Challenges are never easy. Thus the reason they are called challenges. But we seem to allow challenges to own us instead of us owning them. What I mean to say is that we tend to give up, stop trying, make excuses, etc. We tend to go into a challenge with a winning mindset, but once it becomes hard, tiresome, or painful, we quit. Challenges are something that pushes us beyond what we think our limits are. Challenges push us outside of our comfort zone and force us to become more or better than we were. Challenges can be inspiring, and unless we stay focused, push ourselves, and stop making excuses, every challenge we go through will own us.
Throughout the months of August and September, I found myself being challenged both mentally and physically. What you are about to read is a summary of my challenges and the lessons I learned as I pushed myself through each challenge.
On a hot August afternoon, I was sitting in my chair in the living room scrolling through my social media feed, wasting time and my life, and came across the Great Cycle Challenge USA. This challenge was to bike ride a specific number of miles throughout the month of September and meet a personal donation goal all in the name of fighting children’s cancer. When I read about the cause and what I was being challenged to do, I couldn’t help but feel a desire to get involved. I clicked on the link, set up a profile, and set my miles at 250. I was given choices of 100, 200, 350, or 500 miles. I felt 200 was too little, and 350 seemed like a lot for my first time, so I chose to set my miles at 250. I then was asked to set a donation amount. I was again given a bunch of choices for how much I wanted to raise, and I chose to raise $1000; mind you, I have never done any formal fundraising in my life.
At the same time that I was setting up my profile for the Great Cycle Challenge USA, an email flew into my inbox that said Elmore County Rescue was hiring. As someone who has been in emergency services before, the want, passion, and desire to help and be part of something bigger than yourself never goes away. As soon as I read the email, I was quick to get online and fill out the application. At the interview, I was told that I would have to pass a physical fitness test, to which I replied, “No problem!”; and then I was told there would be a mile run where I had to run a mile in under 12 minutes. Now for those of you who just said, “Pshh, a mile in 12 minutes? That’s nothing.” You’re probably right, but I’m an out of shape, 300+ pound guy that hates running. However, this was something that I wanted, so I said, “Challenge accepted.”
In the past, I would start a challenge and fizzle out within a few weeks, but for some reason, these two challenges were different. I saw these challenges as personal goals, not only for the cause, but for myself. I wanted to see myself succeed. I figured that 10 miles of biking per day would get me to my goal, and give me 5 days I could miss. I started getting warmed up for the long distance rides in august by biking 7 to 8 miles a day. On top of the riding, I started training for the mile run. I only got 4 days of running due to the air quality that we were having. I was hoping that my biking would also help in my running preparation.
For the last two weeks of August, my body hated me. My legs hurt, I hurt, and I realized how out of shape and unhealthy I really was. My 1 mile run came at the end of August, and as I mentioned before, I was only able to train for 4 days. I did get a mile in each of those 4 days, however each day was well past the 12 minute mark. I took a day off of riding before my mile run to let my legs have some down time. The day of the physical fitness test came and before the run I had to do a 100 foot 165 pound dummy drag, a 10 yard farmer carry with 60+ pounds in each hand, four 200 pound tire flips, and 4 minutes of CPR compressions (2 minutes on, a 2 minute break, and another 2 minutes on). Finally, we finished with a 1 mile run.
I started the run pretty well and quickly found myself at the back of the pack. I would run as far as I could, fast walk to catch my breath, and then run some more. The rescue team had one of their guys run with us. Sadly, because I was in the back of the pack, he had to stay with me. I felt so bad and embarrassed for being the slowest. I’m pretty sure I apologized for being so slow ten or more times. Benny, the rescue guy running with me, kept encouraging me, telling me my time and pace, and gave me the confidence to keep going.
I got to about the ¾ of a mile mark, and my body was spent. I was walking more and was feeling the burn in my legs, shins, and lungs. I asked Benny what my current pace time was, and he told me 11:58. I wanted under 12 minutes so badly. I kicked it into gear again a couple hundred more feet and quickly found myself back to walking. Benny said, “Good job. You just knocked off 10 seconds. You are now at an 11:48 pace.” The problem was I still had a ways to go. I kept walking, trying to catch my breath. Benny then said, “You’re back to 11:58.” I asked him where I needed to get to, and he pointed to a truck in a parking lot a good 1000 feet away. I was gassed, but I wanted to make time. I yelled at myself and told myself to suck it up and get it done. With that, I put on the afterburners and didn’t quit running until I passed the truck. I passed the truck at 11:56; four seconds under time. Challenge one complete.
Now it was time for my month long bike riding. September 1st came and I hopped on the bike and rode 10 miles. I did another 10 miles the next day and took the following two days off. For the first full week of September, I rode 5 days for a total of 51 miles. I was feeling proud of myself, and I felt my body acclimating to the rides. That first week got me just under 200 miles. I had 199 miles to go. The second week was a lot of the same, until the day of the 19th. I wanted to push myself. It was my first long ride, and I hit 20 miles in one ride. Not only did I feel great afterward, I was ecstatic for doing something I didn’t think I was able to do. The final week of September was approaching and I still had over 60 miles to ride. I decided to push myself for the last few days and get it done. On Sunday the 26th, I rode 25 miles – 10 in the morning and 15 in the afternoon. This ride put my total at 255 miles with 4 days to spare.
On top of the miles challenge, I had to meet my donation challenge. I took to Facebook to start posting my progress. I started with a video and a summary of what I was doing. As I rode, I would post updates on the miles I rode, and included a link for people to donate to the cause. I was honored and humbled by the number of people who chose to donate and the amounts being donated. My goal was to reach $1000. Half way through the month of September, I met my goal. The total donations that I received put me over my goal by $300. If it wasn’t for the consistency, updates, and investing in the cause, I don’t think I would have met my goal. If we don’t invest time and energy into what we are trying to achieve, we will never achieve it.
Both challenges pushed me, but they also gave me purpose. I was seeing results and was excited to keep going. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I hurt for a lot of those days. But overall, I was making progress and making myself better. I was feeling good mentally and physically. There were times I wanted to quit, but I had people cheering me on. My wife would give me words of encouragement, my best friend wouldn’t let me make excuses, and my now rescue teammate ran alongside me and kept pushing me to keep going. What this has shown me is the importance and value of having people in your life who will encourage you, push you, and hold you accountable. We fail on our own, but when we have people speaking into our lives and pushing us to be better, we don’t have an excuse to quit.
In both challenges, I wanted to see progress. I wanted to see change overnight. In reality, progress doesn’t work like that. Progress is made when we take one step after another, or one pedal after another. Progress can only be made through discipline and consistency. If we don’t have these two qualities in our life, we will never see progress. Also, progress is not fast. It takes time. Instead of focusing on the desire for progress, we need to focus on the day to day consistency, and when we do that, progress will come on its own.
I feel the biggest lesson I learned through these two challenges is that nothing will change unless I do. For 38 years, I have always had good intentions of wanting to be healthy, to push myself, and to challenge my abilities. But that’s just it, it was nothing but intention. It wasn’t until I determined within myself to do what I said I wanted to do that something changed. I had to change my actions, my behaviors, and most of all, my mindset. I had to get into a routine and stop making excuses. I had to put in the work. And I will be honest, for the first two weeks, it sucked. I was hurting, but I was also making progress. I was starting to feel good mentally and physically. In the end, I feel much more confident in my abilities, I feel proud of myself for seeing these challenges through, and I can hold my head up high knowing that I conquered the challenges; I owned the challenges. I can make excuses all day long, but excuses will only get me to an early grave.
I want to encourage you to challenge yourself. Don’t live life with good intentions. Turn those intentions into action. Push yourself to be more. You will want to quit, but I’m telling you, don’t! Keep riding through the storm. It’s going to hurt, and when it does, you need to negotiate with yourself to find more strength. Don’t give up because you don’t see results right away. Results come in time; you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable and push you to keep going when you want to give up. Progress only comes if we keep moving forward. Stay the course, don’t quit, be disciplined and consistent, and when you do all these things, you will be able to stand tall knowing that you owned the challenge.
As always, stay humble and serve well!