What to do after a challenging obstacle course

I love obstacle courses.   It’s one of the things that I enjoyed most while being a soldier in the United States Army. I miss the time I spent on the Darby Queen in Ft. Benning, GA. This “O” course (warriors have nicknames for everything- including obstacle courses; most of the nicknames I won’t repeat in this article) was one of my favorite training events in the military.  I felt like a kid again every time I got a chance to face the “Dirty Name”, the “Weaver”, or the “Tough One” obstacles.

These adult playgrounds are the perfect place for guys and gals to put their skills and physical fitness to the test. I played on many obstacle courses in my military career, and I’ve trained thousands of other warriors on how to face them, as well. 

I learned early on as an Army Ranger, I couldn’t be successful on an obstacle course if I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my body in the process.  After completing an obstacle course, most warriors hurt in a lot of unusual places.  There’s no way to complete the obstacles without the pain.  I’m convinced it’s the pain and the challenge of the obstacles that made completing the course so satisfying.  

There is nothing quite like the feeling you get after completing the last stage of an obstacle course, and the greater the challenge during the course, the greater the exhilaration when you cross the finish line. It is a feeling of satisfaction that makes you say to yourself:  Wow. That hurt, and I am totally exhausted… But it was worth it!

Life on a hostile playground

This article isn’t the rambling thoughts of an old man who used to play army. I wrote this article to help equip you for the challenges that you will face in the future. Life is like a playground. There are many thrilling parts of life’s jungle gym that will leave you excited and longing for more. But there are also plenty of terrible obstacles in life’s playground that will be excruciatingly painful.

I guess it may be more accurate to say, life is like a “hostile playground”. Be on your guard because the hostile playground of life can be exhilarating today and exhausting tomorrow.  When you conquer a hostile obstacles of life, I hope you will experience the same thrill that I felt at the end of the Darby Queen “O” Course.

Here are three practical suggestions for what to do after you complete a challenging obstacle in your life:

Take a breather

I was near maximum heart rate every time I came down off of the cargo net and ran the last few hundred yards of the Darby Queen “O” course. For a distance runner, few things in my training regimen ever brought my heart rate as high as this course. I doubled over in pain or fell on the ground in exhaustion when I finished that course.  

It’s both natural and healthy to take a breather after completing a tough obstacle. Maybe you’ve just gone through a financial struggle, family problems, or a health scare as a result of COVID-19. Rather than rushing right back into your old routine, take a moment to catch your breath. Recognize the challenges that you’ve just been through. This short breather can help you focus and prepare for the future. For more about the thrill of accomplishing a tough task, look at my article about Skiing the Bunny Slopes. 

Count your bruises

I completed the Darby Queen with bruises in places I didn’t know could be bruised! There was often a distinctive softball-sized bruise on the inside of my bicep every time I finished the “Weaver” obstacle. To this day, I don’t even know how it’s possible to get a bruise that big in a spot like that on the human body.

Life is going to beat you up and periodically leave you bruised. You’re going to have some bruises as a result of this hostile obstacle course playground we call life. It’s OK to spend a few moments counting your bruises. 

By counting your bruises, you’re able to identify the painful points of life. By learning from these painful lessons, you’ll be able to better face pain in the future. If you’re not sure what the “weaver” obstacle was like, check out this article- Getting Black and Blue during the Best Ranger Competition.

Remember your blessings

Another very important step after completing an obstacle course is to take a few moments and count your blessings. Use this important step as a reminder you that you survived the obstacle. Counting your blessings is a spiritual discipline, but it’s also a great leadership habit.

Nehemiah is a leader who takes a moment to count his blessings in the Bible. He accomplishes in 52 days what others could not accomplish in more than 140 years! At the end of this massive endeavor to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he takes a moment and remembers God’s faithfulness in the process. In Nehemiah 6:16, he makes it clear that the people of Jerusalem were able to complete this construction project only by God’s blessing.

If you’re going through some tough stuff right now, don’t lose hope. If you’ve just come through some challenging obstacles, take a moment and count your blessings.

Prepare for even tougher obstacles

Putting these three principles into practice will help you prepare for the next obstacle life throws at you. Life is a hostile playground with many challenging obstacles. Some obstacles are tougher than others. By successfully negotiating the easier obstacles today, we gain strength to face the tougher obstacles in the future.

Learn this lesson from Nehemiah. Spend a few very important moments reflecting after going through some challenging times. Take a moment to catch your breath. It’s OK to spend a few moments counting your bruises as you remember how bad the challenges hurt… But the challenges of today prepare you for the greater obstacles you might face tomorrow.

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