Thoughts from a Spartan Worrier

Spartan Warrior

When I wrote my Spartan Race Report after the Sprint in Semenyih last year, I was ready to write off all the upper body obstacles in the Spartan Race. I was sure that I would never be able to do any of them. Like I said about the Monkey Bars:

There was never any chance of me completing it. Not even in a long shot. I might die before I ever get strong enough to do this.

Spartan Sprint 2018 – Semenyih

Then SM broke open the rock climbing vault in my head unleashing a thousand memories from a life long ago. I remember a time when I stood before a wall, watching a climber negotiate a 6A route, thinking to myself, “I’ll never be able to climb that!” Fast forward two years and I was climbing routes two to three grades above it.

Never say “never”.

What is My Maximum Potential?

Stupid with Manners
Stupid with Manners, 7A

In a rock climbing book I read once, it was said (I think by John Long – but I could be wrong) that anyone with the proper training could get good enough to climb a 7C. To climb an 8A, however, you would need some genetic advantage.

At that time, the god of rock climbing was a boy named Chris Sharma. He had red-pointed the hardest known route in existence – Realization, graded a 9A+. It was said that his grip strength was inhuman and few people could match that. Not everyone is born to climb like him.

Why am I even talking about this? Because we like to believe that we can achieve anything if we want it desperately enough. When we don’t get it, despite everything we’ve done for it, we end up bitterly disappointed and angry with the world.

I am a realist. I believe that we can train as hard as we can, but we will only ever reach the potential that we are born with. Some of us, like Chris Sharma, will have more potential for rock climbing, and others, will have greater potential in other areas. We all have strengths and weaknesses which exist differently for everyone. But here’s the thing, nobody knows if they’re going to be a Chris Sharma unless they try.

Back to my monkey bars with the spinning wheel – it may well be impossible for me in this lifetime, but then, I’ve never trained that hard to find out. We can’t know what is impossible for us if we haven’t had the right training under our belts – like my 6A route.

So the questions I ask myself are these, “How far can I go? How hard am I willing to work for it?”

The Worrier’s Way

Spear Throw

The other thing I think about, when I was training for the Spartan Race, is this…

Last year, while looking into the effect of competition on kids, I learned about the difference between Warriors and Worriers. It seems that some people are born to be warriors and others, like me, are born to be worriers.

The warriors, by nature, are quick to pick up new things – they seemingly excel at anything they try without much effort. The worriers, on the other hand, crash and burn on their first attempts at anything. If you throw us all onto a battlefield, the worriers will be the first to die.

The interesting thing about being a worrier is that we do have the capacity for mastery. Give us enough time and practice and we can become as good as, if not better than, the warriors.

I realised this without understanding the significance of it when I was a rock climber. I could never do well in rock climbing competitions when we are only given one attempt to climb a new route. Because the route is challenging and unfamiliar, I don’t know the best way to climb it. Given a chance to work it out and I probably could if it was within my ability.

If I take this understanding back to the Spartan Race Obstacles, I know I will need to practice the actual obstacle to succeed – especially if the moves are complicated. Even if I go all out on strength training and get strong enough, I still might not succeed because my body doesn’t know how to move the right way. The body also needs to be trained to develop muscle memory the way a pianist commits a piece of music to heart.

And that leads me back to the dilemma of where do I find Spartan obstacles to train on?

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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