GEAR,  Product Reviews

Achieve the Impossible, by Greg Whyte

Professor Greg Whyte has carved out a niche for himself in guiding celebrities to completing outstanding physical feats. These include an English Channel crossing and length of the Thames swim by David Walliams, Davina McCall’s Edinburgh to London ultra-endurance triathlon (which featured a swim across Windermere in 4-degree water in February) and Eddy Izzard’s 43 marathons in 51 days.

Greg is also a keen open water swimmer himself and a regular participant in the 2.1 km dawn Henley Classic where he was the fastest non-wetsuit swimmer in 2009.

He’s distilled the knowledge and experience gained from these challenges into Achieve the Impossible, which is best viewed as a handbook for preparing, planning and completing major goals. The book however starts with warning: success demands hard work. Greg then sets out in detail how to ensure that the hard work you do is directed purposefully towards achieving your goals in four main areas: body, mind, technical and environment.

After an obligatory chapter on SMART goals, Greg introduces the wheel of success tool. Completing a major challenge such as swimming the English Channel does not just depend on physical training but a range of other factors that need to be optimised. These include logistics (e.g. booking a boat, transport and accommodation), assembling a support team, diet, kit, psychological preparation, injury prevention and fundraising. For any challenge you need to identify what the ‘determinants of success’ are and grade yourself on each one – and then ensure you address all of them. 

A key component is developing ‘The Brain of Success’ – the heading for a chapter on belief, commitment and motivation. This includes practical advice on dealing with those inevitable dark moments when motivation collapses and the end goal really does look impossible to techniques for reducing the very common and disabling fear of failure. The book concludes with chapters on detailed planning and how the planning cycle works, team building and leadership.

While the content is sometimes a little dry it is enlivened throughout with case studies of challenges Greg has worked on, several of which involve open water swimming. He also shows how completing a significant challenge can also be a life-changing event. His example for this is Mel Redding from “This Morning”, who completed a Channel swim in 2007. Mel was able to change the way she (and others) viewed herself from ‘cancer sufferer’ to ‘Channel swimmer’, which gave a different more positive outlook on life and on what she could achieve.

Achieving the Impossible is not a feel-good, think-positive and everything-will-be-great piece of light reading but a no-nonsense practical toolkit for those serious about achieving their goals and prepared to put in the necessary effort.


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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.