Helen Skelton

Helen Skelton

The Blue Peter presenter has completed a 2010 mile kayak trip along the Amazon River for Sport Relief. Helen believes "You get out of life what you put in."

The highs and lows of Helen's Amazing Amazon Adventure will be shown in a special documentary on Sunday 21 March at 1.00pm on BBC ONE. Don't forget to tune into the Sport Relief big night of TV on Friday 19 March from 7pm on BBC ONE.

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Raise Your Game: How does it feel to have completed your amazing kayak expedition along the Amazon river, not only for yourself and Sport Relief but also to have two records as well?

Helen Skelton: The records are a brilliant by-product. We didn't go out there to do that, we just went out there to do the 2010 miles and do the challenge for Sport Relief. Everything that's come about because of it, the records, all the amazing publicity and articles, are just not what we expected. It's a bit surreal. We're still sort of taking it all in and looking at everything and going "Oh yeah we did that!" So I think it will be a good few months before I go "Yes I did that!" (punches fists).

Profile

Name:
Helen Skelton

Born:
19 July 1983, Cumbria, UK

Job:
TV presenter

Achievements:

  • Completes 2010 mile kayak trip along the Amazon River for Sport Relief. Sets World Records for longest ever solo kayak trip in 24 hours and longest solo journey by kayak (2010)
  • Second woman ever to finish Namibia Ultra Marathon (2009)
  • Completed 2009 London Marathon
  • Blue Peter presenter since 2008
  • Previously a presenter on Sportsround and Newsround

RYG: You had very little kayaking experience previously. How much training and preparation went into this?

HS: I had been in a kayak once, for an hour. When I agreed to do the kayaking challenge, I got in touch with a kayak coach who took me down to the gym, taught me the technique and said "You're going to have to spend hours in the gym."

People train for years to do this sort of thing and I hadn't. I had to build up muscles, my arms are like Popeye's and my back is so muscly. I did loads of weight training and I went out on the water whenever I could, but it was winter when I was training. So a lot of the time the river near me was frozen and I couldn't take my kayak out because it would ruin my boat.

RYG: How important is having the right drive to achieve your goals?

HS: I think this has proved to me more than anything that you get out of life what you put in. There were times over Christmas when I was so fed up because my mates were all going out, going down the pub and I didn't do any of that because I was training. I just knew if I had the big nights out, I wouldn't train the next day.

My brother kept saying to me "Oh it'll be worth it, you'll dine out on this for a lot longer," and he was right. It was hard to accept at the time because you strop, don't you? I wanted to go out because everyone else does, but it definitely paid off because I couldn't have got through it if I hadn't done the training. I think you definitely get out what you put in.

RYG: There must have been times when you wanted to give up. How did you get through those times?

HS: I knew there were people that wanted me to do it. I knew there were people who believed in me and I just thought I can't let them down. I couldn't imagine anyone's faces if I said "I failed. I didn't do it." There was one day when I came off the water early. I got back to the support boat and everyone looks at you like they're brokenhearted. I just thought 'I can't do that to anyone.' That's what kept me going, just thinking I don't want to see that look in their eyes.

RYG: How important is the right attitude to achieve something like this?

Helen Skelton HS: I was always the person in school who was in the team but was never the best in the team. I was always really up for it and really into it, but I never represented the county or anything. I just threw myself into it and I think that definitely pays off.

Don't worry about being the best or being the fastest and don't say 'Oh I'm no good at that so I'm not going to do it.' Just get stuck in and have a go. The older you get, it doesn't matter about being the best. It's just about getting involved and having a laugh.

RYG: You've done the Namibia Ultra Marathon as well. You're obviously quite sporty?

HS: Yeah I do like my sport. I think the things that I've done, they're not because I'm necessarily talented, they're just because I'm stubborn. I think that's probably the only reason I've succeeded. The boys are off doing their challenges and Joel's (Joel Defries) gone to act and I just said to him 'Oh I haven't got a talent like that so I couldn't get stuck in to something like that.' That's why I went for the endurance challenges and I think they'll be something else on the cards.

RYG: Is sport a positive thing for young people to get involved in?

HS: Absolutely. Sport can make you more confident and positive because you feel better. Physically you change. I'm muscly and bigger, but I don't actually feel bad for that, all my clothes fit better and I feel quite fit and tough. That happens when you're doing any kind of sport, you get muscles in places you didn't know you had which makes you more confident because you think 'Oh I look better therefore I feel better.' You're tired because you're exercising so you sleep better and when you sleep better you're more positive.

Three or four years ago I never thought that I could have done this. I thought, I'm not a kayaker, I'm not an adventurer or athlete etc. I hate running, yet I ran an ultra marathon because I got my head down and I thought I've started it so I'll finish. Don't knock it till you've tried it I say. The amount of girls in this Blue Peter office who have started running after last year's running challenge - they all look amazing and they're buzzing off it because you feel good after you've exercised.

RYG: So if there are young people looking at what you've done and thinking, 'I could never do that,' what would you say to them?

HS: I would say you don't know what you're capable of until you get stuck in and push yourself to the limit. I am no kayaker, I am no runner. The only reason I got through the things that I have is because I threw myself into it and put my all into it. I know everyone says it, but if I can do it, anyone can do it. Look at me, I'm no athlete in my heels and my pink dress! Just get stuck in and you'll enjoy it.

RYG: What have you learnt from this experience?

HS: One of the biggest things I've taken from this is to make the most of the people around you. If you appreciate the people in your team and the people that love you, they'll pick you up when you fall. Whatever life throws at you they'll help you cope with it.

I definitely needed the people around me when I was in the Amazon. I couldn't have done it without them. Going forwards I think that's something that I'll rely on in the future. You're daft not wanting to use the people around you that'll help you, so take advice and use it.


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