- American athlete Colin O’Brady spent 54 days crossing Antarctica on a pair of skis in November and December while hauling a 375lb. Sledge.
- He said that when he woke up every morning he repeated four simple words to himself: “You are strong, you are able.”
- When it got really rough and the wind whipped at 80 km / h, he sometimes also remembered: “This too will pass.”
- O’Brady says the two sets were instrumental in his success. He is now the first to cross Antarctica alone and without assistance.
It was windy and the temperature was well below zero by 6 a.m. when Colin O’Brady got out of his sleeping bag at the end of the world.
The sun was already shining brightly when the athlete’s alarm signaled the start of a new day in the Antarctic summer, where average December temperatures fluctuated by -16 degrees Fahrenheit. O’Brady knew it was time to quickly turn on his camping stove and melt ice to make oatmeal so he could refuel and continue across Antarctica to the Ross Ice Shelf.
He was on a journey that would eventually become the world’s first unassisted solo voyage across the rugged, white southern continent.
For 54 death defying days, the athlete relied on two simple mantras to gather mental strength, O’Brady told Business Insider upon his return.
Before crawling out of bed to make breakfast and even as a “Winds whipped outside the tent,” said O’Brady He always said one thing to himself to start the day:
“Y.You are strong, you are able. “
Often battling frostbite, O’Brady was no stranger to tent-pounding Antarctic winds at 50 mph as he traversed the coldest, driest, and windiest continent on earth. During these troubled times, O’Brady could get his other favorite catchphrase from Antarctica:
“T.also be will change. This too will pass. “
On December 26th, he became the first to cross Antarctica alone, with no assistance from anything other than skiing, on a 932-mile hike that no one had survived before.
O’Brady did a strenuous workout, both for his body and for his mind
Both mantras are the result of years of mental and physical training that O’Brady completed for the Antarctic hike.
In 2016, the 33-year-old from Oregon raced to the highest peaks of all seven continents (including Antarctica) in just 132 days, faster than anyone before him. More recently, he trained on steeply inclined treadmills for the Antarctic mission and used weight training to gain an additional 20 pounds of muscle so he could pull his 375 pounds. Equipment sled over the South Pole. He even did a test mission in Greenland, hauling his gear for a 30-day 400-mile training run.
But that was only part of the equation.
O’Brady also underwent rigorous mental training for the extreme isolation he would endure on a solo trek. The athlete has participated in several Vipassana meditation retreats.
“Completely free, highly recommended,” he said of the donation-based retreats he attended.
In the bucolic, padded rooms that provided a calm focus, he sat in silence for 10 days, meditated 10 hours each day and trained his mind to survive waves of emotions with awareness and balance.
Traditionally, meditation mantras are simple sounds like “om” that are repeated to help focus. A mantra can also be any phrase used to focus and calm the mind.
O’Brady on a previous expedition to Elbrus, Russia’s highest peak.
Courtesy Colin O’Brady
The mental benefits of mantras aren’t just for explorers
Researchers recently investigated how both mantras and meditation can help people deal with high stress scenarios. A small 2018 study of emergency room workers in Ireland who attended just four four-hour mantra meditation sessions found that these doctors and nurses improved their focus at work and felt calmer with their peers. Some even slept better after exercising.
A previous 2006 study of military veterans in San Diego found that silent mantras can help veterinarians better manage stress, insomnia, and unwanted thoughts, while a larger 2013 study found that some veterans had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD ) Reported improvements in depression and well-being when using mantra techniques in conjunction with other treatments, including medication.
Other studies of the positive effects of mantras suggest that they can even help people relieve physical pain sensations and improve mood and sleep quality in those with knee injuries and osteoarthritis.
O’Brady was talking his way through Antarctica at an amazing pace
The 54-day hike through Antarctica was the longest time O’Brady has ever spent alone. He had to rely on his mind to calm the whiteout conditions and things like, “MeAt some point it will be sunny again. The wind will calm down “and remember,” as long as I put one foot in front of the other, I keep trying to make progress “that it would go forward.
Another helpful mantra: “Hopefully I can make it to the other end.”
O’Brady did just that and managed to shave 16 days before his expected arrival date. He even finished his search at Christmas with a final “ultramarathon” that covered the final 77 miles of his journey across the continent in a 32-hour endorphin surge to the finish line, where he burst into tears.
“Proving to myself that I can end this is something I’ll carry with me all my life,” he said.
O’Brady had previously skied both the North and South Poles.
The Impossible First / Colin O’Brady