Discover how taking on challenges, like pulling a 1.5 tonne car a marathon distance of 26.2 miles, has helped the level-3 personal trainer establish his Muscle World YouTube channel and give new focus to his life.
Since a young age, I’ve always been fascinated with challenging myself physically. In school, I wasn’t interested in playing sports or extracurricular activity, I just wanted to push my limits. So much so, I’d purposely mess around in PE so that the teacher would punish me by making me run laps of the pitch. In reality, I just preferred running laps more than playing football. I even used to load my rucksack up with rocks for the walk home, just so I felt like I had achieved something that day.
After I left the Royal Marines in 2009, I was left with what felt like a big void in my life. I was fed up with the monotony of going to work, coming home, going back to work, coming home again. It was draining me. I knew I had to find something to fill that void and give me something to look forward to. That was where I came up with the idea of putting myself way out of my comfort zone and challenging myself in different fitness disciplines.
Over the last 10 years I’ve met with experts in various fields of fitness and put my body through many gruelling physical challenges, including mountain rock climbing, acrobatic aerial hoops, Navy SEALs drown-proofing, yomping over mountain ranges, pulling cars and attempting many bodyweight challenges and military fitness tests.
My YouTube channel, MuscleWorld, came about as a reason to be taking part in these challenges. When arranging to meet with the fitness experts, it made sense to them if I was doing the challenge for my channel rather than because I am a bit weird, ha.
I became bored with school during sixth form, leaving shortly before the exams. Instead, I had decided I wanted to pursue a career in computer-aided engineering. While I did really well at it, and was offered an apprenticeship to become an architect, I turned it down to join the Royal Marines after watching Under Siege with Steven Seagal!
In January 2005, I attended the 3-day Potential Royal Marines Course. I can honestly say the hardest things to this day that I have ever done. Not being able to breathe or keep up with the work was one of those humbling moments. I went down there thinking I could do hundreds of press-ups but I could barely manage 40 according to their standards! It was quite the wake-up call. However, I completed the Commando Course in December of that year and was finally awarded my Green Beret.
The hardest challenges I’ve ever had to face are the personal and private challenges that we all face in life, which I won’t disclose here for obvious reasons. However, I have to say that doing fitness, of any kind, be it swimming, climbing a mountain or lifting weights, has without a doubt helped me and been a positive factor in my life. Physical challenges give me something to look forward to. The feeling I get from doing exercise really makes me happy and I would recommend it to anyone going through personal problems of any kind.
The hardest physical challenge I have ever completed was last year’s self-titled “Triple Challenge”.
I was undertaking regular challenges just for fun (if you can call it fun, ha), but decided that my next challenge should be to raise money for charity. I put a poll up on my Youtube channel with a list of challenge ideas and asked my subscribers to vote on which one I should do. The challenges options were:
Run 10-Miles Carrying 45lbs (20kg)
Climb Pen-Y-Fan carrying 200lbs (90kg)
Complete 1,000 Pull-Ups
Some wise guy commented “all of them”! Oh, how I laughed out loud when I read this! Yet as the hours went by it started to play on my mind. I told myself to stop being a wimp and I accepted to do all three challenges back to back! A couple of days later, I was there, packing my rucksack with dumbbells and embarking on the first of the challenges.
First up was the 10-mile run carrying 45lbs. Having not run for at least 10 years, I was quite pleased that I completed the loaded 10-mile run in just over 2 hours. After that, I drove to the Brecon Beacons to climb Pen Y Fan with a 200lb rucksack.
This 200lb Pen Y Fan yomp caught me completely off guard! It was far harder than I had anticipated, partially due to having just completed a loaded 10-mile run! It was cold, it was ugly and it was the toughest hill climb I’ve ever completed.
Walking back down was pretty emotional and was probably harder than going up. I was stumbling down like the walking dead! The temptation to take the dumbells out and carry them down individually became a serious consideration to me. My shoulders were in constant pain and each step sent shooting pain through my knees. No one was there with me. No one would know. But I quelled this thought and carried on with the tiny small steps.
As I got to the bottom of the hill, I plonked myself down on a wall and I genuinely think I passed out for a few seconds. I then mustered up my reserves to plod over to my car where I was eventually able to rest the weight in the boot and get rid of the dumbbells!
After all that, I drove home back to Cardiff and proceeded to do the 1,000 pull-up challenge. I knocked them off slowly and systematically. I was so tired and felt so weak. It got to the early hours of the morning and I was somewhere between 600-700. I projected that I would not finish until 6 or 7 the next morning! So I decide to have a few hours of sleep. As soon as I woke up from my nap I got straight out of bed and resumed my pull-ups until I marked 1,000 on the board.
I can safely say I was the sorest I have ever been for days after those three challenges, and it took weeks for the tendons in my arms to recover.
I have never consciously thought that I was employing mindset strategies during my challenges. However, if I look at the process I take during the challenge, I am in fact inadvertently utilising some, although these differ from challenge to challenge.
Sometimes, in my head, it’s just about breaking the challenge down into minute goals of one foot in front of the other, knowing that every step gets me closer to the goal. Other times it comes down to the planning and preparation to minimise and mitigate any potential issues that could arise to make the challenge more difficult.
A good example of this is when I undertook the marathon car-pull challenge for which I raised over £2,000 for the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital Charity. The task wasn’t just about towing a 1.5 tonne car 26.2 miles, the whole operation had to be planned and organised from start to finish. From initial idea to execution, I had to consider where it could be done, the training, the food preparation, even things like, where to go to the toilet had to be considered. Then there’s the actual challenge itself. I remember someone saying to me that I’d never be able to do it. But my mindset was – “I know I can pull the car for 1-mile. All I have to do is do that 26 times.” So that challenge was broken down into chunks and planned in meticulous detail to help give me a confident mindset going into the challenge
For me it’s not about setting records or being the fastest or the strongest – for me it truly is the whole journey that I love. From the start with that little idea until it’s done. It’s something I personally am very passionate about.
The Personal Training Instructor (PTI) who took me through recruit training in 2005 was a huge inspiration to me, Corporal Adam White. He’s a man I have a massive amount of respect for and he still inspires me to this day. Adam is a good friend of mine 15-years later and we often send each other little challenges.
Mental toughness is not about being invincible. Mental toughness is about refusing to give in. We all have moments where we are crushed, beaten and broken, but after you’ve had a cry or a whinge, it’s being able to get back up and say “I’m not going anywhere”. I used to refer to it as being stubborn rather than being tough, but it’s exactly the same thing!
"We have no idea what’s inside us until we start trying hard. I mean, really trying hard! When being obsessed becomes your new norm. It isn't always fun. It's not always meant to be fun. But that’s when you know you're trying hard."
- David Goggins