Back in October, my boyfriend and I were looking for a new challenge to do together, and we decided to sign up for a Tough Mudder Half. For those of you not familiar with Tough Mudder, it’s an intense obstacle challenge (5.3 miles and 14 obstacles) that is meant to push you to your physical and mental limits.
It’s not just an obstacle race. At the very heart of Tough Mudder is community. Whether you show up by yourself or with a whole gang of friends, you will finish as a part of a tight-knit family of Mudders. You can’t do this race alone – it’s physically impossible to complete some of the obstacles without help from others. As their saying goes, “We train together, carb load together, get dirty together, make memories together. We are all tougher together.” I really loved that mentality when researching about this challenge.
As much as I do love the mission, signing up for a Tough Mudder Half obstacle challenge at the end of July seemed like a poor life decision on my part the morning of the race. Not only had I never done an obstacle race before, but my boyfriend and I really didn’t train the way we should have to prepare for an event like this (we did maybe 5 intense workouts the 2 weeks prior to the event).
The day before the race, we watched all the sample training videos showing the 14 obstacles and how people completed each one. Having been a gymnast for 10 years growing up, I have a pretty strong set of legs, but my upper body isn’t nearly as strong. Seeing that easily half of the obstacles were walls that you had to climb in various ways to get yourself over the obstacle was a little discomforting to me (again, terrible training plan on my part). As you can imagine, that night I had so many nerves racing through my body that I couldn’t sleep. I went to bed at 1am, woke up at 4 and 5, and finally got up at 6am. My stomach was sitting at the top of my throat, and I had to force down my hearty breakfast of steel cut oats. I felt like my whole body had restless leg syndrome.
We had to drive about an 1 hr 15 minutes to Long Island for the event; I was trying to give myself as much positive self-talk as I could during the drive, all the while trying to get control of my trembling hands. When we finally got to the site and I started seeing all the participants getting ready, I did start to feel a teeny tiny bit excited and ready to get all the pent up energy out of me! We found our way through the Tough Mudder village, drank some pre-workout and went to the warm-up arena. I was instantly motivated when I saw that the warm-up MC was Coach, the guy with a legendary mustache that I saw in all the training videos (BTW Coach, you’re hilarious).
After Coach led the warm-up, he had everyone take a knee and another guy from Tough Mudder took the mic. Not only did the speaker share some incredibly inspiring stories of Mudders who have overcome some of life’s hardest obstacles – becoming an amputee, losing a loved one, having to grow up way too fast – but he also verbally challenged us. Quite simply, he said, “When’s the last time you did something new for the first time?” And he said it again. Instantly, my mind raced with a million thoughts. So often, my life feels so prescribed. predictable. empty of adventure. I was tired of feeling that way. In that moment of reflection, I mentally changed. The walls of fear inside of me literally crumbled. I picked up my determination off of the floor and wrapped it around me like a superhero’s cape.
And guess what? We killed that race. From the second I dived into the muddy water of the first obstacle, all I could do was smile. I was seriously determined – determined to finish and determined to enjoy the process. I refused to take myself too seriously. And I had soo. much. FUN. We finished in about 2 hours, and once it was over, this huge wave of accomplishment and endorphins washed over me. I haven’t felt that proud of myself since I learned that I got a full tuition scholarship for my undergrad – it was a truly monumental feeling.
My biggest takeaways from this experience? I have a couple. First, a piece of technical advice. You really should train consistently before an obstacle race. I myself had a hard time walking the two days post-race. Second and foremost, great rewards come from taking great risks. Break out of your comfort zone! Go out and do something that you’ve been dreaming of doing for years but haven’t.
But how do you even begin to try to get out of your comfort zone? For me, I am the kind of person who doesn’t have all the confidence in the world, which often holds me back from trying new things. I started very, very small, (like with my pinky toe touching the outside line of my comfort zone), and I started telling myself that I could do it. That I was excited to try something different. To do new things. To accomplish something I’ve never done before. Every time a thought of self-doubt was approaching, I thought about my set of personal truths and how getting out of my comfort zone is a behavior I want to live by. I can’t fully explain just how powerful positive self-talk is, but I like to think of it as a cheerleader, therapist, and my mom all wrapped into one (while my negative self-talk is like Ron Swanson, Lord Voldemort, and the post-office lady sucking the life right out of me). You don’t have to leap from taking no risks to taking all the risks – figure out what you really want to do, and build up your courage through positive self-talk to try it out. For example, maybe you’ve always wanted to be in a dance competition but have never even taken a dance class. Signing up for a free beginners dance class could be a great first step in the right direction for you (you will meet new people with a similar interest and ability level as you, and you will learn the basics of that particular style of dance).
You will thank yourself for the new opportunity, challenge, and sense of accomplishment once you’ve stepped (or tip-toed) out of it. Even when things don’t turn out how I had planned, I know that failure is the best teacher, and I will learn something important from that experience and put it to good use for my future life experiences.
If you’re interested and want to learn more about the Tough Mudder movement, you can find more information here.
How are you going to get out of that comfort zone of yours THIS WEEK by trying something new? Share in the comments below.