The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to reflect on what's important in life: friends, family, your health, and your purpose. During this incredibly challenging — and, at times, unthinkable — period, we've been reminded time and again what the Spartan lifestyle is all about. It's about being unbreakable, both mentally and physically.
With the 2021 race season (thankfully) upon us following months of cancellations and postponements, we are raring to go like never before.
What is it about racing that is so special, so momentous, so unique? So life-changing? It's about far more than just building muscles and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Running a Spartan race completely alters you. It turns you into a better version of yourself. It's transformational, in every sense of the word.
Now more than ever, we could all use something that humbles us, inspires us, teaches us, motivates us, and puts things in perspective. Running a Spartan race does all of these things.
Here are 10 ways that Spartan changes your life.
10 Ways That Spartan Changes Your Life
1) The Spartan Paradox
Unless you have a hard date on the calendar, it's unlikely that you'll put in the work. That applies to every walk of life. Boxers tend not to train in earnest until a fight is locked in. Students rarely finish their homework unless their teacher tells them it's due the following day. Unless there's a hard date to work towards, human nature is to put it off and deal with it at a later date, when absolutely necessary.
When you pick a date to race, you're forced into training and preparing yourself. Your self-improvement begins almost instantly.
“Two things matter when you are setting a goal: Writing it down and having a WHY," says Dr. Lara Pence, PsyD. "When you pick a date on which your goal can culminate, or a benchmark that you can work towards, you create parameters for yourself, which helps you create steps in your journey.
"The WHY is the value behind the goal. So if the goal is completing a Spartan race, the value may be adventure or discipline or commitment. A date and a WHY is critical.”
2) It Provides a Sense of Community
There are few communities as devoted, supportive, and inspiring as the Spartan family. The community of 10 million is there for you the moment you begin your training — our community groups on Facebook are probably the best example of this — and the moment you step out on the course, encouraging you from the start line to the finish line (and every mile in between). Everybody wants to see you succeed and flourish. We're all in this together.
3) Earthing (aka Grounding)
Connecting with the Earth is extremely beneficial to your health and overall well-being. When you run a Spartan race, you're forced to leave your screens behind and live as humans are meant to: basking in the glow of the sun, breathing fresh air, and seeing greenery.
"We're f***ing animals," Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena says. "If you walked in your house and your dog was sitting on the couch, watching TV with her hair in a bun and smoking a cigarette, you'd say, 'What the f***?' But if you got home and the dog was running around outside, playing in the grass, you'd say, 'Oh, my dog is normal. Everything's great.' We are the dog in that story."
4) The WFS Effect
Also known as the "Water, Food, and Shelter Effect." What does this mean? There are certain times in life when all you want is water, food, and shelter. You couldn't care less about flat-screen TVs, fancy cars, video games, or other materialistic items. Spartans tend to experience this at least once during a race, especially during our more advanced endurance events (such as an Ultra, Agoge, or Death Race). This realization provides some much-needed perspective. It reinforces what matters, what's truly important in life. The more digitized our world becomes, the more we need this.
5) It Forces You to Drop Your Ego
We're not impressed what you may have accomplished five years ago, two years ago, or even last week. If past triumphs serve to motivate and inspire you, great. But that won't get you past the finish line. You have to do the work like everybody else, the past be damned. There are no shortcuts, no easy ways out. This builds character.
6) It Helps Your Brain Grow
If you think you're only working your muscles when crawling under barbed wire, climbing monkey bars, and carrying a bucket, think again. You're testing your mental capacity, as well. Your brain grows when you challenge yourself, and during the course of a race, you're doing that continually. To finish a race, you need to pace yourself, strategize, and be methodical in your approach. Your brain is constantly working.
"The brain is like any muscle," says Rebecca Heiss, PhD, the founder and CEO of Icueity. "It gets comfortable with routine. When we move our bodies in challenging ways, our brain is forced to adapt and rewire our ancient instincts, telling us that we should 'conserve' and 'play it safe.' Getting uncomfortable activates your brain to shake free of these ancient fears and stories.
"Those fears served us back when we lived in the sparse dangerous environments of our ancestors, but today, those same neural pathways that once kept us alive prevent us from fully living. Go hard, rewire your instincts, and become fearless!"
7) It Can Forge a New Identity
Once you reach the finish line, you're officially a Spartan. The Spartan ethos is now part of your identity. You can relate to, and feel one with, a 10 million-strong global community. That's both powerful and meaningful.
8) It Gets You Ready for Anything
De Sena often says that life is hard, and it only gets harder. How do you prepare yourself for the inevitable hardships and difficulties that come your away? By putting yourself in challenging situations and learning to overcome them, repeatedly. You might not realize how impactful this is in the short-term, but years of experience has taught us that in the long-term, these experiences make you stronger, more prepared, more able, and more confident.
9) It Gives You a Purpose
People are feeling lost and bored. With less options available to you — both personally and professionally, as a result of the pandemic — you're probably scrolling your social media feed and binge watching Netflix more than ever. These habits give you momentary feelings of excitement and stimulation, but they don't give you a sense of purpose. Once you pick a date in the calendar, there's a new (better) reason to wake up in the morning.
10) It Brings Sheer Happiness
It has been well-documented that when people are fit, they are generally happier, more successful, and nicer to be around. Endorphin highs are real, and there are few feelings more powerful than accomplishing what you set out to achieve. Just as importantly, exercise and competition help defend against both anxiety and depression. Yes, you will struggle at times — and it will be discomforting — but the difficulty is overshadowed by the giddiness and glee you'll experience upon completion. As we like to say at Spartan, "You'll know at the finish line."
“Your body is an incredible system that can feed you pellets of euphoria when you do certain things," says Pence. "Exercise is one of those things. Just a single 30-minute session of exercise can have a positive impact on your mood. An incredible cocktail of feel-good chemicals — dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline — get released and you’ve got a mini-celebration in your brain that reverberates through your whole body.”