On Saturday I was with my cousins doing a family fun walk for the charity organization My Brother’s Keeper. As we looped around the 2nd mile point, my cousin Josh and I started talking about money. Since I am a recent graduate and Josh just finished his first full year as a teacher, money is an interesting topic to discuss. Currently I am extremely cheap while he, for the first time since he started undergrad, is spending money on all the frivolous things he couldn’t purchase during his college years. He made a comment that he had just dropped $200. I asked on what and he was vague.
…a lot of them…
What DVDs Josh?
…8 seasons of DVDs…
Of what show Josh?
…a show from our childhood…
…what show Josh?
I wasn’t surprised. If you don’t know Josh, he is a 25 year old with a 5 year old mentality stuck in the body of an 80 year old. That might make no sense to people, but to those who know him, it about sums him up perfectly. He’s a kook but I love him. Nonetheless I was a bit shocked that he just dropped $200 on power rangers DVDs. My response was “are you kidding me?” His response was, “didn’t you just pay $150 to get electrocuted and run through fire?”
Now let me explain. I did just pay that amount to do both those things. But not solely. For about a year now, two of my best friends from high school and I have been discussing participating in a challenge called Tough Mudder (TM). TM is a ten mile highly intense obstacle course designed by British Special Ops. It is a charity event that takes place all over the world and donates its funds to the Wounded Warrior project. For the past year, Dave, Greg and I have discussed participating in the challenge. It is specifically identified as a challenge, not a race.
According to ToughMudder.com, each mudder is required to agree to the TM pledge,
1. I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race, but a challenge.
2. I put team work and camraderie before my course time.
3. I do not whine. KIDS WHINE.
4. I help my fellow mudders complete the course.
5. I overcome ALL fears.
This is not a 10 mile race against my teammates or other mudders. It is a challenge to finish this difficult task placed in front of us. But saying all this is not exactly satisfactory reasoning to my cousin. See when you watch the TM trailer video. It focuses on the difficulty of a 10 mile run with 26 military obstacles throughout it. These obstacles include running through mud, swimming in mud, crawling, climbing, jumping, swimming, running through fire, sliding and the last obstacle, running through about 10 yards of live electrical wires charged with 10,000 volts of electricity and many many more. For him, the whole concept of working together and honoring teamwork is not nearly worth an electric charge, never mind paying for it. And honestly, it isn’t worth it for me either, unless I had another motivation for doing this whole thing.
Honestly, this event is insane. I am a quite a bit nervous for it. First of all, I am not a runner. My good friend Dave is quite the speedy guy. Keeping up with him is going to be tough. Once I get into the obstacle aspect, I’ll feel comfortable. For what I lack in speed, I make up for with upper body strength. The average course time is approximately 3 hours. I spend a good 3 hours in the gym every day, so I’m hoping that a few solid months of training has somewhat readied me for it. But still, why am I willingly participating in this event? Why did I pay to do this?
This semester I made a very good friend. Her and I bonded over lots of things. We like the same music, TV shows, we are close to our faith. But there was one factor that we bonded over a lot. We both used to be fat kids. When I came into college, I weighed 260lbs. Since about 5th grade I had been chubby. I put on a lot of weight when my parents divorced and my Dad left. I put on more when my step dad came into the picture. Middle school and high school are just awful times for fat kids. The ridicule and jokes made were no rare thing. I had two nicknames throughout my time at Sacred Heart.
Middle School – The Raft
High School – Sloth
I tended to embrace the names. I tried so hard to not let them hurt me, but when your self confidence is low, it’s hard. My mother, God bless her, didn’t have the best approach to helping me deal with my weight issues. See another insecure factor about my high school days was my god awful acne. She used to think that the best way to help me lose weight was to verbally suggest things. Well, not really suggest, but comment. The moment that stands out most clearly was when a Cheesecake Factory had just opened up about 20 minutes from our house. I went for dinner with an old friend and came home with a slice of chocolate brownie cheesecake. As I got comfortable on the couch and was about to take my first bite of the cake, she walked by and commented, “I don’t know where that will go first, your belly or your face.”
Now while she probably meant it with love (I hope), it hurt. The nicknames and comments always hurt. It was so hard to always be the fat kid and the slow kid. So when I got to college, I worked out and starved myself. People who know me from freshman year knew that the whole year long I was a major gym rat. I would work out everyday. Sometimes I would go in three times a day. I ate the bare minimum to keep myself going. I fasted for lent that year and when I finished my first year at college, I weighed in at 185. I had lost soooo much weight. My parents got nervous at how small I had become in less than a year. But it felt great. I was lighter and quicker. But what I quickly learned was that I had no business being tiny. I have a very big boned body and so I started packing on a lot of muscle. Since the end of sophomore year, I have always balanced a healthy diet and decent body image.
But when I met this girl this semester and we bonded over formerly being fat kids. As we got closer, she asked if I was ever insecure about my body having formerly been on the chubbier side. I quickly admitted that I was very insecure about my body image. She said she had the same problem and coined it as “fat kid syndrome”. While this is not a scientifically coined term, it is very real. It is this idea that despite being in better health and being significantly more fit, we still see a lot of the imperfections. The names and comments don’t shed like the weight. While they are motivators in the gym, the are depressors in the mirror. Now let me be clear, I am NOT depressed by any means. I am regularly satisfied with where I am physically, but there is a lot of insecurity with having been much bigger not too long ago.
So what does this have to do with wanting to electrocute myself? Like the TM pledge says, this is a challenge. I am challenging myself to do an event that is going to challenge me physically and mentally. After four years of hard gym time, this is me putting it into effect. So when I run through those electrical wires and cross that finish line and tattoo that logo on my body, it isn’t the heat of the moment of finishing an insane event, it is proof. Proof to the TM statement that “if you can do this, you can do anything you can set your mind to”. Whether it be lose weight and complete an insane military course, or anything else in life. Physical work is just that, work. I don’t stand in the gym every day to just look good. I do it to overcome the pain that came with an insecure adolescence.
Dave, Greg and I will be participating in Tough Mudder on July 15th in Vermont on Mt. Snow.
We are Team Rage Face
Bring on the electricity!