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Spencer Holmes


Managing Director and Training Consultant

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Confessions of a “Sole” Trainer


 On 17th April I will be running the Virgin London Marathon, barefoot.


In the last week I have commenced, in earnest, my training for this year’s Virgin London Marathon. This gives a person time to think, and some of that time is dedicated, inevitably, to thinking about work. Much like the run, this ramble could go on way beyond acceptable human limits, so I’ll cut to the chase.


3 Things training for a marathon has taught me about improving as a business trainer.

 I have set a clear and compelling goal. I have subconsciously stewed on this for the last 20 years or so. Now I am committed and have many people, not least the charity DebRA  expecting me to finish.

 I associate goal setting with stretching elastic. There is now a difference between where I am and where I expect to be and this has created in me a degree of dissonance or tension which has to be reduced, either by meeting the goal or by giving up on it. Option 2 is not an option and, having clarified that, my mind and body are accumulating creativity and energy by the bucket-load, by the day.

 Learning point 1


This focus on goals is something I frequently teach, including the danger of “nodding off” as the goals gets achieved. It is something I will be more conscious of as I set goals for my own training this year. What are my business-related marathons this year? What are yours? Is there any chance you may “wimp out” on any?


Secondly, the process has been revealing to me personally. I was injured during Christmas, whereupon I set about the carb-loading part of the training! My injury is partly because my default response to training, as with most challenges is to “get on with it”. No sports science advice, no training tips, no coach, no fancy kit or snacks, nothing. I mean, how hard can it be? One foot in front of the other for a flaming long time then stop.

 As luck would have it, my overly simplistic and individualistic approach (= injury) has now introduced me to some amazing professionals in the worlds of barefoot running and physiotherapy who I am certain will now get me to a much stronger starting point by April 17th than I ever would have done alone. Unfortunately, I had to find out the hard way.

 Learning point 2


You are not always (or even very often) best served in a 1-person team. There are great people out there you should be working with more – not natural territory for a sole trader but an epiphany for me, no question. I will act on that finding this year and make the most of existing and new networks.


 Thirdly, I am planning to run “barefoot”. This is partly to help raise a big load of cash but also because to me it makes more sense, literally, you feel much more!  So what?

I, and millions of others, have found that by stripping away lots of extraneous “technology” our running has got better. Long-term injuries have gone away and I am getting way more enjoyment from my sport. Even the new niggle has happened because I have found a “blind spot” that, in fact, I have been carrying around since birth! The running shoes had been a convenient cushion that literally stopped my spotting this fundamental flaw.


My running is more honest now, more authentic you could say. It has to be otherwise it hurts.


Many of you will have felt this happen “in the room”. When you hit those sweet spots of authenticity, the padding comes off, the blind spots exposed, the feet naked (so to speak). You and the attendees drop the defences and truly engage – that is what we’re in this for, isn’t it?


Learning point 3


Some people think I’m brave running with no shoes on, most think I’m just having a bit of a crisis. But, just as in the training room, bravery always pays. This year I will take a few more chances if I think it’ll unlock true mental movement in the room. I will work to remove more unnecessary padding.


So, out of all complexity comes simplicity. For all the billions chucked at running shoes in the past 30 years, millions of runners are returning to ancient tribal forms of perambulation, and improving vastly. For all the whiz-bang, content-rich, blended, multimedia, Microsoft mangled,  multiple-level scenarios we have to play with as business trainers, I think we still reach our personal bests when the method is simple, and the exchange is as honest as a bare foot stroking the ground.


Please prove I’m not having a crisis and support DebRA at:


And please feel free to laugh at my expense at:

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Spencer Holmes

Managing Director and Training Consultant

Read more from Spencer Holmes

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