Tomorrow, I embark on what is personally my greatest physical challenge to date (childbirth aside, of course). Saturday is Tough Mudder day, a 21-kilometre obstacle course filled with electric shocks, slippery monkey bars, muddy waters, cage and pipe crawls, arctic enemas and other mental challenges.
Doing Tough Mudder was something I had been considering for awhile after hearing tales of others who had done it. But it was just a fleeting thought in the back of mind and nothing more than that. Until this year, when I threw the idea out there – half jokingly – to see if there were any takers who also wanted to prove their ‘toughness’. One of my besties was also trying to rally the forces on her side. In the end it was just the two of us, and one crazy night we decided to commit. We paid our entry fee, gave ourselves a half-inspired team name and signed our death waivers, officially tough mudders.
Photos sourced from Tough Mudder Website
It was after we received the confirmation email that all the nerves and doubts kicked in. What on earth was I doing? I was not a tough mudder. How the hell was I going to survive this gruelling course? I didn’t think I was fit enough or strong enough nor did I think I had the mental strength to overcome all the fears that Tough Mudder presented.
But I was wrong.
Regardless of how we fair tomorrow, the Tough Mudder experience has already delivered a few lessons worth more than that orange head band waiting for us at the end of tomorrow’s course.
Over the past three months, I’ve discovered…
- I am totally in control of my body and mind. I had already been on a fitness bender twelve months pre-TM but committing to Tough Mudder made me sit down and really think about my body – my strengths, my weaknesses and what I needed to do to be semi-prepared. My exercise routine had stagnated and I hadn’t even realised just how much I had been doing the same thing, over and over again: weights, cardio, weights and cardio. I was mindlessly exercising and not really progressing in my strength and fitness. I slowly started exploring more high intensity interval training, discovering the awesome power duo – Fitness Blender – in the process. Their free YouTube workouts were amazing – varied and never dull, intense and hard-hitting and totally focused on strength, balance and endurance. It didn’t take long for me to let go of my previous, stale routine and take on their fitness program. Combing their program with my weekly bikram yoga, dance and fitness kickboxing sessions (and more conscious healthy and wholesome eating), I saw the results much quicker than I ever expected. The other day, I actually noticed abdominal, leg and arm muscles really taking shape. But even more importantly, I learnt so much about my body through their videos. I truly discovered what my body and my muscles can do. I learnt about muscle memory and recovery. I learnt about metabolic training and plyometric exercises.
Exercising was no longer about losing weight or obsessing about my body (which, as a former super self-conscious, ‘heavy-weight’, I had done for so long) – it had a much greater and more positive purpose. It was about being the best version of myself – stronger, fitter, more focused and more determined. And in letting go of that mindset that I had previously approached fitness with, I found myself actually waking up and loving my body, a massive feat for this former self-loather.
It was inevitable that this focus tipped over to my mind. Exercising has become my mediation – my space and time, the place where I can go to cool off and scrape away that which is unneeded. My mind became just as clear and as focused as the physical side, making it easier to just do away with the mind debris. And even when Saturday is done with, my training and focus will continue.
- Yes I have fears – lots of them. And yes, the only way to get rid of them is to face them. I’m not so quiet about how much I am shitting myself about tomorrow’s course. I wretched with heights and I’m no good with confined spaces, which makes it damn unfortunate that 90% of the course is in cagey spaces or up the top of slippery, muddy mountainous slopes that see plunging metres into equally crappy waters. But tomorrow I plan to face it. Close my eyes, take a deep breath and put that mind over matter. I am going to try to jump off that cliff. I hope to bury that pit in my stomach, stare down that long, blackened, ‘no-light’ pipe and crawl through its guts. I’m going to crawl on my back in a claustrophobic cage, run through electric volts and do other crazy stuff that I never would’ve dreamed of. I’m going to feel that fear and do it anyway. And once I’ve done it, I’m going to remember how good it felt and I’m going to face all that other stuff when it shows up.
- It’s time to say goodbye. Tough Mudder… it feels like the time to say goodbye. Goodbye doubt. Goodbye fear. Goodbye heaviness. Goodbye any feelings of being powerless. And it feels like the pinnacle of the past four years of rebuilding and discovering. It’s time to fully embrace. Hello strength. Hello clarity. Hello focus and determination. Hello empowerment. Hello mind over matter.
- The sisterhood means everything. The whole way, my friend and I have egged each other on, shat ourselves together, lost it together and have helped each other stay focused. Tough Mudder is a marker for both of us and the journey has only strengthened just how much the sisterhood really means.
So before we take on the obstacle course tomorrow, I am pretty sure we can both stop and take a deep breath and tell ourselves: “I’m a tough mudder”.