Can running Spartan races help to develop other areas in your life, such as sports, fitness, or hobbies? Of course it can (and does). One of the more popular topics that has come up lately is the use of Spartan races to help athletes develop in martial arts.
Martial arts is the art of learning (individually or in a team) in combat systems, discipline, traditions, culture, and history for the primary goal of self-defense. It tests one’s abilities in physical, mental, and spiritual ways to build stronger humans. Sound familiar? It should . . . it parallels Spartan’s mission to develop humans through the use of obstacle course racing.
Karate, tae kwon do, kickboxing, boxing, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, krav maga, aikido, hapkido, kung fu, sambo, grappling, wrestling, and mixed martial arts (MMA) are just some of the many forms available that enthusiasts take to develop themselves. As a Spartan coach and racer who is also a martial artist, I find many people in my gyms who do both or are intrigued by OCR as a way to develop grip, upper-body strength, and cardiovascular endurance.
In this article we delve into the similarities as well as areas where Spartan can help develop martial artists to be better in both worlds. One ongoing theme is that you will improve in one area if you work on the other. Being a martial artist will help you develop flexibility, endurance, and grit; being a Spartan racer will help you develop these same characteristics. One will always help the other.
1. Situational Awareness
When being trained to fight, you must know your surroundings. There will be times when you are thrust into a situation, and your reaction to it becomes an important part of the outcome to the situation. This is a big part of training in the martial arts. For example, if you are training in krav maga, you must be aware of your surroundings. This is one of the most important lessons this style teaches. Spartan racers must do the same. You are running in difficult terrain. Going from race to race, you find that the terrain changes and so does your ability to tackle it. Whether it be rocky trails, mud, river creek runs, or rugged mountainsides, knowing your footing and being aware of what is going on is pertinent to a successful race. Knowing the elements, predicting your abilities, and assessing what is coming next are important for both martial artists and Spartan racers.
The hallmark of martial arts, sports, fitness, nutrition, and OCR is discipline. To achieve your goals, you need to make lifestyle changes. Learning discipline in all areas of your life will always help in other areas. Discipline is portable throughout every aspect of your life, and both Spartan races and any martial art will help to promote discipline, which leads to success. If you are lucky to be doing both, you will become much more disciplined, which will always help the other areas of your life as well.
We do not want to overtrain; however, we find that those who do martial arts are doing a large amount of cardio. Doing cardio will always help when it comes to OCR. The more training you do in this area, the more endurance you will develop. As you progress through your racing experiences and start to move from Spartan Sprint, to Super, to Beast and beyond into races such as the Spartan Ultra Beast or Spartan Hurricane Heat events, having the ability to continue on is critical to success. Martial arts help develop that and vice versa. Being able to endure long training sessions and fighting/sparring sessions without giving up is identical to getting to the end of a race or an event. One definitely helps develop the other.
4. Grip Strength
An interesting dynamic with martial arts (especially in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu) is the need for grip strength. Controlling an opponent requires grabbing their uniform (gi), and the necessary strength can be developed with grip strength exercises intended for Spartan races. Bettering your grip strength for one area will bring you benefits in the other.
There are many other areas where Spartan racing provides benefits, but these four are where you will see immediate gains if you do both. For those who do not, give it a try and see if it helps you as well! Aroo!
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