Obstacles of the mind



I’m writing this on the back of a call I had this morning with someone who clearly loved obstacle racing but wasn’t loving themselves (something we are all guilty of).

He talked about going into a self-imposed training regime that excluded taking part in races. He said that he was feeling deflated at the finish line and felt that the answer was to just train and not race. He was even looking for specific training equipment to provide a quick fix.

Anyone that knows me; knows that I don’t pull my punches and that I say it how it is. I know that I have upset people in the past with this approach but I believe I have helped more people by being direct and straight with them. Today was no different. I told him what I thought and I shared with him what has helped me. I started by saying that no kit, gadgets, or training aids are going to solve his problems because his problems lay within. No elevation mask was going to fix that.

Before I share with you what I told him, it’s important you understand my background so you can see why I said what I said:

I grew up playing competitive rugby and it took me years to realize that I wasn’t playing for myself; I was playing for my father. On the one side it meant I trained hard and played hard because I believed I had to win to please him but on the other side my happiness and self-worth was deeply tied into winning. The reason I wanted to please him so badly was because my mother left home when I was young and although I didn’t realise it at the time, subconsciously I was doing everything possible to ensure he didn’t leave too (this is a pretty common thing in this situation). I don’t remember having these feelings but looking back I can see it now, all I ever wanted to do was please him and I took that as winning rugby matches. This meant winning was the ‘be all and end all’. Because my happiness and self-worth was built on winning, losing was not an option so to say I was a bad loser was an understatement to say the least. Sulking, crying and refusing to talk to anyone were commonplace and it wasn’t just isolated to rugby either; everything if life was a competition and therefore everything was winnable or losebable. This meant a ‘sh*t fit’ was never far away.

A couple of years ago, I learnt something that changed everything; I learnt to ‘be in the moment’ and that giving 100% was the most (and best thing) I could do.

By living in the moment, I can’t regret the mistakes I’ve made in the past. By living in the moment, I can’t fret about what might or might not happen in the future. Expectations live in the future which means they don’t exist in the present and therefore are irrelevant. I still have goals and dreams; don’t get me wrong, but I don’t waste time and energy thinking about them. They will come if I work hard now.

So, with no expectations you’re probably thinking I drift around aimlessly but that couldn’t be further from the truth. By giving 100% to what I am doing, I can’t be more driven and motivated. 100% is 100%. There is no such thing as 110%. That’s all BS. By giving 100%, you are giving your all. If you can honestly say you gave it everything, then you can’t have given any more. For me, if I walk away from something having given it 100%, I am happy and the outcome is irrelevant.

I climb once a week with my mates and making it to the top of a route does not matter to me, as long as I give it my all then I’m happy. Only the Saturday just passed I lead my first 6c. I had no expectations; I just gave it 100%. Now 6c is nothing special but it means a lot to me. Not the grade but the fact I pushed myself 100%. I was terrified all the way up but I kept pushing till eventually I got there (I think I got it clean (without falling off) on my 4th attempt) but if I’d never made it, it wouldn’t have mattered. All that mattered was that I gave it 100%.

I said to the guy this morning that this is a really hard transition to make. At the start of my journey, I believed that setting expectations, psyching myself up and pinning all my hopes on the outcome was the only way to achieve my goals but I was so wrong. If you ever see me down at the wall, you will see I am very relaxed and often joking around prior to a climb but as I step onto that wall, you’ll see I switch my focus to the climb. You’ll barely be able to see it but it’s there, that look of ‘I’m going to give this 100%’. Right now, this is the most focused I have ever been, this is the most driven I have ever been and this is the happiest I’ve ever been and it’s all down to two things; living in the movement and accepting that giving 100% is all you can do.

This takes practice and time. It’s a habit which means you have to break the old ones. This is not a ‘ah, the penny has dropped’ concept. You will only realise if you are doing it when you look back; maybe in a few weeks, more likely a few months, it could even take years but the sooner you start; the sooner you’ll get there.

We concluded that living in the moment and giving 100% is the way forward but also that a non-racing training regime would be hard to stick to. Racing is the fun bit, it’s the reason we train so to cut it out is crazy. He’s now looking at booking a race but with a new approach. He’ll view it as a chance to give 100% and fight the urge to have expectations.

When I stand on the finish line in April, I’ll know whether he’s taken this on board or not. It will be written all over his face. His time will not matter, his placing will not matter, the fact he’ll be covered in sweat and unable to talk will tell me if he’s given it 100% and if he has, he should be very proud of himself. If he is anything other than that, I’ll send him round the course again.

Remember this, ‘The most you can give is 100%. Just make sure that you do’

The Beard.

If you want to reach out the Beard to talk about this article or anything else obstacle related, you can email him at

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