Why Obstacle Course Racing?

This past weekend, Facebook memories reminded me of my first Spartan race. The experience was unlike anything I’ve experienced before and little did I know how much of an impact this moment would make on my life. I remember being completely broken down physically and not being able to workout pain free for 2 weeks. I viewed the experience as an equalizer which is something I needed. I say this because I was a year into being a fitness professional (group fitness instructor) and competing in road races (5Ks, Half Marathons, etc.) but never took them seriously. I would do fairly well (1:38 half marathon) without much training. I remember the week or two before the race talking to someone about my training and saying something to the effect of “all I need to do is a 8-10 mile run and I’ll be good.” Little did I know…

Pivot – This reminded me of the movie “Friday Night Lights” about the high school football team in Texas. There’s a scene where the team was lifting and the quarterback, Boobie Miles, decided he didn’t need to lift. His teammate, Mike Winchell, made a comment to Boobie saying “Hey Boobie, you didn’t lift.” Boobie responded, “I ain’t gotta lift… All I gotta do is show up.” Later in the game following that workout, Boobie suffered an injury that took him out for the season along with his scholarships for college.

I will never forget my comments and correlate them to that moment in Friday Night Lights. Luckily, I wasn’t injured to the point of not being able to run or workout again but I was pretty banged up. I quickly reflected on my “fitness” and realized that I wasn’t who I thought I was. I thought I was some bad ass trainer who could do anything and I wasn’t. I’ve done a marathon, half marathons, and many 5Ks but nothing compared to what I experienced that day in Attica, Indiana. This is where my view of “fitness” began to change and I pivoted from training for show and started training for performance. To provide context, training for show is where the focus is around body composition and aesthetics (6 pack abs and biceps). Training for performance is where the focus is around athleticism and taking a holistic approach to health (professional athlete).

Side Note – This isn’t a diss to those who compete in bodybuilding competitions or just want to look lean. I’m a believer in doing whatever feels best for YOU and getting the work done. If that’s powerlifting, running, or badminton, do whatever brings the most joy for you.

Lean and Unhealthy

The key part of that last sentence is the “holistic approach to health.” The reason why I say this is because you can be fit and unhealthy. I feel like social media has drove this need to be extremely lean which has led many people to eating disorders. I’m not innocent either, I have definitely posted my share of shirtless photos with 6 pack abs and gone through moments in my life where I would work out twice a day and barely eat to stay lean. I bring this up because this approach to fitness was not the correct approach to becoming an elite obstacle course racer. The requirements are completely different when it comes to training for performance versus aesthetics. Everything from nutrition, hormones, recovery, endurance, agility, strength, the list can goes on for a while. What I love about this approach is that if you train like an athlete one of indirect outcomes is aesthetics. You can train for looks but that isn’t going to give you performance gains. You can train for performance and one of the outcomes of that training is aesthetics.

Doing the Spartan race in 2019 opened a door for me and I’m glad it did. It has shifted my entire view on what I thought was fitness and helped me see what my potential was. The biggest impact it made was around viewing your body from a holistic standpoint and incorporating balance. The ability to run up a mountain at altitude then follow that with a heavy lift session used to seem crazy and is now the norm. I bring this up because we’re coming up towards the end of the year and this is when we start to think about new year’s resolutions. For me, I have a goal to become a professional obstacle course racer. I encourage those that are thinking about taking on a new challenge to just go for it. Who cares if you suck or fail. Fail forward because you’ll never know where that lesson will take you.