We have this affliction with Spartans. Gladiators. Warriors. The brutality of how they train. Their relentless toughness and ferocity. I am part of that we, but we have to understand that we do not live in Sparta and we do not live Spartan lives.
Sparta was a militarist state and this is reflected in both life and death. If a baby was small or not normal it was thrown off a mountain and soldiers were the only Spartans given marked grave stones. Spartans started military training at age 7 and if you survived you would be enlisted in the reserves until the age of 60. True Spartan men either returned victorious with their shield in hand or died in battle.
Does this sounds anything like today’s society? They had never seen a petro chemical or a non-organic food item. Their women trained as furiously as their men and their only priority was giving birth to Spartan men who would become full citizens of the state, and it was their honor, not their burden. Whereas, our food supply and environment have been tainted literally beyond measure and we have no idea what this is doing to us or those who remain unborn.
The number of male births in the US has been steadily declining since 1970 and we are coming on the third and forth generation of human Pottinger cats. We coddle infants and our health care system allows those who could have never hoped to survived in ancient times live on and procreate. We are progressively taking away recess and over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. One in three children are also born via cesarean section and are not inoculated with the precious microflora from their mother and then they are kept as clean as possible leaving them with an incompetent immune system. Some parents hook children up to screens faster than bottles. There are now strict rules about how High School and NCAA coaches can condition their higher level athletes, and as a country it is estimated that only 1 in 4 adults is fit to serve in the armed services. We do not have a militaristic selection process set in place, hell I don’t even know if we have Phy Ed Testing anymore.
Most of us are relatively comfortable. We don’t have to fight for our lives or our food on a regular basis. You can judge what parts of the last two paragraphs are good or bad, but no matter how nostalgic we may be, we do not live Spartan lives.
The current life expectancy in the U.S. is 79 years of age and 99.96% of our population will survive until age 14 (CDC). We can only guess at the life expectancy of Spartans, but it is estimated that only 50% of Spartans lived to age 10. The modern day culture is emphatic about how Spartans trained. How they trained and fought day after day after day, leaving them as cut as stage ready bodybuilders in the movies we watch. Yet, we have no idea nor comprehension of the horrors they faced in everyday life and battle. All Spartan warriors had attendants who would rub oil and massage the scar tissue of their own wounds so that they may hope to lift a shoulder or extend a leg. This is not the life we lead today and that’s ok. I am grateful to be able watch and read tales of ancient Rome and Greece. It gets me all kinds of fired up but I am not fooled into thinking that my life is anything close to theirs.
Yet, you still may be thinking, “F$ck Yea. That’s how I want to train. That’s how I want to live” But were you pre-selected at birth to be a warrior? Did you start training every day and all day at the age of seven? Have you ever had to fight for your food? For your life?
I wasn’t and I haven’t
and while you are flogging your body with thrusters, hold this thought in the back of your mind, Spartan training wasn’t geared around maximum physical capacity it was built around selection and producing warriors with indomitable will.
“The hardship of the exercises is intended less to strengthen the back than to toughen the mind. The Spartans say that any army may win while it still has its legs under it; the real test comes when all strength is fled and the men must produce victory on will alone.”
Xeonos – Gates of Fire – Steven Pressfield
I was outside all the time in my youth, running barefoot and playing tackle football in the neighborhood. By today’s standards my childhood was anything but normal. We didn’t own a TV until I was 12, but I am not a Spartan. Despite this upbringing, my body cannot handle anything close to this type training and maintain long-term health and the Spartans likely couldn’t as well. Yet, why would they care, they had no thought of overtraining, only survival. Their lives were not their own nor did they hope for a life of luxury and old age.
Now what happens when part of a society flips the switch to a Spartan mindset, generally later in the life course? It is probably not a recipe for success but more a path of addiction and in the end – fatigue.
- Spartans probably had an absolutely incredible foundation of fitness. They were outside wrestling, grappling never wearing shoes and active all day long. They had to be great movers or they would die.
- We can only speculate as we don’t have blood samples from Leonidas or any of his 300, but given the selection process, they probably weeded out anyone who could not survive hormonally, and possibly even selected out fighters who could survive in an over-trained state. Also, their recovery and sleep were likely much more consistent that ours as training and battle were their sole purpose. Not mortgages and monthly quotas.
- Spartans did not live in our current environment. They hunted or grew their own food. They were not bombarded by estrogenic compounds and EMF waves nearly every moment of the day. And their circadian rhythms were intact following the rhythm of the sun and the moon.
- Spartans didn’t have a choice. You do.
If you are still convinced that you can train like a Spartan and wish to destroy yourself with implements the Spartans never saw, if you have made an oath to live sore and think recovery and sleep are for the faint of heart, I would recommend one thing – data.
Spend the money to get a complete health profile and then check it every three to six months. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be able to handle that kind of training volume and that you will get injured as a compensatory action of your body and/or your brain will lay down the brake and you will be left in a state of chronic fatigue because your body is just begging you to embrace the fact that you are not of Spartan blood.
Still maybe all this talk will motivate you to crush the 300 workout right now. But more than that I hope it will drive you to get consistent data on the current condition of the only body you’ll ever have. Because you can bet your fancy bottle fed American ass that if the Spartans had this technology they would use it. So I suggest you do too.
By: Ben House PhD Candidate, FDN, fNMT