Laura Kennington: How To Find The Confidence For Epic Challenges
Meet explorer, athlete and Keen footwear ambassador Laura Kennington – she’s cycled across continents, swum between islands and kayaked wild rivers in the name of adventure, and you’re likely to find her thoughts on getting out of your comfort zone pretty inspiring. As she is one of Ellis Brigham's ambassadors, we sat down for a cuppa with her to chat about finding the confidence required for those epic challenges.
What first drove you to become an adventure athlete?
I reached a point in my early twenties where I had everything I was meant to have: a good job, a steady income, nice clothes, etc. – and none of it was making me happy. In fact, I was desperately miserable and I had a nagging feeling that I was completely wasting my potential – and my life!
I wanted to find out what I was capable of and I wanted to spend my days doing something that I felt had value, so I set myself my first adventure challenge.
"Confidence is like a muscle -
it gets stronger the more you use it"
What advice would you give to someone who wants to try their first adventure challenge?
It’s really important to remember that absolutely everyone was a beginner at some point. Figure out where your knowledge gaps are, and how you can improve them. There are so many blogs packed full of helpful information, and where those fall short, there are experts and instructors you can reach out to directly. And remember that confidence is like a muscle, it gets stronger the more you use it.
Tell us about your new book, Kairos, and the ethos behind it.
Kairos is an Ancient Greek word that means “the opportune moment”, which I thought was the perfect fit for a life of adventure – people can waste years waiting for the ‘right time’ to begin a challenge, but I think that the right moment is the one you seize!
I wrote Kairos to share my story; my first tentative steps away from a conventional life and all the steps (and stumbles) that followed as I carved out a life full of purpose for myself. And ultimately, I wrote it to give people a reminder that humans are able to do extraordinary things.
How do you train before a challenge?
My first priority is always a strong base fitness and injury avoidance, so I plan in plenty of strength and conditioning work and yoga sessions. Then it’s just a case of getting plenty of miles in whenever possible.
What bit of kit do you always pack?
My trusty Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite camping mat (£159.99 from Ellis Brigham, ellis-brigham.com) has been with me for years and is still going strong. It’s super comfy, packs down small and is very lightweight.
How do you cope mentally with tough days on endurance challenges?
A big part of my mindset is making myself find things to appreciate – especially on the tough days. Every night I make myself a list of three things that I can feel grateful for – even if it’s something as basic as having a hot cup of tea after a day in the elements.
Which of your challenges was the toughest?
My Caspian Challenge (in which Laura attempted to kayak the entire length of the Volga River in Russia, a whopping 2,300 miles) holds this title – there were so many unexpected curve balls and it was my first big solo challenge.
Photo: Ben Arthur
Which was the most rewarding?
I’ll pick the Great North Ride (cycling 3,728 miles from Scotland to Norway) because it was my biggest challenge yet, and rolling into Bergen in Norway having triumphed against fatigue and self-doubt was magical.
What’s your favourite destination to explore in Britain?
I’d have to say the Lake District - it’s one big adventure playground! I love wild camping there, but the local camping barns are also fantastic. On my last visit, I stayed in a camping barn on Low Bridge End Farm (campingbarn.com), which was the perfect base for exploring.
What’s the next adventure you have planned?
I’m afraid this is top secret… for now!