This piece was written in conjunction with Aflac
Wanna burn cals, build muscles, smile your way through a workout, and literally better your life? Grab your tough (or wanna-be tough) friend, coworker, or partner and hit the mud. Experience-based workouts are sure to not only plaster a goofy grin to your face, but according to research, boost your health. With elements of both competitiveness and camaraderie, team experiences like Tough Mudder truly put you in a "for the good of the group" mindset and are quite simply, crushing it.
Those part of Mudder Nation, and those who will be indoctrinated into the elite group of mud-lovers this season, know that each obstacle and race disrupts sports-norms, helps athletes enjoy a shared experience (think kumbaya meets 500,000 gallons of grade A mud), and creates a vibe of courage and connection. This global tribe of passionate participants knows that the experience of teamwork is good for the ol’ spirit and feeling of belong, but research has proven that these group experiences are actually beneficial to our health.
Check out the studies that show not only will training for, and running in, a Tough Mudder up your health-game, it’ll boost it in a way that a serving of vegetables simply can’t.
1. You’ll Make Lifelong Friends (Maybe Even Get That Promotion)
Fellow mudder, fitness-pals, gym-buddies etc. These are just some of the terms we use to describe fellow Tough Mudder enthusiasts we meet on the course. These are the people who we trek through mud with, lift heavy weights with, hoist over walls, and run through 10,000 volts with. Tough Mudder events (races included) aren’t solo undertakings, rather they require teamwork and encourage friendships that can literally change lives.
Accordingly to a recent review of more than 400 scientific studies published in The Personality and Social Psychology Review, we shouldn’t underestimate the value of building strong relationships or connecting with strangers, which studies show help us feel more capable in workplace. Yep, that’s right, the instant connections we build on the course help us feel more confident in the office because they give us automatic social support which buffers the effects of career-related stress. Plus, who better to encourage us to apply for a promotion than the person who’s watched us battle the mud for 10+ miles?
2. Some Healthy Competition Will Go A Long Way In Getting You To Your Goals
Trips to the gym have finally become a part of your weekday routine. You’ve got an upcoming event or race and you've been feeling great and looking even better. But you haven’t increased the weights or reps of your bicep curl in ages, and feel like you’ve just taken a dumpster dive from your fitness goals. Welcome to The Land of Fitness Plateaus where a little healthy competition could be just what you need to see some gains. According to research published by the Psychology of Sport and Exercise, working out with at least one person who is “fitter” than you will increase your likelihood of working harder. In the study, participants were asked to hold a plank as long as they could, and as soon as they finished, they were told that similar exercisers held the pose 20% longer than they had. Then, when asked to plank for as long as they could, participants held their second plank 5% longer than their first, thanks to the a new level of competition.
Whether its because you’ll push harder when you're with someone you deem as “fitter” than you or because your pal will introduce a new fitness regime into your life, healthy competition could be just what you need to smash your fitness goals in the weight-room so that you can be a base on Pyramid Scheme or the one pulling people to the peak of Everest 2.0.
3. Your Life Story Will Become More Interesting
Tough Mudders rip millions of people off the couch and teach them the value of teamwork, perseverance, and wet dirt. Research has found that spending money on experiences (think: concert tickets, an obstacle course race, even pizza and beer with friends), is more likely to make us happier than buying a fancy car or a thousand dollar dress. And while we love the science, deep down, we know it already. Our brains get bored with possessions, but we never tire of telling stories about the time we face-planted into a mud-pit or got shocked before crossing the finish line.
Moreover, experiences that involve physicality result in even higher feelings of nostalgia and connectedness. Studies have demonstrated that people who physically do the same movement together for example, running through mud, makes them feel emotionally closer and more bonded. Tough Mudder races make human connection easy: whether you show up with a friend or group of coworkers, or decide to hit the course alone, Tough Mudder has always been a social experience. When you get to the obstacles, even if you’re alone and not on a team, you stop and you assess the obstacle, talk and form bonds with others about what you are going to do and how you’re going to do it. Then, you do it with them. And BOOM, just like that, not only are you bonded but you’ve just had an interaction that will soon form a memory! A mud run may only take an afternoon to complete, but it will leave you with years worth of stories worth telling.
Aflac believes experiences like Tough Mudder are the key to living a full and healthy life. That’s why Aflac pays cash directly to you (unless assigned otherwise) when you're sick or injured, so you may not have to give up the experiences you love - like an obstacle course or endurance run - to help pay for unanticipated medical expenses. To learn more about keeping your lifestyle healthy, visit Aflac.com. Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.