Endurance Cartel Podcast

Endurance Cartel

#007 – Put Out The “Mind FIRE” with Fireman Robert Verhelst, | 9/11 Search And Rescue and Mental Endurance

Building Mental Resilience Through Endurance Sports and Improving Mental Health

We encounter many traumatic situations in our lifetime, and we generally struggle to deal with them correctly. The human psyche has become a closet in which we store our undealt trauma. We just throw in boxes of stressful events or situations that might have bothered us, and never take the time to process them. Therefore, every time we want to open that closet to add a new memory, we encounter all these unchecked unorganized traumas that affect the new experience. This can affect both our personal life and career, as it blocks our capacity to accurately evaluate a situation without prejudice.

Rob Fireman firmly believes that heavy endurance sports play a vital role in mental health. Triathlons can be a solution to cleaning up our closet of traumas. It is an activity that demands us to look inward, face our limitations, and surpass them. The physical and mental pain we have to go through teaches us how to push forward and beyond the limits we establish for ourselves. Furthermore, it is a collective effort that inspires not only the participants but also the public watching.

Pushing Past Our Yielding Nature & Rewiring Our Internal Landscape For Mental Endurance

When we start endurance sports for the first time, we might encounter a very negative yielding aspect of our personality. A closet full of traumas tends to push us that way. We then have to learn how to turn that around into positive encouragement, and incremental overcoming of limits.

Rob Fireman’s favourite mantra that helps him through tough times is “Your Strength is in Your Passion”. He found that his passion lies in impacting others and helping them move forward. It is precisely what inspires him to push over the limits when achieving something. He uses endurance sports to reinforce his mental health and inspire others.

Nevertheless, one should not disqualify the importance of therapy. Rob went to therapy to try and alchemize everything he went through. It took him some serious time digging inward before realizing he had PTSD. Even though it might not feel easy sometimes, there will always be moments when we don’t feel so good about ourselves. The important thing is to decide how we want to move forward and learn from our struggles.

When looking for help, it’s important to keep in mind that mental health is a personal journey. What might work for one person might not work for the other.

How Did Firefighting Improve Rob’s Mental Resilience & Helped Him In Finishing an Ironman?

The training aspect of Firefighting that helped Rob a lot in his athletic challenges was the resilience part. In his line of work the firefighters have to abide by the motto “Faith over Fear”. One has to have faith in his abilities more than fear of his surrounding environment. Many situations in life have circumstances we can’t control, and they might cause us some fear. Instead, having faith in the goodness of our intention and the ambitious conviction that we can make it can change how we face challenging situations.

We need to understand that our limitation is not time, it is belief. Rob Fireman doesn’t do triathlons with his firefighting suit to beat a time record, but rather to inspire others. He wants to show that something never been done before doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

On top of the physical fitness required, firefighting also demands strong emotional and mental toughness. This line of work has a lot of traumatic experiences that one can encounter and has to deal with. A situation where a kid gets trapped in a fire can be challenging even for the strongest people on earth.

A Good Support Circle Is Crucial to Achieve Success both in Sports and Mental Health

In triathlons, as in any given situation, we should look to our support structure. Acknowledging that we don’t get to where we are by ourselves, is essential to dealing with high-stress situations.  If we take a moment to realize that no triathlon is possible without the many volunteers that help make the dream for runners possible, we can grasp the importance of support. If we then apply the same logic in every other area of life, we realize that no great deed is possible without a group of dedicated people.

Sometimes, our families and friends might not agree with our endeavours, and the support circle might be small or even inexistent. In this case, we should try and become the support structure we wished for so that others in turn can find inspiration and motivation in that.

Robert Verhelst shares with the ECP community that numerous police officers and firefighters are doing marathons or triathlons with their job gear now. He has now become a beacon of support for everyone who wants to do things differently, and that has always been his ultimate goal.

Work Through Your Traumatic Experiences and Become a Beacon of Hope for others

Working through a traumatic event can transform us and equip us with the necessary mental resilience to help others through their traumatic event. There is no shortage of opportunities to help and inspire people to work on their inner landscape and impact their outer one as a result.

Sometimes it’s the ability to say yes to someone who needs help that can create a dim light of hope in their life. We sometimes judge an action as too irrelevant to help someone, but we judge that situation with our own bias. Instead, we should try and realize that a bottle of water offered to someone is what can change a whole day for them. Offered food might become the meal that saves a life from famine. Helping an elder cross the street is what might save them from a fatal accident.

The 9/11 attacks produced an unprecedented human reaction. People came together with different backgrounds, skills, and expertise, and proposed to become part of the solution. Everybody was working together aiming at the only goal of providing help and support. Rob Fireman believes that it is something we are lacking right now. Many people decided to push past their share of traumatic experiences and engaged in helping without knowing what they were getting into.  Needless to say that they became the only beacons of hope for people stuck underneath the debris.

Slow Your Life Down and Pause to Check for Depression

People generally underestimate depression and think it’s just a momentarily down we need to get over. The reality is that depression can hit hard. It can knock someone down to the point where they would give up on their life. It’s like stumbling upon a sudden red light on the road and deciding whether to slam the brakes or deny it and keep going. Slamming the breaks might hurt at first because we stop our life to face whatever is hurting us, but going on as if nothing happened is even worse and can cause fatal crashes.

Most of us are very busy, but we still need to find some time to process events and take all the experience in. A major helper in these situations is to recognize that it’s okay to not be perfectly whole. Sometimes we don’t feel at the top of our game and it’s fine if we can only accomplish three-quarters of the objective. The important thing is to stop to acknowledge it, take a breather, and then move forward.

Endurance sports help a great deal in enhancing our mental health. Some might criticize the Iron Man events but we should consider the people overcoming their doubts and fears to at least reach the finish line. Let’s recognize that a mentality like that could apply everywhere in our lives. Someone with depression could benefit from such an experience in a way that helps their mental resilience and saves them from falling into the depression pit easily

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