Louise Minchin is a journalist, presenter, author and podcaster, who presented BBC’s flagship morning show, BBC Breakfast, for over 20 years.
Louise also has a passion for endurance sport. Having raced her first triathlon in 2013, she went on to compete in her Age Group at five World and European triathlon championships before completing a number of extreme events including some of the toughest long-distance triathlons in the world.
Louise talks frankly about how she re-discovered sport in her 40s, having regrettably stopped competitive swimming as a young girl, put off by the shape of her muscular arms.
We explore Louise’s activity as a vocal campaigner for menopausal women – talking openly about her own struggles on the BBC – along with her experiences as a contestant on shows like ‘I’m a Celebrity’ and ‘Masterchef’.
Louise’s has just published her second book ‘FEARLESS, Adventures with Extraordinary Women’ and it’s a joy to hear about the impact of the inspirational women featured. It was also fascinating to explore how taking on physical challenges can help women be bolder elsewhere in their lives.
Thank you to Sport England who support The Game Changers Podcast with a Nationl lottery grant.
Thank you to Sport England who support The Game Changers Podcast with a National Lottery award.
Find out more about The Game Changers podcast here: https://www.fearlesswomen.co.uk/thegamechangers
Hosted by Sue Anstiss
Produced by Sam Walker, What Goes On Media
A Fearless Women production
Sue Anstiss (00:16):
Hello and welcome to The Game Changers. I'm Sue Anstiss and this is the podcast where you'll hear from trailblazing women in sport who are literally knocking down the barriers and challenging the status quo for women and girls everywhere. What can we learn from their journeys as we explore some of the key issues around equality in sport and beyond? I'd like to start with a big thank you to our partners Sport England, who support the Game Changers through the National Lottery Award. My guest today is Louise Mentionin, a journalist, presenter, author, and podcaster who many of you may know from BBC Flagship. Oh, I fluffed that in my own sentence there, didn't I? Oh,
Louise Minchin (01:00):
Believe me, you do brilliantly <laugh>.
Sue Anstiss (01:03):
My guest today is Louise Minchin, a journalist, presenter, author and podcaster who many of you may know best from BBC flagships More. I, why can I not say that? Sorry. I'm so sorry. Just say
Louise Minchin (01:14):
Sue Anstiss (01:15):
Breakfast. Yes. Yes. Get
Louise Minchin (01:16):
Rid of the flagship
Sue Anstiss (01:17):
<laugh>. It's a very diff tricky sentence, isn't it? Okay. Yes. My guest today is Louise Lynching, a journalist, presenter, author and podcaster who many of you may know best from b BBC breakfast, which Louise presented for 20 years. What you may not know about her is her passion for endurance sport. Having raised her first triathlon in 2013, she went on to compete in her age group at Five World and European Triathlon Championships, as well as undertaking some extreme events, including some of the toughest long distance triathlons in the world. Her first book, dare to Try, charted Louise's Triathlon Journey and her second book, which has just been released, is called Fearless Adventures with Extraordinary Women. Louise currently presents two podcast series Push Your Peak for What Bike and Her Spirit, which encourages all women to take up exercise and transform their lives. Louise, you and I first met through the world of triathlon, so how did your triathlon journey start? What was the spark that began it all for you?
Louise Minchin (02:25):
The spark for me, and by the way, I think you were much faster than me, <laugh>. The spark for me was in 2012, I spent most of the summer like probably you did, and many of your listeners watching the, the Olympics and being aspired by them, London 2012 just had a huge impact on sport in this, in the uk, didn't it? And coming up to Christmas that year, the producer on BBC breakfast said to me, oh, I'm thinking of doing a Christmas challenge. Have you got any ideas? And they'd normally done cooking challenges. And I thought, we can be a bit more adventurous than that. I said, and I, I said, why don't you do something inspired by the Olympics? And what I love about ideas is they start small and sometimes they get really big <laugh>. This was not my, I didn't make it big, but she did.
She came back a few weeks later, she said, yep, what we're gonna do is you're gonna race in the Velodrome, um, against your fellow presenters in front of a crowd of 4,000 people. Oh wow. So just rewind a little bit. Exactly. Oh my gosh. I've never actually been to a velodrome, let alone sat on a bicycle and cycled it round a velodrome. I hadn't even sat on a bicycle with drop handlebars. So I was very, very inexperienced. I mean, just, it was way beyond the, the realms of my possibilities. Anyway, very briefly on that night, so it was all broadcast on the tele, and I was in a team with Charlie State and we were racing Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reed and Charlie did an amazing time. So all I had to do our times were gonna be added together, was pretty much stay on my bike cuz Susanna hated the whole thing.
<laugh>, she, she was terrified and I don't, I'm, I don't blame her. I was terrified at the beginning. And then Bill said to me, I overheard him saying, I can't be beaten by a girl and that your face says it all and the gasp says it all. There is nothing more likely to inspire me to get a move on than that kind of comment. I beat him by uh, I mean half a second, five hundredths of a second or something, something ridiculous. But the key thing about it wasn't really beating him, it was just going over that finishing line and with a bang. I was like, oh my gosh, I just remembered how much I used to love to race, love sport. Why have I not been doing it for 30 years? I gave up competitive sport when I was 15 and this is a key message, which I know you're really passionate about because I didn't like the way it made my l my body look.
And here I am, age 45 in the Velodrome and I'm like, that's it, right? I'm going back to sport. I'm gonna buy myself a bike. Remember my husband thought I was utterly bananas. I bought myself a racing bike, drop handle bars, you know, special padded shorts, shoes with cleats, new, new go, faster cycling helmets, you name it, all the kit. And he said, you're never gonna ride it. Well, I've ridden it round the world. That bike not that bike, obviously I don't just have one bike anymore because that's the trajectory, isn't it? And very shortly after that, like you say, in 2013, um, I did my first triathlon at that stage. A friend of mine asked me if I, she was doing it and if I wanted to do it, I didn't even know. I knew the sports, but I didn't even know the order of the sports <laugh>. I knew the brown leagues were really good at it. And that's all I knew. And I just thought, well, why give a go? And I loved it. Absolutely adored it.
Sue Anstiss (05:31):
I love that. I love that story and I love that, oh this is exactly, and I've read your books, I should know this. And we weren't doing things at the same time, but it is almost exactly the same time cuz mine was Christmas was waking up on New Year and saying, I wanna do it triathlon or whatever that year. So yeah, so 20 into 2013, that was the, the beginning of it for me too.
Louise Minchin (05:49):
Well that shows you, doesn't it, how inspiring sport can be and seeing sport on the tele and all the rest of it. And that's why it's so important, you know, that we do amplify stories because there'll be lots of people who'll just go, oh, hang on a second, why don't I give that a go? And that's really brilliant.
Sue Anstiss (06:05):
Yeah, that bit, that's a spark I say that gets you started. Yeah, I, and I had no idea. Again, I knew that you'd done the velodrome. I didn't think about it being in front of a crowd. <laugh>. Yes. As well as being life on television too. <laugh>,
Louise Minchin (06:17):
There were 4,000 people shouting. It was so intense. And fellows, I find them, I mean I think it's forever scared me about Velodromes because Bellas are quite intense anyway because the, the banks are so sharp and steep on and they're all the seats around it. But with 4,000 people, it felt like they were all on top of me. I mean obviously they weren't, but it was, yeah, it was amazing. And no
Sue Anstiss (06:37):
Brakes on those bikes.
Louise Minchin (06:38):
No brakes. And not one, not even wor worse than that. There are no brakes. Your feet are attached to the pedals and it's a fixed gear. So that means that if you, if you stop pedalling your feet still go round cuz they're attached to the pedals, attached to the wheels. Oh gosh. Yeah. So, uh, I'm still, it still makes me get sweaty palms thinky about it, but I just loved it. I just, you know, just reminded me, you know, when I was, um, 15 and a swimmer, I used to get so nervous. But there's something about that burst of adrenaline that is very powerful and kind of addictive for me.
Sue Anstiss (07:08):
And, and can you talk us through a bit of your age group journey in terms of how you know and how it felt the first time you pulled on that GB shirt with mentionin on it?
Louise Minchin (07:18):
Ah, so if anybody's done any triathlons and mostly when you turn up to a triathlon, you will see someone with G B R across their bottom. That's, it's not quite the bottom is it back. And I went to the first Athens and I'd see these people going, gosh, they're in a GB team. Oh my gosh, what's that? How did they do that? And I didn't realise, and lots of your listeners will know this, that you can compete in your age group and it's every five years and it's so 40 to 45, 45 to 50. And I was in the 45 to fifties like you were. And I just, I saw them and I thought, okay, how, let's find out how, how exactly they get those, you know, how they get to compete for the team. And the answer to that, the quick answer to that question is that you go to a qualifying triathlon and you have to get what's called as, you know, a qualifying time.
And then you can go to the world in European championships. And I, I think I went to, I, you said five and it may be five. I went maybe more than five. I went to, as far as I can remember, I mean I went to Chicago, I went to Spain, I went to uh, Australia, I mean, went all over the world and it was the most wonderful, empowering, crazy experience. My first one, you talk about how I felt, I felt very proud getting my GB tri suit. I really did. Um, but I completely messed up my first race. It was in Chicago. I was immensely experienced. Were you in there as you Yeah,
Sue Anstiss (08:39):
That was swear. First race issue. It was so hot That and the, and I, too much detail. There were holes in the road, the road was really bad in places as well, wasn't it?
Louise Minchin (08:47):
Oh, I just messed it up because it was so hot and I just didn't take enough, um, water or anything with me. And then that, that thing that you always say in triathlons, don't try anything race you've never tried before. Well I ran out of water halfway on the bike and you know, it was, it was a stat, it was suffocatingly hot, halfway on the bike, I ran outta water, got into transition, was so dehydrated. I then poured my water all over the, all over the ground. So had no water thought, oh, I'll go on the run and I'll get something there. And there wasn't anything, there weren't any aid stations for ages and then they were offering water and Gatorade and of course Gatorade. Do you want some Gatorade? And I was like, I don't know where that is, so I'm not gonna try it. And of course it was a wonderfully sugary electrolyte drink, which would made my life so much easier. So you were much better than me. I was just really inexperienced. <laugh>.
Sue Anstiss (09:33):
Well it's amazing, as you say though, it's amazing experience to be part of that and that whole setup of the qualifications and everything as well becomes part of your life, doesn't it really? Yeah. But, but taking you back to the swimmings, you mentioned about your having been a competitive swimmer. So what are your, your memories at that time and and then stopping and and giving that up.
Louise Minchin (09:52):
Uh, what do I remember from that time? I, looking back now, I mean I really wish I had hadn't given it up because it meant so much to me. I loved the racing, I loved the training. It was right in the middle of, I did O levels. You did, you do O levels, not even GCSEs. So right in the middle of sort of exam season, I was having a hard time at home and the one thing that was kind of getting me through was the swimming. But I just made this literally, it was a day-to-day decision. I looked in the mirror, saw these must musty shoulders, thought it made me look too masculine and gave it up. Cause I knew it was the swimming from one day to the next. And what an, what a terrible sad thing to do because, you know, I was, as I said, I was going through sort of difficult, you know, teenage years are difficult anyway, but dif particularly difficult time at that time. And that's when I gave up. And I wish I, somebody had just, you know, sat me down and go, Louise, look, nevermind about the shoulders. This is doing extraordinary things for you and you need to keep going.
Sue Anstiss (10:45):
And do you think attitudes are changing now? So you've got daughters. Do you think attitudes to body image and muscularity and so on are changing?
Louise Minchin (10:53):
I think that's a difficult one, isn't it? Because we talk about lots of people talk to me about how difficult it is for teenagers now and, and, and I accept and it is, believe me, of course it is with all that sort of Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, beautiful bodies coming at you from left, right and centre. But you know, look at what I did. So, you know, I was under similar pressure that many years ago. So has it changed? I mean, I hope it's changing and I hope, you know, all I'm trying to do with my daughters and we can talk, you know, and my, one of them as you know, has just done the London Marathon with me, which is amazing. Age 21. I'm just trying to make, do sport because they can see that it's a really makes a massive difference to my physical and mental health.
And it's part of ev it's part of my character, it's part of what I do and that's what I want it to be for them. I want it to be a solace and their happy place that they can go to when times are tough. And if we could get that message across that it's not, you know, I don't do this to look good, I do it to feel good. And also because it means that when I'm going around London, like I was this week with 15 books in the, an enormous bag, I can carry them <laugh> and run for train at the same time. <laugh>
Sue Anstiss (11:58):
Love bet you're so strong. As I finished my triathlon at Adventures, I moved into a bit of competitive mater swimming in the pool for a year or so. Yes. And then I, I eased down into open water swimming. But you were ramping things up at that time. <laugh>. So can you tell us a bit more about that move into those endurance events, the first, what were the first endurance events that you did? The
Louise Minchin (12:20):
First endurance? So I went from doing Olympic distance, uh, which is sort of quite a short triathlon, isn't it? People
Sue Anstiss (12:28):
It was endurance for me. That was my first Oh
Louise Minchin (12:30):
Was it? Ok.
Sue Anstiss (12:30):
Louise Minchin (12:31):
Ok, I went from doing Olympic distance. So let's give people an idea. Olympic distance, I can't remember. The swim is about 1500 metres. The bike is about 40 k and the run is 10 k. I went from that straight to doing Ironman distance, which is most people would, would go through the middle in between, wouldn't they? But, so that's a 3.8 kilometre swim, 180 K bike and a marathon. And also I went to go, not even, cuz Ironman is a branded, is a brand, isn't it? But I didn't even do Ironman, I went to from extreme triathlon. And that means that it's point to point. So you get in and the first one I do is pataga man in Chile. You jump off a ferry in the dark and then you go from that place, you do your swim, you do your incredible bike right through the mountains and then the marathon and you end up something like 220 kilometres away from where you start. So, I mean, that is a bit bonkers, isn't it? But the reason I did it was because I'd done, you know, I'd loved all that, um, the GB team stuff. But it get, you know, it gets, you know, it's very intense, isn't it? You know, that. And, and I sort of felt I'd sort of tick the box on that and I was coming up to 50 and I wanted to do something to celebrate my 50th and that seemed like a good idea. It's
Sue Anstiss (13:42):
Just bonkers when you say it like that. And you think, and when I did know you at the time and I remember you talking about it, I didn't, well I didn't realise it was from points point. I think I that I'd never clocked that. Right. And um, but that's just mad isn't it, to take that jump from, and also also
Louise Minchin (13:56):
The, the, the thing about the points point thing, um, and also about doing extreme trapping. So if you did, uh, you know, branded event of that distance and an Ironman, let's talk, let's talk about
Sue Anstiss (14:05):
Iron. Just an Ironman, just an iron. Yeah.
Louise Minchin (14:07):
But you'd probably do it. And they have apparently, I don't know cause I've never done one, you know, like aid stations, water stations, you know, food, blah blah
Sue Anstiss (14:15):
10 to you come into a tent to get changed, don't you? And yeah,
Louise Minchin (14:18):
Well then, I mean you we're changing new car park and they're like, nudity is allowed <laugh>.
Speaker 3 (14:24):
Cause you'd got on a freezing cold water.
Louise Minchin (14:27):
Anyway. So the thing about that is that, um, also it's without any, there's no support, official support. So my husband was being support and he had to literally be in about three different places, for example, on the bike ready with all the gear that I might need. And, uh, he was utterly brilliant. But you know, the, the worst thing was at the end of this, you know, he'd obviously got up at three in the morning, like I had, he'd driving all day and we ended up 200 kilometres away from where we were staying. The most dangerous thing we did that day was him driving us back in, because it took me very long time. Took me 16 and a half hours
Speaker 4 (15:04):
<laugh>, my God.
Sue Anstiss (15:06):
And what did you love the first ones that you did? Did you, um, obviously as arduous and all those things. Yeah. But did you get the bug for it then? From that first one?
Louise Minchin (15:14):
From, from the extreme one or from the first triathlon? From
Sue Anstiss (15:17):
Louise Minchin (15:18):
The extreme one. I think what I got from that is, and that's why I continue to do sort of really different things now, is what I find really empowering is my to own little legs or my own little arms when it's swimming can get me a very long way. And I love being outside and I love being on my own outside because they're vast spaces. I mean, I think I ran 10 K of the marathon. I mean, I didn't run it actually to honest walked a lot of it in the middle of nowhere with these galloping horses beside me in the, um, Chilean Patagonia. It was extraordinary. So I love being, I love feeling really small and in and insignificant <laugh> in vast spaces of our beautiful world. So for me it's really moved to much more being outdoors and sort of endurance outdoors and enjoying that actually.
Sue Anstiss (16:07):
Brilliant. And I'm gonna talk to you about that. I'm gonna just circle back a lit a little bit. I'm gonna talk about men, bit of a switch up, just talk about me go menopause, because I think we're talking about it more than we ever have before mm-hmm. <affirmative> general in public. And I know Davina McCoy rightly gets lots of praise for her campaigning, but I do remember you are being really open about it and talking about it on the bbc, which must have been around the time of your competing in triathlon mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I just wondered, you know, how that impacted your involvement in this ball at the time.
Louise Minchin (16:38):
Okay, so interesting. So yes, I was before Davina, thanks for pointing it out. <laugh>
Speaker 4 (16:44):
Louise Minchin (16:45):
We did a massive week on BBC breakfast, which is called Wake Up to Menopause. And it was, it was inspired by me because I'd been having a really hard time, um, during it. Lots of, you know, there's lots of different symptoms. But at my worst I had 26 different symptoms. It's really from tinnitus to, you know, achy limbs to hot sweats. Like I'd run a marathon in a, in a jungle in, you know, Malaysia a lot. And then just
Sue Anstiss (17:09):
Like, which knowing you, you might have done that as Yeah, exactly. So
Louise Minchin (17:11):
I know how that feels. <laugh>, um, to psychological things. Uh, terrible brain fog. So there was a lot going on. And actually triathlon and sport was very important to me during those times because those, when I was going out to do my swim or my bike or my run, those were the times where, where I felt my calmest, where I felt I wasn't, you know, the crazy, crazy busy thoughts that I was having. You know, I was having very intense thoughts and, you know, just the, it gave me solace, it gave me somewhere to be on my own and to have space. And it probably, you know, physically really helped me as well. I mean, I, I really couldn't, and I'm really honest about it. I'm on H R T now, so that massively helps. But I know the sport really guided me through those times and gave me a space where I could just take a bit of my, it sounds silly, take, take my foot off the accelerator because I had it on the accelerator in a different way, <laugh>.
Sue Anstiss (18:06):
And, and how did it feel to talk so publicly about it on television? Because that's it being about being fearless and being brave. Yeah, but that must have been quite something at the time. And again, I do feel now we are talking about it more, but, but we weren't,
Louise Minchin (18:19):
No, no. At the time we were not talking about it. Dine had not done her documentary and it felt very scary because at the time, and even now, you know it, well certainly at the time, the reason we did this was because it was so taboo to talk about it. And I just thought it, it was possibly career ending, choosing to do that, wasn't it? And it could have been, they could have just, you know, all those things that people think about women with menopause and how they can't cope or you know, terrible things that we're trying to change. And it felt like I was sort of jumping off a cliff, not really knowing, like jumping off the ferry but not knowing whether the orcas in Patagonia were gonna eat me <laugh>, which they didn't. And it turned out it was all right with the menopause too.
And you know, we had a massive response and I know we changed people's lives and you know, you work in pr, you know very well that the personal is always the most powerful and I knew that for it to work and work really well, it had to be me. And at the time I was, I wasn't on H R T and I look at the video that I did now and I feel very sorry for that Louise, because I was so vulnerable. But I, it was brilliant because I couldn't have expressed it now in the way that I did then. So it's just, you know, it's, it's a strange thing to have done, but I'm very glad I did it.
Sue Anstiss (19:33):
Yeah, good. You know, commend you now looking back on it now, and you obviously left the bbc, you haven't been on that sofa for 20 years, not in its entirety. Yeah. But 20 years. So we talk a lot in sport, don't me, about the challenge of elite athletes to find that new identity when they're no longer competing. So how have you found that now you are no longer the breakfast presenter?
Louise Minchin (19:55):
I think because I found it before I left. And I think that's probably, I mean, athletes, it's, it's different isn't it? Cuz they can't focus on something else at the same time probably. But you know, I think now what I'm a writer, I'm now, I've got my second book, I think I am a writer and I'm writing something else by the way. Can't tell you a secret, but I am still writing. So I feel that this is my, and somebody said to me the other day, it's like an encore career, you know, it's this my, hopefully, you know, now I'm onto my third, this is a career or something, what the makings of, so I, but I think I found my, what I wanted to do when I was there and it's so related to sport and it's so related to telling stories. So I'm still, so I feel very lucky that actually it's been a, an e much easier transition. And also I knew when I left, I had already planned to write the book, what we'll talk about in a minute. But so I, so you and that's given me a year and a half of doing that. So it was, I was okay with that transition. I really was. But it's all about planning ahead I think. And not, as I just said before, jumping off the cliff with nothing to land on because I think that's can be very difficult for people.
Sue Anstiss (21:02):
And you've got on wait, talking about writing and you know, the podcast and everything, but you got on to do some really extraordinary adventures in other ways too. So what was it like on I'm a celebrity, I'm a celebrity
Louise Minchin (21:13):
<laugh>? Well they uh, and I've said this before, I, they had asked me quite a few years before, like quite a few times and I had always said no because I was on BBC breakfast and I just couldn't really see how the two would would match and whether they'd let me do it and all the rest of it. And so when I came out, I think there was the first phone call was for somebody to ask me to share the women's prize for fiction. Second was from I'm a celebrity and I thought I was gonna say no. I went for a meeting with them, but I really wanted to, I've always wanted to do it, but I wasn't quite sure it was the right time. And you know, I think, you know, if you go on a programme like that, I had two teenage girls and you really, they, that was my biggest concern that I wasn't gonna really, really be terrible excruciatingly embarrassing mom.
Um, and, but anyway, I went on it and actually I'm so glad I did it, so glad I did it then because it was one of those things I always wanted to do my life. And sometimes I think you just got to get on and do them rather than, you know, cuz otherwise I would've spent the year going, oh gosh, am I, aren't I, you know, with lots of pressure. I just thought, right, let's just get this done in a good way. And it was amazing. So glad I did it. Um, would I do it again? Not in the castle probably. It was so cold in Wales, <laugh>, it was so cold and it's really hard, you know, you will know. Um, as I call myself an athlete, obviously I'm a slow athlete. That moving is part of my life. It's in my character, it's in my d n a and not to be able to do that was very difficult. It really was.
Sue Anstiss (22:43):
And you said about the whole, your daughter not wanting to embarrass your daughters, whatever, but you, you clearly didn't. How did, how do you think it changed people's perceptions of you? Because I feel I knew a little bit of you, but for me it was fantastic to that people got to see you and know you.
Louise Minchin (22:56):
Um, I hope, uh, I don't, I don't know. It's difficult to say really because I didn't watch it. I haven't watched it actually at all, but probably not, no, not even, no, none of it. Somebody gave me really good advice when I came out and they said, you know what happened in there? Don't let the what was shown on telly change what you think. Oh, interesting. Yeah. Which is nice. Um, I think, what did people see that I'm probably a pretty normal person that I'm, I'm, I didn't realise ki it sounds ridiculous, but I didn't realise how much I need to care for people and I became this like, you know, it's a bit of a cliche, isn't it? Became the mom and I'm, I don't really see myself. I mean I am a mom and that's my most important job in my life actually. But I don't see myself as, and I'm not being, don't want to be rude mumsy. I don't want to be rude because I just do so to mean to anybody else. But, but I just became this like mother hen and I literally had these five chickens or babies that I had to look after and it was <laugh> and actually it was really great cuz it gave me something to do <laugh> and I love them and they're still, you know, I'm still in contact with all of them. <laugh>.
Sue Anstiss (23:56):
Uh, that's brilliant. And the other thing I was gonna ask you about was that you're a master chef adventures and just what was that like to be cooking in the studio in front of cameras and
Louise Minchin (24:04):
People? I mean, I think I've got a, I think there's a sort of, there's a bit of a, I have something in my brain which, you know, makes me do stuff that other people would shy away from. I mean most people wouldn't talk about menopause in front of 6 million people. <laugh>. I think they probably, I mean that's probably sens, these are probably sensible people by the way. And my friends, when I told them I was gonna go on Master Chef, cuz I was not a cook at the time, I really, you know, if I've got carrots and hummus in the fridge, I'm fine if my husband's not here, it's baked beans if I'm pushing the boat out. So I really wasn't into cooking and they were just like, are you serious? And the brilliant thing about being, you know, that, that I do sort of have a strange flip, flip in my switch in my brain was that I don't know what can go wrong.
Okay. So I would do a souffle because I think it was, would be delicious cause I love souffle, but not know that actually you can make massive mistake with this souffle. And that's hugely empowering. So I, I really enjoyed it. They were amazing, you know, they were very, very kind to me I think because I just had that kind of like, can-do, let's give it a try attitude. And it changed my life forever. I mean I now really, you know, I really can cook and I get quite upset when people come around and cuz it was always my husband David, who was the cook and you know, it was kind of well known that he was the one who, you know, did the cooking, et cetera. So he would've cooked for lunch and people come around, oh David, it's so delicious. I'm like, actually, excuse me, I've just spent the whole day in the kitchen. It was actually me. So it was, uh, very, I felt very lucky to have done that. Very lucky.
Sue Anstiss (25:37):
That's brilliant, isn't it? And you mentioned, we mentioned your fabulous book, dare to Try and I'm so excited, um, that the new book Phyllis is out now. So can you tell us a little bit more a about it and what motivated you to, to write it or to it is the journey to write it, is it mistaken? I mean,
Louise Minchin (25:54):
When you read your intro about your podcast, this is basically written for your podcast, isn't it? It's called <laugh>, it's called Fearless Adventures with Extraordinary Women. And one of the things I'm really passionate about and why I'm so glad to be talking to you is that I think that women's stories need to be told. I don't think they're told in the same way as men's stories. And specifically for me, we've talked about endurance. That's my passion. I'm hugely, um, passionate about the tr what I would think is the transformative power of sport for everybody. And I'm also passionate that we should have heroes that look like us. So I sat there on that sofa and one day I've interviewed lots of amazing men who've run superhuman distances, who've climbed the highest mountains. And there was another interview about that sort of story and it was a man and I just thought, hang on a second, what's going on here?
Is it that women are not doing these things? You know the answer cuz you talk about it all the time. Or is it that they don't make the headlines? And I just thought, I've spent many years fighting lots of different battles, including an equal pay battle at the bbc. Also a battle to read the headlines first rather than my male co-presenter. And I thought I could spend years trying to change things or I could just go and do it myself and do it the way I love best, which is go find the women first of all, and then go and do what they love with them. Because I think you just, you know, if you stand beside people, you just get a whole different perspective. And it's, I mean, it started small and then it ended up with me cycling most of the way across Argentina, free diving Under Ice in the Dark with Kath Pendleton, who is an incredible ice swimmer. Um, Mimi Anderson, who I cycled with in Argentina with. I met some extraordinarily brilliant brave intrepid women. And this is really their stories put together in an, you know, it's like sort of adventures for, I mean, you know, I don't know. It's, it is all, it's an all it's a boys' own adventure except there are no boys <laugh>.
Sue Anstiss (27:56):
And I think what you said there, when I read it, I expected to hear you sharing the stories of these amazing women, but I didn't expect that you would be undertaking those challenges with them. And I, so I dunno, that did really, really surprise me and proper scary stuff as you said too. So the, I think the one that scared me most, the thought of is the, the wild way opens actually, doesn't it? The wild caving. Yes. So how was that? Good lord,
Louise Minchin (28:19):
I'm glad you say that because some people would be fine with that. So, so the lady I met is called Christine Grosser and she is a paramedic and also a cave diver slash explorer. So her idea of fun is to get in with, with her diving gear is to walk into a cave, dive through a small hole swim for 200 metres with her diving gear on in the dark. I mean the dark is, I can't even, cuz there is, there is no light there, there is nothing down there. Come up, you know, walk across, squeeze through something else, get with her diving gear, go utterly unbelievable. And she took me wild caving. It's called a wild because there are no, there's nothing down there in the, under the hills and the mendips and it, I'm, I'm claustrophobic and it was, oh, okay. So lots of people will find that a really difficult chapter and it's
Sue Anstiss (29:07):
Hard to read, you know, and there's a bit where its, but they, where they turn the lights and it makes me give where you turn your torches off, whatever mm-hmm. <affirmative> just the, and that made me, I mean it's really fantastic to read mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but it made me, I felt that anxiety and your description
Louise Minchin (29:22):
Of, yeah, it felt like you were in out, sort of out of space like in a black hole because black and there is no darkness that I know in the world that is dark, as dark as it can be, you know, two hours into a cave system. And she made us turn off our lights because the key thing is in ca in that type of caving is that if your lights, you do not move because you don't know that there isn't a 20 foot drop beside you. You literally have to wait it out. Um, so it was, I mean I get scared even thinking about it and I, I mean I've learned a lot like you have through sport and I've learned a lot about how to control, you know, when, when things are, when my heart rate's going up and my breathing and all the rest of it.
And I just had to go at the front of the three of us and just sit there and literally have a real talking to myself going, Louise, you need to calm down because the worse, the more panic you get, you know, it's just gonna spiral out of control. Um, so she was amazing, but they were amazing. They all, you know, they, there are lots of things in the book, which, you know, for example, I did this incredible swim at the Escape from Alcatraz, which for me it was really scary, but for me that's kind of fun. So, but other people will find that hugely challenging and that's what I loved about all these different women. They've all got, you know, breaking, you know, pushing through boundaries and breaking barriers in lots of different areas. And to be able to sort of walk alongside them and do it with them and, and see what they do and how they do it was just an amazing, um, journey actually.
Sue Anstiss (30:44):
And the, uh, because the other one that RIS gave me was the, um, ice free diving. Yeah, that's <laugh>. I know. And that's, and I like the cold, I like the, I do like the cold water swim, but I think it might be, for me again, I'm thinking, what was the thing? I think it's that claustrophobic going under the water. They're not the paddock of not being able to see the other end of, and again, oh my gosh, the description of it, your, the way you articulate it, it's just fantastic. It feels like I've been there doing them with it. <laugh>
Louise Minchin (31:09):
That was, so this was with Kath Pendleton, who I mentioned already who is a brilliant athlete. So she's swam the southern most, uh, mile. So in the Antarctic circle she swam and you love cold water, but you know, this was, I think it was just above freezing. She swam a mile, uh, which took her just over 30 minutes, you know, in a swimming costume. She loves the cold, I love swimming. And she said to me, why don't we go free diving? And I, I, I, I'm, as you know from this podcast, I'm like, oh, how hard can that be? Well, very hard as it turns out, <laugh> how to do a course to learn how to free dive. You do not do this at home or on your own because it's extremely dangerous cuz you are diving, going under the water with no oxygen. And then we decided that we would go do this in Finland under the ice.
And our first dive was in the dark. I mean it was, um, she does say it was a bit like going, having done, you know, a lesson in a dry ski slope and going down a black run. It was, I mean it blew my mind that, but yes, it was utterly, I mean, you know, it was one of those moments when you, you know, when when, if you'd been in an accident or something, you know, time has this kind of thing where it sort of stretches and slows, doesn't it? And I'm under the ice thinking and it's all fine for about two seconds, then I'm like, oh my gosh, I'm gonna die <laugh>. Yeah,
Sue Anstiss (32:20):
Yeah, yeah. You do write so beautifully. Cause I do, in each of the chapters I feel like I was in, I've been there, I've ex exhausted. I beautifully I experienced that with you.
Louise Minchin (32:28):
It's quite, I would say about the book. Hopefully it's really inspiring. Yeah. But I read the first four chapters and I, and I was exhausted and I've done it <laugh>.
Sue Anstiss (32:36):
Um, there was a section in the chapter with Belinda Kirk actually. Yes. Which really, really resonated with me. And she talked about how doing a challenge you can find intimidating, can really unlock your potential, especially for women because it shows that we can do so much more than we think we can. And I think for me, there's definitely something with my coldwater swimming, that sense of personal accomplishment that creates that positive feedback loop. And, and I, I hadn't really thought about it until I'd read your book, that that's why adventure sport can be so transformational that you step out of life, do something that makes you feel brave and fearless, then bring it back into your career or your relationship and so on.
Louise Minchin (33:14):
She's written a brilliant book. I'll just give her a heads up on everybody on that. It's called Adventure Revolution. And Belinda Kirk is, um, an explorer and expedition leader and we did a two day walk across Dartmore, which you think might be easy. No, because we did actually a three day walk in two days <laugh>. And, and in the middle of it I thought, I ge I genuinely thought we were in trouble cuz she got stuck in a bog with no, there was no mobile phone signal in No, in the middle of, I mean in the middle of beautiful dartmore. Anyway, long story short, she really believes, and I entirely am with her about the transformative power of adventure and particularly pushing at your boundaries and going beyond your boundaries. And what I loved about her is your boundaries could be anything for some, you know, it could be, it could be one mile walking, you know, all our boundaries are different, aren't they?
But if you push yourself beyond your boundaries, it gives you that confidence to think, oh, hang on a second. I actually did that. And it's not even, I don't think it's conscious because I know for example, every, you know, when I was sitting in there in the cave having nib, you know, getting towards what would probably be a panic attack, all that stuff is in my brain and it's in my d n a and it makes me much calmer in that situation. But I know for example, like when I'm nervous and I, you know, I do lots of different things. There is a particular moment in a triathlon actually, where I was swimming in Liverpool and sounds ridiculous, but I'd been in that, that rumble tumble washing machine at the start, somebody had knocked off my goggles. I was very, very panicky. And then I'd managed to settle into this pace and I looked down and I saw these beautiful, what I thought were fish floating.
In fact they were jellyfish. But I had this moment of calm, which if I'm ever in a very stressful situation, I just close my eyes and I think of that moment and it, it empowers me. I'm suddenly okay. So yeah. But she's really good on how pushing yourself, challenging yourself, doing things that you think are hard, can change you and be really empowering in other parts of your life. And for example, I ran a marathon with my daughter. This just, just ran the land marathon with her and, and she's 21 and you know, I know and you know that Merediths are a mental game, right? And she at, at 30 k, so two thirds of the way through really hit the wall sort of emotionally. And she got through it. And I know I said to her, when we are walking around Buckham Palace, we should have been running <laugh>. I said, you know, you've done a really tough thing. And that means when something else that's challenging your life comes along, you've got something in the bank, which is gonna help you get through it. And I think that's a really important message for everybody there that go out and do whatever it is camp overnight or something that you find challenging will help you in other ways that you probably can't even measure.
Sue Anstiss (36:02):
And and I think that's almost for me of, from the book, that was almost the most important resonating message to share. But how do you think those challenges have changed you? What have, have they given you the confidence to do and become an author and you know, the other things that you've taken on? Yeah,
Louise Minchin (36:17):
Um, yeah, definitely. So one of the things, for example, that I did was I've just been chair or I am chair of the women's prize for fiction. And again, I've very, Kate Moss, who is the, the writer behind it, has asked me for years. And I've always said no, because I always thought, gosh, it's such an onerous, responsible thing to do, you know, can I, you know, I feel like it's sort of imposter syndrome. And actually I thought, hang on, Louise, listen to all those things. Exactly. Your face <laugh>, I'd love, I wish everybody could have seen her face, by the way, <laugh>. Yeah, exactly. Louise, get over yourself. And so she asked me to be judged, I said yes. And then they, she asked me to be chair and I thought, well, if I'm going out and telling people that challenging yourself is a good thing, do it. So I've done it and it has been the most amazing, I'm looking at all my bookshelves here. I've read over 70 books. It's been an incredible empowering, brilliant thing to do. We've got a fabulous short list, which we've recently announced, and I have absolutely loved it. So I think if I hadn't done these things, I would never have said yes. I wouldn't have have done,
Sue Anstiss (37:20):
I wanna have a whole separate conversation with you about recommendations for my book list. So, we'll, I
Louise Minchin (37:25):
Would look at the short list and read all
Sue Anstiss (37:26):
Of them <laugh>. Brilliant. I love it. Um, you obviously achieved so much since you've left BBC Breakfast and I'm almost scared to ask, but what is next? Have you got other challenges in mind? Are there things you've, you've never achieved that you, you would like to go on to stay?
Louise Minchin (37:41):
Um, so what's next? That's a very good question. So obviously I, I'm really passionate about what I, it's been interesting having spent a year writing and researching that book. What's lovely is getting it into the hands of readers like you. So I'm gonna really put my effort behind it to try and make that for, I want these women's stories to be heard. So I'm gonna put effort into that and doing lots of fun things and publicity tour and everything. So that's, that's kind of for the next couple of months, few months. And then, um, I am writing and I'm writing something that I really can't tell you about, but I'm super excited about it. And I think, I think for me, if I can keep writing, that is where I find I'm, I'm kind of two parts of this. Uh, you know, we flip a coin and, and one, one, sometimes I'm really gregarious and I wanna, you know, I go out there and talk to lots of people and actually other times, and I so love what you've said about my writing, I get in the moment, I get inner space and I want to write something that's really, uh, visceral and reaches people.
And thank you for saying that because that I'm not, you know, I've never been, I've never, nobody's ever said that to me before. So I'm quite emotional actually. <laugh>,
Sue Anstiss (38:42):
Louise Minchin (38:43):
But if I could write good stuff, I would be really, really pleased.
Sue Anstiss (38:47):
That's brilliant. And, and, and physical adventures. So are there, is there anything, what have you not done, but is there anything left to climb, swim
Louise Minchin (38:54):
Trek? Oh, there's a, there's a run that somebody keeps, I can't even tell you because as soon, you know what it's like, as soon as you tell someone you're gonna have to do it, there's, there's a run. It's an ultra run that I want it, that God, I, I just said it didn't, I, I want to do <laugh>, I just said it. So I'm trying to say no at this point, but I know what the answer is, but I'm not gonna tell you because then I'm gonna have to really commit <laugh>. So there's a run and I'm not even a runner. Um, um, yeah, I don't know. I don't know. But I'm always, I, I think, you know, something will come along and I'm very susceptible to ideas and hopefully somebody will come and, and it'll just tickle in my brain and I'll go, alright, I'm in. So let's, if anybody's got any ideas, but I'm always open to listening.
Sue Anstiss (39:30):
And just finally, what would you say to any women in their forties and fifties Yeah. Who perhaps feel their sporty days are behind them or they haven't done stuff for years? What would, what would your thoughts be?
Louise Minchin (39:42):
Ah, what would my thoughts be would go? I just think it gives me so much in my life and I just look at the friends that I've made over the last year and the people I've met through triathlon, all the rest of it, I think try and find what it is that you love, because then it's not a chore. It might be like yours is cold water, swimming. I mean, I, yes, I'm out on that. I, I kind of like it, but not, not really <laugh>. Um, but find it is, you know, all these women that I've talked to, it is not just what, it's what, it's what they're passionate about. It's part of their d n a and they, you know, that's what they wanna do. So if you, it might be yoga, it might be, I don't know, it might be skating, it might be something, but just go and find something and keep trying until it is and it needs to be part of your life for me, you know, that's what I do.
I do sport and I do it pretty much every day in some form. And make it easy for yourself. Make it something that you enjoy. That's something you can and do with other people as well. Like, look, I just ran the marathon with my daughter, it's amazing. But yeah, just keep looking for the one little thing that is your spark and that challenge challenges you as well. Maybe that's, maybe that would be my advice. Something. And there's always that thing of, you know, like, that's why I'm not saying what run it is. <laugh> vocalise it, put it in your diary and guess what, I bet you end up doing it. <laugh>,
Sue Anstiss (41:07):
It was so lovely to chat to Louise. I really recommend reading Fearless if you have the chance. It certainly made me think a lot more about future challenges in my life. Head over to fearless women.co.uk to find previous episodes where I've spoken to other trailblazing women in sport. There are over 110 of them featured, including elite athletes, broadcasters, coaches, administrators, and CEOs. As well as listening to all the podcasts on the website. You can also find out more about the Women's Sport Collective, a free inclusive community for all women working in sport. You can sign up for the Fearless Women Newsletter, which highlights the developments in global women's sport. And there's more about my book Game on the Unstoppable rise of women's sport. Thanks again to Sport England for backing the Game Changers with a National Lottery Award and to Sam Walker at What Goes On Media, who does such a great job as our executive producer. Thank you also to my brilliant colleague at Fearless Women, Kate Hannon. The Game Changers is free to listen to and you can find it on all podcast platforms. Do follow us and make sure you don't miss out on Fu.
The Game Changers is free to listen to and you can find it on all podcast platforms. Do follow us or subscribe to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes. And if you could leave a rating or a review, that would be so much appreciated as it really does help us to reach new audiences. Do come and say hello on social media. Well, you'll find me on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram at Sue Anstiss. The Game Changers, fearless Women in Sport.