Rugged Coug, Part One

Tomorrow is a big day.

For the first time in a long time, I’ll be competing in an athletic event.  I played sports in high school, as well as very briefly playing intramural flag football freshman year of college (the Rattletrappers finished approximately 0-6 that season), but for the past nearly seven years since graduating from high school, I have not actually competed athletically in anything I can think of.

Throughout childhood, exercise came in the form of sports.  Outside of sports, exercise was a chore, almost like a punishment.  Running, doing pushups, lifting weights, or anything like that just seemed like some form of hellish torture.  As a result, along with unhealthy eating habits and hormone deficiencies, I was quite overweight throughout my adolescence.

My heaviest point came sometime soon after high school graduation when I tipped the scales at 243 pounds.  This number sticks firmly in my head.  There’s a mental snapshot cemented into my memory of the tops of my bare feet and the numbers on the digital scale in the bathroom at my parents’ house displayed between my big toes.

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A couple months later I would begin my journey at Washington State University (Go Cougs!).  Living on my own for the first time, I made a promise to myself that I was going to try and lose weight.  I started exercising more and eating less (not necessarily better, that would be a multi-year process that I’m still working on to this day), and the weight started to fall off.  Twenty pounds here, twenty pounds there, and eventually I had lost 40 pounds over about a year’s time and was feeling great about myself and more motivated than ever.

Losing that initial 40 pounds was a huge motivator to get serious about my fitness, and more importantly my health.

I started going to the WSU University Recreation Center (UREC) more frequently with no clue what I was doing, but I was trying.  I would ride the ellipticals, do the machine weight circuits, ride stationary bikes, and cobble a hodgepodge of physical activity together into something that made me sweaty and tired after about 45 minutes.

Then I bought Nate Green’s (my favorite fitness blogger and general life motivator. Seriously, look him up and join his newsletter if you’re looking for some motivation) book Built For Show, and my love for the weight room began to take form.

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This was in about 2012 when I got serious about nutrition, exercise, and weightlifting, and I’ve remained committed to progressing ever since. I’m about 70 pounds lighter than I was back in 2010 after graduating high school, and I’m in the best shape of my life.  I’m no bodybuilder or fitness model, but for the everyday person, I’m in pretty good shape.  And more importantly, I’m far happier with my body and my abilities than I’ve ever been in my life.

I’ve been hitting the gym anywhere from 4-6 times a week (depending on what type of lifting/exercise program I’m doing) religiously over these past 5 years, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s become somewhat of an addiction.  Although addictions typically have negative connotations, I can’t say it’s had a negative impact on my life, unless you count the protein farts and tight/pulled muscles.

For those of you looking to begin your own journey of becoming more active, I’ll tell you the biggest and most important hurdle is building consistency.  Instead of making exercise and movement an “if I have time I’ll get to it” part of your week, make it part of your week.  Everyone is busy, but everyone can find time to get some exercise or movement.  Whether its 30 minutes every morning when you wake up, or for an hour or more at a time 3 or 4 times a week, whatever it is and wherever you start, you have to make it part of your schedule.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been trying to branch out a bit with how I get my movement and exercise, outside of just going to the gym and lifting heavy stuff repeatedly, or stair-stepping, or kettle-balling, or whatever gym-based routine I’m currently doing.  Hiking has become a much bigger interest of mine in this process, and I’m expecting this to morph into eventual backpacking adventures and other wilderness-related, survivalist activities.  This summer my beautiful partner Amber and myself plan to get out into the wilderness a lot, see some beautiful views, test our fears of heights, and challenge ourselves to survive a few days at a time without the amenities of our apartment.

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One thing I still haven’t come to terms with as it concerns movement, and one you can get outside and do wherever, is running.  Even to this day I struggle to run under a 10 minute mile and I pretty much avoid running anything longer than a 40 yard dash at all costs.  Running, is my next hurdle I plan to conquer.

Amber is an established runner.  Before meeting me and beginning her weightlifting journey, she got pretty much all of her exercise from running.  She’s competed in two half marathons, an event that makes me a little nauseous just thinking about.  However, that’s not to say I won’t try to run one myself someday just to say I’ve done it.

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Nonetheless, this weekend Amber and I will be tackling a race right here in Pullman, Washington.  WSU’s UREC is putting on an event called the Rugged Coug Race, and it’s something of a tamed-down version of a Spartan Race, a 5K (approximately 3 mile) obstacle course with wall climbs, wall traverses, log or cinder block carries, and other things.

I’ll be honest: I’m kind of freakin’ petrified.

This is the first of any race-style event I’ve ever participated in, and as I mentioned at the beginning, my first semi-competitive athletic event I’ve participated in in approximately 6 or 7 years.

I’ve never been more suited to be able to compete in this type of event physically, but I’m still not sure how confident I am in my abilities to succeed, considering my athletic skills haven’t been put to the test outside of the gym.  I’ve trained for 5 years for nothing in particular and never used my gym skills to compete in anything.  But that time has finally come, and I’m excited to see how my body reacts to the challenge.

One of the biggest things that makes me nervous as I head into this race is my own propensity to get down on myself when I fail in sports, and a general feeling of insecurity in my athletic abilities.  In baseball I’d beat myself up after strikeouts.  In golf I’d quietly berate myself and/or slam my club head into the ground after a particularly bad slice.  If I was doing good in a high school golf tournament, I had a difficult time staying focused and confident.  Instead I would be waiting for my next bad shot that would derail my good round.

So this event will not only be a physical test, but a mental one as well.  First off, I’m doing this for fun, and if I fail at something, I fail, it’s not the end of the world.  And as every successful person will tell you, failure is vital to progress, and the true testament of a successful person isn’t how many times a person succeeds or fails, it’s how willing they are to get back up when they do fail, and try again, and again, and again until they get things right.  I plan to challenge myself to be confident in my abilities, and if I do fail at something, to keep pushing, and not allow it to drag me down.  And more than anything, I want to have fun, because ultimately, that’s what this is about.

Although I’m scared, I’m also very excited.  I’m excited to see how my body reacts, and I’m excited to do this with Amber (who will most definitely kick my ass in the wall-climbing portion at the very least). And I’m also excited that my parents will be there to cheer us on!

So tomorrow we’ll see what WSU UREC has in store for us on the course, and we’ll see how Amber and I do.  I’m hoping we make it out alive, and if we do, you can expect a follow up post next Monday or Tuesday.

So stay tuned, stay active, and remember to hit “Follow”!

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