Measuring Toughness

I am always up for a challenge, especially when that can be blended in with some friendly competition. Every challenge is just a way of learning more about myself and the latest one was the Tough Mudder.

I didn’t realize how enlightening a grueling obstacle course in the mud could be, but then again the Tough Mudder tests physical strength, mental agility, grit and camaraderie. In a matter of the few hours it took to complete the course, I learned the real meaning of “toughness.”

Sure, you have your stereotypical macho competitors who use the race to stroke their ego and prove their masculinity. But I think the race aims at something different. The course pushes you to your limit.  Whether it was swimming through an ice bath that just about sends your body into shock, or scaling a 10-foot with only the aid of two pegs, or managing 10 to 12 miles of endurance while migrating from obstacle to obstacle, the course pushed me out of my comfort zone. Luckily for me, that is where I learn the most.

1.) Everyone has their vulnerabilities 

I will admit that I was a little nervous about my capabilities going into this race. I never trained aside from going to the gym a few times a week and even that was underestimating what I could and should have been doing. I was by no means physically fit.

One obstacle in particular, The Liberator, called for each person to scale a wall just using two pegs.  After venturing through a mud pit right before (evil move, Tough Mudder) I found myself unable to get good footing on the wall. Slipping over and over, I wondered how and even if I could complete it.  I could just hear cheers from my teammates and the next thing I knew I grabbed the top ledge and was able to pull myself up.  It was the moment of the Mudder where I looked at an obstacle and actually questioned if I could get through it.

This proved to me that we all have our vulnerabilities and they show up in every arena of life. Instead of looking at vulnerabilities as showing what you cannot do, I learned that they are ways of showing you what you can overcome.

2.) The physical part is child’s play

The real test of the Tough Mudder was mental perseverance. Anyone can swim through ice water, scale a ten-foot wall and jump off an extremely high ledge, but it’s knowing you can do all of it that is the hard part.  “King of the Swingers” was an adrenaline rush of an obstacle.  You climb a ledge that seems to be miles up in the air, only to jump off and grab a bar to swing across to ring a bell. Oh, and on your way down you crash into a pool of muddy water that makes even the best swimmers feel like they are drowning. A girl in front of me froze taking what seemed like hours to muster up the courage to take the leap.  I asked myself, Come on, how can it be that bad? Until I got to the ledge myself and felt the nerves dance in my stomach. My advice to everyone was just drown everything out and focus on the bar.  Don’t think, just jump. I may have hesitated a few seconds but I went for it.  I missed the bell and had one hell of a fanny smacker when I hit the water, but it was worth it.

We all have doubts, fears and insecurities that prevent us from realizing our fullest potential and can psych ourselves out of taking action.  The Mudder really made that apparent.  I was surprised that I didn’t have more doubts along the way, but I focused on the competition (and I love my competitions) and even through the physical fatigue which resulted in my legs going numb toward the end of the race, I kept pushing. I didn’t feel like quitting because I didn’t let my mind take me to that option.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you focus your mind on the achievement and perseverance of reaching the finish line.

3.) It’s not always the obstacles themselves, but the journey in between

When asked what the toughest part of the Tough Mudder was, my response is different than most. It wasn’t any of the 18 obstacles, but the course itself. I could point out the toughest obstacle – Hold Your Wood – where a team carries the equivalent of a tree trunk up and down a very steep, muddy hill (more like a mountain!). But going between obstacles through 11 miles of mud pits, trails, and hills was draining. We’d get to an obstacle and feel our adrenaline pick up, but it was being on the course not knowing what was next, or how much farther we had that was the toughest to get through.

I think it stands as a pretty enlightening life metaphor that it’s not always the obstacles themselves that can test us, but the journey in between and how we get one point to the next. It can be preparing for what’s next when you don’t know what awaits, or wondering how long it will take to get to the next step, deciding how much more you can take, or how much farther you can go. Obstacles are tough, but its the journey that brings the real tests and challenges.

4.) You can’t do it alone

I couldn’t have asked for better support in my teammates. The best was that it was formed minutes before the race. I went in with two of my friends, and we were joined by two ladies they knew.

Each person brought something different to our team that created a balance and helped us through each obstacle and finish the course. There were obstacles someone might of struggled with that another killed in a few seconds.  Everyone had their strengths and their weaknesses, but it was camaraderie that got us through each and every challenge. Even missing one of our teammates I feel would have left us with a severe disadvantage. Through the Mudder I bonded with my teammates more than I could’ve imagined. They needed me just as much as I needed them.

It goes to show the importance of support systems. They help us see the parts of ourselves that are strong, vibrant and true, and also the parts of ourselves that need a little work.  I feel that the Mudder really taught me the importance of camaraderie and support.  It goes to show that you can’t live a really healthy, happy life alone – we all need one another.  We need one another and we belong to one another and those relationships are the catalyst to get through each and every day.


Until next time, remember: you’re tougher than you think!


The Tough Mudder supports the Wounded Warrior Project. Learn more about the Wounded Warrior Project and make a donation to make a difference!



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