“As an athlete, you’d better laugh at yourself when you slip in the mud.” — Dwayne Johnson
A day without sweating is a day that will most certainly end up not so well. You see, my daily magic pill since I was a teenager has been my fitness routine. I take from it the energy to carry on the rest of the day. I look forward to every training session because it gives me a dedicated space and time for mindfulness. Fitness is my mission, my sanity, and my drug of choice. That is why I can’t help but look for challenges beyond the four corners of the gym!
In 2014, after a couple of years of coaching, training, and studying exercises and techniques at the gym, I felt the urge to apply in real life the training principles and coaching philosophies that I have learned. Embracing pain, staying on the path without excuses, and always maintaining an optimistic mindset are some of the principles I preach whenever I train my athletes. Back then, I thought of joining fun runs to test these very principles and discover how these principles would play out in real life. Fun runs were exactly that–fun. However, it got monotonous for me real quick. Running three to 10 kilometers straight with the goal of finishing as fast as possible didn’t really thrill me. It felt like there was something fundamentally lacking and I just knew deep within that fun runs didn’t reflect the essence of fitness that I preach. So I began looking for greater challenges!
Enter obstacle course races. It was also in 2014 that I’ve joined my first obstacle course race with some of my colleagues and clients. It was fun and muddy and the obstacles were pretty challenging. The heightened awareness of danger was the game-changer. We had to rely on our survival instinct to be able to cross the finish line. Quite a level up compared to the fun runs I used to join! The goal was still to cross the finish line as fast as you can, give high fives, and celebrate the winner. But this time there were obstacles and road blocks that removed any notion of predictability. Although obstacle courses require a “never quit” attitude, I still felt that there was something missing. This time around, I searched for a human element, a social element not just a difficult set of obstacles to individually overcome.
Fast forward to last weekend, the 2018 Tough Mudder Philippines, the very first Tough Mudder to be held in Asia, wasn’t like any other fun runs or obstacle races I’ve joined. I was shocked to hear the host shout out, “The Tough Mudder isn’t a race, it’s a challenge. The person next to you isn’t your competition, he’s your teammate.” This particular event emphasized teamwork over one’s finishing time and the obstacles were designed to be insurmountable by any single person. The walls were more than 12 feet high, the rings were distanced too far apart, the muddy slide which everyone had to climb towards the end of the course was impossibly slippery and steep. There was no way to complete it alone. One would need the help of the person next to him to get over to the other side and carry on. At that moment when the host shouted those words was when I had a eureka moment.
Being strong and fit were a means to an end and not an end in itself. Being a coach was my way of paying it forward since I was practically saved by fitness when I was a very lost teenager. I knew no other way to best help out individuals who were just like me than by preaching and living the message of holistic fitness. What better way to express one’s strength than by helping out one’s teammates or even a stranger who just couldn’t do it alone. It is knowing that everything we have accomplished or are yet to accomplish is part of a larger whole. At the end of the day, the community that we are a part of is what truly matters.
So at gun start, me and my teammates decided to stick it out with each other until the finish line. No one took the lead nor did we let anyone fall behind. We ran side by side, pushing and pulling each other up and down and over and under the obstacles. I was literally the outsider in our team since all three of them are siblings. I was simply invited by Sharon to be the team’s fourth member. However, as we splashed into the mud pits, as we overcame every crazy obstacle, our bond as a team solidified.
Sad to say, I wasn’t able to finish the course since I got injured in one of the last obstacles. An avalanche of people came crashing down on me from the top of the giant slide. My finger was the ultimate casualty. When I stood up to look, my right pinky was already numb and immobile and shaped like the letter S. So instead of crossing the finish line, my teammates Sharon, Kyle, and Faye, together with my best friend, Patrick, and our team’s doctor on standby, Rina, brought me to the hospital. After getting an X-ray, we were told that it was just a minor dislocation and that all the doctors at the ER had to do was to pull it back into place. I swear that the realignment was the longest 15 seconds of my life!
When you pray for rain, for blessings and good vibes, it really does pour down on you but you have to get ready for the mud too. Such was my Tough Mudder experience. Everything was going great, the teamwork was good and then you realize you’re waist deep in the mud–stuck in a quagmire. I guess when life throws you mud, you just have to think it’s chocolate. In a sense, a mud pit is also like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. That day, my teammates became family. They stuck it out with me when it got really muddy and I’m not only talking about the crazy obstacles. They gave up their time and resources just to take care of me through my injury. I couldn’t be happier I squished my finger that day. Tough times in the mud don’t last, tough families do!
Rain, mud, storm or tsunami, onto the next challenge!