AMAZING RACE: Your comfort zone is a nice, cozy place to be. Leave it every now and then.


this article is currently published in the June 2014 issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine

Joe Wuebben jumps out of his comfort zone and into the fire. Joe Wuebben jumps out of his comfort zone and into the fire.[/caption]

There was running and rope climbing and endless acres of mud. Three things I’m not exactly crazy about.

I hate running, and there was over three miles of it. I hadn’t climbed a rope since grade school, and even back then I sucked at it. The mud? It was stuck to my skin, my clothes and my shoes, adding what felt like an extra 20 pounds to my frame.

This is a Reebok Spartan Race, where they get you out of your comfort zone and keep you there for a while. On March 22 in Charlotte, I was out of mine for exactly one hour and 15 minutes, and this was just one of their shorter “Sprints.”

Honestly, I never thought I’d do one of these obstacle races. Didn’t seem like my thing. I’m a gym guy, not an endurance junky, and I’ve never really been the adventurous type. A 45-minute lifting session with ample rest periods is in my wheelhouse; a trail run is not. But that was the point of signing up for a Spartan—to do something I never thought I’d do.

Spartan’s motto is, “You’ll Know At The Finish Line.” Meaning, you know you’ll face a bunch of obstacles; you just don’t know exactly what they’ll be or when you’ll have to face them.

There was low hanging barbed wire to crawl under for what seemed like a quarter-mile but was probably more like 50 yards. Either way, it was brutal, especially for a 6-foot-5-inch guy like me. There was a wall to scale shortly thereafter that took me four tries to get over.

There was a traverse wall that was basically impossible to stay on because the mud had made the thin wooden holds slippery. A friend told me before the race that this particular obstacle had a 90% failure rate, even among competitors in the elite heats earlier that morning. I quickly became a statistic on the traverse wall.

But hey, this is a Spartan Race. They make you do things you’re not good at. They challenge you with the unfamiliar, with activities you can’t quite replicate in a weight room, like running uphill on rugged terrain and carrying a sandbag up a muddy slope. I do pullups, pushups, dips and squats all the time—you know, “functional” exercises—but I never do pullups holding onto a 2×4 or dips off the top of an eight foot wall. I ran a few days a week during my Spartan prep, but only on treadmills and pavement.

You know what the worst part of the race was? Thinking I was pretty much done, that all I had left was a quarter-mile or so and then the relatively easy final obstacles. But no. I still had the spear throw, a Spartan staple. One try to stick it into the target. If it sticks, you continue on. If it doesn’t, you do 30 burpees. My spear didn’t stick. Those 30 burpees hurt.

But at the end of the race — right after a quick head submersion in muddy water, a rope-assisted wall climb, a single leap over fire, and the Spartan guys hitting me with the pads right before crossing the finish line—they put a cool Spartan medal around my neck and an ice-cold protein shake in my hand. That medal will hang in my office for years to come. And that was the best damn protein shake I’ve ever had.


  1. Impressive! I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a mud run/obstacle course myself but haven’t made the leap yet. I guess if you want to push your limits, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.


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