I am not one to shy away from something challenging and extreme. My mantra has always been more “Game On!” than not. And yet come a cold Saturday morning, I was not quite sure what I had gotten myself into when I showed up at my first Spartan Ultra race with Spartan athlete Matt “The Bear” Novakovich. (This is a man who runs marathons as relaxation and who thrives on taking his body to the edge of his potential.) A week earlier, Matt and I had finished an event in which we climbed to the summit of Stratton Mountain 17 times for 29,029 vertical feet. And the Ultra course was 36 miles and more than 50 obstacles. Yet here I was, committed and as prepared as I was going to be.

While Matt was wondering whether we could beat 12 hours, I was wondering whether we could finish. It was grueling and I struggled where I had not trained. I opted out with burpees on a few obstacles, but in the end, I finished all because I made the first move and showed up. I have since moved on to additional Spartan races and will do another this season and the next—and I want you to TRY THIS, too!

Adventure races and epic physical challenges demand that we give all that we have physically, mentally and emotionally. Spartan Race participants come in many shapes and sizes, but they all are passionate about fitness, relish teamwork and embrace challenges. Whether you choose to tackle a Spartan Sprint (3 to 5 miles, 20 to 23 obstacles), Super (8 to 10 miles, 24 to 29 obstacles) or Beast (12 to 14 miles, 30 to 35 obstacles), the first step is the hardest and takes the most courage. So if you’re feeling like you will never be strong enough or tough enough to get out there and race, here’s my challenge—and advice—to you: Go all in and sign up for your first Spartan, today!

Training approach

Regardless of your fitness level, I strongly believe in preparation for the challenge to come.  This means mentally and creating a lifestyle that will support the goal by eating well, getting rest and recovery, and developing a training plan that will set you up for success.

This was a big contributing factor to my achievement in all the Spartan races to date. I doubled down on expert support and booked extra sessions with Jiji Pollock, my 24 Hour Fitness trainer, who understood what I would need to be ready come race day. Not only did I follow a specific plan to get ready for obstacle-course challenges by doing more loaded carries, dead hangs, squats and sprints, but I also worked with my trainer to reinforce the mindset and lifestyle lessons that were critical.

Insights and experiences

Once I signed up to race, I spent time figuring out what I had gotten myself into and what I would need to know to be ready. I started by reading up about the race that I had selected and what other Spartans had said about the types of obstacles I would face. It’s also important to set big goals—and a series of smaller targets that would guide me along the way. I knew already that I wanted to achieve a Spartan Trifecta over time, and that was inspiring to me, plus I was planning to run with Matt. Those commitments helped me stay focused in the weeks leading up to the race.

Surprises

The greatest aspects of the Spartan experience that surprised and delighted me are the people and the culture. This community is the secret sauce, and it is worth the sweat and tears.

Seek out other Spartan runners in your area and at the gym and recruit others to join you in your quest. Sharing physical adventures with others is so rewarding. It’s one thing to convince and prove to yourself that you can do it; it’s another—and even better—when you can inspire a rookie runner to rise to his or her potential and achieve greatness.

Recommendation

Don’t race alone. Racing with Matt and then later racing with my colleagues at 24 Hour Fitness made the events all the more engaging. It’s easier to get motivated, stay motivated and finish when others are keeping you accountable and cheering you on. Trust me on this: Enlist and enroll a friend, family or co-worker to train and race and get muddy with you. Spartans are warriors, and warriors love to train with other warriors.

About the Spartan races: There is a race for every level and interest. Do all three (Sprint, Super and Beast) in one calendar year and you have completed the Spartan Trifecta: the ultimate Spartan achievement. Check out one of our Spartan-certified trainers at 24 Hour Fitness.

Photos courtesy of Spartan.

Background

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Author

Chris Roussos

Chris Roussos is CEO of 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. and leads the company in changing lives through fitness. He has served as CEO, President or COO for healthcare services companies for more than 15 years, including Epic Health Services, the first-ever pediatric continuum of care for medically fragile children; Harden Healthcare, a post-acute healthcare services company; and Orthodontic Centers of America (OCA). Roussos previously held management positons at PepsiCo and Rubbermaid, and served for 11 years in the U.S. Army.

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