Gromotka: An evening with the Tough Mudders


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I went to the Field House last Thursday night to get in shape. According to a study published in February in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, obese Americans average fewer than four hours of vigorous exercise a year, so I was really there to explore why it’s so tough to get some exercise.

After spending 45 minutes running with the Tough Mudder Corps — a campus group dedicated to training with the grueling race for which it’s named — I came to an astounding conclusion:
Exercise sucks.

Still, working out in a group setting — much to my surprise — actually makes it bearable. We collected near the Field House’s central basketball courts at around 7 p.m., a group with varying goals and fitness levels. We proceeded up the stairs to the fourth floor, and I almost made a joke about that being the workout, but I decided to instead save face as we entered the track that circles around the courts below. We stretched, went over the workouts, broke into pairs and began.

The game was simple enough: run a lap, do a workout from the list, repeat for two miles. The kicker was that the last time I ran two fairly consecutive miles was October … maybe September. By the fifth or sixth lap, my sweating had transformed my shirt into a very stylish V-neck. My face was red, my head felt woozy, and both my sides ached. My spit was thick, it felt like acid inside my mouth, and it made breathing a challenge. My lungs were screaming by 12 laps, and my legs ceased to feel after number 17.

But I made it. My partner for the night was one of the Tough Mudder leaders, Jason Rainville, and his presence was key to my — surprising — success. While running, we chatted about our majors. We chatted about a group of students taking a cool martial-arts class in the room next to us. We chatted about someone on the court below us who had just missed a lay-up. We chatted about everything. I almost never had time to contemplate how tired I really was, and when I did, it was crushed by motivational interjections. You got this. Here we go. Great job.

At one point, I asked Jason if we could do a half-lap before our next exercise rather than a full. With a grin, he turned to me and said:

“Do you want to do a half lap, or do you want to push yourself?”

We did the entire lap.

Despite my general lack of exercise, I’m fairly in-shape. I try to walk when I can during the day, and I eat my vegetables like a responsible adult. I do the minimum. But last Thursday was tough. I can only speculate how challenging it would be to face obesity, start exercising, and continue it long enough to see results. Four hours isn’t much, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why so many people fail to get more.

Which brings me to the moral of this pre-spring-break story: Workout groups are cool, and you should join one if you want to get in shape. It’s a wonderful way to block out the psychological strain of exercising, and groupthink might trick you into enjoying the experience.

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