This is a long post, yet I hope you take the time to read through and find some value within…
So, it’s July 4th weekend. Maybe you are hanging out while relaxing around the pool or the lake. Doing a little boating. Or, maybe you just did “Murph” yesterday and loved the challenge of a hard Hero WOD like that. Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “After that, I really want to test myself and see what I’m made of. I like exploring my physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual limits… what’s next?”
Okay, well, I’m guessing not all of you are thinking about that today while you are nursing sore muscles and rippers from yesterday, but if you are like me, and I know many of you are, you are asking yourself similar questions. Why? Because it is natural! As humans, it’s in our DNA to seek physical challenges and adventure and to push our capacity in various ways. And as spiritual beings, it is within us to seek challenges to grow spiritually.
Unfortunately, in our modern culture, most of these challenges and tests come not from true tests but from day to day stress of work, family/kids, bills, traffic, a broken down air conditioner or other such “first world problems”, which in the big scope of things, really are not all that big of a deal and actually break us down as humans rather than push us to grow.
I find that it is important for us to occasionally shift our “frame of reference”, as Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena terms it. I believe that to shift our frame of reference on what we perceive as “difficult”, and what we think is “stressful” is vital to life.
When you take on a challenge like “Murph” or a Spartan Sprint race, you are pushed into an area of discomfort and when you complete the test, you walk away (hopefully!) a different person – you grow, you mature and you change your frame of reference on what is “hard”. Suddenly, your flat tire or a waiter screwing up your order at dinner isn’t such a big deal anymore; you deal with these minor things in a more healthful and skillful manner – at least that is my hope for anyone who takes on such challenges. Otherwise, what is the point? To think you are more of a badass? To boost your own ego? Let’s hope not!
I learned about this sort of mental/spiritual training years ago while spending time in the military, but more so when I was a Student, and later a Teacher, of Wholistic Fitness. My coach assigned daily, weekly, and monthly assignments to help forge an ability to continually expand my comfort zones, eliminate fear, explore my self imposed limitations and to create an ability to simply “be” with whatever situation I might find myself in at the moment without reacting to it or getting freaked out.
Where in our modern convenience, instant gratification culture do we EVER have opportunities to truly change our frame of reference? When do we have opportunities to develop an ability to better handle obstacles in life? For me, that answer is “every day!”
Here is an example of what I am talking about:
Once, during a 3-day intensisve in California with my teacher, we awoke at 5:30am. By 6:00 we were practicing meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. We then had a VERY light breakfast and an hour later set off on a bike ride (which ended up being a 5 hour odyssey). Mind you this was in the San Fernando Vally which ain’t the flat lands of Indiana! We cruised along and soon we were diving down some massive canyons at 30, 40, even 50mph (on a bike!). Curving, twisted roads like I’d only seen in the movies or TV, you know the ones I’m talking about, where the other side of the guard rail is a sheer drop of hundreds of feet into the bottom of the canyon. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
The next thing I know we are peddling along the Pacific Coast Highway with the Pacific Ocean on my left shoulder and the Canyon peaks high above on my right. Gorgeous views and a fantastic ocean breeze. It was short lived and the next thing I know we are heading up an 8 mile climb that rose from sea level a couple thousand feet above sea level. It was insane, like nothing I had ever experienced. You can click HERE to see a YouTube video someone posted of driving up Tuna Canyon. It takes them 7:00 driving , you can imagine how long it took to ride to the summit. Though it’s been 11 years since I climbed it, I still recognize many points along the route shown in the video – talk about leaving an imprint!
Once I finally made it to the top, I actually pulled off the side of the road and burst into tears. Not from the suffering, but from the empowerment and letting go that happened during that climb. I went to places in myself I never knew existed and tapped into things I never knew I had in me. Oh, and that wasn’t the end of the day. After lunch and a short nap, later that evening we were in his yoga studio for 90 minutes of “High Performance Yoga”! Yes, power yoga after all that. I ended the day in a state of bliss; a changed man with a giant smile on my face.
Another quick example:
While competing in the 2010 “Dances with Dirt” ultramarathon that takes place in Gnaw Bone, Indiana (Nashville area), my support crew received bad directions from the race organizers and I had no support for the first 15 miles. I couldn’t eat the food at the aid stations due to food related issues I was dealing with at the time. I only had water. Mind you there are some crazy hard climbs in this race that don’t always follow the trail, rather they go straight up at times through briars, ankle deep mud, and all manner of craziness and it was unusually hot that day.
Realizing that my crew was not going to find me, and having no idea if they ever would, my focus suddenly went from finishing the race, to simply getting to the next aid station (still miles away) before I passed out from low blood sugar and exertion. On races like this, there are so few participants that you can often go miles and miles without seeing anyone. I was getting cramps and tunnel vision and the primal part of my brain knew that if I didn’t find food soon, I was kind of screwed. Going back to the previous aid station wasn’t an option, it was too far away and stopping wasn’t an option because I had no idea if/when someone would come along to help.
Rather than freak out, I fell back on my mindfulness training; focused on my breathing and dealing with the basic issue at hand – finding food. I instinctively started to scan the ground for food, any food, anything that was edible I was going to find it. Hold your stomachs here if you are a germaphobe, but I started finding peanuts. A couple here and there. Further up the trail I started finding M&M’s and then raisins. Before long I had a good handful of trail mix (and dirt!) that someone had littered along the trail.
I’m not sure if it was the energy from the handful of food, or the sense of hope that came from finding the trail mix that turned things around for me; regardless, I made it to the next aid station and finished the race. Again, because of this difficulty, I was a changed man.
Sure, neither of these experiences are as epic as being stranded at the top of Mt. Everest fighting for your life or finding yourself in the middle of a firefight in Afghanistan (though there were a couple occasions in the Coast Guard I wasn’t 100% certain I was going to make it back home in one piece) , but for your average Joe like me that lives in the suburbs with plenty of creature comforts, it created experiences that I would never have otherwise had and I never would have grown and learned the valuable, life altering lessons that were given to me in those moments.
It is a challenge like this that takes you to the depths of “you” and you really find out what lies within. You can read my guest blog post account of the experience on Tuna Canyon by clicking HERE . Note the date was back in November 2003. So, you can see I’ve been at this sort of thing a while. I will say that my military background has also played a role in all this stuff for me, yet, it has been through my practice and subjecting myself to things such as “Tuna Canyon”, prolonged meditation sessions, ultramarathons, and so forth that has truly helped me dig into my depths and let go of my baggage and it has made me develop as a human being.
Okay, so what does all this have to do with you and the Spartan Beast? I see the Spartan Beast as an opportunity to explore yourself in much the same manner as I have expressed above. By signing up, you will step up your commitment to training consistently and with intent. On race day, if you come in with the right mindset, you can truly learn about yourself as a person; you can let go of fears, you can explore your limits and you can express your true fitness – your spiritual fitness. AND, you will shift your “frame of reference” forever!
The Spartan Beast isn’t for everyone and if you don’t already have some base experience for this sort of thing, I suggest holding off and let’s get you some experience such as a Spartan Sprint or Spartan Super BEFORE tackling a challenge like the Spartan Beast. I would also say that this sort of “inner work” isn’t for everyone and you may not feel the inclination to test yourself in this manner and I would say that is 100% A-OKAY! You have to want to do these sorts of things for the right reasons! So, it’s no biggie if you are not into it. But, for those who are, here is what I invite you to do:
- Go to this link
- Register and join our team
- Team name: Circle City Strength & Conditioning
- Password: spartanup
- Register before 09 July 14 with the discount code: spartanusa and save 25%!
- When prompted, sign up for the 12:15 start. If you sign up as part of the team, you will be grouped with us, so don’t worry about
- Invite others. You don’t have to be a member of CCS&C to be on the team.
- Get a copy of the new book, “Spartan Up!” by Spartan race founder, Joe DeSena. I’m only 1/4 of the way through it, but it really resonates with people like you and I and it harkens back to my own training and racing experiences and what I continue to explore on a regular basis.
Once you sign up, let me know!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.