The Atlantic

Escaping Office Ennui Through Painful Exercise

A study explores how Tough Mudders allow the “cognitariat” a break from the tedium of sedentary work
Source: Luke MacGregor / Reuters

Most office workers sit for 10 hours a day, but if they sign up for the Tough Mudder, a military-style obstacle course, they’ll certainly be on their feet—running through live electrical wires. They’ll also be on their hands, swinging from treacherous-looking monkey bars, and on their stomachs, crawling through the mud. And yet, millions of people have paid about $100 each for the privilege.

Rebecca Scott, a lecturer at Cardiff Business School in Wales, sought to explore this paradox when she was working on her PhD dissertation. Initially focused on the psychology of hedonism and pleasure, she was interviewing competitive offshore yacht racers in Sydney, Australia, when one day a skipper mused to her, “Why do people want to sit on a boat for days and get pummeled

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