Make Stress Work For You

The first martial arts class swords class I’ve ever went to I ended up being the slowest one in the class.

I thought this was just because I was new, but after a few classes went by I found that my speed was still an issue. Then one day, while we practiced defenses, my instructor came up to me, grabbed my shoulder and told me:

“You gotta relax. You will be a lot smoother if you weren’t so tense. “

To my surprise, I was tensing up my body every time I grabbed my sword. Once I became aware of this I took a deep breath and relaxed. Immediately after relaxing I found that my strikes and blocks occurred much faster and with a lot more ease.

When I realized I was unknowingly feeling tense I started to wonder where else this was happening in my life. I ended up finding that I was tense when doing a lot of other activities, including the very basic day-to-day tasks in my life.

The problem was, I was so use to feeling tense I just considered it normal. Once I started to recognize these feelings of stress I was able to combat it and increase my work flow. This ended up leading me to researching and learning a lot about how about I can use stress to make myself get work done more efficiently.

Recognizing Stress

21724214923_1979416282_b

There are two kinds of stress(Actually three, but the third is less common than the other two): Acute Stress and Chronic Stress.

Acute Stress is that short term stress you have when reacting  to an immediate threat or an event that heightens a strong emotional response.  While Chronic stress is the long term stress that occurs when responding to emotional pressure(s) for a long period of time.

While acute stress can help stimulate that exhilarating feeling you get from riding a roller coaster or skiing down a slope, chronic stress is the far less fun one that can cause severe physical and mental strain. Along with anxiety, irritability, and depression, chronic stress has also been known to weaken the immune system and cause permanent brain damage.

Despite the dangers of chronic stress, a lot of people tend to not recognize they are suffering from it. There are very notable symptoms to help identify the feelings of chronic stress, but the one I found to be most effective is body scanning.

Body scanning is not only a very effective way to identify if you’re feeling stressed, but also a great way to help relax the areas of the body that are tense. The process can even take as little as 10-15 minutes to do.

To start off, find a comfortable position and take a few deep breathes. Once you’re feeling comfortable and cleared your mind, it’s time to start the body scanning process. Start by focusing on your feet, noting the sensations felt in this position. Identify if there is any tenseness present. If so, take a few deep breaths and relax them. Then, slowly work your way up, doing this same process one body part at a time, until you have fulled relaxed all parts of your body.

Once you finished relaxing your body, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes. Take a couple more deep breaths and slowly come out of your seated position before resuming normal activities.

Control Your Stress

Body scanning isn’t the only way to combat chronic stress. Studies have found that the most effective ways to overcome chronic stress is through regular exercise and meditation.

StockSnap_Z60BJERD3G

What these two solutions have in common is that they practice mindfulness. One of the biggest causes for chronic stress is worrying too much about problems out of your control. Instead of constantly thinking about the tasks in the future it’s important to be mindful about the tasks currently in front of you. By letting your mind wander away from the present activity you are allowing yourself to be distracted.

This causes, what Cal Newport describes in his book, Deep Work, as attention residue:

“People experiencing attention resident after switching tasks are likely to demonstrate poor performance on that task, and the more intense the reside the worse the performance.”

One of the best way to practice mindfulness is to take up hobbies that require you to be in this state of mind. This can include getting involved activities such as martial arts, yoga, or creative arts. Just doing some sort of activity that brings you in that meditative state and focus on the the task at hand. By being more mindful with our tasks we reduce that feeling of anxiety for any future tasks.

Finally, another extremely effective way to combat stress is by organizing and planning. Scheduling when you allow yourself to work, take breaks, and practice mindfulness helps organize your thoughts and give you a much less cluttered mind. This not only gives you a better feeling of control in your life, but it also provides a way to effectively track your tasks and stick your your To-Dos.

Make Stress Work For You

Stress can definitely be a helpful way to keep you on task, but it can also be a hindrance for getting the most work done. What really helps make stress beneficial is to not perceive stress as negative. In fact, by perceiving stress as a challenge for getting things done you can gain very positive health benefits from it.

When dealing with stress it’s important not to let it get out of control. By keeping your tasks organized and balancing your work and leisure you can keep stress in check. Doing so will help prevent you from worrying about stressing overwhelm you and instead use it as a strategy to be more productive.

 

Advertisements

Inspiration Is Not Motivation

A few weeks ago I was asked to think about the things that inspires me. Now I can rattle off a million different things from the top of my head, but in the end many of them do not really inspire me. They just motivate me.

I feel like there is a strong difference between motivation and inspiration and many definitions get thrown around to define both of them. Personally I think of them as this:

Motivation is that temporarily feeling you have to get off your butt and work towards a goal.

Inspiration is that drive to put continuous effort towards achievements meaningful to you.

picinspire

Sure you may feel motivated when you watch that montage of the guy doing flips off a roof or seeing that Olympic athlete break another world record, but it’s never enough just to see the accomplishments to be continually driven to work towards them.

So what really inspires me?

Seeing the struggles of others working hard to achieve great things.

It’s seeing those people who keep trying even when it stops being fun . The ones that put in blood, sweat, and tears towards their dreams. The stories of those who try, fail, then get back up and try some more.

When you see the struggle it takes for others to master something it helps take off that skill-level barrier we put up between ourselves and the experts. Everyone who tries something for the first time will be bad at it. The ability to become good at something depends on how much you practice doing it.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress” ~Frederick Douglass

If you’re trying to land that back flip, learn a new skill, or lose weight. The important part is to never give up and just keep going.

So what inspires you?
How do you handle the struggle of learning something new/difficult?

Would love to hear from you in the comments!

How To Make Impossibly Large Tasks Easy

Imagine what you want to complete if you had all the time in the world. Do you want to write the next American novel? Start your own multi-million dollar business? Climb Mt. Everest?

Heck, some of us may dream of playing guitar at a venue with thousands of adoring fans, but do not even know how to play a single note.

stocksnap_t9fbxclg7c

Whatever that dream may be, for one reason or another, you are not doing it. There could be a lot of reasons why this is the case, and some may have very valid reasons, but for the vast majority we tend to have the same excuse:

“I don’t have enough time”

But that’s just the trap a lot of us fall victim to. We are all thinking of these dreams as one large task that has to be done in a short amount of time. This only causes us to be intimidated by our long-term goals and put them off all together. Instead, I want you to start doing this:

Don’t Think About The End Result

When Computer Programmer, Matt Cutts took the challenge of doing something new every 30-days there is one thing he started doing to take on the more difficult task of writing  a novel:

Matt points that that a typical novel is about 50,000 words total. That may seem pretty big at first glance, but when Matt broke it down he found that he could write a novel if he spends every day, for 30 days, writing just 1,667 words.

That’s what it really comes down to when finishing large projects. If you really want to get that project done stop thinking about doing it all at once and instead:

Do a little bit each day

If you want to run a marathon you don’t do it by going out and running 20 miles(32km) a day. You start off a training plan months in advance and run just a few short miles each day than gradually build yourself up to that full distance.

However, it’s not enough just to do a small bit each day. If you do not set-up some rules for yourself beforehand “Doing a little bit each day” can end up giving you as much benefit as opening up Microsoft Word than watching television the rest of the day. If you truly want to make your work meaningful you will need to something more.

Make It A Habit

When web developer, Alexandar Kallaway, really wanted to commit to being a better programmer he invented a challenge known as 100 Days of Code. His rule for this challenge was simple:

“I will code for at least an hour every day for the next 100 days.”

That’s it. It’s a challenge that floats up often in the programming community and there are thousands of people who take it up. The result? People who never even picked up a programming language before are now writing fully functional applications and frameworks in just over three months.

While this has good intention, for some of us, 1 hour of doing a task for 100 consecutive days may be a bit much. Kallaway sure thought the same. Which is why he made an updated version of the challenge. He included some new rules like including a taking a break. If you miss a day, that’s fine, instead of tapping out of the challenge you simply continue it like normal trying not to miss two days in a row.

This is really smart because it’s difficult to commit to 100 days of a habit when every day of our lives is not the exact same. That is why when we want to commit to this challenge, it’s crucial to do one important thing.

Make It Work For You

Before taking up this challenge(or something similar to it), do not dive head first into it by immediately doing an hour a day. Instead, start small than build your way up to it.

This means just starting out with committing to as little as 5 minutes a day. This gives you plenty of time to write that one sentence for your novel or to learn a new word in a foreign language. Even if it’s just a little bit of progress, it’s still progress.

As you feel more comfortable start moving your commitment to 10 minutes, than 20, than 30. When you are feeling perfectly comfortable with 30 minutes a day, don’t just move straight to 1 hour a day. Instead, break it down to 2 Promodo Sessions a day.

What that entails is breaking your tasks into 2 25-minute sessions followed by a 5-minute break. Remember it’s about breaking down the larger tasks into small, more manageable ones.

There are at least 24 hours in the day, 168 hours in a week, and 672 hours in a month. You only need to spend a small portion of that time each day working towards your goal to make a meaningful impact. Remember, when you want to achieve your goals it’s not about the destination, but the journey towards it.

Note: If you’re looking for a good Promodo application I would recommend looking into Be Focused, Goodtime, or Mariana Timer. All three of these tools are free to use.

The 3-D Ant: Seeing Things Differently

How many of us have ever been faced with a problem that we feel we just can’t resolve? Sometimes it seems like no matter how hard we push ourselves and how much work we put in it seems like we’re never closer to a solution.

I have definitely felt like this many of times before, and it wasn’t until I heard this inspirational tale about ants that I started to find a much quicker solution to my problems.

So pull up a chair and have a seat. I’m going tell you the tale of the 3-D ant.

The 3-D Ant

To start off this story imagine that you are an ant traveling in a straight line. You are only capable of traveling in 1 Dimension, forward and backwards. Now let’s say a stone was placed in front of your pathway. As a 1-D ant you can no longer move forward because of the stone in the way. As a result, the 1-D ant’s world must come to a close.

1d-ant-picture

Now an ant capable of traveling in 2 Dimensions-forward, backward, left, and right- comes along. He strays away from the line despite the 1-D ants protest, “You are suppose to stay on the line!”

“Who made up that rule?” replies the 2-D ant. The 2-D ant suggests to the others to simply going around the stone.  The 2-D ants are able to move past the stone and continue on wards.

After a while, the ants come across a wall that stretches endlessly in both directions. The ants are in trouble now, they are able to move forward, backward, left, and right but they cannot pass the wall. So marks the end of the 2-D ant’s world.

2dant

That is when a 3-D ant-capable of traveling forward, backward, left, right, up, and down- comes along. The 3-D ant looks at the wall and says “Why not just climb it?”. And so, the 3-D ant climbs over the wall and sees the new world.

Moral

The point of this story is that when you see things from a new perspective you open the opportunity to find new solutions. If you are ever stuck on a problem, or faced with a seemingly impossible feat, try to look at how you can resolve that problem differently. You may be surprised by how easy that problem can become.

Note: This story is adapted from the series, Space Brothers. You can check out this series for free on Crunchyroll.

Don’t Be Busy, Be Productive

A few months ago I fell into a routine that many busy people unknowingly fall into. My schedule was filled to the brim with things to do, but I felt like there was very little progress towards achieving my goals. Despite being constantly busy, I was barely accomplishing anything.

It became a routine to wake up early in the morning, write up a to-do list, go to work, attend classes, study, blog, manage club activities, workout, develop my personal projects…UGH! It was stressing enough trying to all of these things each day. It only added to the stress when I would finish the end of the day with only half of my To-Dos accomplished.

https://t4.ftcdn.net/jpg/00/69/55/41/240_F_69554193_DjzP0XPxjMBcU89sLdacnVWbiJn1tO5w.jpg

Instead of continuing to pull my hair out trying to manage everything I decided to take a day to sit down and think why I wasn’t getting things done. After some thought I realized my problem wasn’t due to procrastination or poor time management, rather it came down to one simple mistake I made when I changed the way I  did To-Do Lists.

To fully analyze what happened we will need to take a trip back to a year ago where I first learned of a tale about Warren Buffet.

The Warren Buffet Story

For those unfamiliar with Warren Buffet, you just need to know that he is ranked as one of the most successful businessmen in the world.  Among other things, Warren Buffet is also known for a famous tale involving him and his pilot, Mike Flint.

BUFFETT CREDIT

 

One day, Buffet and Flint were having a conversation about career priorities. Flint, in admiration of Buffet, asked him how he can be as successful as him. Buffet told Flint to do this simple exercise:

Step 1: Take out a sheet of paper and write down the top 25 goals in your life.

Step 2: Review the list then circle the 5 goals that matter the most to you. This was now known as List A. The other 20 goals will be known as List B.

When Flint completed this exercise he essentially had two lists. When Buffet asked Flint what he felt these lists meant Flint told him that List A was the list of things he should focus on doing immediately while List B contained the things that weren’t as important to do, but can be done intermittently.

Buffet told him, “No, you’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

Joining The Now Movement

Shortly after reading this story I learned of this movement from College Info Geek blogger, Thomas Frank.

This exercise was dubbed as the Now Movement, an idea conceptualized by David Sevirs. David is a widely successful musician who founded the company, CD Baby. David tweeted a page on his website titled What I’m Doing Right Now. Essentially, his page would inform others what his main priorities are currently and if any new opportunities that do not relate to the list come up, he ignores them.

When I first read about this on Thomas’ Franks page, I thought the idea was fascinating. Although, what really motivated me to make my own Now List was Thomas’s suggestion to make one simple modification.

“I am open to considering new opportunities, as I highly value novelty, spontaneity, and growth. However, I aspire to stick to my priorities 90% of the time. As a result, I will say no to the majority of requests that come my way now.”

The reasoning behind this made sense. David is already well into his career and has a large list of achievements to his name. Thomas feels he is still starting out in his career so to outright deny opportunities for growth may not lead him down his most ideal path.

Still being a college student, I too feel like I can’t completely remove myself from opportunities, so having a list more like Thomas’ makes a lot more sense.

Doing The Now List Wrong

Shortly after I read Thomas’ article I created my own Now List. However, when I made my Now List I ended up neglecting 4 important things that led to several months of sleepless nights and overbearing stress. When you are making your Now List I would recommend keeping these important points in mind:

Keep Your Now List Specific

A rule for almost all To-Do list making guides is to specify your goals. Making a list without a clear goal can make you take on your tasks with the wrong approach. By putting down what exactly you want to accomplish in the end you are drawing up a map of where Point A is and where Point B will take you.

When I first made my Now list I put down some really general goals like Save money. However, having a goal this general didn’t really give me a baseline I needed to reach. This would cause me to just put in the absolute minimum towards my goal.

It made no difference if I saved $1 or $100, I felt like both amounts accomplished my goal just the same. This unsurprisingly meant I was barely saving any significant amount of money at all. So instead I put down a clearer goal on there, Put 20% of my paycheck into my Savings Account each pay period. After a few months I found that I now had a steady amount of money going into my Savings.

Put a Deadline On Your To-Do’s

In addition to having clear goals you also want to have a specific deadline on when you need to reach each goal. Not having a deadline only creates the excuse to put it off because it feels like there is an eternity to do it. That finish line is never reached because it was never created.

When you are able to figure out deadlines you have a much better idea of which ones take priority over the other. This allows you to fully focus on your task so you can produce the best result. Then when that deadline passes you are able to move onto that next task with complete focus.

https://i0.wp.com/sourcesofinsight.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/FocusQuotes2.jpg

One example I would give is when I had two tasks to accomplish in the same month: turning in a scholarship essay and submitting a final project. After determining the deadline for each item I was able to figure out which one needed my absolute focus first. Once one deadline passed my focus was able to shift towards another task.

In the end not only was I able to complete both of these tasks before the deadline, but by prioritizing which ones needed to be done first I was able to focus 100% on each of them. This resulted in me getting in A on the project and winning the award money for the scholarship.

Do Not Make It An Everyday List

In Chis Bailey’s book, The Productivity Project he talks about an experiment where he would work 90 hours for one week then the next week work for only 20 hours. In his experiment, Bailey found that while there was a massive difference in the time he was doing the work, there was very little difference in productivity.  This is defined as Parkison’s Law, where work will expand or shrink to fill the time available for its completion.

When I initially made the Now List I went at it with the mindset that if did a little work on each item every day I will have a lot accomplished in all my tasks by the end of the month. Boy, was that dumb.

Instead of being productive I ended up spending 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, getting very little accomplished. This was because each day I would write up a list of twenty tasks then give myself little intervals on how long I was allowed to work on each one of them. Instead of it motivating me to finish the tasks faster I ended up having to stop just when I hit the point where I was at my optimal focus, otherwise known as the flow state.

As Scott Dinsmore states in 11 Steps to Insane Focus, it’s more beneficial to work on a small number of tasks instead of a large amount throughout the day. If you are constantly switching between tasks you will quickly find that it will have little long term effect towards achieving the most for your goals.

Work Towards Your Stretch Goals

If you take a gander at my Impossible List you’ll notice I have about a million things I want to get accomplished in my lifetime. If I want to cross off any of these things I need to spend some time each day working towards them.

When creating a Now List you are creating a list of what is most important to you right now. Odds are the most important things to you now are not going to be the most important to you 5 years from now.

What this comes down to is that when you create your Now List you need to be considerate of your long term goals. Take a careful look at each item on your Now List and ask yourself “How will this help me reach my stretch goals”. If you can’t think of a reason then think about whether it truly needs to be focused on.

Be Smart, Not Busy

About a few months of doing the Now List (wrongly), I found that while I was being busy I was not being productive. As Charles Duhigg discusses in Faster, Better, Smarter:  there are two kinds people who make To-Do lists. Those who are busy and those who are productive.

He argues that those who do create lists find that they are getting a lot of their To-Do’s crossed off, but they progress very little from when they first made the list.

The reason for this is because those busy people are not creating their To-Do lists intelligently. If you want to create a To-Do list you need to state the reasons for doing each tasks. When you have a better idea of why you want to do each task it becomes that much easier to realize which ones take precedence.

One way to do this is to create SMART goals. SMART goals are a very proactive way to approach your tasks as they give each item a reason, are detailed, and have a timeline for doing them. There is a lot I can write about when it comes to creating SMART goals. In fact, I had a whole section on SMART goals written up that I realized would be better suited as it’s own topic for my next post.

For now, if you want to create SMART goals remember to keep these things in mind: keep the list specific, give each item a reason, and make sure they work towards your stretch goals. Doing these simple things can make all the difference from creating a busy To-Do List to creating a productive one.

The Photo Journal

Today I’ve been siting at home feeling sick. Since I’ve not been able to do work on some of my To-Do’s, I decided to take this opportunity to look on the bright side.

Being home bed-ridden opens me up to doing something I’ve been wanting to do for a long while. Since I created my second blog, 1k Photo Challenge it has been seeing a steady rise in growth.

It wasn’t not really my intention to separate this blog from my Photo Journal blog, but I felt that the two blogs had vastly inconsistent formats that would not work as one. Fortunately, today has given me the opportunity to keep these blogs separate but still merge them under one unity.

So now, under both sites you will find each one of them linking to the other blog. For the Challenge List you can go under:

Challenge Lists >> 1K Photo Challenge

If you are unaware of what the 1k Photo Journal is about, check over here for why it was started. You can also check out some of the top posts from the site:

Top Posts:

DSC00604Devil Lake State Park

As we begun our descent the sun started to blare down. We built up more of a sweat on our decline trip from the West Bluff Trail then we did during our incline. […]Read more

 

 

20160610_120055Minneapolis Diagonal Trail

It was a hot and sunny day today making the run especially sweaty […] Read More

 

 

20160624_105337Off On Holiday

Tomorrow I will be traveling north to run the Spartan Sprint then heading west to explore the area of Wisconsin.[…]Read More

Lessons Learned After Becoming A Spartan

Back in September of 2015 I ran a 5k Obstacle Course Race called a Rugged Maniac. Prior to this race I had felt a slump in my workout that made it really difficult to find the motivation I needed to train.

Running this Obstacle Course Race(OCR) ended up being just the rejuvenation I needed to push myself back into Parkour and Endurance Sports. Immediately after I ran my Rugged Maniac I thought to myself, “This felt pretty easy, I bet a Spartan Race wouldn’t be so hard”.

This led me to signing up for a Spartan Sprint, which ended up being a whole another ball game than a Rugged Maniac. At the end of my Spartan Run I was bleeding, dirty, sweaty, and bruised. But more than anything, I felt a sense of accomplishment that is unparalleled to anything I’ve done before.

You see, running a Spartan Sprint not only gave me a much better idea of my physical self, it also taught me 5 very important lessons I will be taking with me for both future races and towards my own self-growth.

Lesson 1: Be Positive

When you are putting yourself in a situation that demands you to go beyond your limits, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve trained beforehand or how much energy your body has. All of this can be useless if you do not face the obstacle with a positive mindset.

5770d48f5d6a4b9a147f7033

During my race I was faced with a seemingly easy obstacle known as The Z-Wall. I’ve done much more difficult rock climbing routes a thousand times before so I thought this would be a piece of cake. Halfway through the Z-Wall I found I had to really stretch out my leg to get my foot placement onto the next block. My leg ended up cramping up on me, shocking the pain through the rest of my body. I lost my grip on the wall and went down like a ton of bricks.

Despite the pain I gave myself a moment of rest before limping to the Peanlty Zone to do my 30 Burpees. This was a set-back but by no means was this going to send me down a Downward Spiral. Instead I looked at this optimistically, “I can still stand on my feet, and it’s only 30 burpees”. I knocked out the burpees then continued the race with a smile on my face.

This positive attitude is just not something you should do for yourself, but for others. My start time had many of the racers run in 90% humidity and 90 degree weather. It was miserably sunny out and many people weren’t running at their ideal performance.

At mile 2 I saw a team of two trying to hoff it up the hill. At one point one of the runners sat down in the shade and told his buddy, “I just can’t do it”.

His friend knelt down next to him looked him dead in the eyes and said, “Yes you can. You’ve already made it farther than you thought you could. You can keep going”.

Meanwhile, a passing runner past by the two, flashed a big smile to the first guy and told him “You’re doing great!”. I didn’t see these two guys again until mile 4, both of them running downhill with smiles across their faces. Seeing these two inspired me to give positive energy to my fellow racers as well.

Some of us are going to hit our limits and something as simple as a “Good job”can be all we need to keep pushing.

Lesson 2: Don’t Underestimate The Course

10349895_10152094247246861_2444071465591098183_n

Initially when I signed up for the course I didn’t think of it as a big deal. I thought, “It’s only 5 miles, that’s just another light run but with a few obstacles in between”.

Because I didn’t go at it with the same mindset I normally do with my races I ended up committing several runner’s sins:

  • No Carb Loading
  • Improper Warm-Up
  • Didn’t Tapper Prior To Race

All of this resulted in me performing at my worst throughout the race. By mile 3 I was already half an hour into the race and I already drained the energy in my body. I was hungry, weak, and all I thought about was how good pancakes would be right now. If I just spent the time to properly carb load I know I would’ve been at a much better physical state throughout the race.

For my warm-ups I did essentially the same routine I do before I do my regular runs. I did no research on the average time it takes to finish a Sparta race so I shot for 10 minutes slower than my usual 5-mile runs. My expected finish time and my actual finish time ended up being vastly different:

Expected Finish Time: 50 min
Actual Finish Time: 2 hours, 28 minutes

If I planned my race a bit smarter and did more research on how long it takes to complete a Spartan Race, I would have definitely spent more time warming up. I also wouldn’t have put in 15 hours of working out the week of the race.

I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I took this race more seriously and treated it like my other races, but I guarantee I would’ve ran that race far less fatigued, sore, and hungry. It may have also avoided some cramping the occurred throughout some of the obstacles.

Lesson 3: Remember To Pace

Along with the 3 runner sins mentioned in Lesson 2, there’s another big mistake I ended up committing during my Spartan race: Being impatient.

Taking away from my experience running my Marathon last year, I made sure not to push myself to run faster when I’m already doing well. Although, one mistake I did end up repeating was trying to compete in a race I wasn’t initially planning on being competitive in.

884425_10151263737851861_878429892_o

When I started my Spartan Race all I cared about was finishing. All I wanted to do was see if I could complete a Spartan Race and learn just what my body can do. If I didn’t reach my expected finish time, that was perfectly okay.

With that being said, I experienced Deja Vu during my race. Much like my marathon I got to the race a bit late. At this point, many of the runners who started earlier than me are well off into the course. Remembering to keep it slow, I ran at my normal pace.

After mile 1 I started passing racers who started a little earlier than me. Eventually I started passing racers who started a good 1-2 hours before I did. At this point, I grew a big head that nearly ruined me for the rest of the race.

Instead of just finishing it I was thinking of ways I can finish it faster. If there was an obstacle that had too many people ahead of me, I would just skip it and take the penalty burpees. Even if I was drenched in sweat from the blaring hot sun I would not stop to rest by the water station but instead drink 1 cup and move on.

Then by mile 3 my body hit that point where I struggled to do obstacles I know I could do easily. I was exhausted, sore, and was losing stride. At this point I realized I needed to just slow down, a decision I was grateful to have made. While I took my time going through the obstacles there were some people who seemed to have the same idea as I did and rush through the course.

These same guys trying to rush through were soon found either collapsed on the ground or slowly limping along. Meanwhile, other racers taking a slower pace were briskly passing by them.

Lesson 4: Adapt to Anything

One of the things that makes a Spartan Race so challenging is that it has you use your body in ways you aren’t normally use to doing at a gym. Sure carrying a 50lb object may be easy enough for most athletes out there. Heck, some of you are probably hitting higher weights for your regular workouts. However, 50lbs becomes a whole different story when that object is in the form of a 5 gallon bucket, filled with rocks, and needs to be carried up and down a steep hill.

When I looked into some of the obstacles typical in a Spartan Race it seemed like I would be working my body in some unusual ways. At first I was fine with this. Being from a Parkour background, adaptability is what I strive for. Although, while I was able to make it up the walls and across the monkey bars with ease, I was not prepared for some of the more awkward obstacles out there like the atlas ball.

flooded

The atlas ball has been estimated to be 100lb for the guys, and about 60lb for the women. At first, this didn’t seem like a problem. When I went to the gym with my friend I spent some time lifting and carry 100lb weights until I was confident enough for the course. Then when race day came, I bent over and reached for the ball and… I couldn’t lift it. The ball was too smooth and slippery from the mud making it difficult to get the grip I needed to lift it.

Other racers around me seemed to be in the same boat. When we couldn’t lift the ball we asked some of those around us if they can help us grip it just so we can lift the damn thing.

Then there is the infamous Spear Throw obstacle. This obstacle is known as the Burpee Maker. Not only is it difficult to stick a spear 20 feet away, but you only get one shot to do it. Most racers aren’t going in it with a degree in spear throwing so you can imagine the number of people in the Penalty Zone.

When I first learned of this obstacle I decided I was not going to be one of the many who fall victim to this obstacle. So, a month before the race, I crafted a spear using a stick, some rope, and a pocket knife. I then spent a good 3 hours throwing it at a wooden board in my backyard. It took quite a while until I was able to stick the spear consistently, but when race day came I successfully stuck that spear on my first try.

The point I want to drive home is that if you are going to run a Spartan Race, look at the obstacles you’ll likely be doing, then train for them in a simulated environment. If you can do pull-ups, work on different grip strengths by changing your hand position or using a towel hanging from the bar. If you’ve never carried 50lb bag over long distances before, make your own then spend some time walking with it.

Keep in mind that your body is going to be doing things it may have never done before.

Lesson 5: No Such Thing As Quitting

Unless you are one of the Elite Spartan Runners, you’ll probably not running a Spartan Race for competitive reasons. You are doing it to see if you can do it.

"The hardest part is showing up. 40% don’t. Don’t be part of that 40%" 
-Tony Matesi, Spartan Race Director

By being at that starting line you have already past the first and most difficult obstacle, just being there. Remember that the human body has always been capable of doing the impossible. Before Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile, researchers were convinced it was not physically possible for humans to do.

Marathons are often thought as the most ultimate feats of endurance, but then we learn there are Indigenous tribes out there who can run 200 miles non-stop.

 

Runners don’t cross that finish line because they ran until they started feeling tired. At some point it no longer becomes a test of the body, but a test of the mind. If you want to complete this race you need to remove the word quit from your vocabulary and think that the only stopping point is at that end.

Remember that once you are out there is just you against you.

Conclusion

If there’s anything you should take away from this it is that you should plan smart, train smart, and keep your will strong. There is no telling what you are going to be able to do until you do it.

"Only those who endure the hardships of training can attain glory" 
-Hiroshi Yamanka, Gash Bell

 

At the end of my race I was well past my exhaustion point. My fingers were cut up, my shoes were torn to shreds, and I had bruises throughout my body. My girlfriend asked me, Was it worth it?

To which I responded:

Not only was it worth it, I am already waiting for registration to open up for next year.