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8 Ways Obstacle Racing Can Change Your Life

8 Ways Obstacle Racing Can Change Your Life

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.

1. Improves Your Health.

Obstacle Racing at Any Age

    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.

    2. Changes Your Lifestyle.

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    See You at the Finish Line

      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.

      3. Unmasks Your Friends.

      Create a team with your friends to support each other during the race

        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.

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        4. Teaches You to Push Through Pain & Fear.

        Jumping through fire is a common obstacle for Spartan Race

          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.

          5. Grows Your Confidence.

          With the proper training, anyone can finish the race.

            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.

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            6. Builds a Deeper Connection with Your Significant Other.

            Racing Brings Couples Together

              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.

              7. Builds Teamwork.

              Obstacle Racing Builds Teamwork

                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.

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                8. Takes You Out of Your Comfort Zone.

                Obstacle Racing Takes You Out of Your Comfort Zone

                  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!

                  Must-Try Obstacle Races

                  Tough Mudder Head Band

                    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.

                    Conclusion

                    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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                    Published on November 14, 2018

                    Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                    Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

                    With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

                    For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

                    In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

                    Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

                    Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

                    It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

                    For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

                    Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

                    Symptoms of Fatigue

                    Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

                    • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
                    • mental blocks
                    • lack of motivation
                    • headache
                    • dizziness
                    • muscle weakness
                    • slowed reflexes and responses
                    • impaired decision-making and judgement
                    • moodiness, such as irritability
                    • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
                    • reduced immune system function
                    • blurry vision
                    • short-term memory problems
                    • poor concentration
                    • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

                    Causes of Fatigue

                    The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

                    • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
                    • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
                    • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
                    • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

                    Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

                    Medical Causes of Fatigue

                    If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

                    Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

                    Anemia

                    Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

                    Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

                    There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

                    Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

                    Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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                    This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

                    Diabetes

                    Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

                    Sleep Apnea

                    Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

                    Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

                    Thyroid disease

                    An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

                    Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

                    • Lack of sleep
                    • Too much sleep 
                    • Alcohol and drugs 
                    • Sleep disturbances 
                    • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
                    • Poor diet 

                    Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

                    • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
                    • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
                    • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
                    • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

                    Psychological Causes of Fatigue

                    Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

                    • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
                    • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
                    • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

                    How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

                    Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

                    1. Tell The Truth

                    Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

                    To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

                    Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

                    The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

                    One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

                    • How you feel
                    • What time of day it is
                    • What may have contributed to your fatigue
                    • How your mind and body reacts

                    This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

                    2. Reduce Your Commitments

                    When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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                    If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

                    When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

                    Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

                    3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

                    If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

                    Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

                    If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

                    Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

                    Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

                    4. Express More Gratitude

                    Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

                    It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

                    Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

                    5. Focus On Yourself

                    Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

                    There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

                    But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

                    We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

                    6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

                    Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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                    Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

                    The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

                    Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

                    7. Take a Power Nap

                    When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

                    Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

                    This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

                    8. Take More Exercise

                    The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

                    Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

                    The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

                    You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

                    9. Get More Quality Sleep

                    To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

                    Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

                    My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

                    10. Improve Your Diet

                    Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

                    Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

                    On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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                    To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

                    Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

                    Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

                    11. Manage Your Stress Levels

                    Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

                    When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

                    Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

                    My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

                    12. Get Hydrated

                    Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

                    Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

                    If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

                    The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

                    The Bottom Line

                    These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

                    If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

                    Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

                    Reference

                    [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
                    [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
                    [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
                    [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
                    [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
                    [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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