Mastering the Mental Challenge

Over the past year, we’ve been supporting our K2 Ambassador, Sophie Radcliffe get ready for some of the inspirational challenges she’s taken on.

Her most recent challenge was the Mont-Blanc Vertical KM. Attracting a world class field, it’s a gruelling 3.8km race where runners climb 1000m of vertical height – sort of like running – and at times scrambling – up a steep mountain. Sophie finished a fantastic 21st in a highly competitive women’s race in a time of just over an hour, exceeding her own expectations!

In the build up to the event, we helped her prepare mentally for this daunting challenge. Before her race, we asked her to write a blog post to share what she’d learned. We hope you enjoy her post as much as we did!

Mental Readiness

As an ambassador for K2, I work with their coaches to improve my performance across all areas of sport, work and life.

My next challenge is the Vertical KM in Chamonix which involves running 1000m of vertical ascent up a 3.8km mountain trail against the clock. It’s going to be gruelling from the word go, which means being mentally ready for the challenge ahead will be critical in helping me deliver my best performance and finish with a smile.

Over the last year with the help of K2, I’ve learnt a great deal about preparing for big challenges and events. A key area I wanted to focus on was improving my mental preparation.

I’ve had a lot of experience with how to physically train for the challenges I set myself, getting ready for them and setting my hydration and nutrition plans. However, I knew that by working on controlling my mind so I am mentally strong and ready would enable me to make significant improvements in my performance.

I suffer from doubts and worries in the build up to a massive challenge. I question whether I can really do it, whether I’ve done enough training and I can worry about the things that can go wrong during the race.

I set myself the challenge to work on this and develop a strong, focused and confident state of mental readiness before the Vertical KM.

I worked with K2’s coaches and used some of the brilliant content in The Performance Room to change my approach. When it comes to crunch time, my goal is for my mind to be in the right place to tackle the challenge and do justice to all the training I’ve done!

I’ve learned some fundamental things about what I need to do pre-race and developed a mental preparation routine which I’m really keen to try out for the Vertical KM.

The most important things for me to avoid during pre-race preparation are:

1.  Changing anything last minute with nutrition, training, hydration and rest.
2.  Avoiding pre-race hype that could confuse my race plan or distract me with what others are doing and feeling.

I’ve developed a routine which is simple but crucially will allow me to take control of my mindset. Here’s what I’ll be focusing on:

1.  Knowing that I have an absolute choice over what I think about. Feeding my mind with thoughts and images that make me feel strong, positive and confident
2.  Developing my own recipe for success with mental and physical preparation in the days, hours and minutes before my challenge
3.  Accepting the moment as it is and me as I am. Not wasting precious energy worrying about the things that can go wrong or things I haven’t done
4.  Control the controllables. Anything outside my control is futile to worry about
5.  Breathe, smile, believe. Know that I am here for a reason and this is my moment to show the world what I’m made of!

Find out how I got on here @challengesophie (

To access the great content in The Performance Room that helped Sophie in her preparation for the Vertical KM, visit Take out a free trial and contact us for membership options.


Are you as ready as a Red Devil?!

The Red Devils hit the news with a bang this weekend. On a routine airshow display in Cumbria, an extraordinary – and potentially catastrophic – incident happened. While performing a ‘stack’ manoeuver at 18,000 feet, the parachute of a Red Devil skydiver failed to open properly, resulting in the skydiver above colliding with his half open parachute. A freak event, the requirement to respond quickly and decisively in a high pressure moment was a matter of life and death.

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Hour Perform Recipe

Sir Bradley Wiggins was satisfied with his world record breaking performance yesterday.

Here’s an insight into Sir Bradley’s thoughts about how he was going to think during the hour,

“There’s nothing else to think about other than a black line. Knowing your body and how far you can push yourself.”

For us, that’s confirmation of how we help our customers find out how good they can be in their equivalent of daily hour tests.

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Zero hours contracts – a dark place for motivation

All the talk of zero hours contracts during the election campaign focused on the two predictable sides of the debate.

Businesses need them so they can remain flexible and competitive in uncertain times (though it’s unclear when business will think times are certain and that even if they did, whether they’d then stop using them). It’s argued that these contracts create jobs that otherwise wouldn’t exist. (Not quite sure about that, as presumably these jobs exist to meet demand, not create it).

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The clue is in the name

As someone who helps lead a team of human performance experts working with some great people and organisations in elite sport and the business world around the globe, I really care about it and I really believe it matters and can make a massive difference to those who are prepared to do what’s necessary to get high performance in their particular role in their particular arena.

Doing what’s necessary. So simple, so important, so hard. High performance requires hard work, focus, discipline, sacrifice, the risk of failure and the postponement of immediate gratification. The concepts are easy, the application of them isn’t. That’s why high performers are not typical and not “normal”, where normal is seen through the lens of a bell-shaped curve. High performers know that their place is away from the average, away from normal, seeing how far away from normal they can get.

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Some performance reflections from our CEO…

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”, said Mike Tyson and I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I’m not saying plans don’t matter; they do if you’re serious about being well prepared. Tyson’s quote says two things to me – expect adversity and make sure your plan takes into account the likelihood that things won’t work out how you’d like them to.

A few weeks ago I was in South Africa for what was planned to be my 9th Ironman. I had trained well and – where appropriately – hard, during the winter and I was really excited about doing this iconic event in another continent on a fantastic course.

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As Easter is upon us, it’s maybe appropriate to write something about coming back from the dead! In the world of performance at work, literally coming back from the dead is highly unusual, however in a demanding and competitive world, having to deal with setback, disappointment and adversity is commonplace. When you do need to do this, “bouncebackability”, resilience and confidence are vital ingredients/factors/abilities that enable you to keep going and keep performaning through such a low point.

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The power of uniting goals – six nations rugby final day games

The final day of six nations rugby produced a thrilling finale and some amazing, attacking rugby (from all six teams). It also provided some insight into the enormous motivational and performance benefits of some clear, shared and uniting goals.

Clearly all three of the teams chasing the six nations title had the same overall outcome goals – to win the six nations title (and build for the world cup later this year). What the set up of the final day gave those three teams was a really clear focus on WHAT they needed to achieve (a win that put them top of the group on points difference by as much as possible) as well as HOW they need needed to play – with tactics that would firstly secure them a win and secondly an adventurous style of play that would allow them to score the points they needed.

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Knowing you in your world

England’s cricketers’ failure at the current World Cup is probably due to more than one cause, despite the media effort to pin it down to a single factor (the captain, the coach, the preparation, the overuse of statistics, the failure of the senior players, the selectors, etc, etc.).

One comment that caught our eye was Michael Vaughan’s (the ex England captain), that the coach was in the wrong role and is much better suited to being the coach to the England elite youth development players where his skills and experience are perfect for the job.

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Storytelling in Business

This blog post comes from Matt Beresford, a successful Theatre Director & Business Coach. We really enjoyed Matt’s piece so we’re delighted to have the opportunity to share it with you. Let us, and Matt know what you think.

Once upon a time

….four little words that instantly grab our attention. They make us listen – promising adventure, humour and a message.

As a theatre director I tell stories, using every resource at my disposal – actors, set, costume, lighting and sound – to make those stories compelling enough to keep an audience entertained and engaged. I want to make them think of course, but my primary aim is to have an emotional impact – to move them – perhaps to laughter, perhaps to tears. This emotional impact is what makes plays, movies, novels (not to mention sports events) more ‘sticky’ than much business communication that we see and hear.

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