Dealing with your obstacles

Michaelrobbert Brans and his team during The Unbreakable challenge (picture taken by The Unbreakable, courtesy of Michael Robbert Brans)
Michaelrobbert Brans and his team during The Unbreakable challenge (picture taken by The Unbreakable, courtesy of Michael Robbert Brans)

An Unforgettable Team Experience

You want to make yourself stronger, improve your adaptability and raise your stress threshold? Yes, but how can that be done in a safe and dosed manner? Who has the right expertise and experience to help you with this? Not only physically, but especially mentally and emotionally? Three time cancer survivor Michael Robbert Brans found the right challenge for himself: The Unbreakable.


Five Steps To Victory

On Monday, June 26, I was casually browsing Facebook and noticed a post from a company called SF.Performance. It was regarding promoting an event called “The Unbreakable”, a 12-hour non-stop event. It’s a unique challenge created by a group of specialists of the Marines Corps Special Forces; Maritime Special Operations Force (MARSOF), which certainly peaked my interest and after browsing the site, I was sold.


Unbreakable is all about five phases

Disruption phase (intake and physical level)

Instruction phase (presentation, workshops and demonstrations)

Stress phase (scenarios and practice exercises under stress)

Endurance phase (physical / mental practice exercises)

Victory phase (formal and informal closing)


You might think that I would like to join because of my handicap and I want to see if I can accomplish this, but Unbreakable is primarily focused on dealing with stress. In addition to my physical disability, I have Gilles de la Tourette syndrome and because of this I experience stress a lot more then others. I wanted to experience this event and see if I can control my stress level and finally take control of this problem. Not knowing what was going to happen, I signed on the dotted line, and was eager to get started.


On the morning of the event, my father in law took me to the location at Egmond aan Zee, a Dutch beach based not too far from my home. When I arrived, there were already a few people waiting who also signed up. In total, we had a group of nine people from all walks of life. ICT, teacher, strongman, we had them all. At 08.00, a door opened and we entered the building. It was go time.



Game On And Ready To Roll

After a short but strict introduction by Unbreakable founder Sander Aarts, it was game-on and we were ready to roll. There were nine backpacks on the floor, each with a personal number ready to go. Sander yelled for us to get ready, hydrated and mentally prepared for what’s ahead. The tone was set. We were advised that the event would be a team effort. Leave your ego at home and work together; this is what would get us through the day.


Phase 1 started and I can tell you that wasn’t the funnest phase. You will realise that you are not as fit as you think and there is no room for egos, crying or complaining. After going to solo, soon the group members started to help each other because doing everything alone was not that easy and was clearly to our disadvantage. For an hour, we’ve gone away and we’ve experienced as a team what it’s like to go from zero to 100%.


Phase 2 was about telling various stories about stress management, but also a lot of instructive tips on providing first aid in emergency situations. During the workshops, we found that these new tips will be useful later in the evening. Outside, the transition from light to dark had already started, so we had no idea what time it was.


“In 5 minutes you get behind your backpack for the next phase”, called an instructor. I just recovered from Phase 1 and 2 so was wondering about what possibly was going to happen next. We all got blacked out glasses, which we had to put on our heads; we couldn’t see a thing. In rows we were escorted to a hall. I had to sit down with my hands on my head and wait for new instructions. I miss my right hip so sitting without a special seat is tough for me. Then the music came on…and it didn’t stop. I couldn’t see anything and the pain in my back killed me and the annoying music didn’t make it feel much better. So after a while, all you can do is start accepting the situation. It was an annoying melody that repeated itself about every minute. As time passed, I thought it would stop, but unfortunately, even if it did, I still played the melody in my head. Meanwhile, I had to perform some tasks with and without glasses but slowly I lost grip on reality. What was real and what wasn‘t and how long have I been awake already?



Pain And Frustration Set In

I was in pain, I was frustrated and tried to apply all the lessons that I learnt in the workshop. I can‘t exactly say how long I needed to do this, but I can tell you, however long it was, it felt like it would never end. If you think you can do anything or be stress free then you’re wrong. At home I probably would have already given up after 30 minutes of stress, but here, that was not an option. Your body can do more than you think; it’s your brain doing the mind-fuck.


So I have now been sitting in a warm hall for hours and had to do various assignments that I were both uncomfortable and confrontational. Team Unbreakable will do everything possible to break you in this phase whilst helping you to survive at the same time.


Then the last phase had begun and it was bright outside. The endurance phase led us to the beach, the dunes and a quick dip in the sea. Where as I was complaining during the first hour of Unbreakable about things like, walking on crutches, the conditions etc, I had finally found my feet during this phase. We were already busy for 11 hours and I had nothing to think about. I can only say that it’s bizarre what your body can do if you can find the right mindset.



,I Will Continue Challenging Myself!‘

I’m so proud that I have achieved it and have learned a hell of a lot about myself. I hope that I can get my stressful moments under control and will experience less of my tourettes. I have learned to ask some more help when it is offered but also to be sure to stick to what I am doing now and enjoy and continue to challenge myself.


I would like to thank the whole team and the group for this unique experience. I would definitely recommend to experience this. It’s not a boot camp, not an obstacle course race, not a fitness test but a truly unique way of training. An unforgettable experience of Unbreakable from the entire staff.


Read more about Michael Robbert on here.



Guest post b Michael Robbert Brans. Michael Robbert faced cancer three times in his life and had his right leg amputated as a result. He has been part of the Dutch ,Ninja Warrior‘ TV show, is passionate about crossfit and obstacle running. „For those who are unaware of obstacle running; it involves persuading a bunch of idiots to crawl through mud and clammer over obstacles on their day off. Yep, I am one of those idiots, the one legged version“, Michael Robbert adds smilingly.