13th April 2017
For many people, sport is a way to feel good about themselves, giving them fitness, confidence and a host of other benefits. For some, like Luke Tyburski, it has become a lifeline and given him a reason to keep going when he has been at his very lowest. The endurance athlete, extreme sportsman, motivational speaker, avid cook and personal trainer gives us an inspiring insight into why getting out of your comfort zone can sometimes be the best thing you ever do – and how it saved him.
It was signing up to the legendary 250km Marathon des Sables, having never run more than 10K, that changed Luke’s life as it was. Having had a promising football career in his native Australia, the USA and Belgium, constant injury and emotional exhaustion had got the better of him, to the point where he was no longer able to get out of bed and had completely lost his self-confidence and drive. Retiring from football was the only option, yet it left Luke with a huge void to fill and no direction in which to go.
Knowing he needed to do something, Luke signed up to the Marathon des Sables in Morocco for what would be the biggest challenge of his life. With only 6 months to prepare, and despite suffering injury, infection and dehydration once there, the race gave Luke a renewed purpose in life, and it was a perfect distraction from his depression and sense of isolation.
What surprised Luke even more than the physical demands of the race was the support he received from his fellow runners when he opened up to them about his story.
“My life simply transformed in the desert,” recalls Luke. “I was surrounded by like-minded people and we had our own community – all of us with the same purpose, all wanting to achieve the same thing and everyone encouraging each other. When I told them my reasons for taking on the Marathon des Sables they were amazed and inspired by my story, which I hadn’t expected. It made me realise not only that I should use my experience to inspire others, but that surrounding yourself with the right kind of people is so important.”
Wise words from a man who has progressed from running through the Moroccan desert to: cycling 18 hours in a day to learn how to surf the following day; running down Mount Everest in the world’s highest ultra marathon; barely surviving running through a Chinese forest without food, water or money; completing the Double Brutal Extreme Triathlon in North Wales in 35 hours non-stop; and setting himself his own gruelling challenge of The Ultimate Triathlon, a 2,000km swim, bike and run from Morocco to Monaco in 12 days, the film screening for which has been shown worldwide.
Luke has also come to deliver motivational talks in schools and businesses, using himself as an example to inspire on matters ranging from health and wellness to fitness, nutrition and coaching, and getting out of your comfort zone to achieve the best version of yourself.
“My aim is to inspire others to get a glimpse of their true potential and go for it,” explains Luke. “You need to get out of your comfort zone and live life! I’m not super human – I’m just pushing myself to find my limits, to do things that I thought couldn’t be done, and hoping I can encourage others to try new things too. They don’t need to do the crazy challenges I’ve done, but if they can do one thing that means they are living life every day – whether that’s going for a walk, trying a new food or getting one thing done on the to-do list – that’s moving forward.
“People see I do these big, extreme things,” he continues, “and they don’t understand that this is the same person who has suffers from depression. I don’t hide my mental illness, and it is by facing it head-on that I am able to deal with it. Social media, for example, is full of perfect photos of happy people. Life is not like that. We don’t see the bad times or the ordinary times, but of course they exist.
“What I’ve learnt is that it’s important to realise that it’s ok to make mistakes; failure can be a positive thing if you reflect on it and use it to learn and grow. Sometimes in order to achieve something you need to put yourself in a vulnerable state, you need to go out on a limb, and as long as you understand the ‘why’ – what your overall goal is – that will give you strength when things get tough, and help you stick with it.”
As for what’s next, Luke has a book coming out at the end of the year and a number of big challenges in the pipeline, one of which will be The Ultimate Treadmill Challenge, to raise money and awareness for a mental health charity – keep posted for more on all of his adventures.
Talking to Luke is a lesson in self-belief and offers an inspiring outlook on life. When I tell him it has made me want to get out there and do things he laughs and says, “Great! Job done.”
Follow Luke Tyburski on his blog.