6 Tips for surviving the Subaru Palm Challenge

Sheer force of will isn’t enough
by Matthew Galang | Nov 5, 2018
PHOTO: Matthew Galang
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For the unfamiliar, the Subaru Palm Challenge sounds like total lunacy. Contestants stand with their right hands placed on hand-shaped decals stickered on a Subaru car, all of them locked in a seemingly endless stalemate with each other over the next few days in a test of willpower, endurance, sanity, and bladder integrity.

As the number of participants becomes fewer over the course of several days, the morale of the remaining contestants also drops. While they do get five-minute breaks every six hours as well as bonus breaks at the whim of fans, it’s absolutely crucial for them to prepare—physically and mentally—and to plan out their tactics and strategy if they want to stay competitive in this game

Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve put together for those aspiring to win a brand-new Subaru Impreza through sheer force of will:

1. Hope for a good position.

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In the Subaru Palm Challenge, drawing a decal placed high up on the car is a death sentence for shorter competitors. Carlo Talahib, a veteran of the Subaru Palm Challenge and the unofficial PR representative of the Philippine team, wasn’t so lucky this year: His decal was on top of the A-pillar, which forced his arm into an awkward position, limited his stretching capacity, and caused him to tiptoe just to get his blood flowing. The best decal positions are on the hood and the trunk, which allow for more relaxed arm positions as well as the possibility of squatting without fear of removing your hand and getting eliminated.

2. Prepare in advance.

The Subaru Palm Challenge is a strenuous undertaking, so it only makes sense that you train and prepare beforehand. Filmark ‘Tohoi’ Bernante hit the gym harder than ever in the year leading up to the 2018 finals, and it paid off—he was the last Filipino competitor standing. Alternate means of preparation are important, too. Talahib mentioned he should’ve had a custom pair of tall slippers made, so that he could’ve challenged for the win despite his unfortunate position. Another thing Talahib swears by is opting for Korean ginseng, which he says is much more effective than coffee in keeping you awake, but without the caffeine jitters.

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3. Make friends with your car-mates.

Spending hours on end with total strangers doesn’t sound fun at all, so take a cue from the ever-friendly Carlo Talahib and make friends with the other competitors you’re sharing a car with. Humans are social creatures by nature, so it’s imperative to socialize with others if you want to stay sane for a task as daunting as the Subaru Palm Challenge. PH team member Daniel Sabas sadly wasn’t blessed with sociable neighbors and was surrounded by foreigners that he couldn’t really talk to.

4. Get stretching.

Blood circulation is one of the biggest factors to monitor when you’re competing in the Subaru Palm Challenge, because once blood stops flowing to a particular body part, involuntary body movements can and will spell doom for your dreams of taking home a new car and earning glory for the country. Bernate practiced a number of yoga positions to keep his blood flowing throughout the ordeal.

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5. Have supporters on the sidelines.

In a contest this intense, neglecting your mental state is a surefire way to drop out early. Having friends and family members on the sidelines to shout words of encouragement could make the difference between holding on for a few more hours and collapsing on the spot, as proven by this year’s champion, 40-year-old Analiza Mokhtar from Singapore, whose daughter stuck around as much as possible for motivational support.

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Team Philippines had its own support system going on where eliminated members would stick around to support their remaining countrymen in the wee hours of the morning, which is when loneliness and hallucinations hit the hardest.

6. Don’t forget to take your vitamins.

Each participant in the final is required to submit a medical certificate to ensure that they’re in good shape, but if you really want to win, passing a medical exam is just the beginning. The Subaru Palm Challenge continues despite rain and intense heat, with flashes of lighting and booms of thunder the only things to temporarily halt the contest this year. Such adverse weather conditions will take a huge toll on those with weak constitutions and immune systems. Taking vitamins regularly before the challenge could mean the difference between victory and a sneeze that takes your hand off the car.

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PHOTO: Matthew Galang
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