Alex Gregory MBE is a double Olympic gold medallist rower, adventurer, author and father of three small children. Having competed at the highest sporting level for most of his life, he shares with SN how his career has now taken a very different course and the importance of making quality memories with your family that will last a lifetime.
Tell us a little bit about you and your career to date?
I was lucky enough to be engaged in British Olympic sport during an extraordinary era of success. The opportunity to represent the UK in rowing in three Olympic games, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 was a dream come true. Heading into the Olympic final in 2016 I knew it would be my last race. I’d already won Olympic Gold in 2012, and five World titles in numerous different crews. Whatever happened I’d be satisfied with the career I’d had and was keen to move into other areas of life. Fortunately, we crossed the line first and won Gold.
In the summer of 2017 I joined an Arctic rowing expedition. We navigated through fields of icebergs, witnessed whales and their calves feeding and spent weeks forging a route across some of the world’s most inhospitable and dangerous waters. It really was an unforgettable and humbling experience. At times I truly believed I wasn’t coming home but we all survived and came home much stronger for the experience.
Today I’m pursuing a career as a public speaker, telling the story of a sporty 17 year old who took an opportunity and I have also published my first book, ‘Dadventures’.
What made you write Dadventures?
While competing I would spend weeks away from my family, I even ended up missing two of my children’s births due to competitions and training abroad! I was becoming hyper aware about this ‘missing’ time and wanted to do something about it. To add to this, while rowing in the Arctic, I wrote my last text message to my family, believing I wasn’t going to make it safely back to land. It changed my perspective and purpose in life. The desire to write the book was strong and the subject matter to me was clear. ‘Dadventures’ is a personal account full of ideas on how to create outdoor lasting memories with your kids. I don’t remember a Tuesday afternoon coming home from school and watching TV, but I do remember the hole to Australia we dug one Thursday afternoon. I remember the walks in the woods, bike rides and treasure hunts. None of it was grand or particularly special, but those were my happy times. I believe we can all create some of those happy times together, all it requires is an intention and a small amount of time.
What are your best childhood memories?
Holidays spent outside at my grandparent’s farm in Devon. We lived in dens, waded through streams, made bridges, caught frogs and built tree houses. I have wonderful memories of my Grandfather who would always take a metal shovel to the beach so we could dig deeper holes and make better sandcastles. With all my heart I remember those beach days, being buried in the sand and crying with laughter…all because of my grandfather and the shovel. My parents and grandparents provided my brother and I with everything we could ever want by giving the greatest gift of all – their time.
What are your top tips for being ‘Dadventurous’?
Being a ‘Dadventurous’ dad or mum is really simple. All that’s involved is a small amount of effort and a good intention. That intention can change based on weather, mood, time, energy levels, but it’s important to first have an intention. And then, when there’s a moment to step outside with your young person, take it.
The book is divided into chapters based on time, from short after school adventures, to overnight expeditions. It could be a spur of the moment ‘Dadventure’, such as an after dinner walk with your child to spot as many signs of wildlife as you can. To a young child, in that moment this is the most exciting thing. The change in routine, the unexpected, the promise of time together. You’ll be looking down between the cracks in the pavement, counting the ants against the wall behind the bus stop and spotting the jackdaws in the chimney of your neighbour’s house. In this short time you’ll have encouraged your young person to notice things in their environment otherwise overlooked and have incredible conversations you might never have had.
What is your next ‘Dadventure’?
We have ‘Dadventures’ all the time. Every day we try to do something together outdoors such as build an insect trap or drink a cup of tea in a tree. I find the perception of effort involved in getting out the house is always so much greater than the reality and we’ve never come back and wished we hadn’t done it. The memory created even on the most rainy miserable day is well worth it.
Looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift? ‘Dadventures’ is published by Harper Collins.