Tough Girl Challenges Cover PhotoLast summer, I came across a woman with an absolutely positive attitude who was interviewing inspiring women weekly on her podcast show, Tough Girl Challenges. I loved the idea and I  just I had to meet her! We Skyped shortly there after and Sarah Williams of Tough Girl Challenges was nothing short of amazing.

She’s an adventurer, a traveler, and a believer in living life to the fullest. She’s also an author of 2 books, a blogger, and a motivational speaker. I’m hooked on her podcast and always sharing it with both mine and the Explorer Chick community. In April, she’ll be taking on her own Tough Girl Challenge running the Marathon des Sables. I recently interviewed her to share with Explorer Chicks more about Sarah and how she is influencing and changing the world.

So, who is this Tough Girl, Sarah Williams?

Tough Girl Sarah Williams HeadshotShe’s from the UK where she found herself working in the banking industry after graduating from college. She was living the “Dream” making good money, earning regular promotions, and learning and growing within the industry. At first she was really enjoying her work, but after a while she found that all she was doing was working. Tired, stressed, and enslaved to her Blackberry, “It was not fun anymore and I was starting to lose my sparkle and passion for life.”

It was time to change her life.

Beyond the wearing fatigue, she hated the fact that women who were working for her were paid less than men in the same role. Even worse was the fact that she felt powerless to change any of this. Finally, after her boss laughed at her when she showed him an abusive and threatening email, she knew after eight years it was time to move on. It was time to change her life.

She took a year to travel and explore the world from South America to Australia experiencing a wide range of adventures. It was during her year of wandering that she came up with the idea of taking all of her passions and rolling it all into one company, Tough Girl Challenges.

Tough Girl Challenges was started with one mission in mind: to inspire and to talk to women about challenges and changes. Her motto sums it up: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

“After starting Tough Girl Challenges, I was very clear on my mission and what I wanted to achieve, but I wasn’t 100% clear on how to go about it. I started blogging, but wasn’t reaching enough people. I then started to give motivational talks, which was fantastic! I was going into local schools and sharing my experiences and talking to girls about challenges and change. I enjoyed what I was doing, but I wanted to inspire more women.”

“It was about that time when I started to come across these incredible women who’d done amazing physical challenges, but no one knew about them! I decided then and there, I had to share these stories.”

“As fate would have it, I was a member of an awesome master mind group and another member, Yann Illunga kept encouraging me to start a podcast as it would be a fantastic way to share my message.”

“As you’re listening to podcasts you can hear the passion in people’s voices as they talk about their experiences.”

“I wasn’t sure at first, and didn’t really get podcasts. However, I decided to start listening to a few and I got hooked. I loved the fact I could be out; running or walking, and I was learning on the go. I got to hear these incredible stories, and be inspired no matter what I was doing.”

“As you’re listening to podcasts you can hear the passion in people’s voices as they talk about their experiences. Blogs and the written word are very flat and it can be difficult to build a connection. With a podcast, you’ve got that person’s voice in your head and it makes the words come alive. I then knew the power of podcasting and it was the perfect way to get these women’s stories out there.”

OCT MULTI TOUGH GIRL PODSarah has changed her reality to one where she spends her time interviewing incredible women and then sharing their stories with the world.

“Over the past six months I’ve honestly interviewed extraordinary women. Women from all backgrounds and stages of life. From Ann Daniels who’d just gone through a divorce and had triplets before heading off to the Arctic! Sally Kettle who hadn’t spoken to her mum for ten years, before they rowed across the Atlantic together! Lisa Williams who lost her best friend to cancer and decided she was going to swim the English Channel in her memory.”

“Tori James, 5’1 and who ‘doesn’t look like a mountaineer’, went on to become the first Welsh women to climb Mount Everest. Arry Beresford-Webb who ‘doesn’t look like a runner’ but became the first person to run the perimeter of Wales.”

“I try to keep it varied, and have interviewed female powerlifters, racing car drivers, ultra endurance athletes, Olympians and mum’s who love fitness and challenges. The stories are inspirational and motivational, and anyone, male or female will enjoy them.”

What can possibly drive these women to meet these incredible goals? Sarah has found that the underlying common factor has been their desire and passion behind the goals set for themselves.

“Everyone is different, everyone is unique and everyone loves different things and this is what makes the world so fantastic. The greatest thing is, these women have found their passions, their calling and they know 100% what it is they want to do, and what they want to achieve.”

“They have a dream, a vision, a goal and a plan to make it happen.”

I know for me personally, each time I tune in for a show, I’m left changed. There is always at least one bit of information that has a resounding effect or her guests are women to whom I can relate. I always feel the need to lace up my trail shoes and run for hours on end! I asked Sarah what her biggest take away from has been from interviewing a long list of incredible women.

 “I’ve honestly learn’t so much from speaking to all these women.”

“Their drive, their passion, their motivation. I’ve been so privileged to be the one asking the questions and getting to really dig down into their reasons and understand why they do what they do and what they’ve learnt on the way.”

“So many aspects stand out; but for me, time and time again. I hear the same message said in a different way.”

“It’s about going after what you want.”

“It’s about you making the decision and deciding what you’re passionate about and really want to do.”

“It’s about ignoring the negative people, the naysayers and the armchair experts who tell you it can’t be done.”

“It’s about having faith and a belief in yourself.”

“It’s about never giving up.”

“It’s about making progress, every single day towards your goal and saying – I can, I can, I can.””

Tough Girl Training

Sarah’s Blinged up running pack!

How does the Tough Girl challenge herself? It’s only fitting that she’ll be running the “Toughest Footrace on the Earth.” She’s in Melbourne, Australia training for the Marathon des Sables (April 8-18). Of course, this isn’t just any Marathon. Nope. It’s a 6 day foot race across the Sahara Dessert in Morocco where you are forced to deal with the heat, ration water, and carry your own supplies. Oh, and the distance accumulates to 6 marathons in a row. Um, I think it stands up to the “Toughest.”

Impressed with the idea of undertaking this incredible physical and mental challenge, I needed to know how in the world she’s training for it. It’s been a two part plan that began back in August. Working with a trainer, they worked to build and increase muscle mass while burning fat. Her goal for the next 5 months was to become as strong and as lean as possible. As the holidays rolled around, she was at her strongest PR’ing deadlifts at 100kg while maintaining a lean body with her body fat down to 14%.

“I really wanted to enjoy my training and for me to do that, I needed sunshine and heat!”


Part two of the training plan, Endurance, was put into motion beginning in January. It is comprised of a 12 week running program with speed work, hill work, time on her feet, long slow runs, long walks, and rest days. “It’s very balanced, but intense. The important thing for me is to get to the start line in April; strong, fit, healthy, and not depleted in anyway.”

Tough Girl RunningPerhaps, the most important part of her training plan was relocating temporarily to Melbourne, Australia to live with family for the winter. “…I really hate the cold, the wind, and the rain. In the UK, I can never get warm even with multiple layers on. I just don’t enjoy it and winter’s just horrible!” The move was tactical and driven. Knowing her winter would be dedicated to regular 10 mile runs, long walks outdoors, and 8-9 hour days spent outside, she knew she had to relocate. “I really wanted to enjoy my training and for me to do that, I needed sunshine and heat!”

What’s the next big challenge for Sarah after the Marathon des Sables? “To be honest – I have no idea!” For now, all of her focus is on training for and finishing the MDS, but she has quite a bucket list that needs to checked off. Future endeavors include the 3 Peaks challenge in the UK in 24 hours, walking Hadrian’s wall, climbing Mount Elbrus (the highest mountain in Europe and one of the seven summits), and visiting the Lost City in Colombia.

On Impact:

The mission of Explorer Chick is simply: Impact. I asked her what challenge she has taken on that she felt impacted her the most.

“All of my challenges have impacted me. As every time I’ve done something which has been outside my comfort zone, I’ve grown as a person. I’ve learned more about me and what I can achieve. Each challenge has been a stepping stone, and has led me to doing new and exciting things and having more adventures.”

“Every person has the same 24 hrs a day, but what people do with time is vastly different.”


“Health and fitness in general has been the biggest impact. Being healthy and fit is so important, the healthier you are the more energy you have to live life. The more energy you have to do things. You can go out there and achieve.”

“If you’re waking up every morning tired and run down and struggling to do the simplest things without a coffee or a pick me up. That’s not a way to live.”

“If you wake up, every morning with passion, drive and excitment to start the day, you’re going to pack so much more into it.”

“Every person has the same 24 hrs a day, but what people do with time is vastly different. For some, getting up and getting dressed is too hard. Making it to the couch to watch TV is an achievement. Days go by, then it’s weeks and then it’s years and you’ve achieved nothing and it’s because you don’t have the energy or the vitality to live a full life.”

“Being healthy and having the time to focus on my fitness and overall well being is so important to me now and has had the biggest impact on my life.”

“I’ve been in a place where I had no energy, no drive, no ambition, and it’s a horrendous place to be even for a short time. But to live your life there, is a choice.”

“Getting up and getting outside and going for a walk or doing some form of physical activity every day is so important and will have the biggest impact on improving the quality of your life.”

How can you follow Sarah Williams and Tough Girl Challenges?

Sarah Williams’s big goal for the Tough Girl Podcast is to reach 100,000 downloads and to get a sponsor. Right now she releases one show a week on Tough Tuesday. With the help of a sponsor, she could do what she loves: Producing 2 shows per week bringing even the inspirational stories of even more women to listeners.

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