linked directly with our primary school so we were going to lose touch, but it didn’t matter, 1999 was going to be the year where my life changed forever!
St Johns College
Gateway Primary school was a school where there were rules, it was co-ed, but the approach was that of nurturing and encouragement. I look back at my primary school days thinking about how it was fun. St Johns College was far from that, firstly it was an all-boys school and secondly it had a very colonial boarding school structure. Strict, cold and harsh.
Despite being fitter, leaner and ready for the cricket coming my way there was still learning to be done and I landed in a class called 1A3. 1A3 was basically the 3rdstream of the 1styear of high school, I was with all the kids who simply couldn’t behave. Gateway was strict, St Johns was another level. Performance, structure and routine were key, step out of line and you’d certainly feel the wrath of the cane by the deputy head master. He was known for his no-nonsense personality and if you walked out of his office without a beating then you were very lucky, something I would find out in my second year.
From the first day I felt out of sorts, and it only got worse when cricket selection came around. It was compulsory to do two sports per term. My obvious choices were cricket and golf and I was mortally wounded when the team selections came around and I wasn’t in the 1stteam for cricket. In my final year at Gateway I had put in all the work, lost weight and I was now fitter than ever. Despite the fact that I was upset I showed up in the 2ndteam classroom for my introduction to the rest of the group and I was ready to showcase my worthiness to the coach.
I had with me a prepared record of my cricketing history and presented it to him before our first afternoon session began, suggesting that I had been hard done by in the selection process. This was one of those defining moments in life, one of those moments when you realise that you’ve made a mistake but have to roll with it. The whole 2ndteam saw me get marched out with all my bags and straight to the 1stteam practice ground. I like to think that it was the impressive record of cricket that earned me the march, but I think it was more that the coach wanted me to learn the hard way.
Like I said at the beginning of the chapter, in life you have to earn your stripes. 13 guys from my year who were in the 2ndteam just witnessed someone they didn’t know jump up a team with little effort. Sure, I had put in the hours in my team at Gateway and I had put the time in with coaches every week, but I hadn’t earned it in their eyes. Without knowing it I had disrupted the primal flow of respect and by the end of the first term at high school I was probably one of the most disliked people in my year.
I plopped myself right into the 1stteam cricket and I believe that I actually suited that team in many ways. I could hold my own against the other players and started to open the batting. I was also the 1stchange bowler and specialised in swing and seam bowling, my Saturday’s became devoted to matches entirely during the summer. In the winter months we would spend our Saturday afternoons cheering on our 1stteam rugby from giant stands. School was life and life was school. I had completely lost touch with my old friends from Gateway and didn’t really have any friends in my new school.
Class life was difficult, because of the cricketing debacle and me being unpopular I tried really hard to make friends and fit in. Unfortunately for me it was my trying that probably made things worse. I have had a lot of time to reflect upon this in my life and I have concluded that my insecurity was my demise. I was bullied by numerous kids in my class for various things, being behaved in class, although being fitter I was still a bit squidgy round the edges so naturally the fat comments were thrown around. Mostly I was just too scared to stand up for myself for fear of getting in more trouble, which made me a soft target.
The bullying continued into my second year and my confidence was at an all-time low, I still hadn’t made any solid friendships and the most frustrating thing was that my lack of confidence was seeping into my cricket games. I was struggling on the field as I had started to put all my weight back on again and found a lot of comfort in food. My break times would be spent queueing for tuck shop treats just so that I didn’t have to sit alone or try and talk to other guys who didn’t really want to know me.
I’d had a few run ins with other students but the biggest one happened when we were all made to go and support our athletic teams at the national stadium in Harare. The whole school had to spend the day there and by lunch time we were all bored and fed up. The teachers were busy helping with the event and I was sat on my own watching the field. A few guys from my class decided to start throwing some glass bottles at me, one thing lead to another and I just lost the plot. It had been a year of dealing with people giving me grief and I snapped. I got into a brawl and kicked this one kid so hard in the balls that he cried, and it felt good, no, not his balls but the feeling of standing up for myself.
What happened after that was a series of threats from other school kids, in fact on the Monday after the Stadium saga we finished our science lesson, everyone left the class and waited in the hallway for me to leave just to jump me. I sat in the classroom until the teacher realised what was going on and then she accompanied me to the school gate where I was picked up and taken home. I was a mess.
This just simply delayed the group beating. I walked into school after being away for a whole week, stressing about what would happen to me and as I walked into the classroom the whole class descended upon me throwing punches and hitting me until a teacher from across the hall saw what was going on and ran over to stop it.
The beating landed me slap, bang in front of the deputy head master and his cane, he screamed at me about ‘bringing things upon myself.’ He told me to, ‘get out of his office before he threw me through the wall.’ I left his office that morning without a sore arse, but having apologised to the kid with the sore balls who was also called into the office with me. I was asked to surrender the names of the boys that hit me but I refused because there was enough heat on me and the last thing I wanted was to be known as a snitch.
Later that week the class monitor gave up the names of all the black kids in my class and before long I was the one blamed for ‘snitching on the black kids.’ I was a walking target in the school and my anxiety related to the bullying just grew worse and worse. Everywhere I turned I saw intimidation and threats, it did however mean that I grew very friendly with the tuck shop queue and the endless supplies of M&Ms that were always there to keep me company. I was turning into an even porkier version of myself. Between the tuck shop and the endless break times spent doing ‘manual labour’ because my 3rdstream class were a bunch of reprobates I found some comfort.
Our French teacher stormed out of our class one day because all the boys in the back row decided to make sex noises every time he spoke. This landed us in trouble with our class prefect and our lunch was spent sitting against a wall for 40 minutes whilst the prefects ate their lunch and shouted at us. Another time we ended up having to run around the school field non-stop for 40 minutes, because one boy had made a PVC pipe ‘pea shooter’ and shot the teacher repeatedly in the back of the head during class. I really didn’t mind the torture because as long as we were all being punished it meant I didn’t have to spend my break time avoiding the other kids in my year.
Needless to say, I didn’t stick around at St Johns much longer, my cricketing form was really on the decline and I was starting to hate spending my Saturdays with a team that didn’t like me. There was too much damage done and with my confidence at an all-time low my parents and I decided to change schools. The political horizon for Zimbabwe in 2000 was pretty bleak and the prospect of playing cricket for Zimbabwe had dwindled in my mind, partly because I knew St Johns had changed me and partly because of the future of Zimbabwe being up in the air.
The Heritage School
My first day at Heritage school was good, my parents were flying to Botswana to meet with a company that were offering my dad a job. I was plonked outside of my class with a bag full of clothes as I was staying with friends for the week. It was the second school term of 2000 and I was desperately trying to forget about St Johns and the terrible experience I had there. Although I was in the 1stteam cricket I wasn’t really focused on playing that much anymore, I became fonder of being on a golf course and spending time relying on the only person I could trust, me. As time went on in the second term I had made some good friends and managed to get more and more focused on golf as my future.
I had a good swing and my handicap was almost down into single figures. A few more years of dedication and application and I would be playing some of the best golf of my life. I formed a few friendships at the Heritage School. It was nice, the school was co-ed and that meant that girls were on the radar again, unfortunately for me I had managed to regain my weight and then some. Occasionally there was banter and jokes from various people, but as I started to gel with a few guys in the school one person started to needle me. It went on for a few weeks and then I decided to get ahead of things. After a few harsh words in my direction one day I grabbed him by the neck, lifted him up and threatened him with a beat down, the best part was it was in front of everyone!
The fear that leapt into his face and the reaction of everyone told me one thing, I was never going to be messed with again. For weeks afterwards I kept thinking, ‘If only I had done that in my first term at St Johns, I would have been okay.’
I would soon move to Botswana with my parents as the economic decline of Zimbabwe had left us with very few options. Money was almost impossible to get out of the country and my parents lost all of their investments for the future. We managed to sell the house we lived in and get the money out of the country but aside from that it would mean starting fresh in Botswana.
People often ask me where I am from and depending on how much I want to talk I either say Zimbabwe or Botswana. Zimbabwe is a lifetime ago and the name just reminds me of all the struggle, my struggles in high school and the struggle that still continues today in the country. There are many happy memories of my life in Zimbabwe but I always have felt that when I moved to Botswana it was a huge clean slate and a chance for me to become who I was meant to be.
I don’t really have much of an opinion on bullying these days, what most people see as a horrible experience for any child, I see as something that moulded my mind and shaped the person that I am today. When I am thrown into tough situations now (if you stick around for the chapters to come you’ll find out that I have been through a few tough spots) what DRIVES me through the hard times is the knowledge that I have been through some serious shit and lived to tell the tale. When my lungs are burning and my heart is pounding in a workout I focus on being stronger than I was in my weakest moments, sometimes it means reliving the emotional and physical pain of Zimbabwe.
“If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go.What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.” - George Mallory
You simply do not become a success overnight, it takes years to become an overnight success. The same way you don’t become slim, fit and strong overnight. Mallory didn’t climb to the top of Mont Blanc without years of build up to it, without falling and hurting himself, without people telling him he was mad. He just put one foot in front of the other and climbed.
What you’ll find is that any challenge, task or goal morphs over time to shape you as a human being. If you get used to being challenged then you’ll keep looking to test yourself. As long as you are DRIVEN you’ll learn to thrive. If you are not challenged, if you never rise to the challenge, if you are wrapped in cotton wool then you are going to find it hard to get what you want out of life.
“To struggle and to understand. Never the last without the first. That is the law.” - George Mallory
Embrace the struggle, embrace your life and I’ll see you next month for the next instalment of my story.
As ever, Stay Strong and Keep Moving!