The Spartans were some pretty tough, bad-ass people.
At the age of 7, Spartan boys were removed from their parents’ homes and began the “agoge,” a state-sponsored training regimen designed to mold them into skilled warriors and moral citizens. The agoge was designed to make the youths resistant to hardships like cold, hunger and pain…
Male citizens were legally prevented from choosing any occupation other than the military. This commitment could last for decades, as warriors were required to remain on reserve duty until the age of 60…
When a Spartan man completed the main phase of the agoge at around age 21, he was elected to a “syssitia”, which was a military-style mess hall where citizens gathered for public meals. To prepare soldiers for the strain of war and discourage poor fitness, the rations doled out at these communal dining halls were always bland and slightly insufficient in calories. Spartans were renowned for their devotion to physical fitness and proper diet, and they reserved a special loathing for overweight citizens, who were publicly ridiculed and risked being banished from the city-state (this seems a bit harsh to me, but I'm just sayin')…
Spartan soldiers were expected to fight without fear and to the last man. Surrender was viewed as the epitome of cowardice, and warriors who voluntarily laid down their arms were so shamed that they often resorted to suicide…
I'd say probably the closest thing we have in our society to an ancient Spartan warrior is the Navy Seal (at least in America). And in just a few weeks, I'll have Mark Divine – a Navy Seal trainer from SealFit Academy on the podcast to discuss some of their insider mental and physical tactics…
…but for now, you should know that BUD/S Training, the Toughest Military Training in the World, has a 75-80% attrition rate. The seven or eight out of ten men who fail or quit SEAL Training in the Navy are not just average folks walking the streets today, their the best we have when it comes physical and mental prowess. These are soldiers who have worked their butts off to get to BUD/S, and they are best runners, the best swimmers, above average intelligence, superior eyesight and physical strength.
Now I am by no means suggesting that you need to go be a Navy Seal to become an absolute physical beast or look, feel and perform like an ancient Spartan Warrior. But below, I am going to outline 3 simple phases for you that will indeed turn you into a beast over the next year.
Phase I: Get Strong
If you read the post entitled “Exactly How I'm Going To Pack Solid, Strong, Powerful Mass Onto My Skinny Triathlon Body This Winter“or you listened to my podcast episode with legendary strength coach Dan John, then you know that for the next 12 weeks, I'll be getting…
…strong like bull – using this program.
Not only do I want to gain back much of the strength and inner, pure power that I've lost since shifting into full Ironman triathlon mode, but I also have a passion for using my body as a laboratory experiment, test tube, guinea pig, or whatever else you like to call it – then entertaining and educating you with the results.
So I'm going to take all the endurance I've been building for the past 8 years, and mold that pain tolerance and mental fortitude into something even better – adding strength, power and speed to the mix. Whenever you embark on a journey like becoming as physically capable as the you can ultimately become, you need to begin by simply getting strong. So that is the first step, and that is why I am starting with Mass Made Simple.
Hence my first suggestion to you: if you want to become the best you can be, get strong first. Learn to lift heavy stuff and suffer under heavy loads. The hardcore metabolic conditioning and speed comes later.
Phase II: Sign Up For Something Tough and Build Metabolic Conditioning and Mobility On Top Of Strength.
Next, after completing my phase of getting strong, I'm going to prepare myself for a Super Spartan race in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 14. A Spartan Race is the world’s leading obstacle race series, and the Super Spartan provides provides an 8+ mile and 20+ obstacle-filled battlefield of insane mud running with 15 or more obstacles to test your physical strength and mental resolve.
The obstacles themselves also vary and are unpredictable. Participants must complete the obstacles or perform burpee penalty exercises. Many obstacles are present at each Spartan Race. Spartan Race does not provide a course map or list of obstacle to their participants until race day, so it's a bit of a surprise when you show up. But frequently presented obstacles include:
Fire jump: participants leap over flames. This obstacle is typically at the beginning or end of a race. The fire jump has appeared in nearly every Spartan Race, though certain venues do not allow fire.
Barbed wire crawl: a crawl through mud under barbed wire. Participants must stay low to the ground as to not get injured by the wire. Crawls range from 20-100+ yards in length. The wire crawl has appeared in every Spartan Race to date.
Over-Under-Through: a series of obstacles in which runners must first climb over a wall, then under a wall, then through a tire or square hole placed in a wall. This obstacle is often repeated three or more times in a row and appears in almost every Spartan Race.
Spear throw: from a distance of 10-20 yards, athletes must throw a wooden spear into a target. If the spear does not stick, a penalty of 30 burpees is assigned. The spear throw is present at every Spartan Race with the exception of state parks that do not allow weapons. Typically, the spear throw is near the end of the race.
Wall climb: as the name suggests, runners must climb over a wooden wall. Walls range from 4-8 feet and are often in sequence. This obstacle may be repeated throughout the course.
Object carry: A signature obstacle, the object carry is often the most challenging. In a Spartan Sprint, this obstacle typically appears once. In a Super Spartan, twice; in a Beast, three times or more. The object to be carried may be a tire, rock-filled bucket, or sandbag. Both the bucket and sandbag weight between 30 and 70 pounds. Men must carry heavier objects than women.
Herculean Hoist: athletes must hoist a cement block or heavy bucket off the ground using a pulley system. This obstacle is similar to the “lat-pull” exercise machine, but is more difficult because the rope is often muddy and slippery.
Tyrolean Traverse: Spartans must traverse a single rope that is hung horizontally between two posts or trees. The rope is hung over a body of water, so if competitors cannot traverse the rope, they will fall into the water and swim.
Traversal Wall: the traversal wall is similar to a bouldering wall.
Slippery Wall: a wall built at an incline (roughly 45 degrees) that is covered in soap or grease. Runners may try to sprint up the wall or use a rope for assistance.
Gladiator Arena: before the finish line, athletes must pass through the “gladiators” who try to knock down runners using their pugil sticks.
Hobie Hop: Participants place a thick band around their ankles and hop through 20+ tires in a row.
Log Jump: Logs are arranged in a zig-zag pattern and participants have to hop on them without touching the ground.
Rope Climb: A rope is hung over a body of water/mud with a bell installed at the very top. Participants must “ring the bell” before climbing down.
Beginning in February, when I complete my Mass Made Simple program, I'll be jumping into a hybrid combination of Crossfit-esque workouts, sprint triathlons, swims and runs to prepare for the Spartan. In a future blog post, I'll detail the exact training plan I'll be using for that, so stay tuned to the newsletter to see exactly what a Spartan-esque style workout with a Ben Greenfield-esque twist looks like.
Phase III: Finish Things Off With An Ultimate Physical and Mental Challenge That Scares You.
Finally, from August 16-24 near San Diego, California, I'll be giving myself a big, big taste of what the Navy Seals experience by completing a 1 week SealFit Academy combined with a 2 day Seal Kokoro Camp.
During the Academy week, I will experience strenuous physical training sessions, leadership, team-building, mental toughness, eastern awareness and sports psychology training, warrior yoga, combat defense, running, swimming, and rucking. The first 5 days are packed with valuable information, the last 3 are intended to challenge and put into practice what I have learned. Combined, these 8 days promise to provide an unparalleled experience and mind-breaking experience that includes sleep deprivation and extreme mental challenges.
Then comes the real work: the Kokoro camp that happens directly after the Academy.
The SEALFIT Kokoro Camp is the world’s premier training camp for forging mental toughness and the warrior spirit. The camp is an intense crucible experience based off of the famous Navy SEAL Hell Week concept, but with a focus on teaching through experience, rather than making you quit. Their mission is to develop mental toughness and promote your spiritual growth in this one of a kind training. Leadership, Building Elite Teams, Self Mastery, Character and Kokoro (unconquerable spirit) are trained and tested through 50 hours of intense physical and internal work.
SEALFIT Camp leverages cutting-edge warrior-athlete training practices to include CrossFit (high intensity functional fitness), Leadership, Self-mastery, Awareness development, Warrior yoga, Attention control, Goal Setting, Stress Management, Visualization, Mission Planning, Mental toughness and Durability training. The program is extremely intense – a 10 on a 10-point scale of difficulty – and suitable for those who have been training CrossFit or for a Special Operations Selection program for some time.
While I'm not a Crossfitter per se, my history of 10 Ironman triathlons, competitive bodybuilding, water polo, collegiate tennis and the ability to move barbells properly got me in.
And yes, I am very nervous and a bit scared about this last phase. But it will truly prove whether or not I become an absolute physical beast over the next year, and it will certainly get me motivated all year to get into my workouts hardcore.
So that's it: three phases (which are admittedly much easier said than done):
1: Get Strong.
2: Sign Up For Something Tough and Build Metabolic Conditioning and Mobility On Top Of Strength.
3: Finish Things Off With An Ultimate Physical and Mental Challenge That Scares You.
And now it's your turn.
What are your physical and mental goals for this upcoming year? What is getting you excited right now to be the best you can be?
What crazy feats of physical or mental performance do you want to achieve? Or do you just want to shed 20 pounds, get ripped, or perhaps heal injuries and balance hormones. No matter what your goals are, leave your thoughts in the comments section below and I promise to reply!