Bryan White makes it all seem so logical — his transition from sitting on the couch, to running on the treadmill, to competing in road races, to training for an endurance event that will culminate in running an eight-mile, 22-obstacle course including fleeing through two walls of fire.
“Yeah when I tell people about it, they think I’m crazy,” he said. “But I’m really looking forward to it.”
What makes White’s transformation even more unbelievable is that he only began it in June.
“I think it was a midlife crisis,” said White, who is 35. “I just all of a sudden really was self-conscious. I was creeping toward a record high weight and it didn’t look like it was stopping.”
Although he admits that over the years he had “a lot of starts and stops,” this time he made it work.
White began by running “two agonizingly slow miles” on the treadmill for a few weeks.
Then his wife, who is a runner and fitness instructor, encouraged him to join her running outside.
“After I did that, I decided I was never going to run on a treadmill again,” White said. “I became addicted to running outside.”
Next, a friend was unable to make it to one of the road races, so in stepped White.
“I did well,” he said. “What I liked about the races (he ended up running the entire Seacoast series) is that measurable progress was really empowering.”
Not to mention that he had lost 42 pounds, with the bulk of the weight coming off in four months.
“The hardest part was the first few weeks of establishing a routine,” White said.
“Once you see the results, you run a little faster or go a little farther.”
Yet he said after running a 10K race he knew running a marathon wouldn’t be in the cards for him.
“A 5K race is just long enough for me,” he said. “I did a 10K and it was agony for me, not because it was difficult, but because it was too long. I thought if only you could intersperse some monkey bars or something.”
That’s when a friend posted on Facebook something about the Tough Mudder races. Scheduled for May in Mount Snow, Vt., Tough Mudder New England is billed as a one-day challenge to test “toughness, fitness, strength, stamina and mental grit.” Walking planks, sloshing through swamps, yes, even wooden monkey bars greased with butter over a lake are interspersed here.
“I knew I had to do something to keep me going,” White said. “This looked pretty exciting. This looked like it.”
Yet White figured it would be better to work within the camaraderie of a team to stay motivated.
Amazingly almost as soon as he sent out a company-wide notice in October to co-workers at PixelMEDIA, people signed on.
Calling themselves the PixelMUDDIERs, the group of six trains together at least once a week and does individual workouts with martial arts experts, personal trainers and the like another four or five days a week.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Terence Nelan. “My dad says it’s a wonderful thing to ‘have done.’ It looks like it will be challenging and I’m always up for a challenge.”
Cris Dow is another who signed on.
“I just turned 30 so I figured I should do something to prove I’m still young,” he said. “It’s good because I have found working in an office has definitely slowed me down a bit.”
Erik Dodier, chief executive officer of PixelMEDIA, was actually one of the first to join, not only because he liked the personal challenge but because it fit right in with the company’s motto of “doing more than expected.”
“It has created a conversation around here,” he admitted. “Even people who aren’t doing it now are doing other things to be more active — like snowshoeing at lunch.”
In addition, Dodier said there has been a shift in the food the company offers during events.
“We’ve tried to make it healthier,” he said. “It’s definitely brought awareness to people. It’s in the air.”
Going a step further, the PixelMUDDIERS also are raising money through pledges and donations to benefit the Friends Project, a nonprofit organization the company has done “pro bono” work for, which provides social and recreational opportunities for youth and young adults with disabilities.
“Even though everybody I talked to said I was insane, I figured if I threw the idea at the whole company someone would be into it,” White said. “What’s great is that now it has a teamwork, sportsmanship vibe to it.”
As for the insane part, even White admits he will forgo one of the advertised challenges — participants are allowed to skip challenges if they choose.
“There’s this one where wires are hanging down and a few are randomly charged with 10,000 volts of electricity,” he said. “If you hit a live wire, you drop like you’re being tasered. I won’t do that, there’s no value in that.”
As White will tell you, the value instead is in looking forward to working out and heading off to the races with your friends, all for the better good.
By Rachel M. Collins
February 17, 2011