Les Mills International’s Keith Burnet, Shares Lessons Learned From 42 Days In A Rowboat
by Les Mills
Keith Burnet has been Les Mills’ Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Global Markets since 2015. He has an impressive background in the global fitness industry, having held senior roles with David Lloyd Leisure, Living Well Health and Leisure, Hilton Worldwide, and easyGym. Prior to his current role as COO, Keith was Chief Executive Officer of Les Mills UK.
What Keith completed is also referred to as “The world’s toughest row”. It starts in the Canary Islands and requires teams to row unaided for almost 5,000km across the Atlantic Ocean, to Antigua in the Caribbean.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Keith and his team of three other men, set sail on the 12th of December 2020 and arrived in Antigua some 42 days later. This challenge saw Keith spend 24/7 rowing two hours on and two hours off in a 7.5m rowboat, where for 42 days straight his life consisted solely of: eat, sleep, row, repeat.
In this podcast, Keith describes the experience of being 1,600km from the African coastline with no one around him, other than his three teammates. He says:
It was totally pitch black. Waves are three storeys high, and it feels like being inside a washing machine. The alarm goes off for fifth time in the last 24 hours. As you wake, you’re disorientated and it doesn’t feel like you’ve been asleep. You step into a black box. A wave hits the boat and knocks you over, so you’re lying soaking wet in the boat. All you can hear is laughter of the other boys. You trip over in the dark to change over with teammates. Your body is sore, and you just have to try and get comfy and get into your stroke. You can’t see the water though, and the waves hit from the side, the oars are above each other, and water comes over you. Out of nowhere you can get a slap across the face from a flying fish, which jumpstarts your heart. Welcome to the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite suffering from blisters and burnt eyeballs due to sun exposure, and having only an indoor rower on which to train in the lead up (i.e., Keith had to learn how to row the Atlantic while on the Atlantic), Keith describes the experience as the “most spectacular adventure of our lives – with life lessons”. Such lessons include:
- Turning “impossible” to “I’m possible”, to transform one’s limited point of view. Keith endured four back surgeries and a broken neck from his rugby days and says, if I can do it with no preparation, and injury history, then anyone can and anything is possible!
- To inspire others you need to first inspire yourself. “42 days sat in the armchair of planet earth” enabled Keith to enjoy sunsets to sunrises and watch days turn into nights and nights into days. He says, “You see it all happen in nature. Leadership is to inspire people to be at their best. But to inspire yourself first, you need to get off your arse and do stuff. Something that stretches you and gets you out of your comfort zone”.
- “Just row harder” – hard work beats talent every day of the week. Keith said the first two weeks were mentally and physically the toughest thing he’s ever done in his life. Adjusting to new ways such as the boat, food and routine.
To make the most out of life, Keith recommends we all:
- Take on a personal challenge (not matter how big or small) – do it outside in the world, somewhere you’ve never been before.
- Never be too busy for family and friends – mean it when you say you’ll catch up, and do it.
- Smile more! Our psychological wiring says a positive frame of mind helps us achieve more and feel happier.
Keith’s journey is a sensational example where enduring sacrifice and learning, transforms in tangible, personal growth. To check it out head to https://fitnessbusinesspodcast.com/379-get-inspired-to-do-whats-possible-with-keith-burnet/