As a professional triathlete, adventurist, and endurance supremo, Colin O’Brady raced in 25 countries across six continents between 2009 and 2015, but his days of going it alone are now shared with a passion to bring fitness to those around him. The record-breaking host of BYUtv’S “Survivalists,” is now inspiring the families that go head-to-head for a series of exciting wilderness challenges, and says that it’s never too late for your own tribe to face fun quests together.
M&F sat down with O’Brady in Jackson, WY, to find out why he loves to keep fitness in the family.
Many of O’Brady’s achievements, such as setting the speed record for reaching the 50 US High Points in 21 days, may seem like individual successes, but at 37 years of age, he understands that a good support network has been essential. “Physical activities are one thing, but I think it really does come back to mindset,” says O’Brady, who recovered from a horrific burn accident to excel as an athlete. “I think that it all kind of starts with our own inner-dialogue, and I’ve fortunately had some real strong, positive influences in my life. Chiefly, my mother when I was young, and certainly my wife over the last 15 years. My own personal ambition is held up by others around me, to support my dreams.”
Landing the gig as host of “Survivalists” made perfect sense to O’Brady, since he already gives a lot of his free time to work with young people, taking them on expeditions and using the environment as a platform to educate and inspire. In each show, two families must forego their screens and devices in favor of head-to-head challenges like knot-tying, climbing, or following animal tracks. At its core, “Survivalists” is all about getting families outside, and moving their bodies more. It’s a subject that O’Brady cares deeply about and says that in his home life, and on the show, the benefits have been life changing.
Exercising with Loved Ones Will Create Awesome Shared Experiences
For O’Brady, bringing wife Jenna into his world of adventure has not only given them some amazing moments to treasure, but it has also allowed them to spend more quality time as a couple. “Jenna had never climbed any mountains before we were together,” says the elite athlete. “That was new for her, and quite honestly, it’s not something that as a little girl, or in her 20s, she was dreaming about. But spending time with me, obviously, I wanted to show her [this part of my life] and she grew interested in it. Jenna is the 88th American female to reach the summit of mount Everest, but even now that’s not her core identity. She was like,
‘That was a great experience’ and she really, really enjoyed it, but I think that part of it has been for us to be able to spend more time together, which is fantastic.”
The couple have now traveled to around 65 countries together and feel that shared experiences through challenging themselves is something that has added an important foundation to their relationship.
Families Who Are Active Together, Communicate Better
Whether we are talking about a local hike, or taking it further and competing on “Survivalists,” O’Brady has observed that families who like to be active together will increase their communication levels and make better bonds. “When I look back on my childhood, my dad was an Eagle Scout,” shares O’Brady. “My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but he would always say ‘the outdoors are free.’ A lot of my weekends and family trips were spent driving out to a trail or a lake, or a mountain, or going for a bike ride. Here I am, still talking about it right? In those moments as a family, we would go out there and then it would be fun. As a 10- or 11-year-old kid, being able to problem solve, like how do we get up there? Do we go through the forest or do we go through the ridge line? You learn in the process by being exposed to so much. It’s really special.”
It’s Never too Late for Families to Start Having Adventures Together
While O’Brady was brought up in an active environment, he relishes the chance to share his love of the great outdoors with families who may be new to the party. This is one of the aspects he enjoys most about his television show. “It’s amazing to see,” he says. “They end up having this amazing experience. You put people in a tough spot, and all of a sudden a young daughter and a father might have a bonding moment that they haven’t had in years. You know, where they are sitting there beside the campfire after a log day on the trail, or climbing up a mountain, or kayaking in the ocean, or wherever they are on the show, it’s amazing to really see that.”
Challenging yourself is essential for building confidence Studies ( https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/40/3/685/744518 ) show that as we move through adolescence, we tend to push ourselves less physically. Smartphones and Netflix have made spectators rather than participants out of millions of households, but moving more is important both physically, and psychologically. With a baby boy on the way, the O’Bradys intend to introduce this little one to plenty of his own adventures.
“In life, that’s really where the growth comes,” says O’Brady of digging deep. “Particularly in our modern society, it’s pretty easy to stay well within our comfort zone but I do think we
are hard wired to have that challenge. It truly allows us to grow, and see things in a new light. Some people resist that, like ‘oh, I’m uncomfortable’ but I frame it differently; ‘oh I’m uncomfortable, that means I’m gonna learn something!” O’Brady says that having a purpose, and driving towards it, is great for self-esteem too. “The pinnacle moment of the achievement is great, but what gets me out of bed every morning is the process,” he says. “And, when I’m feeling full of passion and purpose, that’s when my mind is usually in a great place.” No doubt, for Colin O’Brady and countless others, sharing this outlook with family only serves to make the process more special.
The season finale of “Survivalists” airs this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT on BYUtv. “Survivalists” is also available to steam for free on the BYUtv app or online at BYUtv.org.