Train Like a Spartan

I have a friend, let’s call him Sean McMannus. He’s an imposing guy, standing 6’3” and every ounce a Scot from the Highlands. You’d almost expect him to have blue paint on his face, lift his kilt, smile and then take your head off with a giant claymore. In all honesty, he’s really just a large teddy bear who’s always laughing and joking. He’s much happier nowadays. Before the change, he weighed 260 pounds, was out of shape, tired all the time, uninspired and not very motivated. He got back into the game training like a Spartan.What do I mean?Well, Sean gets bored quickly.MORE: The Best Workout for Your BodySimply running around a track is not his idea of time well-spent. He will, however, rise at 5:30 in the morning, fill a 5-gallon bucket with sand and jog along a desert trail—stopping along the way to do push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, dips or the ever popular set of burpies—then pick up his bucket and continue on.This training regimen does one of several things for Sean. First of all, it is never boring. You will not have to worry about doing the same thing over and over again—ever. Secondly, it keeps him in shape for the next Spartan Race, which I will talk about in a second.  But most importantly, this workout kicks your ass! It is not designed for the weak at heart. You have to dig deep into yourself to continue forward despite the physical pain you experience.And maybe that’s what got Sean moving again.When you feel like you have nothing left, when the pain flowing through your body seems more than you can stand, when all you can do is take another breath, somehow you find the strength to take another step and then another and another, until the drill is done.It’s a great cure for attention deficit. it’s also good for addiction, depression, anxiety or any other emotional issue for that matter. It’s not a bad weight loss strategy either.Sean got introduced to his first Spartan Race two years ago. These timed competitions run a specific distance featuring natural and made-made obstacles that are designed to test your fitness, both physically and mentally.The Spartan Race tests your heart.QUIZ: How Much Exercise Are You Getting? Each run has you climbing, lifting, crawling, rolling, carrying, running, swimming, balancing, throwing and jumping. The ultimate goal is to leave you exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. Sean’s first race didn’t go so well. He tells the story of how his body failed him and what he had to do to respond to the challenge. Sean remembers his calves cramping so hard midway into the race that he couldn’t even walk. He began having this amazing internal dialogue with himself and his body, deciding midway into his physical demise that he would somehow overcome this test. He would not let the obstacle of a failing body defeat him. He was bigger than that.He was right.It changed his life—Sean was hooked from then on. Since then he has done six races over the last two years. Thirty-to-fourty pounds lighter (depending on the weekend or vacation), he keeps going—looking for the next race.Sean signed me up for the Spartan Race this coming February. Our whole family is going to do it. We did our first training session this past Saturday. It wasn’t pretty. There were sore spots on my body I didn’t think I had. Talk about a cure for distraction and boredom. Let’s just say you know right where your focus needs to be: on the upcoming task—take this bucket filled with sand one more step. It felt good doing it together.That’s exactly why the Spartans trained this way. Not only were they using intense physical training and competition to win wars, they were also doing it to build powerful bonds of friendship and brotherhood. This was designed to keep their society healthy, prosperous and productive.MORE: Do You Live in an Active Community?Steven Pressfield has written several books on ancient Greece—especially the warrior citizens of Sparta. One of his favorite sayings comes from Plutarch, an ancient Greek philosopher who says this: The Spartans do not ask how many are the enemy but where are they.I love that. Pressfield talks about how the Spartans trained so as to conquer the main enemy. But it wasn’t outside of them. It was Fear. The Warrior Ethos came about to combat fear.This is how he describes it:The Warrior Ethos evolved from the primary need of the spear-toting, rock-throwing, animal-skin wearing hunting bandthe need to survive. This need could be met only collectively, as a group working in unison. To bind the band together, an ethos evolveda hunter’s ethos.Every warrior virtue proceeds from thiscourage, selflessness, love of and loyalty to one’s comrades, patience, self-command, the will to endure adversity. It all comes from the hunting band’s need to survive…And when you are running in a race with your brothers and sisters, facing every kind of obstacle (including the ones inside of you), dealing with pain inflicted on you by another person or a challenge, and conquering it together, that is a joyful moment worthy of celebration.MORE: Get the Skinny on the Science of Being ThinThis is what obstacle racing is all about. Andy Weinberg and Joe Desena are the co-founders of the Spartan Race. Here’s what they say about why they created it:When we were young, we loved to climb, run, jump and swing: to play. It’s part of who we are, yet it’s often absent from our adult lives. We have evolved to expect, and to endure, a little physical hardship every now and then, but it’s often absent from our lives. But the fact is that we feel and act much better when we push ourselves—and play a little too. So yes, let’s get off the couch and race. The rewards are tremendous and the confidence gained priceless. You will find new friends and let loose the innate skills, stamina and abilities that we are born with, but rarely exploit to their fullest potential.So remember your heritage. Ages ago, we humans lived a wild existence. We need to return to that. My challenge to you (I’m taking it!) is to find your inner animal—the wild thing inside that wants to howl at the moon.Challenge yourself. Go to a place inside where you have to dig deep and find your heart—look for your dreams and desires, where your joy lives. You may have to encounter fear, doubt, uncertainty, and pain along the way. Face it with a smile, invite it in and be with it for a time, then get to the other side.Take it one step at a time. Like a Spartan.QUIZ: How is Lifestyle Affecting Your Beauty?

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