Last February we interviewed endurance sports athlete Jenny Wordsworth who had just completed a gruelling 700 mile solo expedition to the South Pole. Here we share our interview with the corporate lawyer turned professional athlete on what motivates her.
You have taken part in some amazing challenges, what experiences led you to leave the world of corporate law to become an elite athlete?
I've been fortunate to have worked for some excellent firms as my career in corporate law progressed, they were always so supportive of my extra curricular activities of mountaineering, ultra running and skiing. I think it was also of great interest to our clients and they'd usually support my expeditions in the form of sponsorship. I started doing well in ultra running races (so races of 35miles and over), I took part in a 5 day race through the Dasht-e-Lut desert in Iran and after winning the race returned home to the offer of a pro contract. My boss tells me he knew it was coming, and within weeks I'd signed the contract and resigned from my role as in-house legal counsel. I do still work as a freelance lawyer, especially on projects I find interesting as I found I really missed it.
You encountered challenges whilst on your trip, how did you mentally stay strong to be able to push through the physical challenges?
Suffering from a painful open ulcer reperfusion injury on my leg known as 'Polar Thigh' with about 150 miles to go from the South Pole was one of the hardest thing I have ever done. Months later I am still not sure how I was able to keep that mental strength and push on through that level of pain. Until that point I had been on track to break the world speed record but after that leg injury simply reaching the Pole felt like the biggest achievement of my life. I did need two surgeries and a skin graft the week I returned to London, but I'll wear the scars with pride.
What really keeps me going in an expedition is my 'why' - why am I here at all and why am I even attempting to do this in the first place. If your 'why' is genuine and strong enough, you'll get through the tough times. That isn't to say it's easy and this expedition was one of the hardest things I've ever done.
What advice would you give to those wanting to elevate their fitness routine and to those who are even considering taking on an extreme challenge?
If you’re new to adventure it’s great to approach others with more experience and ask for help, just don’t forget that your unique background and experiences will bring something to the table that those experts won’t have thought of before. Don’t be so intimated by the experience of others that you forget or downplay your own ideas or approach. I mentor several women and it's the most enjoyable aspect of what I do - everyone is willing you on and only want to help you succeed, take advantage of that and get the help where you need it.
"What really keeps me going is my 'why' - If it's genuine and strong enough, you'll get through the tough times".
What keeps you going and entertained during your challenges? i.e any podcasts etc.
I mostly train without any form of external stimulus, especially for an expedition like the one in Antarctica. This was recommended to me by my coaches and it's also a great way to develop your mental strength. Imagine if your AirPods or iPhone stopped working halfway through your challenge, race or expedition? Then what? I don't like to become reliant on stimulus like that, just in case it isn't then available to me during the event itself. I probably do 80% of my training sessions with no music or podcasts, just focusing on the task at hand and entering into a form of flow state.
For the 44 day expedition in Antarctica though, I did save up podcasts featuring people I find inspirational and so the real treat was being able to listen to them whilst there. My friends also surprised me with a full length recording of The Odyssey by Homer! That kept me going for the whole trip as I'd listen to a small section each day.
What is next on your agenda? & how do you decide on your challenges?
I was due to be mountaineering in Nepal followed by a ten day mountain bike race through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, those were both cancelled of course due to COVID-19. In the future I hope to complete an ocean row, precisely because I know absolutely nothing about ocean rowing and that's exactly what draws me to it. I also have a fear of the sea after a friend passed away at sea when I was younger, I'd like to face that fear and love the sea again.
For me the physical challenge is because I love finding out what my body is capable of, then the mental challenge is always where it gets most interesting and, importantly for me, it's an opportunity to visit parts of the planet I'd never normally set foot on.
How do you take time for yourself and recuperate from training?
Sleep! Rest days and enough sleep are a life priority for me, although it took me years to really learn and respect that. The more I look after my body, the more I get out of it. I often get more than 9 hours sleep a night and I couldn't go without it.
What do you look for in your workout gear?
High quality and design. I live in workout gear, day in and day out. It needs to last and it needs to look good, Lucas Hugh has been my go-to for years now as the pieces are simply beautiful, the cut is like no other and I've been unable to destroy any of it which given my training is quite something. They are just the most beautiful pieces and I'm in love.
Any recommendations of places to work-out or that you love to refuel/ eat in London?
I still love a good Barry's Bootcamp class, I remember when they first opened in London there wasn't anything like them in town and I love popping by for a seriously hard workout. Otherwise I love any of the group classes at KX in Chelsea, they have a great restaurant there too.