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7 Reasons why you should complete an obstacle course race this year

7 Reasons why you should complete an obstacle course race this year

Obstacle racing has been picking up steam as a sport lately and it’s undeniably added a certain edge to the world of ultra and running competitions. This could be attributed to the ‘back to the roots’ nature of obstacle racing, which gives office people a chance to ‘be a marine’ for a day. To experience what would be considered crazy or at least highly unconventional in their day-to-day routine.

There are thousands of races worldwide, happening almost every weekend. Some probably very near you. But why should you, or anyone else, consider signing up for such an adventure? How can it benefit and enhance your lifestyle?

The fact of the matter is, obstacle racing involves the kinds of limits you will at some point confront in your other pursuits, such as career development, social interactions, mental and physical integrity. More importantly, obstacle racing helps you develop mental frameworks to deal with these challenges and to prosper. All through heavy involvement of untold perseverance and the crushing of the self-set limits holding you back.

1. Acquire leadership skills

Obstacle racing can make you a better leader. Regardless of whether you prefer racing alone or in a team of like-minded individuals, you will have to employ some challenger personality type traits in order to overcome obstacles. Most importantly, the obstacles aren’t just physical barriers you have to climb over. Often they are mental thresholds, just like the ones you have encountered in other areas of your life.

Just like your team members wouldn’t listen to a bad leader or someone who doesn’t convey good leadership values, likewise your body won’t take you far unless you have mastered self-control and self-discipline, which build a strong foundation for leadership.

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2. Practice grit and perseverance

Although grit is widely used as a synonym for endurance, its definition is entirely up to you. What we do know about grit is that it’s a good way to measure how far you can push your body before it wants to give up. There’s an emphasis here on ‘wants’, because having grit is also how you can ensure your body doesn’t give up until it has to. Taking on the challenge of completing an obstacle race can help you learn not to give up too early, especially when your body is still able to go further.

Thomas Edison famously wrote that many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up – the same applies to obstacle races. During most races you might see yourself reaching the finish line, but chances are you will not know how far you have come and how much you still have left to go. The finish line is rarely in sight until you’ve passed the very last obstacle.

So you’ll have to fuel yourself mentally to persist and keep going – from personal experience, I can tell you that you will need plenty of grit in your pockets. However, once you’re done with the race, this reserve of grit doesn’t deplete and you can rely on this mental strength to help you persevere through life’s other unpleasant experiences: the boring work ‘grind’, frustrating social situations, and other overwhelming and stressful dead-ends.

3. Learn to overcome the mental obstacles

In the gritty and muddy trenches you will encounter the unexpected. Depending on the length of the race and the number of different obstacles, your stress responses will be triggered a number of times. Primarily your response to the monotony of the so-called ‘daily grind’, the main mental obstacle you will encounter in your life.

In the field however, failure is not an option and the only way to finish the race is to embrace the challenges and the chance of failure. Running mile after mile, crushing one obstacle after another, swimming out of the murky waters and jumping into the mud, carrying your tired body – you will want to stop numerous times for numerous reasons, questioning yourself ‘why am I doing this?’.

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This question might be something you ask yourself in your everyday life too. It is the same question. The only difference is that, in the field, you can actually train your response to this question by putting yourself in a different environment. While training for one of these races, and during the actual race, you will push your mental boundaries. Other things in life might become easier as well and you might stop coming up with so many excuses for not doing things or finishing them.

4. Soak up the sense of achievement

Everyone enjoys a confidence boost and the boost that follows a completed race can never measure up to your selfie becoming popular on Instagram.

At the finish line, you will be rewarded with a shiny medal, a shirt or sometimes even a beer (which after a truly demanding course will taste better than any other beer you’ve had). However all of these pale in comparison to the emotional experience. You’ll get the sense of being part of a bigger picture; bigger than your ego. You’ll be part of a newly-formed tribe of achievers.

5. Enjoy the camaraderie & teamwork

You might expect obstacle racing to be extremely competitive, because of the assumption that only lunatics would attempt it. I’m happy to tell you it’s the complete opposite: people who go through extreme hardships (both physical and mental) together will experience a strong sense of bonding and social networking. This sense is not too different from the experience of the primal hunters and explorers, working together like one tribe. And quite often, it’s people outside of just your team helping you with an especially challenging obstacle.

Every obstacle-racing tribe, whether it was assembled for the fun muddy races, challenges like the Tough Mudder, or for competitive mudstacles like Spartan Races – will become a unique and welcoming community you can always rely on.

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6. Get fit more easily

Setting fitness goals that are bigger than just ‘looking good’ or ‘dropping 20 pounds in 3 months’ can help you to supercede them. Committing to a performance-based adventurous activity (for which you also cannot get a refund) will corner you into doing more, exercising more and eating better. You have no other choice but to get stronger and faster with the race day on the horizon.

And, you can rely on your community to inspire and support you, giving you the motivation to do better. Countless people got in the best shape of their lives because of a simple commitment to a single obstacle race, which built up into a sequence of events leading to their improved life.

Forget the scale and mirrors. Obstacle racing will give a completely different perspective on getting fit – it’s hell of a lot more fun than dieting and becomes much easier with practice.

7. Rewire your lifestyle

As shown in the above examples, obstacle racing really has the potential to change how you view challenges in life. The painful office experiences will become less stressful, your social life will improve, your love life might get a face-lift too. Since you will be eating better and training like an adventurer you will also feel better, be healthier and display the vibrancy of a go-getter.

Most importantly, the way you approach goals will change completely – you will get a source of motivation to achieve more and the momentum to act on it.

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And all of this can be achieved simply by signing up for the next race near you – go ahead and take the leap! There is nothing to regret except for not giving this a try. Just one small commitment might start your journey into a new and very interesting lifestyle, where staying fit is no longer an issue you have to think about daily and where you can build your own set of extended family and truly appreciate friends. It’s a life where, even outside the trenches, you can commit and achieve more than you ever imagined.

Are you ready for this? Check for a race here.

Featured photo credit: Justin Connaher / JBER MUDFEST 2012 via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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