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

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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.

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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.

 

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Review: Level Up Your Life By Steve Kamb

I first picked up Level Up Your Life from my Barnes and Noble section one autumn day. About two weeks later I was taking a trip to the Canadian Rockies hiking down the canyons of Alberta.

It’ll be easy to say that this book is the sole inspiration my adventurous attitude and start traveling more, but truth be told, it was not. Instead this book offered me a new perspective on life by thinking of everything more like a video game. If I wanted to take on the Quests of a Lifetime I need to first get out of my comfort zone and explore the land around me.

No longer was I associating my Impossible List as challenging items that build upon one another. Instead I think of them as Epic Quests that take me on an adventure through life’s many obstacles. It has made life’s adventure much more enjoyable and has helped change how I focus on goals.

That is why I am choosing Level Up Your Life to be the first of my monthly productivity book review series. In it I’ll be going over what this book is about, just what you’ll get from it, and who this book is best geared towards.

So What’s the Book About?

Level Up Your Life is written by fitness instructor, Steve Kamb. Steve takes ideas from nerd culture and combines them with productivity-building habits to create a more gamified perspective on life. Steve goes on to explore how you can transform your life to make you the hero of your own story. In this book you’ll find various life-building skills and ways to treat life’s various challenges like game-related Quests.

Who’s The Author?

Steve started out as another person living The American Dream, by earning his keep at a soul-crushing job day-in and day-out. Tired of living the life of sales, Steve quite his job and took up a career setting up for musical festivals for half the pay. During his time working his exciting new Job, Steve started to focus on blogging.

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Steve has set a name for himself in the online community. In addition to being the author of Level Up Your Life Steve is also the founder of Nerd Fitness, a self-improvement blog filled with various Health and Fitness guides.

Steve’s website started the community known as The Rebellion, which currently has over 100,000 Rebels inspired to take the challenge to change their lives for the better.

The Juicy Content

Before we dive too deep into this book let’s take a quick look at what Gamification is:

“Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.”  ~Gamification Wiki

There are quite a few popular business models that build themselves on gamification(e.g Habitica and Zombies Run!) and Level Up Your Life is certainly one of them.

Steve tends to use a lot of nerd culture references to illustrate just how easy it is to think of life as just one big video game. We are not just loners trying to battle out the difficulties life throws at us. Instead we are all characters striving to improve our Strength and Education skills that will help us on our Quests through life.

An awesome part about Level Up Your Life is that it doesn’t throw you into the water. Steve teaches you how to get into gamification from ground zero. As you familiarize yourself with these concepts you can move yourself up towards bettering your abilities and starting on quests. As the book puts it:

You don’t go from Level 1 to Level 50 right? You go from Level 1 to Level 2, to Level 3, and so on. There’s a very clear progression from Zero to Hero, from newbie to badass.

This is why the book goes into thorough detail on beginner level exercises for those new to fitness. As well as an in-depth guide to help you build your Epic Quest Of Awesome.

Level Up Your Life is formatted a bit differently than what you’d normally expect from a book. Steve himself is a blogger, and that becomes prevalent in his book’s formatting. Through use of spacing, formatting, and color coding, you will find that this book is going to be quite a quick read.

Who Should Read This?

This book is riddled with Sci-Fi, gaming, and other geek references that may be lost if you’re totally unfamiliar the culture. Due to this, it’s catered more towards the people who are striving to better themselves and enjoy geek culture.

If you love the idea of Gamification I would highly recommend this book. Steve presents his ideas in a way that screams passion. It’s really hard not to pick up this book and get a few laughs from it then putting it down feeling motivated to start questing.

Final Thoughts?

It’s no secret that I’m a lover of Gamification, so this book was a very enjoyable experience every page-turn. Even after reading this book I ended up transforming my Impossible List into my own Quest of Awesome. It’s hard to pick a part this book as it excels in its purpose. Level Up Your Life offers a breath of fresh air on self-improvement and offers detailed instructions on how to join what 100,000 other rebels have done.

If there’s anything I had to nitpick about this book it is the oddly placed formatting of the Meet The Rebel sections in each chapter. Very few of these sections fit nicely in the chapter and do not pop at you in the middle of a sentence. However, this is just a minor complaint.

After reading Level Up Your Life, it’s easy to see why so many people joined The Rebellion. I too felt inspired by Steve Kamb’s book and use his teachings towards my own life. So I guess you can also consider me part of The Rebellion.

For more information on Steve Kamb and Level Up Your Life you can check out his website at Nerd Fitness or buy the book here.

Epic Quest of Awesome

It’s Day 5 now since I started questing at Nerd Fitness Academy, and I have to say, the experience has been very fun so far. As I battle Bosses and Gain XP I am working each day to try to implement Steve Kamb’s Level Up Your Life ideals into my own.

This of course, means making my own Epic Quest of Awesome(Which, in short is a gamified bucket list). I have overlooked my Impossible List carefully and followed suit to separated each item into it’s own Quest Category.

Each Quest is worth 20 XP. After every 100XP is hit(or 5 Quests total) I gain a level. In addition to regular quests there are also Master Quests, extremely difficult quests that automatically level you up once you hit them.

The one tweak I’m making to my EQA draws from my Runescape-playing days, and color code the quests. Each Quests will be colored as such:

  • Quest Completed
  • Quest Started
  • Quest Not Started

Russ’ Epic Quest of Awesome

Below you will find a list of what I want to accomplish over the years. My Epic Quest is a progress and is subjected to change over time.

Completed Quests

Level 2

Level 1

North America Quests

  • Rock Climb Devil’s Tower
  • 50 points in 50 States(2/50)
  • Snow Board in Jasper, Canada
  • See an Aurora Borealis
  • Hike the Ice Age Trail(More Info.)
  • Strawberry Hill(More Info.)
  • Corn Palace(Morn Info.)
  • Travel to Canada

Central/South America Quests

  • Backflip on top of Macchu Picchu

Europe Quests

  • Paraglide in Chamonix Europe
  • Step foot in Sweden
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride in Sweden
  • Marcle Aches Cave(More Info.)

Africa Quests

  • Surf in Killer Point Mocorro

Far East Quests

  • Go to a Japaense Hot Spring
  • Bunny Island, Japan
  • Fuji Mountain Race(More Info.)

South Pacific Quests

  • A Simple Walk Into Mordor(More Info.)
  • Scuba Dive Australia’s Coral Reef
  • Bungee Jump off Victoria Fall Ridge

Ninja/Strength Quests

  • 10 Years Martial Arts(1/10)
  • 10 Years Weaponry(0/10)
  • Complete All Fitocracy Quests(More Info.)
  • Run Alpha Warrior(Texas & California)(More Info.)
  • 5 No-Kip Muscle Ups
  • 15 Second Human Flag
  • Sign White Block at Fight or Flight Academy
  • Post a 5-Minute Parkour Montage
  • Pick a Master lock

Flips & Twists Quests

  • Front Flip
  • Back Flip
  • Aerial
  • Side Flip
  • Corkscrew
  • 540 Kick

Personal Level-Up Quests

  • Skinny Dipping
  • Cliff Swinging
  • Make Food(Cheese, Wine, Yogurt)
  • Visit A Sunken Ship
  • Take A Sniper’s Course
  • Get a Wax
  • 1,000 Photo Challenge[Progress]
  • 1,000 Geocaches
  • Spontaneous Vacation

Rock Star Quests

  • [PIANO] Piano Man By Billy Joel
  • [PIANO] Roses and Butterflies By Making April
  • [PIANO]  Guitar vs Piano By Goukisan
  • [GUITAR] Guitar vs Piano By Goukisan
  • [HARMONICA] The Times They Are Changing by Bob Dylan
  • [HARMONICA] Piano Man By Billy Joel

Education Quests

  • Get a Helicopter Pilot License
  • Become SCUBA Certified
  • Learn to Sail A Boat
  • Get a Motorcycle  License
  • Publish a Mobile App
  • Write a Novel
  • Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Obtain a Master’s Degree

Les Stroud/Survivalist Quests

  • Score 300 With Recurve Bow[More Info.]
  • Make Deer Jerky
  • Finish a Survival Adventure Race[More Info.]
  • Wilderness First Responder Certification
  • Waterfront Lifeguard Certification
  • Build and Shoot Arrows from Scratch
  • Take a NOLS semester Course[More Info.]
  • 7-Day Survival with BOB
  • 21-Day Survival, only Knife

Running & Races Quests

  • First Marathon
  • Barefoot Marathon
  • Minneapolis Ground Rounds(51 Miles)(More Info.)
  • 50-Ultra Marathon
  • 100-Ultra Marathon
  • Spartan Sprint
  • Spartan Super
  • Spartan Beast
  • Spartan Trifecta(Sprint + Super + Beast In 1 Year)
  • Triathlon Sprint(750m S/20K B/ 5K R)
  • Triathlon Olympic (1500m S/40K B/ 10K R)
  • Triathlon Half-Iron(1.2 mi S/90K B/21K  R)
  • Triathlon Iron(2.4 mi S/180K B/42K R)

Events/Conferences Quests

  • Eeyore’s Birthday
  • Room 13 San Antonia[More Info.]
  • Sundance Film Festival
  • Cirque De Loteil
  • Google Local Guides Summit
  • Red Bull Art of Motion

Financial Quests

  • Have $10,000+ in Saving before 2019
  • Adopt a Minnesota Highway
  • Earn 1,000 Subscribers on Challenge List

Master Quests

  • Get A Career Allowing Me to Live Anywhere
  • Completed a Barkley Marathon[More Info]
  • Obtain a PhD

Challenge List Mini-Quests

 

 

 

 

2017: Year of Productivity

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It’s another year which means it’s once again time to reflect on last year’s accomplishments and start looking towards what we want to do in the new year.

For many of us, this means making resolutions that we plan complete, but for one reason or another, never do.

I, for one, hate the idea of resolutions. I feel that most of the time when people make resolutions they make them very general and uninspiring. In the end, a lot of people never keep up to their resolutions and drop them all together by early February.

This is what led me to create The Challenge List, in which I set out a number of challenges for myself and try to complete them before the end of the year. These challenges are made to push me out of my comfort zone and improve both the mind and body.

Throughout the year I’ll be sharing what I learned form taking on these challenges. During my journey I’ll also be experimenting with different productivity methods and utilizing ideas from Tim Ferris, Charles Durhigg, and other productivity experts. As I try out these productivity ideas I’ll be posting what worked and what didn’t,and what can be learned from applying these concepts.

2017 Challenges

Progress: 6/20
Last Updated: July 24th, 2017

  1. Swim 2 Consecutive Miles in Open Water
  2. Finish a Tough Mudder[ACCOMPLISHED July 15th, 2017]
  3. Take a BOB Survival Course
  4. Shoot 150 Points in Archery[ACCOMPLISHED June 29th, 2017]
  5. Develop A University Capstone App
  6. Obtain my Bachelor’s Degree
  7. Get into Advanced Krav Maga Classes
  8. Get into Intermediate Swords Classes
  9. Get into Advance Parkour & Free Running Classes
  10. Climb Black Edge Peak, South Dakota[ACCOMPLISHED July 19th, 2017]
  11. Earn a Front-End Web Dev Certificate at Free Code Camp
  12. Be a Nerd Fitness Rebel for 365 Days
  13. Finish A Triathlon Sprint[ACCOMPLISHED June 3rd, 2017]
  14. Post 50 Blogs in the Challenge List
  15. Make a 5-min Parkour video
  16. Read A Productivity Book A Month
  17. Become a Level 4 Blacksmith on Habitica
  18. Make Cheese
  19. Snowboard Down Green Circle Slope[ACCOMPLISHED February 19th, 2017]
  20. Get a Development Related job [ACCOMPLISHED February 28th, 2017]

You can follow me on my journey by clicking on the Follow Button on the right side of the screen. If you also have any Challenges or Goals for 2017 let me hear them in the comments below!

The 2016 Round-Up: Biggest Takeaways From A Year of Challenges

It’s that time of the year again!

It’s the end of the year, and that means it’s time to step back and reflect back on 2016’s Challenge List. This is where I take a step back to review the list and go over what went awesome, what didn’t go so great, and what was learned as a result.

So let’s take a look at total amount of challenges completed for 2016:

18/25

In total, I managed to complete 72% of all challenges on my list. Some of the more notable tasks included:

  • Running a Spartan Race
  • Publishing an Android App
  • Tripling my distance record for swimming
  • Taking a trip out of the country
  • Building and shooting an arrow from scratch
  • and many more

While this was a year for new experiences, it also had one of the most pivotal moments that changed how I view productivity. With many successes came many learning experiences. With these learning experiences I plan on taking on 2017 with these ideas in mind:

Better to Be SMART Instead of Busy

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If I had to pinpoint my biggest mistake for 2016 it would have to be doing my 20 Things A Month experiment. You see, back in early February I had an idea that would push me to get things done. In order to motivate me to focus on my yearly challenges, I would select several tasks each month and then draw them up on a list of 20 things to complete at the end of the month.

My initial thought was that if  I broke it down like this I can chip at each tasks little by little and complete almost all of it by the end of the year.

Instead, I ended up finding myself pulling out my hair each day constantly doing work but barely making any significant progress towards my Challenge List goals.

It wasn’t until I listened to a podcast interview of Smarter, Faster Better‘s author Charles Durhigg that I realized what I was doing.

I crafted my To-Do lists to make me busy, not productive. Sure I would be spending 15 hours a day, working my brain and body to mush, but all of that was pointless because I was tackling small, insignificant tasks on my list in attempt to cross more items off.

I was experiencing, what is known as a False Authentic Pride, where you working towards  feelings of the little dopamine effects you get from doing small accomplishments  instead of working towards the much grander feeling of accomplishing something worthwhile.

Now I’ll be tackling on my tasks with SMART Goals in order to handle the bigger, more difficult tasks on my list and get much more done.

After learning this it led to another way I need to tackle my goals

Work Towards The Long-Term Goals

As Steve Kamb said in his book, Level Up Your Life:
Think of each big quest on your list as a series of tiny, incremental quests. If we can create 10 steps to a mastery of a skill, then we can focus our energy on simply putting one foot in front of the other and the process will take of itself
After hearing reading this it sparked something in my mind: There are very different feelings between how I feel accomplishing each challenge.

Each challenge I’ve completed thus far has been no stroll in the park. If I wasn’t pushing myself to go beyond my physical and mental limits, I was pushing myself to do things that went beyond my comfortable zone.

The problem is, I found that the challenges that ended up going towards my overall goals(i.e. My Impossible List) were far more satisfying than those I wanted to do because I thought it would be “fun” or “look cool”.

This caused my focus to shift towards my long-term goals instead of short-term, spontaneous goals. As a result, I didn’t really work towards some of these items as hard as others. My energy and focus went towards my long term goals, and each one I crossed off ended up giving me a more deserved feeling of accomplishment as well as put me that much closer to being who I want to be.

With that being said, there is one last thing I will be doing for 2017

Do A Lot in A Little, Not A Little in A Lot

Probably the biggest thing I’ve been debating about these last two years has been the number of items I’ve used on my list. I’ve done 25 challenges for 2 years now and each year I only get close to finishing 20 of them. Each item I work on typically takes a long time and a lot of focus to complete, so trying to do an average of over 2 per month starts to look less realistic.

If I really want to buckle down and finish off my goals I need to shorten my list so I can give it my all. But than that begs the question, how many challenges do I do? 20 challenges, 15 challenges, 10 challenges?

Well… That’s still up to debate. Right now I have quite a few items already sorted out for 2017’s list.

The idea I’m leaning on most is to cap the limit on 20  items and attempt to do 5 extra if I finish my list with a lot of time to spare. There would be something more definitive in my post for 2017’s Challenge List.

All and all though, I have to say that this year proved to be a great year for experimentation and learning. I am looking forward to this upcoming year and cannot wait to see what’s to come.

For all of you out there, I hope you had a great 2016, and shoot hard for an even better 2017. Train hard, and I’ll see you next year!

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.

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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

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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.

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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.