I recently competed in a regional SWAT competition in which participants are challenged in small teams to complete difficult physical tasks while following detailed instructions and shooting some demanding courses of fire. The competition changed my training focus in the weeks leading up to it and provided different short term goal to strive for as I prepared for the challenges that we would face during the event.
These types of events and challenges are good for all of us to set up during the year. Whether it is a 5k run or obstacle course race, setting a date to meet some physical objective in order to complete tasks that challenge us is a great way to propel our physical training. Many of us competed in something growing up, whether it was football, basketball or baseball, but once real life began those days disappeared. Our opportunities to compete are often washed away with the tide of family responsibilities, work and distraction.
If getting back in the game has been in the back of your mind, I challenge you to find a competition that suits you and do it. Sign up so that you are committed and have a target date to organize your training around. There are a ton of physical challenges out there to get into. Obstacle course races have become very popular like the Tough Mudder or the Spartan Race. You may be thinking that just starting with a local 5k run may be challenging enough. Whatever your competitive flavor is, find it and commit.
In order to prepare for the SWAT competition I adjusted my training to incorporate more Tabata style work in which you exert maximum effort for a period of time and then recover before repeating that effort. This mimics the exertion pattern of a SWAT competition in the sense that you must give maximum physical effort for a relative short period of time and then quickly recover in order to control your heart rate and breathing pattern so that you can make accurate shots on target before moving on to the next physical challenge.
Once you have committed to the contest of your choosing, developing the training preparation to get you to the level to compete is a fun way to focus your physical training program. Training just to train can become monotonous and while we objectively know it is good for us, we can slack off because there isn’t a target date to accomplish something with our preparation. So adding seasonal competitive challenges can add that spark we all need to focus our training towards an objective.
Competition necessarily induces stress. This can be a good thing but often it results in an unhealthy anxiety about looking bad or not having what it takes. Having competitive challenges before us is another way to train our interior life by controlling the stress and using it for good. It should be a reminder to be humble and to thank God for the ability and opportunity to compete. Competition is also another real way in which we can offer God our effort and suffering (physical or interior stress). A fruitful way to do this is to offer your training and competition performance for someone you know who is going through a hard time. This helps take the unhealthy anxiety and flips it on itself by looking outward to someone else who is truly suffering.
Lastly, pick something to compete in that will be fun. Your livelihood isn’t tied to how you do in these competitions so have fun! We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform, but ultimately if our preparation is on point then all we can do is try our best and enjoy the moment. Finding competitions that you can do as a group or with a buddy is another great way to train and have fun together when the date arrives to throw down.
If you have been thinking, “man I want to get in shape to do this or that”…well do it! Set the date and get to work. The only constraints are those we impose on ourselves.
“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)