My name is Josh Cox and recently I competed in the 4th Annual World’s Toughest Mudder; a 24 hour endurance event where you complete as many 5 mile laps as you can while traversing 20+ of the hardest obstacles Tough Mudder has to offer. If you’re unfamiliar with my background here is a short 5 minute video put together by Anytime Fitness from when I was recognized as one of 4 success stories in 2012. Through my 6+ years with Anytime Fitness I’ve had some unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and this will forever be up there with some of the best of them. “When was the last time you did something for the first time” was the quote Sean Corvelle, Tough Mudder MC extraordinaire, opened up with and it was made clear in that moment that the answer was November 15th, 2014.
As I sit down to write this about 4 weeks have come and gone since the culmination of World’s Toughest Mudder. During that time I’ve done a whole helluva lot of reflecting on it yet haven’t really been ready to jot it all down until now. Let’s start here:
World’s Toughest Mudder 2014 was beyond a mouse fart of a doubt the most challenging thing I’ve ever chosen to do in my entire life.
I know I still have a lot of life left to live but I also pride myself on being a firm advocate of stepping outside of your comfort zone and boy… let me tell you… If California is my comfort zone then Las Vegas might as well have been goddamn Australia. *Writer’s Note* For you Aussies reading this who competed… Your entire life in my imagination is a World’s Toughest Mudder *End Writer’s Note*
The second thing I want to address is that this wouldn’t have happened without the best of friends by my side. It was Fitness Rebels who got together and took care of my ticket. I got to run it with Super Rebel Paul Trujillo and the amazing Jacqualyn Evans. I had the best training partner and friend I could possibly ask for in Rebel hero Justin Zuiderweg. His better half Maggie Schuck, along with Tami Tuminello, Sean Barnett, and MY better half Cara “Unicorn” Jones made up our “World’s Toughest Pit Crew.” They were there for the setup, duration, and breakdown of the entire shindig and selflessly tended to every need we had. Shoot, Tami literally held down the fort during the sandstorm! As for Cara, she was my rock through this whole thing encouraging me every step of the way. Whether it was pushing me on the days I didn’t want to train, working with me to make sure I had the proper gear, or listening to me blather on and on and on about this whole mess… she was my Unicorn pillar throughout it all. Thank you Cara! Thank you everyone!!
The nuttiness of this event made it to “The Chive” and as a Chiver it was pretty rad going through the photo set of something that *I* was a part of. Real talk; I thought I had a better chance at discovering type III diabetes the hard way before I ever pictured myself doing something this insane… The part that I keep going back to in my mastiff-sized head (seriously… size 8 in fitted hits… no foolin’) is that this is exactly how I felt upon signing up for and competing in my very first Tough Mudder back in 2011 (Tahoe). Chance would have it that this was also how I felt upon registering for my 1st 8k trail run with Cara. Also, My 1st Body Building competition. And then my 2nd… and then my 3rd… My 1st Spartan beast. My 1st 200 Mile relay!
That’s just the small stuff though comparatively… I felt the SAME WAY when I joined my 1st gym at 14 years old with the greatest Mom ever, mine (she has the coffee mug to prove it), as the co-signer. The 1st time I ventured off the Reebok cycler and tested the free weights out. The 1st protein jug I ever bought and the DEFINITE muscle that was waiting for me at the bottom of that strawberry/vomit flavored Nitrotech barrel (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). The 1st pair of 32 inch waist jeans I ever bought and THEN the terrifying 1st time I ever wore them out. The 1st time I could fit my thumb and middle finger around my wrist! The 1st time I wore a shirt and noticed my stomach wasn’t what stuck out the farthest! The 1st pull-up I ever accomplished. The 1st push-up I ever completed. The 1st time I ran a mile the whole way through without stopping. My 1st personal training consultation, my 1st client, my 1st group class….
The point I’m driving at is that it was all a staircase of progression. I’ve long since connected the fact that making the ballsy decision to step into the gym for the 1st time and actually do something about my health was literally the horrifying equivalent of how it felt standing at the start line ready to endure whatever the next 24 hours of hell had to offer this past November 15th.
Without that progression I never would have known what that next step was. I mean, think about it… A toddler doesn’t know what it’s like to crawl… until it does. Crawling leads to walking, which leads to running, which leads to jumping, which leads to, you know… A lot of other advanced movements once motor skills develop and stuff… I don’t know, I’m not a Doctor! In any case I learned that stepping into the gym was my “crawl.” Attempting machines I’d only watched curiously from afar was my “walking.” I started “running” when I signed up for my first body building competition which then led to “advanced movements” like 200 mile relays, countless obstacle course races, a Fitness Rebellion, guest speaking around the country, a couple of small television appearances, published writings on my experiences, and so much more that I’ll forever be thankful I was able to struggle through and cherish in my lifetime. You don’t just have epic shit fall ino your lap… You’ve gotta dig for it!
I want to talk for a second about how ridiculously nuts-in-throat terror stricken heights make me. I can’t look down a 3 story window without my crotch-seam tingling like a useless “spidey sense” reminding me to appreciate solid ground. When it comes roller coasters I’m oddly fine with them but anything involving a ledge sends me over the edge.
Even writing “over the edge” gave me the jeebies. Ugh.
In the weeks leading up to this torture fiesta, Tough Mudder had been dangling their newest obstacle “The Cliff” in front of our faces comparable to the way the bad guy in James Bond movies will dangle meat over the laser sharks or whatever they’re threatening 007 with by showing him how hungry they are. Some people took the “animal” approach and were chomping at the bit to experience the nearly 40 foot plunge like it was their birthday and it was the best present ever. Me? I was the sheepish dude in the background quietly saying “… um… guys… are you sure this is such a good idea?”
As November 15th rapidly approached I found myself honestly losing sleep over it yet trying to brush it off like it was something else stressing me out. I did the typical man thing and shrugged it off in an attempt to legitimately feel that way only no matter how hard I tried that just wasn’t going to be the case. My standing line was “I’m just taking the approach I take with all Tough Mudders and just doing it.”
Within my percolated anxiety I made the promise to myself that I was doing it no matter what and on top of that I wasn’t going to waste any time dicking around about it. They say jump, I was jumping. Simple as that. I swore to myself every single day that that was how I was going to do it.
Well wouldn’t you know it… They made that bastard the very last obstacle before finishing your lap so that meant I had PLENTY of time to think about it while traversing the desert course. This one obstacle was my championship and that was something I quietly kept to myself as we steamrolled our way towards this Tom Petty inspiration (read: “Free Fallin'”). By the time we got there it was EXACTLY the nightmare I was anticipating. You know how sometimes you exaggerate situations and by the time they actually happen you’re like “whew, that wasn’t so bad…” with a big ol’ grin on your face and sweet sweet relief in your soul? Yeah, that didn’t happen here.
As Super Rebel Paul Trujillo and I waited in line he’s all kinds of pumped like a 3 year old overdosing on a pixie stick. My silence causes him to pause and say “You really don’t like heights do you?” Upon his inquiry I slowly lifted my head, squinted through the sun beams as I sized up his chiseled features, took in a deep breathe, and spilled my heart out through the song of words on exactly how I felt;
We near closer and I’m the next person up. My promise to myself to jump when they say and not even think about it has become my mantra as I’m pretty sure I have no more air in my lungs nor hair on my chest (all 3 of them fell off from all the trembling). As I step to the edge I can’t even bring myself to look at the water at ALL. I’m talking eyes straight on to the horizon because if I look down, it’s absolutely over. At this point there could have been a pit full of junkyard cars and scrapped IKEA pieces and I never would have known. I felt like a lemming (the “Wild Wilderness” version).
There was no “it felt like an eternity before I was told to jump” moment of truth as I waited for this bullshit. The world did NOT regress to slow motion as I sat within some sort of twilight zone time lapse centrifuge much the way I was anticipating. Nope, homeboy said “jump” fucking immediately. I mean IMMEDIATELY. I wanted to be like “DO YOU KNOW HOW GODDAMN SCARED I AM HERE MAN?!?!” but all that came out was some sort of breathy high pitched squeal similar to the noise you make when you’re doing some heavy weight training and you’re on your last rep of your last set and you try to grunt but what comes out instead can only be described as an emasculating whimper/gurgle. You know, THAT noise.
And then I stepped off.
I stayed true to the promise I made to myself of being an efficient Ernie rather than a procrastinating Paul and I stepped the hell off like a BOSS. The best part was that there was sooooooooooooooo much time from top to bottom that I actually had a moment to be proud of myself before I hit the water! Seriously, you know when you step off a curb or some stairs and the ground isn’t where your foot is expecting so it jolts your system a bit? Imagine that only with your entire body.
And then, just like that… it was over. Other than greeting the water with more of my face than I had originally intended… I fucking did it! As I regained my composure and swam toward the cargo net to get out there were 2 thoughts running through my brain like a scrolling marquee. The 1st?
2nd thought? An overwhelming sense of relief that it was over. I was Atlas and finally the weight of the world was off my back. I was Steve Young (#8) after the ’94 Super Bowl… The monkey was gone! As I pulled myself out and took a moment to let it soak in I seriously couldn’t be more elated. There was a time in my life when something that intimidating would have stopped me dead in my tracks. No… My tracks wouldn’t have even gone in that direction. I was the kid that always inexplicably had a stomach ache every time we had to run the mile in PE. I was the kid that only went outside to help Mom bring the groceries in (which happened often since I ate for a family of 5 every day).
It wasn’t until the last few years I was able to reverse the fortune on my debilitating shin splints developed from carrying around so much weight as a young adult. I managed to stack the odds against myself pretty high growing up and digging out of the epic hole I’d put myself in only to find myself on top of that rock having just beaten “The Cliff” was surreal to say the least.
What I’m trying to share is that it’s up to YOU to take each step, no matter how painful and no matter how miserable. Nobody is going to hand you a damn thing nor is there a soul on this planet stopping you from being who you want to be… that’s just what you tell yourself. Taking on challenges and attempting things you’ve never done before is scary as all hell… but that’s the point. That’s where the growth is. That’s where the endorphin rush that lets you know you made the right decision is waiting for you! That’s where all the high points of your life are sitting just waiting to be plucked and once you reach out and grab them, the low points all of a sudden start to make sense… With each unnerving step you take in conquering your fears a new door to a new you is waiting. The beautiful part is that those steps, fears, aspirations, goals, and experiences are going to be completely different for everyone making for a pretty grand adventure! At the heart of it all is one extremely important fundamental that rings true no matter the circumstances however:
You’re not as strong as what you’ve done, you’re as strong as what you show up to. As long as you show up then I promise you… Your strength will be there.
Greetings Rebels! As most of you know myself and Justin Zuiderweg are headed out to Las Vegas to compete in the 2014 World’s Toughest Mudder! Along with Rebel Paul Trujillo and Jacqualyn Evans we will have our professional Rebel entourage of Cara “Unicorn” Jones (I love you babe!), Maggie “Too Tough” Schuck, Tami “2 Guns” Tuminello, and Sean “Big Boss” Barnett.
While I’m gone Rebel leaders Lori DeMarco and Megan Gill will be peer leading the total body mud circuit workout you see below. Y’all know the drill by now there ain’t nothing to it but to do it!
Michelle “Hulk” Huntley
Victoria “T-Bones” Nicolas
Megan “Ming” Gill
Alyx J. Livingston
1) What’s the number one thing that holds you back from flying high? What’s your “domino…” the thing that if you knock THAT down, the rest will follow?
2) What’s the thing you are most PROUD of regarding taking care of yourself? What’s the thing you’ve really had to work at and have earned feeling good about?
Looking for a fun way to stay fit and active this winter? Need some help fighting the “holi-daze” and all the frumpy weather, sluggish food, and cozy sweaters just begging you to hibernate until the 1st of the year? Hoping for some accountability so you’re not just left to your own devices while having every nutritional, stretching, exercise, and meditative tool at your disposal?
BAM! HERE IT IS!!
For 9 weeks we will rock this winter in true Rebel fashion; lots of hard work, lots of fun, and an endless supply of encouragement along the way. No measurements… No weekly weigh-ins… Simply a fit test at the beginning and end with a bunch of people just like you sticking together and diggin’ deep! All abilities, age ranges, experiences, and every other diverse situation you can possibly think of are welcome! NO REBEL LEFT BEHIND! Interested? Check out this video created during the 1st “Rebel Winter Rescue!”
The cost is $200 for Anytime Fitness Members, $275 for 1st time Rebel challenge participants who do NOT have a membership, and $375 for non-Anytime Fitness members who have done a rebel challenge before but choose to forgo getting a membership. A down payment of $100 is required by the start date but payment plans are available upon request!
So week 2 of Operation World’s Toughest Cox has concluded and just like every other week it had its share of ups and downs. I’ll get the downs out of the way first so that we can take a shovel, bury them in the yard, and put a tombstone up that reads “learned from and moved on.”
My goals for the week were as such:
* Make yoga once this week
* Get in 1 trail run
* Run 15 miles total
* Get in a savage beach workout
* 4 weight training days
* minimum 30 total minutes on the “Lateral X”
* Increased vegetable intake
* Increased breakfast intake
* Reduced night time eating intake
Unfortunately extreme fatigue reared its insubordinate, grotesque head and I didn’t make yoga. That’s the only physical goal I didn’t make but it’s a pretty big one for me. I LOVE the centered focus you get but even more so I love the flexibility training that it forces me to do in ways that I don’t do normally. Stretching aside you work muscle groups, tendons, and ligaments in a way that you’re not going to get from a weight training session, circuit class, cardio, or anything else. That’s the reason why I love Zumba…
When else are you going to move your body in such a way that knocks all the cobwebs out, gets you limber, increases blood flow to areas normally lacking, works up a sweet sweat, AND you get to have fun? As my favorite Zumba Instructor of all time (and one of my all time favorite people in general) Jessica LaVenter states it’s exercise in disguise!
To be fair though… There are a lot Zumba routines that are DEFINITELY not disguised… The exercise punches you square in the face and laughs at you while you try to get up and keep the rhythm with the rest of the class.
As for the nutritional component I decreased my veggie intake from last week but it was still up from average. My breakfast intake was good and my late night eating was… ehhhh. Better than average but I definitely had a few more bowls of cereal than I should have.
And a couple of mini donuts, some chocolate pie, and some In N’ Out to boot… I’M ONLY HUMAN!!!
In reality a few unwise choices aren’t going to derail me in the slightest! They will, however, throw some sludge on my progress train tracks and with World’s Toughest Mudder merely a few months away there is no time to waste!
Don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with perfectionism… I’d like to think that I pretty much represent the anti-perfectionist because I believe big time in yin yang philosophy. To know good you must know bad and vice versa. That is MAJORLY generalized of course… There are opposite ends of the spectrum on everything meaning one thing cannot exist without the other. Now I’m not talking to know of sadness and happiness but rather to knowing sadness and happiness and experiencing that they hold each other’s hand and guide each other through the dark spots. I apply that to my health, well being, and intense training. I accept it all and know that as long as I’m doing the best that I can then I am the best me that I can be at any given moment which you should NEVER beat yourself up over. It’s when you start short changing, cutting corners, negotiating your worth, and straight up giving up that you should start kicking your own ass and answering your own person judge, jury, and executioner.
My shortcomings also have nothing to do with weight loss. I don’t look at those donuts, bowls of cereal (frosted flakes for you curious kittens out there), In N’ Out, chocolate pie, or anything else I forgot as hindering my weight. Between my training schedule and bringing the same energy as Richard Simmons on a speed binge to the boot camps I run I’m never short on caloric needs. Hell, I lost 4 pounds this week! I’m thankful beyond words that I have achieved activity as normalcy in my life thus allowing a little bit more food leeway for a food addict like myself. Does that mean I don’t feel shitty when I eat things I shouldn’t? Sure as hell doesn’t! Does that mean it doesn’t knock me on my ass like a hibernating bear when I eat enough to feed a family of 5? Heck no… Does it mean I don’t feel the side stitches that aren’t normally there when I go for a run to try to “filter out” the shit food I ate? Every time…
I think you get my point.
If you don’t then I’d like to break it down further… Any health goal you choose is going to take a lot of hard work. If your natural, everyday life brought you towards that goal then it wouldn’t really be a goal now would it? You wouldn’t need to put effort out thus negating any hardship & achievement in one fell swoop. To alter your lifestyle in a way that goes against your urges is extremely difficult even when we realize those urges are not self serving in the slightest. Well I’ve conquered altering my lifestyle after more than a decade of trying to find the balance. You wouldn’t think normalcy would be so exhilarating but I might as well be Tonka with his head out the window I’m so stoked!
With this newly acquired balance I can now focus on the things that REALLY matter… My overall health and the effects that activity and nutrition have on my overall happiness. Not the scale, not how clothes fit, not what I look like… Happiness. I’ve learned that being active and eating well enough is vital to my happiness. When I’m feeling down there is usually a direct correlation to my activity levels/food intake. I know this about myself and adjust accordingly when I need to. I’m going to do this forever because of that and in no way is that overwhelming now but it sure as hell used to be!
So that’s pretty much how I feel about that I guess… It really helps me to spew my thoughts on this little white screen but I also hope that somebody somewhere is reading this and recognizing their own inner-monologues, goals, and tested intentions and that brings strikes a motivated chord somewhere deep down to keep going even when the going gets tough.
For all that thought process I am stoked to say that I ran my 200th mile this week in about a 7th month time span. I’m pretty proud of that. Small cox for some but big Cox for me! My grip strength training improved drastically in just 1 weeks time and I’m sore in places I haven’t been in awhile which makes me feel all the more better weirdly enough… The beach workout was the gnarliest one yet as we covered 4 miles of coastal running, 200 sand digs, 240 Push-ups with barrel rolls, and 12 god-fucking-awful sand dune bear crawls. I’m pretty convinced that those sand dunes are a masochist’s wet dream. In the end, I’m giving my all and it is all that I can do and exactly what I need to do. I’m taking my body to the limit on my terms and it feels great.
More importantly, I’m staying sane.
Good God, working out sucks.
The alternative is way worse though…
With that being said holy shit am I exhausted. However, it’s that good fatigue for suresy! It’s that kind of tired that you work for, you know? It’s not the “I ate a whole jar of peanut butter before bed and feel like a hibernating bear in the morning” kind of drained but that earned exhaustion where your body feels utilized and sends endorphin overloads that say “you better sit the fuck down or we’ll MAKE you sit the fuck down.”
After yesterday mornings beach workout with fellow World’s Toughest Justin “TAAAAAAAAH!!” Zuiderweg and a killer trail run this morning with the Unicorn I am, indeed, sitting the fuck down.
This week in training was the opposite of an exercise in futility. I gave myself goals and I hit them all:
* Make yoga once this week
* Run 15 miles total
* Get in a savage beach workout
* 4 weight training days
* minimum 30 total minutes on the “Lateral X”
* Increased vegetable intake
* Increased breakfast intake
* Reduced night time eating intake
I’m stoked that I hit me goals but I’m even more amped that at the end of this week I’m not obsessive over it the way I feared my hyperactive brain might be. I also have a healthy perspective in the sense that this week was amazing yet I know I may not be able to hit my goals sometime in the future and that’s ok! I’m relishing the present success rather than fearing the future potential failure. The reason why it’s a big deal to me is that in the past I would have a good week and get stressed the fuck out and feel under pressure like Billy Joel to the point of panic attacking my way to giving up or spinning out of control. I would crumble because of the success which although ludicrous it happens to people more often than we think. Translation; I’m one of many people that get scared of a good thing and subconsciously sabotage myself to fail so that I’m still in control. You can’t control the exact trajectory of success but you can manage your demise.
Do you ever find yourself managing your own failure? Think about it…
A lot of forms of self abuse are really just ways to feel in charge of ourselves by giving us a dynamic “thing” to keep in check when we feel like we don’t have a firm grasp on ANYTHING. Needless to say I’m pretty pumped I’m not feeling that way this time around.
So even with all this fatigue I can feel my body cogs working their way back into top knotch super saiyan status which makes me look forward to this coming week the same way I used to look forward to deep frying a family sized bag of tator tots with bacon, cheddar cheese, and ranch as a kid. PRIORITIES!
My goals for the coming week are the same as above but after today’s amazing trail run through Annadel with Cara I decided I need to get in at least 1 trail running session a week. For me my body comes alive on those trails unlike anywhere else. It caters perfectly to my Mad-Hatter-Meets-Robocop mindset.
It tunnel visions me properly while giving my brain something to stay focused on while my body pings back and forth like I’m trying out for American Ninja Warrior and I’m totaaaaaallllllyyyyy gonna conquer Mt. Midoriyama. Seriously, it’s a trip! It’s like my brain and body are making microcosmic decisions and calibrations and when I zone in I’m more just along for the ride than anything else. The rad factor is high for me because I’ll never forget where I’ve come from… especially in these moments.
My challenge in this moment is I want to eat the crappiest food imaginable because exhaustion is a nasty siren with devilishly persuading tendencies. I mean, after the week I’ve had it’s like I deserve a large pizza to myself right? Right…?
No, that’s not what I deserve. I deserve to feel great and eating an entire large pizza has never done that for me (and trust me when I say I have a lot of data collected on the matter). It’s not about weight gain or feeling fat… because truthfully I’ve worked hard enough this week and have accumulated enough muscle mass over the years that I could rock that large pizza with a bag of chips and a super burrito and aside from the 2 inch bloat suit I’d undoubtedly be wearing in the morning time I wouldn’t gain any true weight… I recognize that. That understanding was dangerous information for me a few years back. It was an excuse to do it. Don’t get me wrong… I still give in to that twisted thought process more often than I’m comfortable admitting, but not as often as I stay away from it which is VICTORY BABY!
It’s about feeling like a million bucks. It’s about setting yourself up to create and take advantage of self betterment opportunities that wait for you around every corner… You just have to look for them, Well, I’m looking alright… I promised I’m showing up to Vegas come November in the best shape of my life and I will swear by that until it’s over and I’m holding that World’s Toughest Mudder headband up high.
Thanks for the accountability, Rebels! Until next time…
That video right above this sentence… Yeah, I’m doing that shit.
Balls. In. Throat.
Due to some amazing friends/Rebels/crazies who banded together and registered me for something that I very well could have secretly resented them for (because I mean… SURPRISE YOU’RE DOING A 24 HOUR TOUGH MUDDER!!!!!) I am a fully registered member of the World’s Toughest Mudder legion and I couldn’t be more stoked about it. The “get Cox to WTM 2014” movement was spearheaded by my man Justin and his better half Maggie whom along with a Unicorn and some dear friends I get the pleasure of traversing the Sin City landscape with come November 15th through the 16th. Justin and I had many a conversation about how nuts it would be to get after World’s Toughest Mudder and had you asked me a couple months ago I would have sworn on a stack of every religious academia you could find that I DEFINITELY wouldn’t be attacking WTM this year.
Well wouldn’t you know it… we’re now about 3 months away from that getting blown out of the water like an epic pirate battle.
So now that you know the setup here’s the skinny on this Rebel rambling. I’ve found myself having a lot of thoughts and feelings on the matters surrounding this event that keep swirling and swirling around in my brain cage frantically searching for a crack so they can escape. My better half Cara is an absolute blessing. She is here to talk to and through this whole fiesta with and I’ll never be able to express my thankfulness for the encouragement she provides just merely with her presence and reassurance that “I’ve got this shit.” I’m not sure what part of my circus-addled brain is soothed by writing out my thoughts and feelings, but I’ve learned not to really question it and go for it with gusto. So… here we are.
There are some days I find myself riding a wave of anxiety like I’m trying out for the upcoming “Point Break” remake *Editor’s Note*BOOOOOOOOO!!!!*End Editor’s Note*. I have a problem sleeping through the night as is but now my brain dog has another stress bone to chew on so I’m sure you know how that goes. With that being said… Something I firmly believe in is that all goals worth working towards carry nerves behind them. It means you care. It means you FEEL what you’re doing and your heart is IN IT! Sure, these feelings are scary and intimidating but they can be just as much exhilarating and refreshing. Problem is not everybody percolates on those nerves long enough to experience the good side. I see it a lot like Platform 9 3/4 in “Harry Potter.” You see this brick wall in front of you and you’re told there’s an awesome place behind it… All you gotta do is run through it!
The point I’m making for those unfamiliar with the reference (aka muggles) is that the fear of the worst case scenario is strong enough to hold a lot of us back from the best case scenario when we sit on our haunches and pray for the day life gets easy and problems don’t exist anymore.
That day will not only never ever come but contrarily we arrive back at my first point… All goals worth working towards carry nerves behind them. The nerves highlight the adventure. The anxiety amplifies your focus when channeled correctly and it all starts with that good ol’ cliche we call perspective. Simple enough… If it were easy it wouldn’t be special. So… even the bad feelings surrounding this World’s Toughest Mudder insanity are really just good stuff in disguise!
There was a point and time when I was competing back when that I documented every single milligram of nutrition I took in and every molecule of energy expelled out. Each second spent on a cardio machine, every rep lifted, and every pound accounted for all day, er’ day. I did some semblance of this with various extremes (most often on the “most” extreme setting) and I burnt myself out like already bald tires kicking off an all day drag race.
When every waking moment is spent worrying about controlling literally everything around you it’s common to crash and crash HARD. When you are too stubborn to crash however is when you find yourself caught in this limbo between a complete mental breakdown and the self assurance that this is the price of being “healthy.” It’s like an emotional purgatory where all you want to do is laugh and cry at the same time equally and BOY IS THAT CONFUSING! Are you doing the right thing? Are you hurting yourself? Are you merely feeling the result of hard work and dedication or are you overdoing it? AHHHHHHHHH!!!!! So the answer… WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN BECAUSE THAT WAY YOU CAN CONTROL ALL OF THE THINGS!!!
Did all of this obsessive compulsion and delirious drive lead to me being the best body builder in the world? Not a chance. I was mediocre on my best day when it came to competition. It’s the journey though… The experiences I had, knowledge thirsted for, and dedication to see it through even when every aching inch of me screamed to quit every single goddamn day that molded into my approach now. I learned not only what not to do but also how I didn’t want to feel. What did I want out of fitness? What was the overall end goal? Do the ends justify the means and once I achieve physical perfection I’ll be happy or do I have it backward? What’s the point of burning the candle in the middle and at both ends if you’re too exhausted, angry, and high strung to enjoy it? Is that really the goal? Is that REALLY how you want to feel at the end of the day or did you just find a new form of misery because that’s where your fucked up self is most comfortable…?
These were the hard questions I found myself not able to shake once I’d finally hit the major burnout point. They were the questions that were nagging in my brain all along I just didn’t have the strength to run away from them anymore.
Don’t get me wrong… Some people truly do thrive off of goal oriented health… Even NEED it for happiness and sustainability! I found out the hard way I am not one of those people. It’s kind of like how some people absolutely LOVE mathematics and numbers while others (right here) see an algebraic equation and can literally feel an aneurysm giving birth unto itself. If you’re one of those “math makes my soul hurt” kind of people can you imagine the torture of attempting to become a calculus expert? On top of that can you see how ridiculous it would be to beat yourself up for not enjoying it? Yeah, kinda like that…
Fast forward about 7 years from my last competition until now and the thing I’m most proud of regarding my personal accomplishments in this health and fitness world has been my ability to equalize and maintain. Those questions from above that caught up to me… I answered them and answered them accordingly. Had I not gone all in on the roller coaster that was my weight loss/body building journey I wouldn’t have been able to define what health means to ME. Plain and simple… I would never have known! For all that stress and anxiety I put myself through I also found a lot of things that DO work for me that I implement to this very day. I learned an immeasurable amount about nutrition, the human body, exercise manipulation, and so much more in the process. I proved to myself that I could do something and finish it out. I was and am proud of myself and to earn your own self pride is what makes your heart flower blossom in my opinion.
I defined fitness and made it fun for myself. I started doing everything I could get my hands on… I became two timed TRX certified, began a love affair with the BOSU and undulating ropes, took a couple Russian kettle bell courses, started signing up for mud runs, developed a fierce Zumba habit for awhile, and much more all in the name of taking it all in and experiencing the joy and benefits each different thing had to offer. I learned to explore and redefine the way I think! I learned to accept and carry my demons with me rather than feeling like I’ve got to banish them forever and until then I’m broken and useless. Truth is we are ALL broken in some way or another so there is zero point in feeling like you’re a solo cracked vase coasting through a sea of flawless fine china.
So during those 7 years and even with all the comfort zones I leaped out of I never found myself face to face with an event that required the kind of meticulous training (above and beyond the hard work I put in by default) a body building competition requires… Until now. Sure, I’ve upped my training ante for various relays and Tough Mudders but never to the all encompassing degree that body building demands.
To me this World’s Toughest Mudder is more than just a 24 hour obstacle course designed to see what you’re made of. It’s my chance to take everything I’ve learned the last 7 years and combine it with the mindset and dedicated training nature of the competitive perfectionist I was (or frazzled myself trying to be rather) the 4 years prior. I get to take the fat kid I once was (and still am to a degree) with me for the ultimate culmination of “I told you you could do it you sad son-of-a-
The swirl of all this means I’m yet again in new territory which is frightening… but also where I thrive. I refuse to get as high strung as I used to yet will be showing up to Las Vegas in November in the best shape I’ve ever been in. You can bet on that like your mortgage depends on it. Only I’m going to have fun first and foremost. I’m going to get the results people don’t get by doing the work people don’t do but I’m gonna do it with a big ass grin on my face. I’m going to eat with purpose and experience the joy of feeling great rather than dwell on the fact I can’t get Green Burrito tacos every other night because I’m a TEMPLE, DAMNIT! If I feel myself getting out of whack and losing focus on getting results and enjoying it in the process… Then I’ll eat some cake and take a day off like a boss. There was a day when I internalized that as “fitness suicide” but now I look at it as a life essential. THAT is what I learned in the last 7 years and THAT is the thing I’m most proud of out of every single thing I’ve ever done; to be exceptionally normal.
I will have my slip ups and pitfalls but that’s part of the growth. I accept and embrace them, something I never used to do. Through this process I will exacerbate my inner silver back gorilla to the umpteenth degree and passionately cherish every moment. I will be so sore I can barely walk and then I will take care of myself properly (with some Unicorn help because she is what makes the world go ’round) so I can do it again. I will rest when I need to. I will eat when I need to. I will switch my training schedule when I need to. I will modify when I need to. All things I equated to being a failure merely years ago that now I have learned is the only way to success… Adjust and adapt, baby!
To conclude this introspection/therapy session I plan on updating these Rebel ramblings frequently. This was cathartic as hell while providing some accountability. Aside from all that important stuff I hope that a look behind the curtain might help some of y’all out. There’s comfort in knowing you’re not the only one struggling and the struggle is definitely real. We’re all in the same boat just rowing different oars! Iron is forged by fire and if you’re in the midst of gettin’ scorched just hold on like Wilson Phillips because you’re gonna emerge from the flames stronger than you were before.
On the flip side I hope to represent that when you NEED some forging fire… make it! You are the pilot of your own plane and you alone get the blessing of deciding where you’re going. You also get to decide what kind of plane ride you’re going to have as long as you know that you can’t control the turbulence and just need to ride it out till it clears up (mini vodka bottles not included).
Until next time…