On their website, a Tough Mudder is described as a “hardcore obstacle course designed to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie.” Imagine a 10.5 mile course containing numerous obstacles that involve swimming through cold water, trekking through mud, or a little bit of both. That is a Tough Mudder, and it was awfully awesome.
A week prior to the event, my cousin offered me a spot on her team, and after some hesitation and a little anxious excitement, I agreed.
The night before, I started brainstorming what I wanted to bring with me, and decided I should check out the website for ideas. There they were… Cage crawl. Boa constrictor. Electroshock therapy. Holy sh*t. What had I gotten myself into?
I quickly reminded myself that this was going to be a memorable opportunity, one that I was going to experience with 2 of my cousins that I love dearly. I was ready to face some fears, be challenged physically and mentally, and in the end, I knew I would be really proud of myself, Billy, Andrea, and the rest of the team. So, I willfully stepped off my yoga mat, and decided I was going to get down, dirty and rugged.
After a loooong day in the New Jersey mud, I am happy to say that I walked away with a few insightful lessons…
Here are the 10 things I learned doing a Tough Mudder:
1. Ask for help.
The Tough Mudder is a team sport designed to force team members to rely on one another to get through each obstacle. This can be a challenge for someone who really dislikes asking for help, which is someone like me. Somewhere down the line I learned that in order to be a strong, independent woman, you get things done on your own to not inconvenience others. These days, I realize that this belief is untrue (and really unfair) yet I am still working to untangle my conditioned reactions to it.
This Tough Mudder forced me break through that belief system pretty quickly; I mean, I needed help getting over a wall before we even crossed the start line. Soon into the race, I realized that I could offer help and support just as I was receiving it, and I learned that this system of balance was really quite affective. Ask for help when needed, and offer help when necessary. I realized that as humans, we not only need connection in our lives, but we need all kinds of help and support in order to grow and thrive.
2. Appreciate the sunshine. As you can imagine, being wet and muddy on a partially cloudy day in the middle of October can bring on a certain chill throughout the body. When the sun ducked behind the clouds and the wind picked up, I realized how appreciative I was of the suns warmth. Then, when she came out and shone down on everyone, it was the perfect reminder of how much she provides us with.
3. Laugh. There are moments in life when we have the opportunity to choose how we are going to handle a particular situation. Whether it’s being stuck in traffic, experiencing a change in plans, or being wet, muddy and cold on an October day, I have found that it is usually best to choose the side in which you are allowed to laugh. Laughing not only makes things more bearable, but it can actually make things fun! And fun is a good thing, right? Laugh today. Laugh everyday. Find people that love to laugh with you and stick with ‘em.
4. Focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. Confession… I didn’t do the Arctic Enema. One of their signature obstacles and I totally skipped it! Lame, right? Well, that’s what I would usually tell myself. I decided to handle things a little differently this time and focused on what I did get through instead of what I didn’t. Looking back, this perspective made me feel really good and helped me experience that trek in a different way. In the past, I would’ve been hung up on the fact that I didn’t do every single obstacle, and now, I am just really proud of what I did get through. Whoa. This feels nice!
It made me realize how easy it is to focus on the negatives and how so many of us are conditioned to do just that. It is so much safer to tell a friend or colleague what we are struggling with rather then what we are proud of and risk putting our pride on the line. I think it’s time we made a conscious effort to change that. So… What did you do that was totally awesome today? How did you contribute something amazing to this world?
5. Surround yourself with positive people. I was fortunate to be part of a really positive, upbeat and fun group, and it made all the difference in the world. There were hardly any complaints and a whole lot of laughing, which made the “toughness” much more bearable (and actually enjoyable).
The people that we allow into our lives have an impact on how we experience events and situations. By surrounding ourselves with loving, accepting, supportive, caring, and positive people, we will be more likely to exude those same qualities, and experience life in a much lighter and happier way.
6. Take your time. One of the things I loved about the Tough Mudder was that it wasn’t a timed race. We were encouraged to take our time with each obstacle, stop when we needed a rest, and fully experience the course rather then rush through it. Slowing down and taking our time is a wonderful approach to life; it gives us an opportunity to take in all that surrounds us and appreciate the big AND the little things. I mean, what are we always rushing for? Technically, life is not a race. We never get “there” so we might as well enjoy our journey.
7. Run through fear. Often, fear is something we experience when we are on the verge of breaking through an old thought or habit. Now, I am not talking about the kind of fear we feel when we walk by a dark ally or encounter someone sketchy (run away from that fear), but I am talking about that anxious, excited feeling we get when we are trying something new. Run through this fear. 99% of the time, this kind of fear will lead us where we are meant to go.
There was a lot of fear for me during this Tough Mudder. There was a lot of anxiety, a lot of excitement, a lot of uncertainty, but in the end I knew that it was all taking me through an experience I was meant to have and lessons I was meant to learn. Fear comes up because our mind wants to keep us safe, but safe usually means stuck in behaviors and thought patterns that are sometimes keeping us from feeling alive, from growing, and from letting our true selves shine through. Recognize fear, and then run towards it.
8. Get rid of limiting boundaries and beliefs. During the car ride to New Jersey I discussed all of the obstacles I had seen on the website the night before, and mentioned the ones I was most scared of (and most likely, not going to participate in). I was setting myself up with a specific strategy before I even laid eyes on the course.
When we arrived, I felt submerged in the strong vibrations and positive energy that was oozing from this piece of land. There were people everywhere, some dressed in funky costumes, loud music bumpin’, and my plan began to change… Maybe I would take it one step at a time, see how I felt, and possibly even try out some of the obstacles I felt intimidated by!?
Looking back, I can see how limiting my original plan was. I was making a sensible argument for missing out on what the whole Tough Mudder experience is about, all because of fears I had created in my head. This realization got me curious… Was I creating limiting boundaries for myself in other areas of my life based on unreasonable fears? After increasing my awareness around this, I started to notice where I had created some of these boundaries, which I am now working on breaking down. Do you have any limiting beliefs in your life that keep you from your full potential? What are they? How can you breakthrough them and stop holding yourself back from living in your unique beauty?
9. Make friends. People remember you by how you make them feel, plain and simple, and as humans, we should all want to make one another feel good. Share love. Shake a hand. Offer a hug. Friends are the people who help us get through tough times and encourage us to celebrate goods times. A friend is someone you may know for 20 years or 20 minutes, but to call someone a friend is a beautiful thing.
I made a lot of friends last weekend. Friends that helped me over walls, encouraged me with positive words, laughed with me and inspired me with their own personalities and perspectives. We can make new friends to create memories with everyday, so why not?
10. Don’t forget to smell the flowers… or the mud. There are so many beautiful lessons available to us each day, but often we forget to pay attention and learn them. We are so busy thinking about what’s next that we forget to experience each moment as it is. There were times throughout the race that all I could think about was it being over; I imagined being out of the wet, muddy clothes I was in and biting into a big, delicious sandwich. But then I would remind myself of the rarity of this event. Would I ever do one of these again? When is the next time I will be encouraged to roll around in the mud? What can I take away from this that will stay with me after the mud has been washed away and the chill has left my bones?
I tried to see the beauty in each moment; the smiles and laughs I was surrounded by, the strong teamwork that I was experiencing, and the strength of each and every person for showing up to this event and getting through it.
Don’t let the days pass you by. Experience them. Learn from them. And take it one step at a time.
Until next year, Tough Mudder…
with love and mud,