Mind Over Mudder

Much is made in my ed leadership doctoral program of goals: organizational goal-setting, alignment with vision/mission, monitoring progress, etc.  Though I hadn’t originally intended to blog about this recent life event*, when I think about it in terms of goal-setting, it seems to parallel much of what my coursework has focused on.

After my surgery to correct femoral acetabular impingement late last December, I set myself both a short-term and a long-term goal for my rehabilitation.  My short-term goal was to run a post-surgery 5K on Memorial Day weekend.  The annual Doylestown (PA) 5K holds a special place in my heart, as we owned our first home in that town and lived there when our first child was born.  It wasn’t my fastest time, but on May 26, 2012, I did it (and have done a few since).

My long-term rehab goal was to get fit enough to run Tough Mudder, a 12-mile obstacle course through incredibly muddy terrain (“incredibly muddy” doesn’t begin to cover it; check out their website or Facebook page for pics).  The two nearest TM events to me took place in Poconos, PA in May, and Englishtown, NJ in October.  Being a Jersey boy born and bred, I chose the October event (that it would give me another five months to work on healing and conditioning was also a factor).

While I can’t say that having goals made me heal better or faster (that’s anatomy and physiology, as well as the dumb luck of having avoided any major cartilage damage), it was incredibly motivational for me during PT, especially before I was able to run on the treadmill and I was just doing basic stretching and resistance exercises.  Thinking that this (boring exercises) was what I had to do in order to get to that (running) helped get me through the tedium and focused me, even when my attention wanted to be anywhere but in that rehab room, side-stepping or squatting.

Even as I wrapped up PT and started running again, having the specter of Tough Mudder over me pushed me to increase my mileage, even as I was becoming complacent and satisfied with my times on 3-mile runs.

So did I meet my long-term rehab goal?  A picture is worth a thousand words:

Up next: my first 10K on November 3.  Once I get comfortable with that distance, I think the next logical step has got to be the half-marathon, which will basically be like the Tough Mudder minus the electricity obstacles and freezing water, right?  I’ll keep you posted.

Speaking solely as an individual, setting goals did motivate me to persevere in my rehab.  I would have done it anyway without the goals, but I feel that having an endpoint toward which to work fueled and charged my work (PT) in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  Once the goals were reached, you move the goalposts back a bit further – not so much so that it becomes discouraging, but just enough to encourage growth.

Reflecting on this experience, I’m starting to get a better sense of how organizational goals (ideally should) charge our work as members of the organization… IF the buy-in is there.  As for me, I was as bought-in as I was going to get, what with my physical well-being on the line.  Now, if it was only as easy to get unanimous organizational buy-in…

*Shout-out to childhood friend, Dirty Birds teammate, and OG Tough Mudder Dan Staples, who, as we were catching our breath and staring down yet another obstacle, asked me, “So, you gonna blog about this?”  Yessir, Dan.  Yes, I am.


  • I couldn’t agree more Damian. My goals have allowed me to focus on increasing my level of fitness and strength. In turn, I have achieved things I would never have thought possible. I think realistic and student-centered goals should be in place in every educational setting. Unfortunately the goals most of us see are either too esoteric or too data based.

  • Whether looking at the date circled on the calendar or staring at the back end of Terrordactyl listening to the emcee’s pep talk, few events get in your head the way Tough Mudder does! What I find interesting is that the event is so centered on teamwork and camaraderie that you have to raise your right hand and swear to put those qualities above all else, yet as you so effectively pointed out it is individual goal setting that got most of us there in the first place. Keep on keeping on and best of luck this weekend!

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