Alexa Towersey has a lot of incredible achievements under her belt including being one of Sydney's top personal trainers through her gym; being nominated as one of Hong Kong's Most Results Driven Personal Trainer; achieving her certification as a Bio Signature Practitioner; being one of only a few selected trainers in the world to complete instructor training through the highly competitive Gym Jones in the USA; engaged as the official cast trainer for several Hollywood blockbuster productions and - the one we are most proud of - being a facilitator for the LIVIN Organisation.
But Alexa is about to add another incredible achievement on to that list, one of which is hard for most of us mere mortals to comprehend. In 2020 Alexa will be competing in the 'World's Toughest Horse Race', The Mongol Derby all in an effort to raise $100,000 for the LIVIN Organisation.
"The Mongol Derby is one of the longest and toughest endurance races in the world." Explains Alexa. "Based off the famous horse messenger system of Genghis Khan, the race spans thousands of kilometers across the Mongolian steep and being thrown off a semi-wild horse is only the start of the challenge."
The competitors of the Derby have to go through an extensive interview and assessment process to qualify for entry. The race itself has no support crew with unforgiving terrain, unpredictable climate and the constant threat of being attacked by wild dogs.
Why is Alexa putting herself through this extremely dangerous and extreme challenge to raise funds for LIVIN?
We caught up with her for chat in between her intense training and preparation and she gave us an insight to what is driving her forward to compete in the 2020 Mongol Derby.
How did you initially hear about LIVIN and how did you get involved in becoming a facilitator?
I’ve been an ambassador for LIVIN for over 4 years now. I initially met Sam Webb at a 24 hour treadmill run raising awareness and money for mental health and suicide prevention. He ended up living with me for 6 months when he first moved to Sydney. He told me what he did, and why he did what he did. I saw him speak in public and the raw passion he had for it.
The way people responded to his vulnerability. And I also saw him in private, at 2am in the morning packing up clothing orders and answering messages from troubled people. People he was scared would fall through the cracks. It’s hard not to be inspired to want to do more when you have someone like that around you.
I told him about my own journey with mental health, and how I would always knew that one day I wanted to be able to share my own experiences in the hop of helping others. And the rest is history.
Tell us a bit about your fundraising initiative for LIVIN and how you came up with the concept of participating in the Mongol Derby?
Before I moved to Sydney, I lived in Hong Kong. While I was there, my father passed away from alcoholism. I went to his funeral, and made the decision to quit drinking full stop. For lack of a better term, it was social suicide for me. It’s amazing how confrontational it can be when you make decisions about your own life, that make others feel like you are indirectly challenging their own lifestyle choices.
I took up Half Ironman to give me a new outlet, a new goal to focus on and more importantly an entirely new social circle who wanted to support what I was trying to do. While I was competing successfully, I was approached by a production company who wanted to make a TV show of me taking on some of the toughest races in the world. Research brought up The Mongol Derby.
Being a competitive horse rider for the majority of my adolescence put this race firmly in my wheelhouse. The show never went ahead, but the idea had been planted.
In 2018, I toured the West Coast of the US as an opening speaker for Kevin Hines, a passionate campaigner and advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. While I was there, I met Sebastian Terry – the author of 100 Things, and a motivational speaker in his own right.
He talks about the importance of having purpose and living a life that’s nothing less than extraordinary, and his bucket list of “100 Things” reflects this. He signed a book and gave it to me. I read it in 2 days. Number 57 on the list was “Cross a Desert”.
I emailed the organisers of The Mongol Derby, and applied to race. And here we are.
This fundraising initiative is extremely different from your usual occupation and routine, what attracted you to this incredible challenge?
The Mongol Derby is a 1000km race across the Mongolian steppe on semi wild horses. It’s based off the original messenger system developed by Gengis Khan. There is no support team. It’s just YOU vs YOU vs THE WILD.
I’m always attracted to different ways of testing my physicality, and I love to practice what I preach. One of my biggest training philosophies is that “The Mind is Primary”. I think most people can achieve most anything (within reason) if they truly believe that they can.
This race is well beyond my comfort zone. But in my own journey of self discovery, where one of my biggest fears is that of failure – of not living up to the expectations of both myself and others – this is the perfect arena to really test myself.
There’s nowhere to hide. And there’s no one to hide behind. I’ll need to back myself the whole way.
The fact that this was hard to get into (I had a lengthy interview process), and that very few people have completed it appeals to me. It’s like a secret society. If it was easy, everyone would do it – and what’s the fun in that? Let’s give people something to talk about!
Describe the type of training that is involved for the initiative both physically and mentally:
Both my body and my mind need to be as strong and resilient as possible, given I’ll be in a really unforgiving and unpredictable environment. To be honest, I don’t really know if you can ever truly be prepared for something like this. There are so many unknowns.
The most important thing for me is to go into it with an attitude that whatever comes up, I won’t quit. And whatever the outcome, I’ll be winning either way – I’m going to learn some valuable life lessons, I’m going to really find out what I’m truly capable of, and I’m getting to share an important and empowering message with everyone that joins in on my journey.
You’re riding 100km’s a day, so like any sport, it’s just putting the “sports specific” time in. I’m volunteering at a racing stable to get as comfortable and confident around horses as I possibly can (it’s been a while!), and then it’s just about spending as much time in the saddle as possible.
It’s funny, as soon as I told a few people what I was doing, I came in contact with others who had done it. Or attempted to do it. One of our gym members did it last year and he has been super helpful in putting me In contact with others who’ll be able to get me some riding time.
If you’re looking for me over summer, I’ll either be on a random farm somewhere in the outback, rounding up some wild brumbies in the bush, filling a last minute spot in an endurance race or galloping around a polo pitch.
Outside of that, it’s training as per normal with a bit of an extra focus on getting some good inner thigh and balance work in so I can grip the bucking broncos that I’ll no doubt be paired up with!
What are you most apprehensive about leading up to the event in 2020?
I’m actually more terrified of the wild dogs than anything else haha! I’ve seen a few write ups of competitors being chased and attacked by them, and I’ve been told to carry a knife. Bit of a confronting mental picture there!
I spoke to one of the girls who got airlifted out through injury last time, and who’s competing with me this time – and I asked her “what do you do if you fall off and get attacked?” Her answer – “don’t fall off”. Probably not a bad piece of advice!
If someone could remind me of that when I’m mounting a horse who’s never had a saddle on before, that would be great haha!
What made you choose to do this event as a fundraiser for LIVIN?
Mental health and suicide is a global epidemic. What better opportunity to spread the word around the world that #itaintweaktospeak.
One of the best things about LIVIN, and what some may not know, is that we don’t charge schools for visits.
The money raised will all go towards making sure that we can continue to make a difference – I want to have more conversations with more people that could save more lives.
What advice would you give someone who is struggling with their own mental health?
I think in today’s society, we’re inundated with so many messages of being happy and positive which is great, but we also have to remember that we’re human too. It’s ok to have a bad day, but we don’t want to have that bad day turn into a bad month that turns into a bad year that turns into a bad life.
Just like any physical injury or illness, early intervention is the best intervention. You do not need to have a mental illness to start a conversation about your mental health.
I have self care strategies in place, some of which were recommended to me by mates who noticed I was having a rough time. I encourage you to find the things in life that bring you joy, and do them as often as you can. Write about them – sometimes all you need to do to reframe your world in a more positive light is to remind yourself of all the things you are grateful for.
Surround yourself with people that make you feel good and know when you’re not yourself. And let them help you – you know first hand how amazing it feels to be able to help someone else. And next time you’re having a bad day, imagine that you are someone you love – what advice would you give them? Now take that advice on board.
Remember, you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.
To support Alexa and find out more about her Mongol Derby challenge, 'Help Me Ride for Your Life,' check out her GoFundMe page and show her some LIVIN love!
Alexa is one of our incredible facilitators, delivering our LIVINWell mental health educational program to high school students and work places around the country to help educate and break the stigma surrounding mental health. All funds raised through Alexa's incredible initiative will be going directly back into our LIVINWell Schools Program which will enable us to reach more schools, more students and help more young lives.