In 2020, Wendy Searle became the seventh woman to ski unsupported to the South Pole. Now she intends to become the fastest solo, unsupported woman to complete the 715 mile journey, returning in December 2022, just after she celebrates her 45th birthday. Although she says she’s always had an adventurous spirit, she never really knew that Antarctica would be the destination for some of those adventures. Now Wendy is setting out to prove that an ordinary Mum can do something extraordinary – and Maddison Coaching are delighted to be supporting her efforts.
“My approach to this record attempt is definitely incremental gains. I need to be ‘x’ percent faster or lighter,” Wendy said. “My last trip was all about physical preparation. I was only ever average at sport at school but through consistent training, I achieved it. The physical preparation is huge but within reach. For this next trip, I realised that I could perhaps make more little gains by focusing on my mental preparedness too. It was at that point, by happy coincidence, I was at an event where Vicky was speaking. She gave some really striking examples of her work, so I decided to approach her.”
“Vicky suggested we start working together with some coaching-style sessions. Partly they were about recognising and reframing my thoughts. For example, I struggle a lot with imposter syndrome, so I struggle to see myself as a polar guide – which is what my job is now! We spent the first few sessions talking about that, how to embody that; how other people see me but how I didn’t see myself. I was feeling more positive and confident already.
“After that, we’ve started working on the expedition prep’ itself. Vicky used some great visualisation techniques for things like how to reenergise and remotivate yourself if you’re having a hard day. You have to practice the techniques, just like anything else; it’s like exercising your brain. There are studies about how much visualisation can help connect your mind and body more closely so I know this will have a really positive benefit for my trip.
“We’re also working on de-stimulation. At the end of the day, your mind is fairly wired, thinking about how much you’re missing home, how far you still have to go etc, so it’s really important to be able to switch your mind off enough to get some proper rest for the next day. We’ve worked on a technique that genuinely works for me, that I can do easily, to relax myself and get a better night’s sleep.
“Vicky is very measured, she’s very calm and soothing; I totally trust her. I know that she’ll take everything I have said and be honest but totally confidential. Although we met in person initially, we do a lot online and I find it just as effective. We even did one session walking and talking; there is something quite intimate and conversational about that. Although all the sessions are about me, in a really warm way, Vicky gives a lot of herself too. I see Vicky for an hour or so every three or four weeks but I spend a lot of time thinking about our sessions in between; I have a lot of lightbulb moments which then provoke thoughts and ideas that we might talk about next time. For a first-time user of a service like this, it’s been a hugely positive experience.
“Vicky has already helped, even though I haven’t completed the trip yet, but I don’t think what we’re doing is unique to sports psychology or a physical journey, it’s about how you navigate life’s journey in general. In a work context, for example, it could be about ‘checking in’ with yourself. If you don’t have a mentor, having someone like Vicky can help you see the big picture. Facing challenges – any challenge – can quickly become a negative spiral, it’s easy to catastrophise situations, but I think we should all be working with someone like Vicky as a matter of course. It never feels unnatural, it’s always interesting and it’s about understanding yourself more so you can tackle any situation knowing yourself better.
“I have previously had a range of office-based jobs, mostly in PR and communications, working as a journalist and speechwriter. I think I’ve probably always had the drive but perhaps not the opportunity to take up challenges like this. And I’m big into the thinking behind challenges; putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens. It doesn’t matter if it’s Antarctica, Park Run or a job interview, whatever the challenge, it’s your opportunity to find out what you love, whatever that means for you. Particularly women of our age, now is the time to put yourself back in focus again; age is no barrier.”
You can watch Wendy talk more about her world record beating plans here.