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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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                    How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

                    How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

                    Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

                    Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

                    I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

                    You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

                    Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

                    When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

                    I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

                    Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

                    Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

                    Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

                    1. The Inner Critic

                    This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

                    • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
                    • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
                    • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
                    • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

                    He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

                    Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

                    2. The Worrier

                    This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

                    He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

                    Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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                    3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

                    He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

                    He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

                    He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

                    4. The Sleep Depriver

                    This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

                    His motivation can be:

                    • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
                    • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
                    • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
                    • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

                    How can you control these squatters?

                    How to Master Your Mind

                    You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

                    Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

                    There are two ways to control your thoughts:

                    • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
                    • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

                    This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

                    The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

                    Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

                    For the Inner Critic

                    When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

                    You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

                    For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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                    You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

                    “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

                    If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

                    • He riles up the Worrier.
                    • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
                    • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
                    • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
                    • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

                    Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

                    Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

                    For the Worrier

                    Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

                    Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

                    You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

                    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
                    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
                    • Muscles tense

                    Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

                    If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

                    Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

                    “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

                    Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

                    If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

                    Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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                    Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

                    For example:

                    If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

                    “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

                    Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

                    “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

                    Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

                    For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

                    Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

                    The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

                    • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
                    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
                    • Muscles tension

                    I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

                    Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

                    Breathe in through your nose:

                    • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
                    • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
                    • Focus on your belly rising.

                    Breathe out through your nose:

                    • Feel your lungs emptying.
                    • Focus on your belly falling.
                    • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

                    Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

                    Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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                    One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

                    Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

                    For the Sleep Depriver

                    (He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

                    I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

                    Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

                    1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
                    2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

                    When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

                    From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

                    For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

                    If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

                    You can also use this technique any time you want to:

                    • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
                    • Shut down your thinking.
                    • Calm your feelings.
                    • Simply focus on the present moment. 

                    Becoming the Master of Your Mind

                    Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

                    You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

                    Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

                    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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