“…They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank
Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns
Their prowess is potent and secretly stern…”
Fittingly, The Distance by Cake loudly played through the speakers as our picture was taken holding three medals; the same song we mumbled to ourselves at the starting line in August before our very first Spartan race, we conveniently listened to as we stood at the finish line holding two more medals this past weekend.
For those of you that have not been following along, I participated in my first Spartan obstacle course race in August. Essentially a hike straight up the side of a mountain with some obstacles mixed in along the way. Spartan races have a way of hooking you in; not only are they a good way to challenge yourself (especially if you aren’t really into cardio because there is mud and hills and upper body strength, arrrrooooo!) but they also offer a three-tier system: beast, super, and sprint. If you participate in all three races in one calendar year it is considered completing the “trifecta.” You earn a finisher medal upon successfully crossing the finish line at each race, each medal also having a “trifecta pie piece” behind it. In short, if you complete all three races in one calendar year, you can also form an additional medal with the pie pieces.
After completing a 14+mile, 5+ hour grueling hike/run/jog in August I think I did what any reasonable person would have done…signed up for two more races. So this past weekend, now in October (if you read my last post, roughly 6 weeks into prep for my first powerlifting meet in December) I did two more Spartan races in one weekend. Luckily, the terrain was much flatter this time around, the distance was significantly shorter, and the temperature was far more favorable. There were still many obstacles which means there were also plenty of opportunity for burpees and the amount of mud was significantly higher.
If you are unfamiliar with Spartan races, for each failed obstacle you must perform a 30 burpee penalty before advancing. Fortunately (for the most part), many of the obstacles were the same. This meant getting a second (and third) opportunity at a few of the obstacles that resulted in a burpee penalty from a few weeks ago; which also meant having to do burpees again and pride taking a hit for multiple failed attempts of the same obstacle (I’m looking at you Olympus Wall).
What is the true reasoning behind why I continue to sign up for these extremely taxing events? I must be crazy, right? On the surface it would be easy to say that I am just a guy that enjoys torturing myself. The real answer boils down to competition.
Competition helps drive us, it fuels us. For the many prior athletes out there, we grew up on competition between friends, teammates, and especially on the field/court. It is a very tough aspect to emulate once our playing careers come to an end. The measurable aspects of athletics help drive us to train harder outside of competition so we are able to perform better on game day.
When that comes to end, many of us do not want our fitness days to end as well. On the contrary, many former athletes hit the weight room harder than when they were an athlete. We no longer have to worry about perfecting a skill. There is more time to be spent focusing on getting our bodies to look a certain way instead of shooting 100 free throws, swinging a bat or racket hundreds of times, or practice perfectly replicating throwing mechanics. However, over time, working out can become as tedious and meticulous as all those prior tasks and skills listed. It is easy to just go through the motions. When we go through the motions and become comfortable we lose that drive to make ourselves better, our results stall, plateaus set in and fitness becomes frustrating.
Anyone that works out, current or prior athlete or not, has experienced some sort of setback or frustration in their fitness endeavors. Is competition a one-size fits all solution to never suffering a setback again? Of course not! However, from my experience, signing up for something (such as an obstacle course race or a powerlifting meet) is a great way to break out of the mundane and help keep you on track for pursuing progress. Fitness is a never ending stairwell with the primary goal of always reaching that next step.
Sometimes we are able to bound entire flights at once and, yes, there will unavoidably be those times when we have to take a step back. If you are finding yourself in a rut where you do not feel as you are moving forward I highly encourage finding an event--any event--something that might take you outside of your comfort zone or get you to train in a manner that you might not be totally interested in.
You will never achieve greater results than when you are working your hardest.
Maybe in pursuit of prepping for something that might not totally be your “thing," you will be able to blast through a plateau or even discover a new passion in life. Worst case, make sure to sign up for an event that will offer you a cold beer at the finish line.
Vincent can be reached at email@example.com