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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 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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