“Looking for a few good men to join me for the United States Marine Corps Ultimate Challenge Mud Run. You young pups want to keep up with this old dog, then join me. But if you can’t run with the big dogs, then stay on the porch!”
This was the email challenge posed to me and others in 2012 by my life-long friend Charlie Maurone, an inspirational Recon Marine who had just returned from a decorated tour of duty in Viet Nam when I first met him at the age of 14. I always admired Charlie’s toughness, intelligence and confidence, and always looked up to him. Charlie’s challenge resonated with me. At the age of 55, I felt the emotional pull to tackle a demanding physical challenge for the first time in my life. Yet I could not imagine completing a 6.2 mile, 36 obstacle course through the swamps and mud of South Carolina.
After weeks of deliberation, I accepted Charlie’s challenge with one condition I made to myself – I had to make sure I was fully prepared and in great physical and mental shape. If I started the Ultimate Challenge, there was no way I wasn’t going to finish it!
How to find true Marine Corps obstacle training in New York City, however, now that felt like an even bigger challenge. As I was puzzling over this dilemma in the back of a taxi just a few days later, like divine intervention, the award-winning Warrior Fitness Boot Camp taxi advertisement flashed on the tiny TV screen and I immediately knew I found my answer. I had four months to get ready.
Unlike some who sign up for the 3 class trial, try it a few times and never return, I was all-in from day one as I viewed WFBC not as an exercise option, but rather as my life-line to survive the USMC Ultimate Challenge. Ruben and Alex promised me they were going to get me in the very best shape of my life, and they did exactly that. They did not disappoint and were true to their word. Class after class after class, they pushed me way beyond my comfort zone and then pushed me further until they extracted every last drop of my sweat and energy. Four months later, I accomplished my personal mission thanks in large part to their heavy doses of motivation, support and tough love. It is no wonder they were both with me throughout the entire 6.2 mile obstacle mud run; whenever I saw a Marine or heard one barking at me on the course and demanding I do more, I thought of them.
With my personal mission accomplished, and the development of very bad arthritis in my knees, I did not physically return to the 3rd floor of 29 West 35th St. for eight months. Mentally, however, I felt I had never left. When I began waking up in the mornings to the sweet sound of Alex’s and Ruben’s “Alright 5:30! START RUNNING!” ringing in my ear, I knew it was only a matter of time. And when I received a sensitive and caring email from Ruben inquiring about my health, i.e. “Jonathan, WTF! It’s time to get back in the fight! It’s been 7 months! When are you going to make a comeback!? BRING OUT THE WARRIOR IN YOU!”, I knew it was time to do just that. My return to WFBC was more than a year ago, and I have never looked back.
Warrior Fitness Boot Camp is a special and unique experience for anyone seeking to test their physical and mental endurance in exchange for tremendous personal satisfaction and confidence.
WFBC classes are never easy; they are not designed or conducted to be. Like every new student who steps off the 3rd floor elevator, the first several classes for me were like going through the crucible of hell. I was unable to navigate the monkey bars, could not do a pull-up, and almost passed out from the stair climbs “up to 12”. I sweated like a pig and often couldn’t sleep the night before a class. It is amazing, however, as you continue to train with Ruben, Alex and Colter, you begin to notice signs of personal achievement, both mental and physical, which create confidence to push through each 60-minute challenge.
Although the physical work of boot camp never gets easier, there are three sources of inspiration which always support me through every class. First, there is the personal satisfaction derived when I notice a little more bounce in my step as I climb the 12thflight of the staircase, find myself moving across the monkey-bars with a little more rhythm, or “count back from 20” with a little less burn in my muscles after the 25thhand release push-up.
Not only do I appreciate the physical discipline Ruben, Alex and Colter instill, I often find the mental discipline as valuable. One of my favorite and most powerful life lessons came from Alex when I found myself struggling with a weight exercise at the end of a class and heard the following escape from my lips, “I can’t do it”. His response to my half-assed excuse was direct, concise and simple: “FIND A WAY!” I often repeat these three words to myself whenever I am challenged at work or in my day-to-day life.
Second, the bond of friendship, camaraderie and support of fellow students always makes the physical grind easier to tolerate. We are all in it together and although the work is individual, the spirit and tone of each class is cohesive. Watching my friends and classmates excel and move quicker and faster than me always provides me with great motivation to push harder.
Third, I derive much inspiration from the limitless dedication and commitment Ruben and Alex show their students, and the tremendous pride they take in their business. I am fascinated by the fact that one or the other teaches at least nine classes a day starting at 5:30 am, 52 classes a week. And yet every class they lead feels to me like the only class they are teaching for the week. The fact they give me their “A game” every time I step onto the third floor certainly inspires me to try and give them my personal best as well.
Warrior Fitness Boot Camp has become a very important part of my life and as long as my knees allow me to continue, I look forward to the wonderful satisfaction of enduring a “core tight” (arms like jello) plank position as I wait to hear those three magical words, “WARRIORS ON THREE!”