Over the last 5 years, obstacle racing risen in the ranks of popularity and became a favoured past-time for many fitness enthusiasts. Many of these obstacle franchises establish their own chants, classifications, preparations, prizes, and community gatherings that leave many questioning the sanity of the participants and sparking the curiosity of others. After completing two races myself, Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, and seeing the different types of people crossing the finish line, I believe that anyone can compete in an obstacle race with the proper training. The rewards of finishing such a race are forever memorable as they leak into everyday life, changing the way you see yourself and the obstacles in front of you.
Here are 8 reasons why you should sign up for a local race and start training right away.
The beauty of obstacle racing is that anyone, no matter the age or body shape, can register and participate. In fact, these races encourage couch-potatoes to sign up as it will provide them with the necessary training motivation, a ‘due date’ to finalize their transformation, and an outdoor stage to put their training to the test.
However, one thing is certain – do not run the race if you have not prepared as it could do more damage to your body than any good. This means that if you are very sedentary, you must give yourself at least 6 months to train properly in order to decrease the risk of an injury and build endurance. Easing your way into running is crucial, hence the more time you give yourself, the better.
If you are active and you see the inside walls of a gym two or three times a week, then 2-4 months is enough time to get your body accustomed to long-distance running. Remember, this is not simply a race, it is an obstacle race, meaning pull-ups, wall climbing, monkey bars, and crawling through mud will be expected of you so do not keep your training limited. Performing exercises like HIIT, burpees, and uphill running will train your body properly, decreasing the chances of injury during race day.
Of course, before beginning any strenuous training, please consult your doctor first.
With all this expected training, one thing will definitely begin to change – your outlook on life, exercise, and health in general. Training does not mean running 10 km and then gorging on a greasy, fat induced burger. It means eating lean meats, fish, vegetables, drinking plenty of water, and watching calories.
As you slowly begin to make small changes in your lifestyle you will feel obligated to start living a healthier life, and heck, maybe your family will join in on the fun as well. Soon, going on daily runs will seem like a hobby and you will be on your way to a slimmer waist line and a healthier heart.
This won’t stop after you have run the race, you will become addicted to obstacle racing – you will be constantly chasing the rush you have felt when you crossed the finish line. Reversing back to your old habits will be difficult, especially once you have seen what your body can do.
You may have decided that you want to try something really new; you expect that your friends and family will be beside you on your difficult journey to get ready for the race. However, do not be surprised to find yourself sitting alone on the bleachers as no one else sees this as a ‘smart decision’. You will experience a mix of emotion that will blur your goals at first and will make you pity and question yourself, but then you will start to train even harder just to prove everyone wrong.
Your friends, even closest relatives, may not understand obstacle racing; in fact, they will most likely fear it. They will believe it is dangerous to your health, that it is childish, pointless, and simply too challenging for you. They will put negative images into your minds. These are the haters and it is best to stay away from them. They will only make it that much harder for you to train and to succeed. Though I understand the desire of having someone by your side as you step into the unknown, and I am sure you will find that one person that will hold your hand, however be prepared to see who your friends really are and who will support you when you need it most.
You may not like the outcome but it will be a reality check. Next time you are in a difficult time, you will know exactly who to call to give you words of encouragement and who to avoid. You have to believe that you can do this, after all, no one is going to run the race for you, you are the only one in your way and you can do it. The purpose of obstacle racing is to compete with yourself and finish the race rather than place top three.
The best way to find a support group is to recruit some friends and family to join you for the race. Create a team, name the team, and if you really want, show up in costume. This way, everyone keeps their training in check and you will always have a group of people pushing you out of bed to go for the morning run. Another way is to follow the social profiles of each race and interact with participants on these platforms. A little research online can help you find many racers that would love to share their training wisdom and tips with you.
It will be difficult, there will be sweat, dirt, and maybe even some tears. You will want to quit right at the beginning when you will start to feel your legs cramping up. You will look at the uneven terrain and think “what the heck am I doing?” At these moments, when you feel like throwing in the towel, if you remember that you are doing this for yourself and that there is no way out except to finish the race, you will find energy within to keep going. A ‘second breathe’.
At a point, all thinking ceases and you just keep running. The pain and cramps will slowly disappear and you will find yourself on autopilot. This shows that we can shut down the fear, voices, and pain in our minds at will. This control will leak into your everyday life. Everything else will seem easier in comparison and you will no longer feel fear when trying new things, but excitement.
And remember, no one expects you to finish the race with a broken arm so if you really are experiencing pain during the race, there are ambulances and health aid stations on stand-by.
Though I am not saying that finishing an obstacle race will make you better than your friends and family; this is a wrong assumption. It will, however, make you better than you were yesterday.
I remember when I finished Tough Mudder, my very first race, I fell to my knees and cried because all I heard from my family was that participating is a mistake and that I will injure myself. I was proud of myself, AM still proud that I was able to accomplish something that no one else thought that I was able to do, and even proved myself wrong. A very satisfying sense of accomplishment and confidence grew within me and carried on through the days.
I fought myself and my fear, and I won. You will too. You will begin to walk with your head held higher; nothing will stop you from accomplishing your goals. The best prize that you get is the confidence to try new things that scare you and to keeping pushing when times are tough, knowing that there is something wonderful waiting for you after the agony.
I was lucky enough to run the race with my significant other and I have no doubt in my mind that it made our relationship stronger. We had trained together, we motivated each other, and on judgement day, we were each other’s support system. We felt as if we went through battle together and we know exactly what the other is capable of.
When you are running the race, you have no choice but to rely on the person next to you, and they the same. This builds a stronger trust in the other and you get to share an important experience in your life with someone you love.
If your significant other does not wish to join you for the race but is by your side during the entire process, even cheering for you from the stands, it will change your relationship in a positive way. Even if the person you are running with is your best-friend, expect to feel a closure attachment and understanding than ever before. Plus you will have another crazy story to share with your friends and family.
What I loved seeing during the race was how random strangers would stop and help out each other. Everyone felt connected to each other because they understood exactly what the other was going through.
The franchises inspire team work in their chants and obstacles, encouraging participants to give a helping hand to their fellow man. Some say that common courtesy and human compassion is slowly evaporating from our moral framework, though I beg to differ. You see it during these races where people are put together to face a barrier that they cannot overcome without the assistance of the other.
It really feels wonderful to have a complete stranger shout words of encouragement at you while reaching out to help pull you over a barricade. You cannot help passing on these feelings to others not only during the race but in your everyday life. You truly feel the value of team work and see the results that it brings.
Our days are full of routine and it is important that we escape the chains of conformity once in a while to experience life and to feel alive. Though some may consider a vacation to the Caribbean a perfect example of an escape, however isn’t it about time to try some new and even crazy?
Obstacle racing calls for mental and physical training and control, not everyone can handle the preparation. Climbing ropes, jumping into ice-cold containers, crawling around in the mud while being electrocuted – it will be almost like childhood all over again!
There are so many things to expect and to experience during the race that you will definitely feel awkward, scared, and thrilled throughout the whole journey. It will be a memory you will never forget and might even walk away with some battle wounds and new friends. Suffocate the whimpering voice inside your head that says “I cannot do it” or “I am not good enough” and sign up now!
If you are burning with excitement after reading this blog, I suggest immediate registration for an obstacle race. We don’t want any second doubts to seep in, do we? Below are some of the most popular obstacle races that are held in North America, and in some other parts of the world. Crawling through barbed wire, getting electrocuted, being chased by zombies (yes, you read that correctly) are just some of the things to expect at some of these races. As a head’s up, be prepared to sign a death waiver for some of the longer obstacle terrains.
There is nothing to fear and only everything to gain. It will be a tough journey but every finisher will tell you the same thing – it will be worth it. It will be an experience like no other and you will thank yourself for the hard work and for pushing through the pain and anxiety. Register today for a local race and put on those running shoes! It is time to kick your own butt!
Featured photo credit: Steven Shepard via flickr.com
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