The Tough Mudder – A Physical and Mental Challenge

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I completed the FULL Tough Mudder Challenge on Saturday. It’s called a challenge, not a race, because there’s no time-keeping and it’s about being with your team (friends or whoever you turn up with), meeting people, helping your fellow Mudder-er and getting past your doubts and fears.

I went into this challenge without doing too much research. I was invited to join an existing corporate team of my ex-husband’s place of work (the fact that I did this with my ex-husband deserves a whole other blog post). His sales background came in handy as he talked me into it. His thinking was that it would be fun, that I could totally complete the course and that the sense of accomplishment and achievement would benefit me greatly.

He was right.

This 18k course has over 20 obstacles that you can complete or walk around. I decided that I was going to do every challenge. Even if it involved jumping from a great height, which scares the daylights out of me! I didn’t overthink it, just decided that’s what I was going to do. I set my goal and then I did it. From crawling through mud with barbed wire above my head and body (video below), to climbing wooden structures with the aid of ropes, sliding down a chute into freezing cold water that had ice cubes in it and the last obstacle, ‘Shock Therapy’, where 10% of the wires are live and send a jolt through your body. I was shocked four times as I made it through, with the intention of just getting to the other side. Oddly, the shock headed straight for my pelvis. So weird.

What I learned:

  • Mindset is everything. As we were corralled at the start line, we put up our hands and said a pledge under the direction of our ‘coach’. In addition to agreeing that it was more important to help your teammate or others on the course than sprinting through, we agreed that there would to be no whining. That was genius. I took that on and didn’t complain once on the course. As I came up to each obstacle, I sized it up, saw who was going to help me if I needed it and just did it. After I twisted my knee on one of the obstacles, I just gave it time to calm down before heading off again, and put it out of my mind. My mindset was to just keep going. I was eager to see what the next part of the course or obstacle was going to be, so I just got on with it.

  • Gratitude trumps negativity. I felt overwhelmingly grateful for so many things during this challenge: For my openness to whatever was in front of me. For the strength in my body, my muscles and my organs doing what they needed to support me as I ran, jumped, swam and shocked. For my knowledge of nutrition so that I could fuel my body, feel energized instead of tired and dragging myself around the course as I saw others do. For my kids being there to support me and cheer me on. For my ex-husband for talking me into this insane challenge. And for my recent stress, that had me out running every day over the past month, which helped build my stamina and strength.

  • My kids are always watching me. After they got over the shock of their mom and dad doing something like this together, my girls were excited be our cheering squad. My youngest is a speedy runner, strong gymnast and loves parkour, so this challenge is right up her alley. They followed us on the spectator course as much as they could and were amazed at the obstacles, the fact that I was doing them, the help that others offered and then that I did them all! My youngest said almost immediately that she wanted to do the Tough Mudder as soon as she is old enough. This was a perfect reminder to me how much what I do impacts and inspires them.

  • Nutrition really does make a difference. I know that sounds odd coming from a nutritionist, but seeing others struggling on the course was a huge reminder to me. I felt grateful that I knew what to eat, drink and do to replenish the energy I was expending. Sure, I got out of breath as I climbed the hills of Mount St. Louis. The same hills that I ski down in the winter and take a chair lift up to the top. Every flat area, I ran. Whether it was on mud, rocks or flattened grass. I kept my pace to what I was comfortable with and ate CLIF BLOKS designed as exercise food. I tried out a honey-based gel on the course and took handfuls of the amino acid glutamine. I was so well hydrated that I had to make a pee pit stop at most of the water stations. All of that had an impact on how I finished and recovered from the 18k course.

  • We need others to get through life. I could not have done this challenge without those around me. Whether they were on my team or not, the help and support, offering of hands and respect for fellow participants was overwhelming. Everyone on the course was there to challenge themselves and knew too, that they needed others to get to the finish line. Once each obstacle, helping the person behind you was part of the challenge. It was the ultimate in pay back. As I ran along a flat part, I thought about how this challenge reflects life. The people on this course were there with a similar mindset, ready for the challenge. Surrounding myself with those people is what got me through. Just as I do with my work and personal life.

There were so many thoughts flying through my mind as I remembered to take in the stunning scenery, notice the small things on the course and cheer others on who weren’t sure about their ability to complete this challenge. As they cheered me on when I wasn’t sure.

What an incredible experience, giving me so much more than sore arms and legs!

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