The Greek philosopher Aristotle is often cited for saying, “Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character.” But despite his wisdom, he forgot to mention something even more concrete: “Sow health, reap health.”
As Aristotle’s theory would suggest, our bodies — and that includes our health —are the tangible result of innumerable daily choices. We are what we eat, but we are also what we do. Our muscles, bones, and nerves grow in response to all of our daily activities and all of the challenges we face. (And we wonder why some of the toughest and most successful people in the world had tough childhoods...) We know this truth from a young age, and then we forget.
If you’re looking to reap health, you have to sow it. There are many ways to do this, but one of the best ways is to run a Spartan race. Here are 20 health benefits — or “life” benefits — that you can reap from sowing a Spartan race.
1. It Produces a Ton of Endorphins
High-impact physical activity causes your body to produce endorphins. Not only do these chemicals act as natural painkillers — they have the same effect as morphine — but they also make you feel like a BAMF. They are one of life’s simplest (and least expensive) pleasures.
2. It Guarantees a Good Night’s Sleep
According to the Sleep Foundation, getting regular exercise (which you’ll be doing to train for a Spartan race) helps people fall asleep faster, sleep a little longer, and get more satisfying, restful sleep. After all, if you’re not working your body hard throughout the day, why would it want to sleep in the first place?
3. It Builds Coordination, Balance, Strength, and Endurance — All in One Package
A Spartan race is designed to show you your weakness. In order to do that, it tests every aspect of your physical fitness.
4. It Builds Something Else, Too
A Spartan race tests the most important part of you: Your will to continue on despite difficulties and setbacks. The finisher medal isn’t just a symbol of physical fitness; it’s a symbol of your commitment and grit.
5. It Changes Your Frame of Reference
As we go about our normal lives, we run into all kinds of things that create stress. The car breaks down, the kids are screaming, all the bathrooms are taken at the office: Nothing’s going right, and we’re about to explode. A Spartan race takes your mind and body to such levels of exertion and exhaustion that the “troubles” of day-to-day life pale in comparison.
After hauling that bucket of gravel, climbing that rope, or making it to the top of that mountain, a long line at Starbucks just doesn’t faze you.
6. It Develops Obstacle Immunity
How did Michael Phelps become an Olympic champion? His coach, Bob Bowman, used to break his goggles before practice so he couldn’t see in the water. He’d book Phelps’ flights late so he had to sprint to the meet. He’d intentionally make practice extra difficult for Phelps because he wanted him to be prepared for anything. In a Spartan race, we throw everything at you at once. By the end, you can conquer anything.
7. It Serves As a Fitness Test and Benchmark
The obstacles in a Spartan race reflect all kinds of human movement: running, crawling, climbing, pulling, pushing, carrying, and throwing. Your performance in these tasks reflects your total fitness. Consider it a regular check-up.
8. It Surrounds You With Good Influences
Spartans aren’t just in it for the beer or hard seltzer at the finish line. They’re here because they love to be active and love to challenge themselves. They say you’re the average of your five best friends. At a Spartan race, you’ll find friends who pull your average way up.
9. It Provides Real Enjoyment
Pleasure is one thing, but joy is another entirely. A Spartan race provides the joy you can only feel after stretching yourself beyond normal; the joy of growing that we all used to feel when we were kids. Pleasure is a ripple in the mind and body. Joy is a wave that carries your soul.
10. It Encourages You to Train, Which Lowers Your Risk of Disease and Dying
A Spartan race is so much fun that it can turn a couch potato into a motivation machine after just one race. Regular physical activity lowers your risk of heart disease, lowers your risk of certain cancers, and keeps your muscles, bones, and joints healthy. For every breathless mile you’re forced to walk, for every hill that screams “major suck,” and for every obstacle that you fail, you can see an opportunity to be better, as well as a tangible path to success.
11. It Increases Well-Being Through Positive Social Interaction and New Relationships
At a Spartan race, you’re going to make friends, partly because you’re surrounded by people who are having the same awesome experience as you. Whether you’re helping each other over obstacles or pushing each other’s pace, tons of scientific evidence suggests that being around others and interacting in positive ways makes us happier. Studies of schoolchildren and adults have shown that regular, positive social interaction is linked to greater well-being.
Join a Team: Find Your Tribe or Build Your Own Spartan Team
12. It Brings You Into Beautiful, Stress-Relieving Natural Spaces
Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature decreases stress, decreases rumination, recharges the brain, improves the mood, and decreases inflammation. At most Spartan races, you’ll get a heaping dose of nature, plus a boost of vitamin D from the sunshine.
13. It Reminds You What It Means to Feel Alive
Our bodies were meant to move. A lack of physical movement not only causes chronic disease, but also robs us of the vital joy of doing what our bodies do best. You're constantly being told to follow your passion and follow your dreams. But one of the most important dreams lies dormant inside our bodies, and though we all share it, we all forget it. Free, powerful movement is that dream, and that’s what a Spartan race brings back to life.
14. It Builds Self-Confidence
Running a Spartan race is the perfect kickstart to your training. Even if you were hardly training before, we promise you will after doing a race. Regular exercise has been positively correlated with more positive self-perceptions, including body image. Participation in sports has also been associated with higher self-esteem.
15. It Opens the Door to Other Challenges That Were Previously Unimaginable
Once you complete your first Spartan Sprint, you’ll be looking for the next challenge. If the Sprint was hard, you’ll train for the Sprint until you master it. But once you establish a new “normal,” you’ll want to challenge yourself again. With the confidence you gained from the Sprint, you’ll run the Super, and then maybe even the Beast. Who knows where you’ll go from there?
16. It Serves As a Rite of Passage
In the United States, our entrance into the adult world is vague and largely theoretical. We reach a certain age, pass a certain test, graduate from school, and at some vague point in our development, we become “adults.” A Spartan race provides a concrete physical and mental challenge with tangible obstacles and a clear finish line. This makes it useful as a tangible way to know whether you possess the physical and mental strength to deal with the challenges of life.
17. It’s an Opportunity to Practice Successful Habits
In order to sign up for a Spartan race, a person needs to (1) take initiative, (2) have a goal in mind, and (3) see health as a priority. Taking initiative, goal-setting, and knowing one’s priorities are three habits of highly effective people, according to Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
18. It Cures Boredom
According to Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, boredom is what happens when you combine moderate skill with a low level of challenge. For example, if you can ski black diamonds, you’ll be miserable on the bunny hill. A Spartan race is hard — no one in their right mind thinks it’s easy. For that reason, it’s impossible to be bored on the course.
19. It Provides a Sense of Accomplishment
In life we have a choice. We can mail it in, stay safe, and do things that other people will be proud we did. OR, we can take a leap of faith, take a risk, and do something that will make us stand in awe of ourselves. At the end of a Spartan race, there’s no one shrugging off their day’s labor. When you finish an event like this, you’re genuinely proud of yourself.
20. It Gives You a Banana, Which Is an Excellent Source of Potassium
Nothing — and we mean nothing — tastes better after a race.