Founder and Owner at Mindful Runner

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Fred Richardson is a seasoned entrepreneur with a diverse and rich background. His journey began in the realm of IT, where he was deeply involved in startups during the mid-90s and the early part of the 2000s. With a career spanning over 30 years in the IT sector, Fred has demonstrated a keen ability for innovation and a flair for pioneering new ventures.

His entrepreneurial spirit eventually led him to the world of running, where he founded Mindful Runner. Initially starting as a running shoe shop, the business evolved under Fred’s vision and leadership. Today, Mindful Runner stands as a unique coaching business, utilizing Fred’s homegrown ‘Narrative-based’ coaching methodology.

This approach, placing clients at the center of their own stories, reflects Fred’s innovative mindset, seamlessly blending his passion for running with his entrepreneurial acumen.


“In layman’s terms, Fred takes ordinary people like myself and exposes them to a running culture as well as running experiences far beyond your wildest dreams.  One such experience was the 3-Day Mahai Adventure Weekend where we started with a 50km Mount Aux Sources run on Day 1.  Click here for my account of how this adventure weekend culminated into a few very good business lessons.”

Christél Rosslee-Venter,
Expedition Business Podcast Host


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Episode Transcript

Welcome to another edition of Expedition Business where we talk to inspiring South African entrepreneurs about the highs and lows of their business journey and how on earth, they manage to keep the flame of business adventure burning. Of course, facing your day with a smile is sometimes the toughest thing you have to do. My name is Christél Rosslee-Venter, your host, and today I have invited Fred

Richardson, founder and head coach at Mindful Runner. And if you don’t know about Mindful Runner yet, all I can say is that you are missing out. But before I introduce Fred to you, I would like to remind you to subscribe, like, comment and share this podcast with as many of your friends and family as possible. Without your help, we can’t do this.

cannot continue to share the amazing stories of our South African entrepreneurs. But back to why we are here today. Fred Richardson is a seasoned entrepreneur with a diverse and rich background. His journey began in the IT field during the mid-90s and eventually led him to Mindful Runner initially starting as a running shoe shop, but changing into a

narrative-based coaching phenomenon. In layman’s terms, what Fred does is taking ordinary people like myself and getting them to run in places that they could only dream of running. Fred, welcome to Expedition Business.

Fred: Thank you, Christél. Thanks for having me.
Christél: I’m excited to be here. And we are so excited to have you on Expedition Business, so thank you very much.

Fred, just speaking of running adventures, I was going through my videos of doing the Mahai Adventure Camp in beginning of 2022 with of course the massive Mount-Aux-Sources 50 kilometer on Day One. What an amazing experience it was to me but something that I’m still curious about is how you managed to stay so relaxed with the three tunnels that you had to sweep all the way back to

do you do to stay so calm?

Fred: I actually enjoy the process of being there. I enjoy being out there and I recognize that for a lot of people, it is a first time. And it is challenging. And the reward for me is actually in seeing people get to the end of that journey. You know, that’s 50 kilometers. That’s to the top of the highest waterfall in the country. It’s not a trivial thing to do. And

It takes a lot of courage, it takes a lot of strength, and at the end a lot of frustrations, you know. And to see people at the end of that process, when they’ve like, they’ve achieved that, when they didn’t, we never thought it possible. That’s the big reward. So it’s actually not that hard to just stay sane and in the moment.
Christél: Well I think if you do it with you at your side, it’s not that hard. But essentially you are also

coaching high end athletes as well. What would be your main motivation for doing all of this?
Fred: Again, just seeing the end results we get, as you say, we’ve got runners who finished on the podium and then we’ve got runners who close out the back of the field. I think about just recently, the Ultra Trail Cape Town happened and one of the events, the 100 mile we had.

The guy who was in second place and then we had the person finishing second last, but all about people finished. And it’s that level of, and that’s where the satisfaction comes in is in seeing people challenge themselves in taking on things that are really difficult. And if you think of any ultra race, especially in the mountains and on trails, these are tough individuals. You know, it’s not a trivial thing to do. It takes a lot of commitment, a lot of training. And then.

to be a part of that journey to know, for instance, that this person gets up at four o’clock in the morning because they’ve got two businesses to run. They get up at four in the morning and they run every day and they stick to their program. And then when that person hits the podium and everyone goes, oh, where’d they come from? That’s amazing. They’re just so lucky that they can run like that. It’s not that. It’s put in a lot of effort and a lot of hard work. And I get to see that and then see the end result. And the end result is just really satisfying.

To see people challenge themselves and to see them become extraordinary. I mean, so many people don’t realize just how magical they are. And my job is in doing that. I get to show people just how magical they can be. It’s a wonderful thing to do every day.

Christél: But you started many, many years ago in infantry as a coach there. Yeah. How did that happen?

Fred: Well, there was national call-ups in South Africa, in the South African Defense Force. I ended up at an infantry school as an infantry instructor. And a lot of my early grounding and understanding of how to work with people came from there. It sounds kind of weird, you know, in the military, people don’t have much of a choice. They’re not there because they want to be there. They’re there because they have to be there. And that was, it’s actually more challenging in that environment to learn how to motivate people.

A lot of the early stuff that, and it stuck with me ever since, just how hard people can push themselves is, it comes out of that background and understanding of how to structure workouts, how to structure training in my early days, that all came directly out of the military. Since then, obviously there’s a lot of experience that’s been added to that, other courses, other education that’s changed what I do now, but certainly the early groundings are in there. And knowing…

that our boundaries are so much further than what we think in the ordinary everyday world we live in. We just never challenge ourselves properly physically, I don’t think. So much easier to just keep on sitting behind the TV. Absolutely. It’s what your brain is built for. You know, we’re a self-preservation machine. And if you can just sit and do nothing, the brain’s really happy. It takes some effort to keep on training, to keep on working.

Christél: Fred, you started your career in the IT industry. How did you make the transition into the whole running environment?
Fred: I think I was quite lucky in the sense that IT was something I really loved, and I loved it for a long time. You know, the sense of when you wake up in the morning and you have a smile on your face and you’re going to work and you can’t believe people are paying you money to do this.

That’s what I experienced for at least the first 20 years of IT. But after a while I became tiresome, you know, um, simply chasing after money for somebody else, chasing after somebody else’s goals and objectives. That kind of, it slowly wore out. I wasn’t no longer enjoying it. And I had had a personal epiphany of, I think it was just about to turn 40, heavily overweight, working too hard, working long hours, not seeing my family.

And I recognized I wanted more personal time. I wanted more time for myself. I wanted more time to watch my son grow up, to participate in the stuff he was doing. And I started, I realized that if I didn’t get healthy, I was going to end up with a heart attack in the next five or six years kind of thing. You know, I literally was, uh, about 35 kgs heavier than I am now. Um, living a seriously unhealthy lifestyle. And you know, you recognize it. You can’t walk up the stairs properly. It’s like, okay, something’s got to change.

And that’s when the fitness journey started for me personally. And within a year I’ve dropped 20 kilograms and not through anything. I hadn’t tried to diet hard or any of those things. I literally just started walking in the morning and then walking became running. And then, and I’m sure you, you know, this as well from your own running that your lifestyle tends to adjust and it doesn’t have to be sudden. You don’t make sudden changes. You just recognize that.

Okay, I can’t go out for a party on Friday night because I’m running on Saturday morning. So your Friday night becomes maybe one or two drinks with the boys and then off you go. Whereas a year previously, I’d been out there until two o’clock in the morning kind of thing, you know. So my lifestyle ended up changing and I realized that this is, it just struck me this is so easy. It’s like it is so easy to become healthy and live a long and healthy life. You just, someone’s just got to tell you.

And that’s when for me this journey of trying to get other people healthy started. And it took a while. It took some, some changes in my own life before I managed to buy a running shoe shop and started the shoe shop. Cause I kind of, I’d always been irritated. I got into a running store and I knew more than the person behind the counter.about

what the shoes were, and they’d be advising somebody on an issue about these shoes for those reasons. And I would listen to this and go, no, that’s nonsense. This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And I would get involved. I start pitching to the clients and telling them what do we. So it then got me, the idea was if I buy a running shoe shop, then at least I can give good advice to people and because that’s what’s missing, you know, that seemed to be what was missing in the running industry. And I wanted to get.

It needs to be more about natural movement. So I started down the road of saying, okay, well, we’re only going to stock natural running shoes, which is a kind of zero drop, maybe as much as four millimeters a drop. Anyway, it’s about trying to move well and move naturally. So those are the kinds of shoes I wanted to stock. Then this shoe happened to be in Emmarentia and there was a patch in which the dam wall, well the main road to my shop.

closed down for about 18 months. And that was an absolute killer killed all the traffic that normally came past it. And I had to turn to, I’d already been coaching in a small way, just coaching three or four people. And I turned more and more to coaching. And I recognized after a while that actually coaching is paying the rent on the shoe shop. The shoe selling shoes was not paying the rent, but the coaching was. And when that penny dropped, it was a case of, okay, fine. I don’t need the physical space anymore.

Let me drop the shoe shop, continue with the coaching. And that decision of making coaching a full-time business, that really, that’s when the coaching business turned around because suddenly, I wasn’t bound up by having to be in a store anymore. I could meet my runners wherever I didn’t have to arrange for people to run the shop for me on the weekends, I could go away on weekends. And that’s really when things turned around, when it became a case of, okay, it’s not a side business anymore. It’s now.

main focus. That’s kind of been the coaching really shown around for me and yeah I think that was the first step in getting the business going properly.

Christél: And at what stage did the mindfulness start being part of your coaching genre?
Fred: So for me mindfulness has always been, it’s always been there. Since high school Zen Buddhism has fascinated me and a big part of Zen Buddhism is this

You need to be present in your life all the time, whether you’re making tea, whether you’re going for a run. If you’re present, the experience is so much richer. The experience of being alive is so much richer when you are talking to somebody. Be listening to them because you wanna hear what they’re saying, not because you want to say the next thing. So this idea of present has always been central to who I am and I recognized with trail running especially, that it’s such a good way.

to practice mindfulness because trail running forces you into the present moment. You’ve got to be present or you’re going to trip. You’re going to fall. If you start daydreaming or you start thinking about, we’ve got a good expression in trail running, look up and die. Basically, when you’re running along a mountain trail and you look at the pretty waterfall, inevitably you’re going to trip. So and that’s so the mindfulness aspect has always been there for me. I practice martial arts as well. And, you know, when you’re doing cartas, when you’re doing drills,

you are training the body to move unconsciously, getting into that sense of flow. And flow really is just about your body is so experienced that you can move without conscious thought. It’s the subconscious knowledge that’s now coming through into your muscles. And when that’s happening, when you’re in proper flow, it’s an unbelievable experience. And trail running helps you get there very quickly. So that…

You know, you finish a trail run after, I mean, I’ll run a hundred mile and somebody will say to me, what are you thinking about? I don’t know. I honestly didn’t think about much at all. I was just being present with the experience. There weren’t lots of thoughts going through my head at the time. But you were smiling while you were running. Oh, always.Yes, absolutely. The smile hardly ever leaves my face when I’m running. And there’s a whole process behind the smile.

Yeah, yes there is initially, you know, it’s that thing of first you’ve got to practice something till it becomes a habit and then once it’s a habit it moves into that unconscious thing where you do it automatically anyway, where you don’t have to think about doing this thing, it just it comes through. I don’t know if you’ve watched Chariots of Fire, but this isn’t necessarily, there’s no

For me, there’s no religious connotation to this specifically, but I’ve forgotten the runner’s name, but he’s a Scotsman who wants to go and be a missionary in Africa, but when he’s explaining to somebody why he runs, I don’t remember his exact words. I’m paraphrasing, but he says, God gave me a gift in my running. And when I run, I feel his pleasure. And that’s, it’s that same feeling for me when

we’re not running, you know, it’s that sense of I’m doing what I’m born to do. And I think all of us actually are born to run. I mean, we all have that in a sense of I’m expressing my physicality. As one side of the running and the other side of running is when you are running with your community, it’s so it got, I think it just goes back to such a primal level when we’re out running as a group, you know, this is what we’ve been doing for thousands of years.

Long before civilization existed, people were running together. You know, you showed was by hunting, but I’m sure there was a lot of time when it was purely for pleasure.

Christél: Fred, while you were talking, I was thinking back to watching the live stream of UTCT a couple of weeks ago. One of the commentators mentioned the smile on Douglas, who was in second place of a hundred mile. That.

they could see his smile even from the back. And I was just thinking that sounds like coach Fred teaching everyone to smile while they run and eventually it becomes a habit. Yeah that man you cannot wipe the smile off his face I don’t think. I very seldom even in the middle of a hard 100 mile I have seen Doug not smiling. He just he loves to run. He really enjoys the process of being out

When you get to that point with your running, then it doesn’t matter what the result is. You know, the end result is irrelevant. It’s the joy that you find in the activity that really comes.

Christél: Absolutely. Fred, I was also going through, I don’t know if you’ve read some of my blogs, but I like to, whenever I’ve done a trail run to do a blog about it.

And I wrote one just after we did the Mahai Mount Assaults adventure camp with you guys back in January 2022. And something that I wrote was, and I’d like to just quickly read here, Coach Fred taught us that it’s okay to stop, but it has to be done with deliberate action. Stop, turn around to see how far you’ve come.

Take three deep breaths and then continue on your merry way. And that’s something that I keep on remembering when things are going really tough. Tend to just slog up in front of us. Yeah, what you’ve taught us makes so much sense. That sense of perspective, I mean, we lose it so often, I think. That you kind of, you don’t see the forest for the trees. As you say, you’re slogging through.

You’re having a hard time in your day, in your life, in your week. And you just sometimes, if you can just take that step back and look at what you’ve achieved, where you’ve come from in your business, in your life and kind of go, I’ve come a long way from the starting point to here, it’s actually pretty good because you can get sucked into your own misery so quickly.

Christél: Yes, that is very, very true. Very, very true. Fred, just quickly, when it comes to your business, what makes you feel on top of the world?
Fred: Watching my athletes achieve the results that they were looking for. You know, so like any business, I measure on our success rate. So we look at how many races that I run as a start and how many did they finish. That’s the first.

You will know this from every single runner that goes out there to race a race. First job is finish the event. Mostly because we work with a lot of ultra runners, people who are running long distances. Um, so just finishing is an achievement in itself. So that’s always the first thing. Like make sure you’re finishing. Um, and then podiums are the next thing that we care about, but finishing is, is like paramount to knowing that we’re doing it right. And so when I look back a year and I go, wow.

We had, I think in this year, we had probably something like 30 odd, hundred mile starters and 100 km starters in that kind of chopping group. And our success rate is about 98%. Now I guys do really fail when they do it’s because of that severe injury or they’re coming in with an illness, but we don’t have runners who are going on. ‘I wasn’t properly prepared for this’. And that, like that just puts me on such a high when I go back and look at that. So, yeah, just seeing that we, what we’re doing.

actually works in the real world.

Christél: So what would be your major challenges that you have faced in your Mindful Runners business so far?
Fred: I guess because I’m a sole prop really, although I have multiple coaches, I’m the one driving the day-to-day business. I think the biggest challenge for me is, and I think this is going to be true for almost any business out there, that is

owner driven is sales. You know, if you don’t come into this as a good sales person with your own business, you are gonna struggle. So learning how to sell is something I have to do on the fly. I can talk and I can talk about my business and I understand what I’m trying to do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve got a good sale. I’ve got a great product, but I need to get my great product to people who are prepared to pay for it. And that’s the whole.

Because my business revolves around me having enough numbers to keep the business sustainable. And I’m going to have runners come in and go out for various reasons. They get ill, they have babies, they decide they don’t want to do this anymore. Whatever. And, you know, in the early days I would lose sight of that. I’d have enough runners and I would be happily churning along and then Comrades would end, for instance, and I’d instantly lose five runners. And that would have a big impact on me. It’s like suddenly, it’s like five.

people’s income dropping out of the pool and then I panic and suddenly have to go okay more runners how many can get more runners in and I recognize now that the way to do that is to continue to just keep marketing just keep the churn going it’s not a great word but you understand what I mean it’s like yeah you’ve got to keep that daily thing happening I think maybe

Yeah, the biggest challenge was when we, when lockdown happened. That was, I can remember feeling really seriously depressed. There was a day in which I thought, I don’t know how we continue from here. Not because of the lockdown, but just because so many of my athletes have gone, well, we can’t train. So we’re just going to have to, we’re just going to have to part ways, you know? And like half my business has dropped, gone in the space of two months. And I’m sitting there going, well, how do I pay rent and how do I get by? That was.

That was probably the biggest challenge.

Christél: And how did you get through that?

Fred: As creatively as possible. We literally jumped onto every single online marketing course I could find, did a whole re-education thing like, okay, so how do I get new business in? How do I reposition the business? What can we do differently? How do we change up to meet the new demands? And weirdly enough, what actually happened was that online coaching became so much more accessible, because suddenly people were going…

Hold on. Online is a viable thing. You know, up until then, online coaching had been a rarity where not a lot of people were interested in it because it was like, it just didn’t fit the picture. And then suddenly with lockdown, a whole bunch of new opportunities opened up. So the first two months was super depressing. And then suddenly within four months, things just turned around and it was like, oh, wow, okay, there’s a lot of people out there now who accept online coaching as a real thing.

And suddenly the market opened up and we had a completely new set of people coming in. Um, and yeah, so yeah, short delay, like a really depressing patch. And just by trying to rethink and think outside of the box. And I think that’s, it’s probably, it’s fortunate when you’re a small business that you can, you can pivot so quickly. And I think that’s important, you know, to continue, like I know what I want to present and that’s coaching. I have.

So much coaching knowledge, I want to get out there. And I know that’s what I want to do within that framework. How it gets delivered can vary. I mean, AI is our new big challenge. You know, how is that going to impact the coaching business? Cause it is going to impact. It’s no question, but we need to be able to adapt to that. Not just the thing of, Oh damn, I’m just going to pretend I can’t see the AI coaches coming down the line because they’re here already. Um, and pretend it’s not going to happen. It’s, it’s a case of looking at it and going, okay.

That’s coming what I do to adapt to that. How do I make sure that I can continue doing what I wanna do, which is interfacing with people, helping them meet new challenges and overcome those challenges physically, because I mean, that’s the game we’re in.

Christél: Sorry, Fred, I just wanna quickly go back to the whole idea of AI coach. How on earth does that work?

Fred: I mean, you must have heard of OpenAI at this stage and ChatCity. Yeah. Well, I mean, so many of the, there’s a lot of new software platforms coming out that are now including AI coaches. And you can sit down and type in some English to an AI coach and go, I want to run UTCT in a time of 26 hours and I’m 40 years old and I’ve got this kind of experience and literally just

the way you would talk to another coach, an ordinary coach. And in fact, you could even do it by the voice. That can be transcribed and then the AI can pick that up. And then the coach would produce a program for you and go, there you go.The reality is that all that AI can do is regurgitate information it has. It might present that information in slightly different ways but it will not come up with.

anything original from a coaching point of view. If it comes up with the original stuff, it’s going to be guessing at best.

Christél: Sorry. And that coach can’t go out to the Drakensberg with you.
Fred: Well, that’s exactly it. And that’s the, you know, that’s the other aspect that we’re looking at now is, and this is why we talk about narrative-based coaching, because the AI coach can’t be a human.

and it can’t go to physical places and it can’t interact as a human. It doesn’t understand being human. So narrative-based coaching is putting people at the center of the story. So every individual is the hero of their own story. And that’s why I sit down once a year with my athletes and go, okay, guys, what are we doing? What are you doing next year? What’s your story? What are the things do you want to achieve? And it isn’t necessarily I want to finish Comrades or I want to run an actual Cape Town.

It is, I want to be a better runner, I want to be a faster runner, I want to have more fun out on the trails. Those are all battered things. And then, you know, the events are just kind of the milestones along the way that you tick off and go, I did that one, I did that one, it was fun, I saw that place. And the story becomes an adventure. Where’s the adventure going to take you next? Ultra Trail Cape Town was done. OK, what about going to Addo and going running there and seeing the elephants and running in the wilds there?

AI can’t bring that to the table, that sense of human interaction. And I think that’s where in the longer term, the coaching will move to, where we’re making the move early and incorporating all the AI stuff. I’m very happy to work with AI and use it for what it’s good for. But it’s never going to be at this stage. It’s not an expert coach. It is an expert assistant coach.

So I can say to the AI, for instance, so I would, as a coach, and this is probably the biggest difference, as a coach, I can say to the AI, give me a program for somebody who’s doing this and provide a bunch of parameters. And it’s gonna spit that out. And if it was my assistant, I’d look through it and go, yeah, okay, you’re gonna need to change this and change that and change that, because those aren’t right. Take that back, bring it back when you’ve redone it. And then off the AI assistant goes and it redos that stuff and it brings it back. And I look at that and go, okay, great, that’s what we’re gonna use.

Now, as an individual who isn’t a coach, you come into your running, maybe you’ve been running for two or three years and you think, I need some coaching, somebody use an AI coach. What that AI coach tells you, you take as gospel. And it can tell you from working with them, it’s dangerous at best, that you are potentially going to run into injuries, be doing the wrong things, because you don’t have the knowledge to know that what you’re looking at isn’t right and needs to be tweaked. And the AI models at the moment, the language models.

They’re designed to please you. They’re designed to give you the message you want to hear. So, you know, the classical example that is used is, um, you say to chat GPT, what is two plus two? And it will come out and say it’s four. Um, and you go, no, my wife says it’s five. And you then, it’ll come, you then say that, okay, what’s two plus two now after you’ve had that interaction.

And chat GPT will say, it’s fine because your wife says so. Um, so it’s not discerning with this information. It’s just looking to give you an answer that pleases you. Mm hmm. Okay. Yeah.

Christél: Fred, I assume on a day to day basis, you never feel like down in the dumps that you run all your stresses away. Or.

Do you ever get days where you just don’t feel like doing anything?

Fred: Yeah. No, I get those days. I mean, I have one of those days where I’ve had a little patch recently and I have a shoulder injury, which impacts with how much I can pick up and move. And I just turned 60 and I was like, Oh man, going downhill, my body’s breaking down and I had a little, little pitty party for about a month or so.

I’m back out of it. I know that I’ve got to keep on running and keep on moving because those things are important to me. And some days, some days it’s just a case of ticking the box. You know, I don’t feel motivated. And I mean, I say this to my athletes all the time because many of them go through the same kind of patches that motivation follows action. Just do it. Just do the thing. Your motivation will come and go. But if you just keep on ticking the box, if you maintain the discipline, then it doesn’t matter where the motivation comes and goes because your body doesn’t recognize it.

If you’re training as an athlete, your body doesn’t recognize whether you were running motivated or running unmotivated. It just recognizes that you placed stress on it and it’s going to respond to that stress. So as long as you can tick that box every day and go, I did that thing. And the same will work for any business. You know what things need to be done. So whether you’re feeling good or bad or indifferent, as long as you continue to tick those boxes and follow the process, the end goal is going to be achieved. And yeah. So.

That’s kind of what I remind myself when I do have those days because I have them. Not that often, but I do have them and they come in patches and it’s just like, just tick the box, just keep going and don’t be so hard on yourself. You know, we’re human, we should, we get down. Um, and, and I think that’s a super important aspect. Also the coaching is don’t be hard on yourself. Uh, so many people come to me for coaching on type A personalities, you know, where if they don’t.

meet the, I didn’t do my run yesterday, they feel terrible. If they don’t execute the run perfectly, they feel terrible. It’s like it’s some sort of judgment and it’s hard to get out of that self-criticizing mode. And part of our mission is to flip that over and say, show yourself love, love yourself, you know, enough to, if you were your best friend, what advice would you give yourself?

When you aren’t able to execute the run perfectly, what would your best friend say to you? It’s a different perspective. And yeah, I think it’s important that when we are trying to achieve that you recognize that you’re human and that you will fail and there will be problems. And rather than beat yourself up about them, because that’s not going to help at all. Just accept it and keep moving.

Christél: Very, very good advice. Just.

Quickly, apart from ticking the boxes, what would be your fun and exciting ways to regroup, refocus, and rejuvenate if you do get one of those down days? Yeah, so I’m fortunate in that the job that I’ve chosen and the business we’re in is the thing that I do for fun and excitement. So getting out into the mountains, running, hiking, climbing, you know, those things. Moving in nature.

That is probably, that’s one really important way for me to regroup completely. The other would be to go surfing, but those things are all paddling on a river, you know, whiteboard paddling. Those things are all movement focused and they’re all part of being in nature. And they all revolve around just getting back to being mindful because all of those activities, surfing, whiteboard paddling, running in the mountains, all of those things.

help you just to get your focus back. And if you’ve been on one of our mountain trips, you know that within two hours of being out there, all of the stress that you brought with you is gone. It just disappears, because you’re in such a different world and you’re in a space in which, that’s not survival mode, because I mean, we’re not trying to make survival camps, but where everything is much more immediate. In your normal day-to-day job,

And the normal world that you live in, stress has come from all sorts of angles. And they aren’t direct, it’s when you’re on a trail. If you’re on a trail, the stresses are direct. You know, they’re physical. You’ve got to go up this mountain, get to the other side. You’ve got to eat now. And they’re so simple. It’s like the life is just simplified.

Christél: But you are also a staunch believer in having the right diet. Yeah. How does that work?

Fred: So I’m also, yes I am.

But I’m also not a person of absolutes. So I recognize that people all eat differently, but I’m plant-based. So we avoid eating, or we certainly don’t eat any meats of any kind. And I don’t call myself vegan because I still have honey and I still occasionally eat eggs and I eat cheese. So I’m not vegan. I’m probably, if you were gonna classify vegetarian, but we like to call it plant-based because…

It’s just fuel. I’m fueling myself from plants. You know, as long as you’re eating in a healthy way and you’re eating whole foods, that’s good enough. If you look at the research that’s being done, probably a Mediterranean style diet is going to suit most people. But yeah, I’ve been plant-based for 15 years.

I run 100 milers, I run 100k races, we spend big time up in the mountains. I don’t suffer from lack of protein, I can’t change that much. I have all the protein from plants.

Christél: So it doesn’t look like you are lacking anything when you go up a mountain. Yeah. But Fred, if you could be 20 years old again and you could change anything, what would that be?

Fred: That’s such a tough question. You know, I suppose the glib answer is nothing because

I am where I am now because of my life experiences. But probably the advice I would give myself now would be, say what you want, be direct. I’ve spent a long time being quite a shy, sort of reticent kind of person. And I think it’s just so much easier in the world when you are direct with people.

when you are open and honest, then as my life is now, everything’s aligned. You know, I don’t have to make different faces for different people. I’m one person, and if I’m saying what I want, you know instant, well, the feedback’s instant. It’s kind of, I want this, and the person goes, no, okay, fine, I’m not offended by that. That’s fine. I now understand where I fit in the world, whereas if you don’t say that, if you don’t say, I want this.

and you kind of hint and skimp and it never happens and it’s your own fault. So I think that is probably, I wouldn’t change my life experiences, but I would be more direct in how I deal with the world and more open.

Christél: And at some point in your whole coaching career, you started getting extra coaches in. Did that make a big difference to your business as opposed to just being one coach?

Fred: Yeah, it’s made a difference to the business in two ways. I think one is in how I think about what I’m doing. So, you know, I’ve already had already started formalizing how I coach because, you know, I will tell somebody a long run should feel like this. And I’ll tell that same story again and again and again, not to three or four years. You kind of go, well, I’m repeating this. So let me just write it down.

or put it into a podcast or put it into an online video so that I can refer people to that because I keep on saying the same thing. So let me just encapsulate that. So I’ve already started to do that, but by bringing on other coaches now, it’s made me make that a lot more formal, bundling that up because there’s no point in bringing other coaches on so that they can just coach their own style.

Yes, they coach their own style to some degree. I want their personalities to come through, but they need to stay on message. We are a particular type of coach. We don’t just create programs and then let people go. We have this stuff that I want done and there’s stuff that I believe makes our business successful and makes it unique. And so those coaches coming in, I want them to understand that. Um, and I found, and, and this is true of, I think of other coaching businesses who have done the same thing.

that I’ve spoken with, the best coaches are those that you’ve coached because they already understand your ethos, they understand how you work, they understand the mindset of the coaching. So they work the best. Those who have not been coached by me don’t work so well and haven’t actually come in and gone out and moved on. So the change on bringing on new coaches has been, first of all, formalize the process more and then

And then start actually thinking about the business as a business, because up until then, I’ve really just been earning a living coaching. I hadn’t been thinking about it as I’ve got this coaching business, if you know what I mean. Yeah. Now that I’ve got other coaches on, it’s like, oh, hold on, we’re a business. We need to start thinking like that and behaving like that. And, and so that means, creating a standard message. It means having.

a public profile that is accessible for all the coaches and yeah, things that come along with it.

Christél: Quick question, how many new clients do you get at the beginning of January each year? Oh yeah, it’s the same kind of influx as the gyms. Yeah, you kind of you’ll get maybe five.

as much as 10 new people coming in in January and February and then fading so quickly. And it’s something I discourage now because, you know, it takes at least three months for anyone, for me or anyone in my coaches, to get accustomed to working with a client because they are their rhythms. And somebody will come in saying, so for instance, we do a chat beforehand and we go, okay, how many days a week can you run?

What can you commit to? And that’s important because that helps us then to decide how we’re going to set your program up. Now, a lot of people will come in and go, Oh, I’m running 60 Ks a week and I’m running seven days a week. And then when you look at their actual running data, which comes through in training peaks, one of the products we use, we see the information that’s on their watch, it’s like, actually this person’s running three times a week and they’re running 30 Ks a week occasionally. Like half of what they say.

So in that first three months, we’re adapting and we go, okay, so you want to run six days a week. That’s great. But let’s build you up to that and let’s work together to get the right goals. So it takes us about three months to get through that. Now, when you get the January influx, those people are, man, they’re just looking for a quick result. And we’re not, there are no quick results. There simply aren’t. You know, it’s all about hard work.

If you want to get decent results, you’ve got to put the work in. So yeah, they last maybe two months, three months, and then they’re out.

Christél: Interesting. Very, very interesting. Do you ever get time to read books on business, books for entrepreneurs? Is there anything that you can recommend to our entrepreneurs?

Fred: Yeah. I mean, so, yeah, I don’t, I never stopped reading. Um, and I never stopped trying to.

the knowledge I have. I tend to read a lot of training related books and a lot of scientific articles. Not that much on business anymore. I did read a heck of a lot some years ago and I think you know if anything for me probably and this is not a business book it’s just one of those life books it would be Jonathan Livingston Seagull. You know that book just epitomizes this idea that we have with the business and that is

You’re constantly striving for perfection in your running, in what you do. Um, you recognize that perfection is unattainable, but the pursuit of that perfection, that’s where the beauty of living, of, of being a runner lies. You know, it’s a constantly looking to up your game, but without, without it being urgent, it’s just a steady process of just keep on looking to lift the level.

steadily. That’s the message that I get out of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and I read that book multiple times, not just once. And it’s such a simple little book, you can read it an hour, hour and a half, but it has that kind of message in it for me. Okay, and you can possibly also get it on audiobook, so while you’re running you can listen to it. Yeah, absolutely. I’m sure you can. Do you ever do online books, audible books, when you run?

No, I do podcasts. I tend to read books and listen to podcasts and because I can read faster than you can narrate it to me. So I’d rather just read because I can get through the book quicker than waiting for you to finish narrating the story. You know, it’s one of the reasons I tend to listen to some podcasts, but I listen to them at double speed because I don’t want to sit and listen to people just talk and talk and talk for the sake of talking. I want to get to the message and let’s move on.

Christél: Fred, just quickly, what would be the metaphorical mountains that you still want to climb or run out with in the next three to five years for your business? So business-wise, I want to see us expanding into… we’ve got a handful of runners overseas. That’s the big step now, is to make that transition from being purely, well, primarily a South African client base to being an international

You know, we can be on price, we can be exceptionally competitive with American and European coaches. And we ask the service we offer is just as good, if not better than many of them. So that’s the big drive now is to move ourselves into building a much bigger international client base and in starting to take our local runners over to overseas races, to the big events overseas.

taking groups of South African ultra runners and going, well, let’s go and run UTMB, which is like the pinnacle of ultra trail running in the world. Yeah, let’s take a take a gang of people over there and go and race that and support them and be there. So yeah, that would be the two focuses is expand the business into a bigger international base and then start more wider travel with our local runners.

I do think we have enough races. I mean, we’ve been invited to, to organize a race, um, in, the Waterval Boven area, and we probably will do that, but it’s not, it’s aimed more at the, the 20 to 40 K kind of distance, which is, you know, which is considered the not serious end of trail running. Um, when it comes to the big stuff, the 50 mile races and the hundred mile races and the hundred kilometer races, I think we have enough on the calendar already.

I think we’ve got good quality stuff there. So yeah, so basically we, if we were to do an event, it would be looking to create almost as a feeder event, looking to help people up their game so that they could move into those bigger races and the bigger events on the South African Calendar.

Christél: But in the meantime, you are organizing all these amazing adventure weekends. Fred: Oh yeah, yeah, we love those weekends.

to see a change in people over the space of two days, it’s astounding. And it is so simple to do on the surface. It’s not like you have to stand there and preach and make up lectures and stuff. The mountains and the wilderness do it all. It’s just a case of, I’m gonna say, here’s point A, there’s point B, we’re gonna go from A to B. And on the way, you can have a life-changing experience.

It happens for everybody. It’s not a some people do some people don’t everybody comes away from That big day that we do the 50k day comes away from that going. Well, wow I see the world differently now. And I see it differently. I think that’s the most important thing You know, it’s like you’re you’re quite a badass after doing 50k as a mountain. You’re not ordinary Well, I can vouch for coming away as a whole new person from a weekend like that


Christél: Fred, just quickly your message to our entrepreneurs, not just on their business, but also those couch potatoes that stopped moving around many, many years ago, that’s completely overweight. Is there any hope for them? Oh yeah. And I think the simple message for me is start now. Don’t start on Monday.

Don’t start in the new year. Don’t start next week. Start now, like right now, get up off the couch and get going. If it’s, if you want to get training, then do it now. Don’t wait. Don’t make excuses. Don’t wait for the new shoes or when you get your gym contract or when you get your new watch start now, because you can make the mistakes along the way. And this is for the entrepreneurs as well. You know, start right now, make the mistakes, learn from them, correct those and keep on moving and just be ready to

pivot when you need to. It’s like, I learned this lesson, how does that impact me? Okay, cool, I’m gonna change what I do to suit that. But don’t, you can overwhelm yourself with fear. The fear of starting is probably the biggest thing. And this message is not unique. I think you’ll read from so many successful business people. It’s like, start where you are and do it now. Don’t wait.

Christél: And how much impact do you think being healthy and being fit can have on people’s businesses? Oh, I think it’s massive. I think, I think that that is absolutely, it’s like one of the biggest things to be able to do to get to your day after, let’s say your morning run or your morning workout cycle, swim, whatever it is, to get your day feeling

rejuvenated, refreshed, you’re strong, you’re healthy. You can get through so much more work. You can work more efficiently because your brain’s working better. There’s so much research that supports the fact that brain function improves with exercise. It’s not even a question. So you will be better at what you do simply because you exercise. And it doesn’t have to be extreme half an hour a day

is enough whether that’s walking, swimming, cycling, running, going to gym, spend half an hour a day being busy and physically active and you’re just you’re going to be healthier for it.

Christél: And then eventually join up for your adventure camps in the Drakensberg. Absolutely those are yeah just look out for them check out our website sign up for the adventure camps and get your life changed and get you back on track.