The "Limitless Pursuits" website is dedicated to bringing you the stories of men and women from around the world who have beaten seemingly impossible odds to achieve greatness in in extremes sports, adventure and travel. The strength of human spirit is at the core of what we promote. Whether it be pushing themselves to the limit or having an impact on the lives of others through giving and philanthropy the stories we share are sure to leave you feeling inspired. It was an amazing opportunity to chat with Tom Burrington and share my story with his readers. Thank you!
1. When did you first become passionate about the outdoors and sport and who were any early influences in these areas in life?
The Great Outdoors has formed a common thread throughout my life though astonishingly I’ve only appreciated its’ immense influence recently. Hanging in my office I have a photo collage my parents created for my 21st birthday where every single photo captures a family memory outside, playing, camping, walking or exploring. During the 80s and 90s numerous weekends were spent in the Lake District each summer whilst my father participated in classic fell races alongside legends such as Billy Bland and Joss Naylor. The outdoor and active theme was firmly reflected in Watson holidays where the annual calendar involved everyone in destination discussions, itinerary ideas and meticulous planning poring over maps and guidebooks in the pre-internet era (hard to imagine now…). It’s interesting how history has repeated itself as holidays nowadays generally involved running, trekking, cycling or kayaking around or up something with my husband.
2. Tell us about your time with the British Army and how it helped to shape the person you are today?
My connection to the British Army spans back over twenty years when I eagerly joined the Newcastle Royal Grammar School Cadet Force as a wide-eyed teenager keen for fun and adventure. Initially the lure of travel and sport appealed with the added benefit of mixing with the boys’ school next door and an Army Sixth Form Scholarship subsequently led to Cadetship sponsorship at The University of Manchester.
After commissioning from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst I served in the Royal Logistics Corps for nine years, from 2000 - 2009, reaching the rank of Captain and completed three operational tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. During this time assignment locations ranged from icy snow holes in northern Norway to the heat and sand of the desert in Central Asia. My final role as training manager for military and civil service students attending Northumbrian universities provided an ideal stepping stone for my future learning and development career.
I’ve undoubtedly changed and grown since I left the green machine over six years ago as most people experience an immense period of transition from military to civilian work and life. The British Army has literally touched every aspect of my professional and personal life and the core values of discipline, integrity, loyalty, courage, respect for others and commitment undoubtedly remain engrained. I still have strong Military links as my husband, Major Ben Psaila, is an officer in the Royal Corps of Signals and is currently Second in Command of the 21st Signal Regiment; my brother Captain David Watson serves as a Reservist in The Royal Jersey Militia, part of the Royal Engineers; and many friends still pursue a military career.
Through my performance coaching business Reach for More. I publically support the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant alongside hundreds of other British businesses. I’m extremely proud of my previous military career and current military connections so find this organisation the perfect platform to demonstrate my support. I also support the independent enterprise Recruit for Spouses (www.recruitforspouses.co.uk) that supports military spouses and bridges the gap between military and business communities.
3. When did you start taking running seriously and could you tell us about any successes you've had in the sport as well as at triathlon events?
My personal running journey has been a gradual endeavour that’s gained momentum over recent years. I’m not convinced I can identify a specific “tipping point” when I started taking the sport “seriously” as it’s almost surreptitiously crept up on me. During my 20s and military career I flirted with running and although I represented the Army at cross-country other operational and social commitments took priority.
Looking back over my running and triathlon career every race symbolises an element of success from enjoying post Everest Marathon race celebrations with my father in Namache Bazaar, Nepal, competing in IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in Mount Tremblant, Canada with my husband and fellow members of Moore Perform triathlon club, and standing on the podium for Marathon des Sables 2015. I literally dug out my race medals to hang in our “pain cave” aka turbo training room last week and each one has a valued memory attached.
My 2016 race season started last weekend with The ONER aka 130km ultra race with 3,000m ascent along the Jurassic Coastline in Dorset. The training, nutrition, sleep and general performance management is definitely paying off as from previous race results it looks like I set a new ladies course record and finished alongside the first male after running together for over 100km. Everything fell into place after months of preparation and although it was a brutal course (aptly organized by Brutal Events!) with several dark moments I simply enjoyed the experience. My perception of success in running moves beyond a simple time or position to ultimately reach my true potential at that moment in time and share the experience with others members of the running and triathlon community.
4. What made you passionate about helping others connect with the outdoors and to live healthy lifestyles?
This question links directly back to my photo collage thoughtfully created by my parents and is reinforced with classroom memories where I would gaze out the window watching the trees, waiting for the school bell to ring so I could head outside. In a nutshell the outdoors bestows a deeply personal innate feeling of freedom, mental clarity and general wellbeing. I simply wish to share this feeling with others.
Our 21st century lives are increasingly chaotic where the pace of life escalates through the real or perceived demands of work, technology, finance, social obligations, politics, environmental considerations…the list continues. These seemingly endless factors adversely impact our ability to achieve peak performance at work, sport, health, relationships and across our lives. Heading into the Great Outdoors provides the opportunity to recharge, replenish the mind and return refreshed to our work and lives.
The science behind fascinates me and provides substantive evidence to support the concept. From an evolutionary perspective the human body is designed to walk up to 12 miles per day unlike our current obesiogenic environment where we remain stationary for 8 hrs+. The physical action of spending time outside and moving has literally been scientifically proven to improve performance. It’s all about walking and talking!
5. When did you found RFM Coaching and could you tell us a little more about the company and its aims and ambitions?
The creation of Reach for More. was the obvious next step to progress from working on variety of international learning and development projects to provide a high quality niche performance coaching service. The company officially launched in the UK in September 2015 and it’s been a roller coaster ride over the last few months any business owner will appreciate. Reach for More. provides a range of services to support clients improve their performance at work, sport and across their lives. It’s exciting working in partnership with innovative companies and individual clients who genuinely aspire to improve their performance that inevitably increases work productivity, improves self awareness and promotes general wellbeing.
Reach for More. consistently demonstrates the highest standards achievable with performance coaching based on professionalism, quality and innovation. These core values are reflected through International Coaching Federation accreditation; the leading global organisation dedicated to advancement of the coaching profession. The coaching models and psychometric profile tools utilised in support of performance coaching are all based on cutting edge academic research. For example the Analytic-Network framework and Multiple Brain Integration Technique (mBIT), eDISC coaching models and Individual Work Attitudes and Motivators (iWAM) psychometric profile tools move beyond traditional coaching methods to uncover a wealth of information and support clients optimise their performance.
Looking ahead to the future I envisage Reach for More. expanding into an international network of credible qualified coaches who work in partnership with forward thinking organisations. These companies are willing to pioneer new holistic methodologies to create sustainable change across their organisations that unlocks and unleashes the true potential of their most precious recourse – their people. It’s an exciting journey ahead!
6. How would you describe your style when working with a client and who are some of the individuals you find yourself training?
Each Reach for More. performance coaching partnership is individually crafted drawing from a cutting edge innovative portfolio of skills, models and techniques. I draw from a wide range of expert performance, sports psychology, NLP, neuroscience, mindfulness to tailor a bespoke coaching experience. The two universal threads frequently observed by my clients is a deep inner resolve to achieve more in their lives and a solid commitment to invest necessary resources to shape a successful future. For example I recently worked with ambitious professional determined to further his career and concurrently establish an online entrepreneurial communications business. He used our sessions to develop new strategies, challenge his assumptions, re-assess engrained values and beliefs to produce positive change and transformative results.
I also support athletes to develop their mindset as on race day it’s the “Mind Over Matter” attitude that can make or break your goal. The specific areas might include establishing workable routines, developing resilience, planning race strategies that all combine to improve performance.
7. Tell us about your work as an expedition leader and where in the world that role has taken you?
The expedition leader role provides the perfect platform to share the magic of the Great Outdoors, travel and facilitate personal insights for my clients. Over the last ten years I’ve been fortunate to accompany clients in their travels to Nepal, Morocco, Vietnam, Malaysia, France, America, Vietnam, Australia… the list will undoubtedly continue to grow in the future.
Expeditions don’t always have to involve travelling to a far-flung exotic location as exciting discoveries can be made on our doorsteps. Stepping beyond the confines of our normal daily routine fosters transformational change with long-term sustainable results. Some of the deepest changes I’ve observed in clients has involved walking and talking in their local area.
8. What exciting projects or challenges do you have set for the rest of the year and beyond?
2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year…you simply never know what’s around the next corner. Just as a flavour over the next few months:
Performance coaching wise I’m working in partnership with a couple of companies who place their people at the centre of their business. Performance coaching is currently being integrated into their talent management programme and presents the opportunity to support high performing individuals optimise their abilities, knowledge and expertise. I’m looking forward to watching these programmes unfold and the opportunities that will subsequently arise.
The Great Outdoors continues to form a solid basis with future netwalking events across the southwest after receiving phenomenal feedback. Clients have the perfect opportunity to reflect on their business, bounce ideas about with others, generate new strategies, develop new opportunities, build connections and draw inspiration from nature one step at a time with the added bonus of gentle exercise. It’s all about walking, talking and networking outdoors.
Reach for More. is delighted to partner with the Fresh Air Learning Company (http://freshairlearning.com) on longer outdoor adventures in the southwest and will also head north into Scotland during September 2016 for Highland Hack a four day coaching journey along the West Highland Way.
On the side I’m heading over to Morocco in July 2016 as a World Challenge expedition leader to support a student trekking expedition summit Mount Toubkal (4.167m).
I’m excited to develop our Reach for More. sports performance coaching aspect in association with Ben Psaila, certified IRONMAN coach.
Endurance sports wise I’m delighted to be supported by WAA (http://www.waa-ultra.com/fr/) the French ultra equipment company over the 2016 season. It’s an amazing opportunity to test out their super light-weight equipment and be part of a global team. I’m also an Ultra Trail World Tour elite sponsored athlete and look forward to competing in the Future Series event Cappadocia 100km Ultra in Turkey in October (https://cappadociaultratrail.com/2016/)
After six years living abroad as an international nomad in Abu Dhabi, Australia and Saudi Arabia I’m looking forward to exploring local races over the summer. So far Questars Cotswolds adventure race, Jura Fell Race, XNRG Round the Island, IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth are on the cards and I suspect a few more will creep into the calendar.
1. Everest Marathon start line at Gorak Shep (5,184m) December 2007 with my dad.
2. CCC (Courmayeur - Champex - Chamonix part of the UTMB ultra series) start line at Courmayeur August 2008 with my dad.
3. Working, living & training abroad = racing in amazing places. Stopping for a quick photo in front of the 3 sisters in the Blue Mountains whilst racing The North Face 100 in May 2013 (Awarded silver buckle).
4. The move from running into triathlon - IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas September 2013.
5. I loved being part of the Moore Performance Triathlon Squad whilst living in Sydney where improved my triathlon ability, skills and performance improved massively. Pre-race course recce with the MP crew for IRONMAN 70.3 Port Macquarie in October 2013.
6. Training in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in preparation for MDS 2015 with Ben Psaila, my husband who is the BIGGEST supporter of my endurance racing career.
7. Spot of WAA action during The ONER earlier this month. 82 miles along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset = brutal!! Placed 1st female, 2nd overall (literally 4 tagged 4 secs behind overall make winner & we’d ran for 110km together).