“Ready or not we are the new breed. We are the new scene. So tell me now, Do you want it? Step up or or get out of the way punk.” Upon a Burning Body
When I first did a Spartan Race I was crushed. Crushed by the weight of the rock filled bucket and sand bags. Crushed by how many times I failed. Crushed as I watched myself go from top 3 to 30th, not for lack of fitness, but because of lack of knowledge, and experience. I grabbed a podium spot as a top Masters finisher, and the check that went along with it, but I knew, that while I had an ok debut, I was beaten by this event.
Sure, I have some legit physical changes I need to do to make to improve, but so much of all sports is body movement. I stress this as a swim coach, and also as a run coach, but when it comes to upper body type stuff its so much about form, and like Notorious B.I.G. said “If you don’t know, now you know.” And there is no way of knowing unless someone teach you. I needed help and was so humbled by my first race it was easy to ask for it.
My Notorious B.I.G. is not big at all. Julia, a slight and solid gymnast and Spartan racer, she rules all things that hang from the ceiling like a monkey queen; her kingdom being Epic Hybrid Gym on 38th St. here in NYC, (but expanding elsewhere). She has learned to translate gymnastics and body awareness to the Spartan obstacles. Watching her hang from rope, swing from rings, transition to bars, and seemingly use no energy was inspiring and made a great first impression. But what made my experience so powerful was her ability to break down seemingly complicated tasks, into simple easy movement, all of which I wasn’t doing and wouldn’t think of doing. For example, I can do a million crunches. Hold a plank for minutes. But all the core strength in the world is useless if you don’t know to engage it when going from ring to ring. I was hanging like dead man trying to swing. Total fail. She had me engage my core and flex my bicep to take pressure off the forearm. She said not to swing wildly, but to use your feet to aim, and to make the movements small and controlled.
We did two sessions. The first was entirely skill based and we went through the long list of things I failed at. Bucket carry, sand bag carry, hoist, rings, the wall climbs, rope climb. She broke each thing down into a series of simple movements and gave me a series of simple exercises to strength the needed muscles once I learn the movements. She also went through the stuff I didn’t see: Tarzan swing, Tarzan traverse, and a few others. I got super practical advice for those too, and also when and if I see them, they won’t be surprises which is huge for me as a novice in the sport.
The second session was more of a workout, doing all those things at pace, with my heart in my throat (I don’t train a lot above my LT for ironman distance racing). 5 x 6 flights of stairs, stairs with 75 sand bags, 50 lbs sand bag once around the block (that was fun in midtown, next time, I think I will do it in a gimp outfit, because, I mean, at that point why not?). She did some crawling wheel thing that cracked me and I found myself nose to nose with the ground, but I finally got it the second time. We also did all the upper body, hanging stuff I had struggled with. Proof that you will get fast with knowledge over fitness, as I fatigued during the second session I continued to do better. I was getting weaker as I got tired, but smarter and by the end I did every upper body one, and a few effortlessly, things, I hand even been able to do 1/2 of. I went from going 1/2 across, to all the way across, and then without getting off, back again. I could have likely dont it a few more times. Thats not fitness, that straight up knowledge. Seeing progress, is, and remains, the best motivator on earth, though not having to do punishment burpies, a Spartan tradition that Julia adopted is a close second. It’s funny too because as much as I have been a pro training hard for 12 years with seemingly no motivational issues working with Julia also was nice because she would give that little bit of pep talk when things got hard, it’s funny how much we ignore the mind in sport and I was thankful for the motivational pick ups. We don’t do that enough in triathlon (see my prior post)
So huge thanks to her and Epic for the help. Anyone looking to do a Spartan Race or just do an insane workout, Check them out. And ummm, Aroo?!?!?