My first Spartan Race at Greek Peak was amazing! I felt like I was walking on air despite being very sore, but I knew that if I wanted to I could do another lap! The experience and camaraderie that I found also really charged me up! Running with people from not only different states, but also different countries (one at least from Russia) made me feel like I was a part of a larger community. Then the devastating news about my aunt hit me and all of that was pushed to the side for a time. It did not take long however!
Remember that audiobook that I was listening to (discussed in part 3)? In this book DeSena talked about a program he called Spartan Edge that was basically like a curriculum for students to help them overcome obstacles in life rather than on a course. This really interested me and I wanted to find out more information about it considering one of my roles in my school is to work with an organization that focuses on building “real men” and not the societal norm! I did some research, and at that time Spartan Edge was not launched and as big as it is today so there was very little information on it. Not knowing who I could contact I took to social media and sent a “hail Mary” message out to the man himself, Joe DeSena.
I remember sending the message and laughing a little. “Why would the CEO of Spartan, a man as busy as Joe is bother replying to a random guy that read his book?” This was my immediate thought. To my shock and dismay he responded, within an hour! He was happy to talk to me a little about it and then said he could put me in touch with the man that was heading up Spartan Edge. This was huge to me. For a guy that is as busy as Joe is, and running such a large company like Spartan, to reply quickly and in a non-dismissive way like he did I knew that I would be a life long Spartan from that moment forward!
I emailed the man Jay that Joe said was in charge of Edge and we set a meeting that would train me in what he had already. In the very first email exchange between Jay and myself we talked about both of our programs, what we were trying to do, and some books that inspired us. It blew my mind how we were both so similar even though we worked in such different educational environments (Jay taught in Silicon Valley and I taught in the Syracuse New York). We set a time for a video conference and both of us seemed really excited to talk.
The call did not go as planned however. Within about 15 minutes the training stopped and we shared stories, ideas, and experiences we both had throughout our years in education. Me being very new to OCR I did not have too much to share in this regard, but Jay had plenty and shared a number of stories that were not only interesting but had lessons all throughout of them. We talked about the difference in obstacles that his students faced compared to mine and discussed how the stressors although different still had similar impact on both sets of young men!
After almost 2 hours our conversation finally came to a close. I brought up the fact that the current curriculum called for a certified Spartan SGX Coach to run some of the workout portions and that there was only 1 in the area. I was sure that we could reach out and have him come out and work with my boys, but I doubted that it would be consistent at least for free which is what we would have been looking for. I think it was me, but may have been Jay that suggested I become an SGX Coach. This was an idea that I really liked, but was so out of the norm for me!
My background is education, History and Instructional Technology. The only experience I had with physical education of any sort was what I had researched and learned on my own, which was not much (and come to find out not entirely accurate in all circumstances). I was unsure of myself, but Jay was confident in me. He set me up with another member of the Spartan Circle named Al who worked with the Spartan Foundation and helped to set me up with the SGX Training. To begin the training I needed to pass a “foundation exam” since I did not have a degree in anything fitness, but this would give me the basics I would need to be successful in the SGX program.
For this test I was given a few times to try and pass it so the first time I took it just to see how I would do. I thought that my basic understanding of weightlifting and running would be enough. I was absolutely floored once I started working through this 100 question test. I knew NOTHING that they were asking. The 40 or so I got right were primarily through lucky guesses. The best part was that I had no idea which questions I got right or wrong, just the categories they were placed in and that was not much help since I had no idea how to categorize these concepts.
I was now fairly concerned, but determined. Over the next several months I reached out to the head of SGX, Dr. J, and had many conversations with him, asked for suggestions on books to read, and any information he would be able to help me out with. I made friends with personal trainers and coaches really for the first time in my life. Lunches at my day job were filled with in person conversations about muscle types, types of training, and impact of different types of training on the body. This was all new to me and I was desperately trying to learn. It took months of work to learn just the basics I was genuinely concerned that I would never make it through the actual course work for SGX.
Finally I passed and began my course work. It amazed me at how everything made sense, even though it should have at this point. The parts that I found the most interesting though were not the fitness components (even though the tips on obstacles helped a lot). The part that stood out to me were about the lifestyle that Spartan was encouraging people to live by. Simple concepts that would help individuals drastically change their lives. Things like learning continuously, helping others, and healthy lifestyles. The same things that I teach my boys and I try to exemplify. I was officially sold! I knew that this was a movement more than a company and I wanted to give it my all!
The course work did not take as long as the foundations exam (I had the foundation so it should be quicker) and I was determined to push myself physically, mentally and spiritually (however you want to interpret that is up to you). I wanted to better myself each day and knew that I could if I followed what I was now allowed to teach!
Over the next 5 months I ran 4 more Spartan races, completed my first Trifecta, completed my SGX course work, began working part time at a local gym, started my personal trainer certification, and so much more. Now the things like my divorce or problems at my job that were destroying me emotionally were non-consequential! I woke up looking forward to the upcoming challenges and races and I loved working with my boys at school and the clients I was slowly starting to get. Spartan Race showed me exactly what OCR could provide. Not a distraction, or an excuse to suppress the various problems I encounter on a daily basis, but rather a solution! A way to overcome these obstacles and challenges and grow through them.
Today my life is built not for Spartan Race or any OCR, but the OCR of life. I try my best to meet every obstacle with optimism and knowledge that I will learn something new about myself. I make sure that I try to volunteer often and make sure that I do everything I can to give back to this wonderful community that has provided me so much love and support, and I try to live the life that I encourage others to lead.
Check back next week for the start of a new series about some of the ways I incorporate the ideas of Spartan SGX into my life and some practical ways that you can as well!