Annie Ross — How Adventure Had An Impact On My Life

This is the seventeenth in a whole series of interviews with all sorts of different people to show what effect adventure can have on your life. The aim is to show how even the smallest amount of adventure can impact your life no matter who you are or where you come from.

If you’d like to take part and have a good story with good pictures, please contact me via www.mattprior.co.uk

Next up is Ms Annie Ross! During 2015, Annie committed to completing 52 sporting challenges in 52 weeks, a project aimed at getting busy people active. The challenges were open for people to join her on and all organised around her full time job at Deutsche Bank.

Balancing work, exercise, social and family life is hard at the best of times, let alone when you’re working your way through activities that include a 5km swim, running around London’s circle line tube, climbing Everest by stairs, the Alpe d’Huez triathlon and four half marathons to name a few.

In the course of the year, she became a fitness columnist for the Evening Standard and started writing for the Huffington Post and Red Bull, while still working in corporate banking. More details for the completed challenges can be found at www.eXerK.com. They are all work friendly and include full details as to how you can get out and recreate them yourselves.

Please could you give us a quick run down on your life before adventure played a part:

I’ve always dabbled in adventure. I grew up in Hong Kong, the US and then the British countryside so my childhood was heavy on swimming, camping and cycling around trying to rescue animals.

I grew up thinking I was an adrenaline junkie in hiding. However, when I tried surfing, climbing and white water rafting in my late teens, I didn’t latch onto them like I thought I would. It turns out SUPing, cycling, running, swimming, bouldering, kayaking…and lots more outdoor activities are more my thing!

Adventure in my world falls under the general banner of being outdoors and active.

How and why did you get involved in all of this?

Having moved to London to work I found myself confined to a desk based way of life, like the grand majority of us are. A few years in, the frustration bubbled over and I found myself committing to 52 sporting challenges in 52 weeks — just for fun, to help me and others remember the joy and importance of being active. Alongside my full time job in the city, I called the project eXerK (a mish mash of exercise and work). Aimed at getting busy people active, I organised the challenge and logistics, invited people to join me on them, and obviously completed all 52 challenges myself!

Week in week out I was swimming, running relays, half marathons, cycling, duathlons, triathlons, bouldering, trying (and failing) backflips, flying trapeze, rollerblading, kayaking and hiking. It was an amazing year — over 450 people joined me on the challenges and exploring the fitness scene available to busy Londoners was a hugely rewarding process!

How has adventure impacted your life?

It has made a hugely positive impact on my life — in fact I’ve never heard anyone say it has been anything but positive. It’s not always easy and we often look back with rose-tinted glasses but it is proving to be an incredible platform from which to feed my curiosity and love of learning. Carving out more time for adventure has enabled me to expand my horizons, carve out a less linear path and test myself and my ability to stay nimble, in an ever changing world.


“It has made a hugely positive impact on my life — in fact I’ve never heard anyone say it has been anything but positive.”


“Carving out more time for adventure has enabled me to expand my horizons, carve out a less linear path and test myself and my ability to stay nimble, in an ever changing world.”

Since starting eXerK, I have met incredible people, made close friends and discovered the joy of creating something out of nothing and seeing other people enjoy it. I have learnt to be insanely organised, the importance of sleep and of saying no every now and again.

What benefits has adventure brought specifically?

From a standing start, I’ve been amazed at how much can be achieved with hard work, a focus on fun and some people to share the experience with. Building a website, dreaming up creative challenges, organising adventures, engaging in social media, starting a blog, and now writing for the Evening Standard Online, Huffington Post and Red Bull Adventure. Nothing was strategic — all was upside and it was just a case of having fun while making the most of every opportunity. All the opportunities would not have been created without adventure.


“From a standing start, I’ve been amazed at how much can be achieved with hard work, a focus on fun and some people to share the experience with.”


“It is proving to be an incredible platform from which to feed my curiosity and love of learning.”

Why would you suggest others should get involved?

Adventure, in whatever guise you take it on, is a chance to increase your self-awareness, to learn and to add value to those around you. The ability to make decisions, take responsibility and be creative under pressure are skills that are more quickly developed if you’re standing on your own two feet in the face of adventure. Adventure is not anti-career. Companies are starting to realise the benefits that those who have travelled and explored a bit can brings to their teams.


“The ability to make decisions, take responsibility and be creative under pressure are skills that are more quickly developed if you’re standing on your own two feet in the face of adventure.”

Do you think anyone could do what you do?

Of course. All I did was get over-excited about something I was passionate about. I let myself run with a crazy idea without over-thinking it. eXerK, more than just trying to get busy people active is about encouraging us to spend more time doing things you care about. Whether it’s family, your favourite charity, travel, trying every type of chilli, rickshaw races or turtles — anything and everything can be turned into an adventure. They say life itself is an adventure right?

If you’re tempted by the 52 sporting challenges in 52 weeks in particular, yes — you can do that too. With discipline, passion and determination, the 52in52 is anybody’s! As with most things, you’ve got to want to do it but as I’ve mentioned if adventure is your thing — you tailor it to suit your lifestyle and your ambitions. If you’re still in doubt, you could take on 12 sporting challenges, or 12 camp outs, or 12 trips to the sea in 12 months. It’s just a case of realising that if you don’t take control of your life, other things will. Make sure you carve out more time for the things you care about.


“All the opportunities would not have been created without adventure.”


“It’s just a case of realising that if you don’t take control of your life, other things will.”

What would you say are the main excuses for not doing this sort of stuff and how would you suggest people overcome them?

Adventure is often paired with an extreme life change. It doesn’t have to be. The eXerK 52in52 was a little bit extreme in the amount I took on, but it was wholeheartedly designed around real life, around an 8am to 7pm job, friends, family and work travel.

You can fit a lot into your free time. Less time on the sofa, in the pub or shopping. More time cycling to Box Hill, SUPing down the canal, seeing the day in with Project Awesome’s 6.30am workouts or jumping on a train to Wales for a mountaineering, kayaking or abseiling weekend course.

You can embrace adventure at any point on the spectrum from small to big:

  • watch the amazing adventure movies (like the Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour)
  • read blogs (of all the people Matt has interviewed in the past — Nice plug, thanks Annie)
  • go to an adventure talk in the evening (like eXerK on Facebook or follow @eXerKyourself on Twitter as I share the ones I know about) or
  • go on a microadventure at the weekend
  • gear your holiday up to explore somewhere a little bit different
  • take a sabbatical from work to travel for a few month
  • quit work to adventure for a bit longer
  • make a career out of adventure forever

There is no right and no wrong, only your path. Adventure is your experience and allows you to choose how you interact with the world. You’re not being evaluated. There is no promotion to work towards. Nobody to fire you. It’s just you and the wind.


“It’s just you and the wind.”


“Companies are starting to realise the benefits that those who have travelled and explored a bit can brings to their teams.”

What’s next for you?

Although the 52 in 52 is complete, my eXerK mission to get busy people active continues. At the moment that’s through writing, talks and some consultancy work helping charities and companies get active. This is still alongside my full time job in finance so for now it’s still projects rather than a career. I speak Spanish and Portuguese so I’m sure I’ll engineer a reason to spend more time in South America soon!

To get in touch with Annie or follow her exploits online: www.eXerK.com

“It’s just a case of realising that if you don’t take control of your life, other things will.”

Interested in your own adventure?

Click here to find out more:
www.mpadventureacademy.com

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Other Interviews:

Sean Conway
Sophie Radcliffe
Alastair Humphreys
Squash Falconer
Dave Cornthwaite
Anna McNuff
Chris Burkard
Lois Pryce
Chris Brisley
Matt Prior
Jimmy White
Ian Packham
Travis Crozier
Paul Everitt
Shirine Taylor
Charlie Frew
Ash Dykes
Emily Bell
Levison Wood
Roz Savage
Milo Zanecchia
Emily Penn