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Challenges: Rise Up!

There has been a lot of chatter lately.  It sounds like this.  “I can’t do the insert obstacle here because I’m too short or too tall.  Because I’m a Woman, because I’m a Man.  Or it sound’s like this:  I want to get people to do the Spartan Race but they think its too hard, Spartan Race should market more inclusively like other races.  Let me point out some obvious facts that seemingly have fallen through the cracks.

This is Sparta!”  This is not a rallying cry.  It is a statement of fact.  It is not a marketing tool.  It is a statement of fact.  It is not a feel good phrase, it is a statement of fact.  The Spartan Race does not use passive phrase’s like “This might be the toughest race you ever do.”  They are confident that this is the toughest race you will ever do.  They are the only race that makes you do a penalty for not completing an obstacle.  The obstacles challenge the Mind, the Body and the Will of the runner.  They design the race deliberately through arduous terrain, and put the obstacles in the most awful locations within that terrain.  This is on purpose, this is why we do Spartan Race and not Warrior Dash.

So why do some seem bent on lowering the bar.  Why is it that we push ourselves to greatness, but seek to cheapen it for other’s so that they can compete with us?  The City-State of Sparta was a military powerhouse.  It was also unique in its treatment of Women, its emphasis on education and its political structure.  Males were indoctrinated and educated into military life at an early age and served for the rest of their lives.  Women were educated in a more physical fitness sense, through gymnastics and similar endeavors.  Aside from the culling of the sick and weak in infancy, this was not unique to Sparta or any other ancient culture.  Spartan’s pushed for physical greatness all their lives.  Some research indicates this was in fact done by law.  To be a Spartan was to be the best, to be recognized as being superior, to be feared because of your greatness.  Spartan Racers are no different.

Spartan Race is available to those who seek to push their limits.  Its not about arriving at your limits and stopping to admire the view.  Spartan Race is about finding how far you will go, and then keep going.  It is not about doing obstacles faster or even doing them at all.  Its about challenging yourself to attempt them, to do them or fail in your attempt.  If you can not complete the obstacle, you Spartan up and take the penalty and move forward.  Spartan Race has a goal “Ripping people off their couches” Ripping is a verb;  It requires action.  This is not “coaxing people off their couches” or “holding some ones hand, off the couch”  This is about challenging people to change their lives.  If you are trying to convince someone to do a Spartan Race, don’t ask the race to be easier, or more approachable or anything that takes away from the glorious challenges of the race.  You need to step up your game.  You need to be able to convince people that it is hard, it is a challenge, it will hurt, and it will be the best thing they do to change their life.

Spartans are the tip of the spear.  We are few.  We walk proudly among other racers because we know that they have done what few others have done.  We seek out others to join us.  To strengthen our ranks.  They needn’t be the fastest or the fittest.  We challenge those we deem worthy or in need of the challenge.  We do this because we see greatness in every person and want to see it come out.  A Spartan has a mindset, a singularity of purpose that sets them apart.  We seek challenges, and overcome them.  We do it until we cannot.  We understand the meaning of hardship and embrace it.  We do not complain about the chore, the task, or the obstacle.  Spartans don’t seek to have the bar lowered, We seek to raise it.

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Why do we Spartan?

Why do we Spartan?  In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote a paper A Theory of human Motivation. In this he postulated the theory that became Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  At the bottom you have Physiological and Safety.  In a nutshell.  After the basic human functions are met.  After we are clothed, sheltered and fed.  After we are protected from the intrinsic dangers of weather, nature, and other people, we are free to explore other avenues of interest.  Which are the top two levels of Maslow’s hierarchal pyramid.  Self Actualization and Self Esteem.  This leaves one level in between, Love and Belonging.  So why do we Spartan?  For many it is a chance to belong, to subscribe, to participate in a group where simple participation is a badge of acceptance.  Finishing is a validation of accomplishment.  And for everyone, it is a chance to push one’s limits beyond the length of a given course or the weight of cold iron in a gym.

Cultures through the ages have had rites of passage.  An event that marks the transition from one state of development into another.  This is usually the point where a person develops that level of love and belonging.  That point where you are no longer provided for by the tribe but in fact contribute to provide for the tribe to become a tribe member.  In America, as a nation, we really don’t have a point where we recognize this transition.  Cultures and religions in our society do, but as a Nation we typically don’t.  We have markers which are recognized such as attaining a drivers license, the right to vote, or to drink.  But these are arbitrary, and set up by law.  With no real accomplishment by the individual except to attain a certain age.  So why do we Spartan?  It fills a principle need in our lives to accomplish a goal, to have validation of that accomplishment by our peers.

A Spartan race fills one of our basic human need’s love and belonging.  To this end it frees us to explore and attain the next level of need.  Self Esteem.  For many, starting a Spartan race is a huge accomplishment.  For others finishing it is.  Still others improving over a previous time is their goal.  The sense of accomplishment is no different for any runner regardless of their personal goal.  We Spartan because there is a group of obstacles in front of us which we can see, we can manage, and we can over come.  To our left, to our right, in front of us and behind us there are other people who must accomplish the same task’s.  Regardless of gender, ignorant to age or ability, unimpressed by level of fitness; the obstacles are there.  The obstacles stand stoic and unfeeling.  They do not judge you.  They will not mock you and they will not compliment you. Wether you breeze through the obstacle or fail in your attempt the obstacle is there, you chose to meet it.  Some will succeed others will not.  Everyone will try.  In the end it is the sense of accomplishment in our attempt that fills our self esteem.  It is a well we can draw from in our daily life.  It is something that cannot be taken away, it cannot be diminished.  It cannot be cheapened or diluted by others.  At the finish line we all are deserved of the title Spartan.

The pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid is Self Actualization.  Becoming, who you are.  Philosophically and Theologically this can be debated as to how this is attained or even what it means.  It is the by product of challenge and the accumulation of self esteem, where we are confident to seek out new challenges to make us a better person.  We see this all the time  at Spartan race’s.  “I have never, ever done anything like this in my life! ” “It was awesome.”  “It changed the way I look at myself”  “I can’t wait to do another”  This list goes on. People get fit to do a race, and it becomes a habit.  They identify things in their life that are bad for them, that are destructive.  They start to notice people or activities that don’t support the positive changes they want  to make for themselves.  They gain the strength, the energy and the confidence to move forward and stay moving.  By running a Spartan race and getting involved in the tribe of Spartans people change.  Not everyone.  But most.  Not everyone is ready to make change.  Others are.  Not everyone is ready to except the challenge but everyone need’s the invitation to try. You don’t need to be the best runner, the best jumper, the best climber or the best anything.  You do need to try to be the best at being you, because being the best you is the only best you need to be.  And that is why we Spartan

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Just get out there!!! “My New Years Resolution is…”

As the New Year sets in, the usual suspects have made their resolutions. You probably have a few of your own, I’ve got a couple too. The difference is, a lot of people make the same one’s every year. Their intention is there, or else they would not have said anything. But, like I said, for most people it’s the same old thing and they just make a resolution for face value with their family or friends.

One of the biggest resolutions you hear is, “I am going to join a gym, I need to get into shape.” You and I know that most people never go through with it. We also know, well a good part of us do, that you don’t need a gym to get into shape, you just need some ambition. Defined by Merriam Webster, ambition is “the desire to achieve a particular end.”

I always thought the gym was the solution, but I am broke and can’t afford all the ritz that the gym offers. Sure I could join the chain store gym down the street for $10 bucks a month, but I have issues with commitment so that might not work out. What I never realized, and those making this resolution over and over need to realize, is that they are their own gym.

There are a variety of exercises one could do using the weight of their own body. Try a push up or two. Push ups are fantastic for your body, especially for the triceps, pectorals and deltoids. Sit ups are also great, your hip flexors and abs will thank you. You could grab a branch out in the backyard and start doing some pull ups. Pull ups, depending on what kind you are doing, work your lats and back, secondarily they also work out your biceps and shoulders. Go for a walk or a run next, just to start out if you are only now breaking the restraints from the couch. If you are brave enough, and don’t mind a little soreness in the morning, start doing lunges around your yard.

Now tell me, what muscle did we not just “work out”? Even if we didn’t hit every single muscle group, it’s a great start!

You don’t need to get a set of 50lb dumbbells and start pumping iron, you don’t need a stair master or a treadmill. Go take a walk around the yard, maybe in the woods, you’ll find plenty of weight out there. Whether it’s a 20lb rock, a 20lb log or a sack filled with 20lbs of sand, they all have one thing in common— they are all 20lbs.

The underlying factor this New Year is, to get yourself up, off the couch and to get to work on that goal. As the famous ballplayer, Ted Williams, said “A man has to have goals – for a day, for a lifetime – and that was mine, to have people say, ‘There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.”

How do you want to be remembered? Do you want people to remember you as just another guy/ gal making the same resolutions every year, or do you want to inspire and be that person that people say “wow, they did it!”

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Nate DeMontigny is the editor and author on the blog Precious Metal. He was ripped off the couch this past summer after being told his cholesterol was too high, he was out of shape, etc. He was also inspired by the Spartan Race and the athletes that are involved with the organization.