This week our inspiration during lockdown series is a little different where we hear from new recruit to the FINDRA team, Russell Stout.
Hi Russ, let's start by tell everybody where are you based and what you do!
Well, my name’s Russell Stout and I’m delighted to say that I joined FINDRA at the start of March to look after the E-commerce and Operational side of things. Lockdown had just begun prior to starting, but I’m pleased to say that we’re still up and running and it’s great to join the team behind such a great brand with some great products – even though I’ve been working from home in nearby Peebles since starting. Very strange times indeed, but it’s been fun getting up to speed with the business and getting to know the ropes.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
As long as I can remember really. I was brought up in a small Scottish Borders village and basically left to roam free as a kid in the woodland and hills nearby. This continued into my late teens with hill walking that turned into hill running and cycling and has continued to this day alongside a career in advertising, design and business.
I’ve always been competitive so took part in many running races in the UK and overseas and tended to enjoy longer distance and multi-day events, but as running has taken a back seat in the last 15 years I’ve been involved much more in cycling. This tends to be a mix of mountain biking, cyclocross and general road riding for training and commuting. I also enjoy multi-day touring / bikepacking trips when I get the time too. The Tweed Valley is such a great place to live and there’s always something of interest to be done right from the front door.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
Hmmm, that’s a tricky one as I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to do so much. One trip that had a big influence on me was taking a year out to travel across the Africa in the mid-nineties and the experiences, people and landscape have stayed with me a long time.
There’s also been some great days out in the Scottish mountains or in the Alps in summer and winter with a memorable ski-touring trip along the Haute Route one year. Events-wise the Marathon des Sables was pretty special back in 2001 as well as the West Highland Way Race a few years later where in both events you really get to test your resolve of mind and body.
More recently I there’s been some great long-distance cycling events such as the Transcontinental, Torino Nice Rally and in 2018 the first Silk Road Mountain Race in Kyrgyzstan. That was just amazing to spend a couple of weeks in a proper mountain wilderness with pretty much just your own wit and ability to see you through.
I’m definitely slowing down a bit these days and currently battling with a herniated disc this past year which has limited outdoor activity. The positive of this is that I can focus on a house refurbishment that’s taken a lot of time and means that lockdown’s not been such a trial to come to terms with.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
I think it depends really on where you are in life and what you want to focus on at that time, whilst trying to make the compromise between the activity, professional and social. I’m fortunate that I’m a morning person as well as a night owl so can make the shift fairly easily to fit things around the day. For example, If I need to do a 4-hour training ride, I can be on the bike at 6am and home for 10 with not much impact on the rest of the day.
Combined with the challenge of work responsibilities, this has often meant missing out on social rides or runs over the years, but I don’t think I’m alone with that and it certainly helps with resilience on longer events when training. Especially when you’ve already been out for a couple of hours in sub-zero temperatures in winter before the sun has come up and there’s not a soul around.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of adventure and the outdoors?
I’m not sure there is really as I’ve always loved the outdoors since being a small kid, but I’ve read all sorts of books by different adventurers and explorers and one person that sticks out particularly is Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer from the late 1800’s.
When my father died in 2001, I found a bunch of old books clearing out his possessions, one of which was an original copy of Nansen’s book Farthest North which tells of a mad-cap scheme to trap his ship the Fram in the slowly drifting polar ice cap in order to reach the north pole. It’s an amazing story and I’d thoroughly recommend reading if you can find a copy. It also has the most extraordinary ending, comparable I think to Shackleton’s Endurance expedition.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
I have a fairly positive outlook on life with good mental health, but fresh air exercise and nature is always good for the soul! There are so many people in the world that don’t have the physical or mental capacity to enjoy the outdoors (or trapped in situations they can’t escape from) so it’s worth taking a minute to appreciate the world around us, however insignificant and whatever that might be.
So how do you keep yourself entertained, what’s your favourite book, podcast and quote or music?
I don’t read a lot of novels, preferring more factual reading (mostly business and politics), but Any Human Heart by William Boyd I think would be my favourite and I must read it again at some point. Podcasts tend to be business and politics related too, but one I enjoy is The Important Thing by Michael Lopp (aka Rands) and Lyle Torxell. It’s a bit Silicone Valley and nerdy, but generally has a gentle, quirky take on business, people and life in general.
Musically I don’t have a chance to listen properly and keep up to speed with things (other than what I pic up with 6 Music in the background), but I do like a broad range of genres. Favourites change depending on mood, but today I’ll say Golden Brown by the Stranglers having heard that Dave Greenfield sadly passed away this week from Covid-19. I think it’s a great song to bring back youthful memories of bumming around Europe and I’m sure it would be on anyone’s all-time fav playlist.
When did you discover FINDRA and what’s your favourite piece?
I discovered FINDRA a couple of years after setting up Shand Cycles with Steven Shand and met Alex at a business event where she had the plan to start FINDRA. The product range sounded great and it’s been fun to see the business grow and see people enjoy wearing the brand when out and about.
Other than a merino neck warmer that’s great for winter cycling (or on the motorbike), I’m ashamed to say I’ve not had the opportunity to personally own anything more substantial yet. I do however have my eye on the Leithen Base Layer, Trail Shorts and the fabulously comfortable and funky looking Merino socks!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Just be yourself and stop fannying around!
Thanks Russ, great to chat and welcome on board.