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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 September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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