SufferFest 2016… It was a great day full of lots of walking, some good talks with my husband, achy feet and burning legs and a little bit of, well, suffering, as the name implies! I wanted to share about the idea of SufferFest, why we do it every year, and why I think you should do it in your own way, too.
I think most of us in North America would say we lead fairly comfortable lives. There are bumps in the road, sure, and we expect those on some level, but for the most part many people live in coast mode, moving from air conditioned homes to comfortable cars and temperature-controlled offices, only to repeat the process on the way home before crawling into bed. Sure, there’s a lot in between – kids and pets and relational ups and downs at work; meals eaten and workouts crushed; vacations here and laughter there; and some level of pain and suffering mixed into the lot. But more or less, if you are reading this blog, you are probably doing so from a more (rather than less) comfortable place in life.
And so, we bring intentional suffering into the mix. Not the kind where you pray for hardships or create difficult life circumstances for yourself, but the kind where you decide to challenge your body, to push it further, to see if you have some girt when you’re out of those climate-controlled environments and to see what you’re made out of. Partly because Mikey and I don’t always book a permit far enough in advance, partly because we like the idea of pushing, we decided a few years back to pick a classic backpack in the Canadian Rockies and do it in a day.
We’ve done the RockWall Trail in a day, the Iceland Trail in a day, and the Skyline Trail in a day…it was time for something else!
No permit needed, no one else to schedule around, just pick a hike, get up early, and go all day.
We know before we begin hiking it’s going to be a tough day; it’s a lot tougher than just going for a long walk because the classic backpack trips mean a lot of elevation lost and gained so that you can spend beautiful time hiking among mountain passes and surrounded by beauty! So we prep – we prep our gear, prep our food and pick our fuel sources carefully, and prep our minds to get ready for some pain.
This year we decided to tackle Mt. Robson in Jasper, only to be foiled by a 4-6 hour delay on the way there. So, knowing we wouldn’t arrive until 1 am and not wanting to only grab 4 hours sleep, we turned around and found another epic backpack to do (that’s easy to do in the Rockies!) and prepared to hike out to, around, and back from Skoki Mountain.
There are many ways to choose to (temporarily) suffer – you can go for a long bike ride, try something new that scares you like rock climbing, try a two-a-day workout, or enter a local competition for a sport. Why would you do it? To see if you can! To find a way to #SweatBetter and take your body and mind to the next level. It will require some level of sacrifice (hello early morning when we wanted to sleep in!), some tenacity and the drive to overcome, but it will be worth it.
Who knows – you might even smile when you’re doing it. 😉
Mikey and I walked and walked and walked all day, starting in our Chacos (sandals) and eventually switching to some compression gear (I used my 2XU compression tights earlier in the day and socks in the afternoon) and running shoes (I used my Nike FlyKnits that I received in partnership with SportChek). Good gear can help SO much with your own SufferFest – it makes you realize how truly hardcore the pioneers and explorers were with big, heavy boots and no GPS or step trackers. 😉
The compression really helped us feel better half way through the day, as did the lake stop/swim, handstand shot, and picture ops! I loved being able to track my steps with my Garmin and feel like, at the end of the day with over 60,000 steps, I could fully enjoy a big Mexican meal out and then go to bed very happy. While I don’t believe you have to “earn your food,” it feels good to work hard for it sometimes!
When you’re preparing your own SufferFest, choose something you like – there’s go to be SOME element of fun involved! – and be wise about it. It’s great doing something with others because you know you’ve got a back up system and a friend to not only help if anything happens but to suffer alongside. 😉
Mikey basically went from 0 – 27 miles (or 44 km) in a day! While I wouldn’t recommend that, I WOULD recommend taking an ice bath or finding a glacier-fed lake afterwards to soak in for some good recovery. He was stiff the next day (as anyone should be after not training for more than a marathon distance + ups and downs, but hey – that’s SufferFest for ya), but I was still wondering if I could push my body the following day. So after a good sleep in and recovery breakfast, I went out for 12 miles. It was hot, I was barely chugging along by the end, but I DID IT.
I wanted to know if I could!
So my challenge to you is this: find something that you can struggle through, choose a way to #SweatBetter that is a bit outside your comfort zone, and go for it. Get uncomfortable and suffer through something to see if you can. This could be on any level or scale but it can’t come too easy. There’s not much more time left in summer to tackle a fun outdoor adventure, take a half day kayaking trip, go camping, hit the trails, or try your own mini triathlon, so take advantage of the weather and long days before diving in the usual busyness that is September.
And when you do, let me know how it goes, what you learned, and how you felt before, during and afterwards. Go on, choose a bit of physical suffering, and see what happens! Until we chat again, live well & be well!