Jumping Through Hoops: Obstacles As A Metaphor, Part 1

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” -Frank A. Clark

obstacle |ˈäbstəkəl|


a thing that blocks one's way or prevents or hinders progress

2012 was, for me, a year filled with obstacles, only these obstacles were not the kind that life sometimes throws our way, these ones were self-imposed...

I chose to enroll in several obstacle course races and challenges this season and eventually decided to build my own obstacle course here at my home in Maine.  This video is the first of six that demonstrate some of the obstacles that I use in my training and conditioning here at home.  Enjoy!

Why Obstacles?

Heres a term worth adding to your personal lexicon: Hormesis.  ‘What might that be’ you ask?  You can read the wiki here, though the short of it is this:  Minor stresses to your physiology can cause you to come back stronger.

This is true of pathogens that challenge, but don’t completely overwhelm our immune system, temperature extremes that challenge, but don’t damage our physiology, and of course, things that challenge our nervous and musculo-fascial-skeletal systems.  In this case, challenging but surmountable obstacles.

Heres what I’ve found...

Exercise like this introduces just enough stress and novelty into our conditioning to focus our ability to perform well under pressure.  This in turn can greatly increase our “survivability”.

A cursory study of survival psychology in emergencies and disaster situations reveals what some have called the “10/80/10 rule”.  In most multi-person emergency situations, 10 percent of people simply fall apart or freeze, 80% will sort of linger and wait to be told what to do.  It is the remaining 10% who act, and if they remain cool can potentially lead that 80% who are wandering about awaiting instruction.

I believe that we can all develop our ability to perform under pressure (though, of course, some of us come better pre-programmed for this than others), and that practicing to perform under stress, pressure, or in an “adrenalized” state helps us to strengthen the “un-freeze” habit.

It is a very different part of the brain that learns to perform a skill when we are calm and relaxed than learns a skill under stress and pressure.  When we are adrenalized, it is as if we can not access that part of the brain that knows how to perform a task, even one we have repeated many times.

Did you know...

The leading edge of training accesses the sympathetic nervous system -think fight or flight (or better yet fight, flight, or freeze) - and teaches us to perform a skill while in this state.  A skill developed under some stress and pressure is more easily accessed when the adrenalized state pre-dominates, as in an emergency or survival situation.

For me, this is the essence of SurThrival.

But wait, theres more...

I think training is best when it conditions us as a whole being, rather than as a conglomerate of isolated parts.  For that reason, I love the mental/physical aspect of overcoming obstacles easily.  It teaches us, as holistic beings, to overcome challenges easily.  To find the easiest way through, or the path of least resistance.  I feels good to stay “slick”, as opposed to making things harder than they need to be.  My goal is to stay on “efficiency auto-pilot” as my personal operating system’s default setting.

Taking some time to contemplate all of this has led me to the conclusion that the physical obstacles we surmount in a course like this can also be powerful metaphors for many non-physical obstacles that we encounter in our socio/emotional lives.

I decided to make some videos about this.  The obstacles that I will show here are not particularly death-defying, or even that difficult.  Rather, they are designed as an opportunity to challenge ourselves to move calmly and smoothly through life’s trials.  They are physical representations of non-physical experiences that we have all experienced, and they can help to train more than just our physical skill and ability, they can help us hone our ability to stay focused and endure the many challenges we face in our work, in our relationships, in our hearts and in our minds.

Have a watch to see what you think.

Also, check out the Team SurThrival website where I have been documenting some of the obstacle course racing I have been involved in, as well as, some of the other athletes who have been using SurThrival formulas.  SurThrival is running a special "ReWild Your Body" sale through Tuesday, September 11th and offering some great bundle discounts on our favorite products to use for training! Check out the limited time offers here.

The SurThrival Store can be found right here, and there are several formulas that can help you to maximize your training and conditioning (my combo is Velvet Antler Extract, Pine Pollen extract, and Colostrum daily).

Have you been obstacle racing, or playing on your own home made obstacles?  Whats been working for you?

Thanks for reading, and..

Keep ReWilding!