Rock climber & fitness trainer

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Mike Weeks talks about the challenges of being a trainer.

Raise Your Game: How hard is it to teach others, to be a trainer?

Mike Weeks: There's a big difference between good athletes and good trainers. I worked as a climbing guide in Australia when I lived there for three years.

Being an exceptional climber didn't make me an exceptional teacher, so there's definitely a different kind of mindset. You have to stop being selfish and thinking about how great you are to actually be able to transfer skills to other people, and to be encouraging to those people.

Sometimes it can be quite frustrating if your students don't quite get it, but everyone learns at their own pace, in their own way, and in their own style. You've got to appreciate that.

RYG: What's it been like training Jack Osborne for example?


Mike Weeks

Rock Climbing

Holistic Health Expert

Trained Jack Osbourne for numerous extreme expeditions.

MW: Training Jack was one of the most challenging as well as one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My partner, Bean, and I, we spent nearly a year training him for a number of different challenges.

I say it was challenging because when we first met him he had never done any sports, he'd previously had drink and drug addictions, which he's more than happy to talk about, and the most exercise he'd ever done was with a computer game console.

So the big trick was that we needed to be able to inspire him, and for him it was rock climbing. Just like for me, I guess, because it wasn't a comparative sport. He wasn't in a team where other people were better, it was just about him, a bit of rock and if he could get to the top.

The first few times he got to the top brilliantly, even being 16 stone overweight. So we used climbing as leverage to get him fit for a number of other things. Having one of the world's toughest rock faces and a six month training period as a schedule and goal, you know you've got to be doing some exercise and training every day. Especially if you're serious about getting to the top of those things.

Ultimately we did. We got to the top of one of the world's toughest rock faces, we ran deserts, we kite from the highest commercial waterfalls of the world, we jumped out of aeroplanes and lots more.

Jack and I are very good friends and he's the first to admit that that's changed his life. I played a small part in that, but I actually think the activities themselves and the places we visit, and the very nature of having something that was his - it wasn't part of the Osborne's brand, that's really what inspired the changes. We were just partners on the journey.

RYG: Do you think that as Jack is part of a famous family people may say 'Oh well it was alright for him, all that money, famous mum and dad, he could buy in a trainer,' did that help at all?

MW: Well first and foremost Jack didn't buy in a trainer because we volunteered to train him. We could see in him a desperate desire to be more than what he was. We could also see a latent talent in the rock climbing, so there was no buying in of trainers.

I actually think it was harder for him having celebrity parents, because he was going on screen, pushing himself, setting these goals and taking risks on a daily basis, and if he failed it's not just the people around him would know, the whole world would know. He was put under a lot of pressure and to this day I have the utmost respect for the fact that, even though we had our ups and downs, and there were times when he didn't want to do it, he persisted in the end. He got pretty much every single goal ticked off by the end of our time together.

RYG: Did you set him very clear goals?

MW: We set extremely clear long term goals, and small goals all the way along. It was like a road map to the ultimate goal, which first of all was climbing El Capitan. That is a three and a half thousand foot rock face. It takes six days living on the rock, and I have friends who have been climbing 15 years and won't go out there and attempt those things.

Jack had experienced trainers with him but nobody pulled him up. He worked his way up there after only six months of training and climbing. So he had very clear and concise goals, and he stuck to them and that's what got him there in the end.

RYG: Where do you start with something like this?

MW: You start at the beginning. There's the old Chinese saying that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one footstep. With someone like Jack we literally went climbing and we just climbed at his level, which for someone like myself obviously is almost like walking up a set of stairs. But we built up, and we built up, and it's all about consistency.

Training Jack Osborne was one of the most challenging and also the most rewarding experiences probably of my entire career.

RYG: Are there any other particularly great challenges you've taken on as a trainer?

MW: Well some people would say that every one of our clients is a great challenge, because everyone comes here to us for different reasons. Some people want to climb mountains, some people want to sail around the world, and some people just want to lose weight. A lot of people come here, like stressed-out execs, who just want to get better at their game of squash.

I give the same amount of respect to each of those people because for each of them their mountains are different. Some mountains are really high and some mountains are really low, but everyone that we work with we give 100%.

I still have a lot of challenges myself that I want to do, and it's one of the reasons that I like to train other people because I learn how to get more out of myself. I always say that the day I stop learning about training, performance and bettering myself is the day that I really don't want to be here, because that's what drives me.

I'm going to the jungles of Belize in 2008 to go and climb the world's longest upside down climb, which is 200 metres in the jungle, so I need to be making sure my training is spot on for that as well.

RYG: Where do you begin when you're training someone?

MW: You start at the beginning. As I said earlier the Chinese have a saying that a journey of a 1000 miles starts with one footstep, and often people can get really overwhelmed when they go to a trainer or to a health coach and they just bombard them with material.

I spend all of my time reading and studying how to get the best out of people, you can't expect people to walk in here and straight away understand all these principles that you're trying to give them. So we'll start with the real basics, which is getting people to believe that they can do what they're going to do, making sure that their goals aren't too lofty, and that their goals aren't too low.

We'll teach them to breathe properly, to eat properly, to drink properly. We get them to go to bed early, and not sit up surfing the internet all the time. Really basic things that your mum probably told you to do as a kid to get the best out of you. Then only when those things are alright do we start really training people.

I prefer to get people's bodies strong, well and happy long before we start hammering them in the gym, or in the park, or on a piece of rock.

RYG: There are no shortcuts are there? This is about hard work.

MW: There could be shortcuts, and I guess the shortcuts would be the darker side of what you see in sports, which nowadays is performance enhancing drugs for example. But that's for short-term goals, and I've seen people who've actually come to us as clients who have used things like that, and they're health long term suffers immensely. So there are no real shortcuts if what you want to get out of it at the end of the day is worth a lot to you, and is valued.

Nowadays in the west we've really missed the reason why we do a lot of these sports and activities. We all need goals but the journey itself is equally as important. In eastern cultures there is still a lot of respect for mastery. Now masters don't really exist, because if you meet any marshal arts master, and I've spoken to jigun masters and meditation masters and martial arts masters, they don't think of themselves as masters because they never quite get there. They're always learning, and that's the journey to mastery.

I think that's what this is all about really. It's about the journey, and we need these goals to congratulate ourselves and to say 'Yeah, you've done very well, but don't just stop there, keep going because that's what life should be about.'

Anything is possible, and I've heard my unconscious mind tell me that when I've been hanging off a cliff-face thinking I'm about to die, 'Am I really going to make it?' 'Well if you want to, I'm sure you can.'

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