Obstacle Immunity

I've recently started listening to podcasts while tackling my 'to do' lists (cleaning, writing emails, running errands etc). One of the podcasts I've been enjoying has been the 'Spartan Up Podcast'. I've been enjoying hearing the stories of athletes and CEOs and their take on success. One of the terms that is often talked about is 'obstacle immunity'. Joe De Sena, creator of Spartan Race, believes that when someone has obstacle immunity they will live better lives and function at a higher level in their life's roles (i.e. parent, employee, partner etc).  I am in love with obstacle immunity.

I'll first explain obstacle immunity….

  1. Obstacle: "a thing that blocks one's way or prevents or hinders progress"
  2. Immunity: "the condition that permits either natural or acquired resistance to disease"

Obstacle immunity is your ability to resist and overcome obstacles that are in your way. Spartan Race takes that term literally - you run a race and there is a multitude of obstacles in your way. They also uses this term figuratively to represent overcoming life's obstacles.

Now, I've had my fair share of obstacles. Most of you already know of one of my biggest obstacles, which was having been diagnosed with thyroid cancer earlier this year. It has been a crazy year, but I have still maintained starting my business, crazy shifts in the ER and my fitness 'adventures' (and I'm cooking up some fun for next year). I've had quite a few people say to me "I can't believe how positive you are through all of this" and "it's amazing how it hasn't impacted you." They of course don't know how hard things have been. After learning of the term 'obstacle immunity' I've come to understand that that is my source of strength. I believe that I've come through things so 'easily' (can you go through cancer easily?) because I have practice doing it. Let me explain...

Here is you. That bubble around you is your comfort zone. The items outside your bubble are obstacles. These obstacles are different for every person, but can include; relationship struggles, a difficult diagnosis, loss of job, fear of asking for a raise, completing a 5K etc.

True artiste.

True artiste.

Here is you again, now facing these obstacles. This is where you take ACTION. You can either:

  • a) give up, sit down and let fate determine your ability to overcome the obstacle or
  • b) literally and figuratively push on the barriers limiting you in order to overcome the obstacle.

Here is you after having faced obstacles. Due to your actions you're either:

  • a) unchanged and still within the same bubble or
  • b) you have grown, overcome obstacles and now find that those struggles are within your comfort zone.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a little practice BEFORE being faced with a life obstacle. I'd rather have already strengthened my obstacle immunity that way I am more likely to overcome any obstacle thrown at me. You can do this through athletic endeavors.

I truly believe that because I have practice overcoming intimidating obstacles IN THE GYM (example: a workout that scares me, a 30 ft. wall to reach the finish line, 100 burpees) that I have strengthened my obstacle immunity IN LIFE. I strengthened my ability to overcome struggles EVERY DAY, which means that when I'm faced with something big I already have practice gritting my teeth, pushing through and not giving up. Having practice is the reason that some obstacles seem small to one person and look like freaking Mount Fuji to another. The confidence gained from tackling athletic goals can lead to big changes in your life. By practicing overcoming obstacles you become immune to them and their impact.

If you're someone who frequently says "I can't" when working out or who thinks that 'life happens to you'...you need to strengthen your obstacle immunity. Sorry. 

How to strengthen your obstacle immunity (sorry, there's no vaccine):

  1. Make a list of the things that are currently outside of your comfort zone. You may not even realize how much there is since you've previously just 'looked the other way' or gone another direction when things were out of your comfort zone.
  2.  Use the gym (or yoga studio, cycle class, running shoes etc) to practice overcoming obstacles. Set goals and go after them.
  3. The moment when the weight feels like too much, when the distance seems too far and when your body doesn't seem capable...I want you to recognize that you're at the edge of your comfort zone and PUSH FORWARD.
  4. Do this repeatedly. Over and over again. Doing this builds up your mental grit.
  5. Allow yourself to be empowered by having overcome these daily obstacles.

Overcoming tough workouts and tackling athletic goals has been my way of strengthening my obstacle immunity. I'm not sure there's any better way to test yourself. Life isn't something I want to leave to chance or feel unprepared for. By realizing that the actions you take when faced with adversity have direct impact on your life you can learn to use exercise as a way of not only improving your health, but also improving your life.

Enjoy the long weekend!

Thank you for reading. Feel free to comment and give your feedback.