How do you spot the Spartan in a random fitness class?
Start by looking in the back.
It’s OK to be the worst in the class. It’s actually a great idea to experience it often.
A Spartan learns continuously.
A Spartan attitude accepts that it’s not about being better than someone else. It’s about being better tomorrow than you are today. Because of this, a Spartan should feel comfortable somewhere uncharacteristic or not routine.
So get your ass to some class you are curious about—even if you know absolutely nothing about it.
Whatever comes to mind as the hardest thing to you, might be a great place for you to start. Think of something that seems pleasant enough, but you are just clueless about how to do it. Set some time aside to check that out.
Allow me the indulgence of a story.
My senior year of high school I got the bright idea of joining the wrestling team with zero wrestling experience. I was just learning Kung Fu and Tai Chi, and I was like, what the hell, school offers a related activity to the martial arts. I figured I should take advantage of free wrestling classes.
I had no expectations of wrestling varsity. I was there to learn, be humble, have fun and maybe get some valuable grappling experience while building my fitness.
Then there were a bunch of injuries around my weight class. Ultimately, I had to wrestle varsity almost every match, otherwise we would forfeit my weight class.
Well, shit. It was the most unfortunate fortunate thing to happen.
Let me explain high school wrestling culture. Within wrestling families, boys and girls start practicing wrestling before they can walk. They start organized wrestling as early as kindergarten. By high school, varsity wrestlers are well-trained. They instinctually do the kinds of things I was working to gain basic competence in. Highschool wrestlers are well-oiled machines where the top dogs are gunning for college and the Olympics.
I lost almost every single match. All but one.
I got pinned a lot.
But every so often I could go the distance and save our team some points. And one time I won a match in a tournament. These were great feelings.
As for the abject humiliation of defeat over and over again in front of my peers and their families at wrestling matches?
I got over it pretty quick. I was there to learn and help out where I could. With the right attitude, it was a fulfilling experience.
Being the worst kid on the team wasn’t so bad, and I’m a far better wrestler now than I would be if I never tried.
I try to bring this attitude to new activities that intimidate me. When I suddenly feel last in class, I’ve learned to just embrace it as the most Spartan place to be.
It’s that simple.
Success is about stacking up a string of failures.
Look for the newb in your yoga or running or Zumba class. Look for the clueless person in your cooking, chess or foreign language class. The person struggling the most is probably the Spartan in the room.
And, likely, if the Spartan starts to find himself in the front of the class, it’s time for a new class where he or she can get beat on, in the back of the room, once again.
Spartans don’t need to keep taking victory laps at something they are great at. They immediately should start endeavoring in their weaknesses.
In Pittsfield, Vermont, at the original Spartan compound, we had a yoga studio. The first office, in fact, was located in the same building as the yoga studio. A little wooden building on Route 100 with a yoga studio and a low-tech gym in the basement.
When I arrived I had never done yoga. Let alone hot yoga. I was some guy living in a barn, carrying logs up mountains, who suddenly found himself required to take yoga every day.
So there I was in a class full of yogis. People who took yoga seriously. People who had cultivated lots of abilities over years of practice.
There I was standing in my mesh shorts with my mat, looking around at the class. A class who was looking at me, in turn, seeing a total newb.
I had to let go, and just do my best.
As uncomfortable as it was, I knew I was where I needed to be.
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