The professional climber and health and fitness consultant believes "To get to where you want to go, you have to put 100% in."
Raise Your Game: What do you do?
Mike Weeks: I have been a professional climber most of my adult life. For the last three or four years I've worked as a health and fitness consultant, coaching everyone from stressed out execs to celebrities to school kids.
RYG: Is it rewarding work?
MW: Yes it is. I spent 10 years of my life travelling around the world climbing in the most beautiful locations you could ever imagine. So to go from being a professional climber to having a job Monday - Friday in London, it has to be something that's quite special. For me it's training people and seeing people's transformations.
RYG: Why climbing?
MW: The reason that I became a climber was because when I was 16-years-old I dropped out of college. I was on the dole, I had no money, and I had no prospects. I came from a council estate where there were really no prospects for me.
I found climbing by accident. After the first couple of times I went climbing I had a sense of achievement inside of me that I'd never felt during my childhood or my school life, or from anything else that I'd ever done. It was like the one thing that pressed the button in me, that made me believe in myself.
I guess that confidence, at times, became a bit out of control as I risked my life, but at the time if I had died climbing it would have been worth it because I'd found something really worthwhile to me. It can have that same effect with a lot of people.
RYG: What makes a climber?
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MW: There are a number of factors. Firstly, that climbing feels like the most natural thing that you could possibly do. If you think about the fact that we're primates, there's obviously some primal instinct in us to climb things. Just look at kids when they're climbing trees.
Secondly, for me, team sports were never very high on my agenda. I either like long distance running, or swimming, or doing things that just relied upon me. Even though somebody's usually holding your ropes it's just you up there on the mountain, so there's that kind of loneliness of the long distance runner.
Thirdly, it gets you into absolutely beautiful areas. I've spent 10 years travelling the globe and have pretty much been to every continent climbing and have been in some of the most spectacular places on earth. I'd get a little bit bored if it was just the tennis court every week.
RYG: As you have to really rely on yourself and know that you can do it, your mind is as important as your body?
MW: Absolutely, and that's another key factor to climbing. For some people who like to push it, and I used to push it to quite a dangerous level, it was because I liked the feeling of being in control.
Often when you're just relying on your fingertips and your toes hundreds, if not thousands, of feet off the ground with no ropes - as I've done in the past - there's a real control feeling. It's not about the adrenaline, because if you get adrenaline then you usually shake yourself off because of fear, it's about controlling that fear. It's almost like meditation.
RYG: How do you control the fear?
MW: Controlling the fear comes from the same place as with any sport when controlling nerves or controlling your state. It comes with practice.
When I first started climbing I was terrified of it, and I was absolutely terrified of heights. I remember the first time that I ever abseiled from a 50 foot cliff. I got to the edge and I had to be pulled back because I just couldn't do it.
Most people who start something like climbing are usually scared of heights when they first do it. So overcoming the fear comes from practice. Just like learning a ball skill, or overcoming the fear of performing in front of an audience. It's just the more that you do it the easier it becomes.
Some people can climb all their lives and not want to go to the very dangerous levels. Maybe some of us are genetically born that way, that we like to take extra risks. I think once you've tasted the riskier side of the sport it's difficult to then go back.
RYG: What are the riskiest things that you've done?
MW: The riskiest things in climbing that I've done have been climbing 'on-site'. This is where you climb from the bottom to the top with no prior practice and no knowledge of what you're climbing on, except for the odd little description in a guide book, and with no ropes. I've done that. There was a period in my life in my early 20's where that gave me the absolutely biggest buzz. In climbing you can't really push it much further than that.
In other sports, white water kayaking at grade 4 or grade 5 is where you're not necessarily in control. One of the other things I love doing is breath-hold cave diving. Diving through submerged cave systems whilst holding your breath. I've had a few close calls there.
As I'm getting older I tend to find my satisfaction in enjoying things without quite as much risk, but certainly in my 20's almost everything I did was about seeing how far I could push myself.
RYG: Have there been times that you have been truly terrified?
MW: There have been times that I have actually thought that I was going to die. Quite a few times actually where, for whatever reason, something inside me has just managed to pull out that last little ounce of effort and got me out of trouble. Usually in climbing in situations where I've not put enough preparation in.
When I was 20-years-old I went to Australia to climb this iconic roof climb. It's upside down for about 20 feet and 100 foot off the ground. I went there to climb it without any ropes, without any practice. I nearly fell off the end of it because I hadn't climbed for seven weeks and I just assumed that I could go and do it.
My ego got in the way of my common sense, as it can do when you're in your early 20's. There was a point there where I actually thought that I'd actually let go because my hands were so tired and my body was so tired, and just some primal instinct in me got me through it in the end.
There have been a few occasions like that, and there's only so many times that you can push it before the numbers stack up against you. I've lost a few friends, but it tends not to be when they're climbing at their limits or when they're in a performance state. It tends to be when they've been climbing without ropes on very easy stuff. Someone falls off. They're not aware.
There's also been some really tragic car accidents with climbers, because most climbers tend to push it whether it's in climbing, whether it's driving their cars, or other things. We're not necessarily the most sensible bunch of people.
RYG: How important is it to set goals?
MW: If I ask you to walk out of here and get yourself to some place in Northern Scotland without a map, you're not going to be able to find it. We need goals as our map in life, whether they are career goals, in education or in sport.
I think in sport goals tend to inspire people because everyone can relate in some way to seeing a sportsman doing their best, whether they come first or whether they come last. As long as they're putting 100% in we can all relate to what that means. Sometimes to get to where you want to go, you have to put 100% in.
I think sport, for me it was climbing, taught me that if I just persisted it didn't matter how many times you got knocked down, or how many times that I fell off things, or how many times I scare myself, you just keep going, and if you have a goal then you'll get there in the end.
Stick to what you believe in.
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