What’s so bad about the human body? Why repress our instincts and distance ourselves from the human body? Why repress our instincts and distance ourselves from the physical world? There are several possible answers. But one stands out as the most likely candidate.
The fear of the body comes from the refusal to recognize our animal nature. And the obsessive desire to view ourselves as something other than animals stems from the biggest fear of all: the fear of death.
It is no mystery that any physical body that breaths and lives is destined to die and decompose. Clearly, the annihilation of our bodies doesn’t sit well with most people. So what to do…
There is fire, mud, water, barbed wire, and occasionally Hell on Earth.
“There WILL be obstacles to catch you off guard. Curve balls, so to speak.
“Get over it.
“We’re here to rip you from your comfort zone. If you need a road map for each step of the way, then maybe this race isn’t for you.” The Spartan Race
Our physical energies beg us to get us, stretch, and move but one of the primary requirements of classroom learning is to become skilled at repressing these impulses. Many of us grow up this way unable to kick the habit.
Personally, I was never able to buy into this idea, either was Joe Desena author of Spartan Up and founder of the Spartan Race.
“This conventional lifestyle of comfort and leisure is out of sync with our DNA”, says Joe Desena. By fighting our natural disposition for action, we’re short-circuiting our genetics.”
The material conditions of postindustrial society have radically changed our relationship with our own bodies. In the not so distant past, the vast majority of human beings had to rely of physical labor to make a living. Today, for the first time in history, this is no longer the case. We are now free to do something more than be beasts of burden, we have extra energy now to pursue leisure, a fairly new concept. At the same time though this evolution has furthered the divide between mind and body. It is not uncommon for people to hardly ever more their bodies.
No longer being forced to engage in physical labor many people only remember they have a body when it’s time to feed it. Many citizens in industrialized nations drive from home to work, sit at a desk somewhere all day, then get back into the car and drive home.
There, physical inactivity continues as people unwind from a long day at the office. We melt into our couches and watch TV, surf the Internet, and stuff our faces with food. The walk from the couch to the fridge in the longest many people take on a given day. No longer having to chase one’s meal through the forest, or dig it out of the earth, comes at a heavy price.
The combination of lack of movement with easy access to enormous amounts of food is paradoxically turning into liability. Too much comfort can be as bad as too little.
According to Joe Desena, instant gratification guides so much of modern-day life. The individual lacking self-control wants things from others now, but they themselves couldn’t be bothered to put in the work and get shit done. So they shortchange themselves and our society time and time again with disastrous long-term results.
Our self-control pales next to the Spartans. I’m convinced they would have looked at us with disgust and disbelief.
Spartan Up! is based on a series of concepts, but three of them trump everything: Question your Assumptions, Less is More, Discipline is Everything. In the races, we offer you no map. What you think is the finish line may just be the beginning.
These aren’t the musings of some detached self-help guru as I relate my own adventures, extreme enough to make me a legend in adventure racing circles I willingly put myself through hell, forcing myself into situations where water, shelter and food became my only concerns. At those moments, everything else that I thought was important in life, all the things I had stressed over, vanished. I became at home with danger and deprivation.
But I will relate my tales in service to a higher cause—helping others.
Total mind-body-spirit fitness is the Spartan ideal. History’s elite warriors have known that to win on the real battlefield, you must first win on the battlefield of your mind. This requires mastering your emotions and letting your intellect decide what’s important in unbiased fashion.
Contrast this with a 10K or marathon. I’m not knocking them—those are great accomplishments, I’ve run them myself, and there’s a lot of crossover between those races and our events. But no matter the distance, the runners are all focused on moving in linear fashion toward a finish line. I’d say the same of triathlons, despite the added elements. Those races punish you, but they don’t help you solve problems, don’t change the way you think. You don’t parent differently or rethink your work process because you ran a 10K or completed an Ironman last weekend.
The obstacles teach resourcefulness and develop true mental grit. It’s hard for anyone to complete a Spartan Race, given their difficulty, but seeing someone cross the finish line five hours after everyone else gets me every time.
The Spartan races demonstrate what people can accomplish after making self-discipline a daily habit, rather than an isolated act or a New Year’s Resolution. Participants don’t need to finish in first place or beat a particular time in order to triumph. Simply finishing is a great accomplishment. Having run a Spartan race, you’ll go back to your job or family and solve problems differently because you’ll see the path ahead differently. This new way of living is the difference between struggling and then dying unfulfilled, and leading an epic life.
Get rid of all the bullshit and live with what you need, not what you have been spoonfed by advertising to think you need. That’s how you live like a Spartan.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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