“Madness? No. THIS IS SPARTAAA!!!!”
Few stories have captured the hearts and imaginations of nerds in the past few years like the epic graphic novel 300 and its faithful movie adaptation. I remember going to see 300 during its opening weekend: I walked out of that theater absolutely blown away. I honestly felt like I had just been injected with steroids and caffeine: I wanted to go sprint up mountains, wrestle bears, train with weapons, and get as strong as possible as quickly as possible.
300 is still the movie I turn to whenever I’m in the need of some hardcore motivation to push myself while exercising.
In case you’ve never seen the movie or need a quick refresher, watch the trailer. It’s then time to start imagining yourself as one of the mighty 300, a Spartan soldier trying to fend off a overwhelming army in order to protect your people and your way of life.
Young or old, male or female, we can all be Spartans today.
The Psyche of a Spartan
I’ve already covered the training regiment that the actors went through to get in shape for this movie (including the brutal 300 challenge), but I want to delve into the actual characters themselves and discover what makes them so badass and inspirational to the Nerd Fitness community.
I find many parallels between the mighty Spartan 300 and the (only slightly less) mighty Nerd Fitness Rebellion. We’re both small forces that would do anything for one another. We both fight an incredibly difficult and uphill battle against overwhelming odds (their battle with the Persians, our battle as a community against obesity, fear, heart disease, stereotypes, and life without passion). We both train with conviction, we both fight for our families and future generations, and we both don loin cloths before going to battle (hmm….)
Let’s see what else we can learn from King Leonidas and his mighty 300.
Fight whenever, wherever. Just fight
Spartans fight just as well in pouring rain as they do in the scorching heat. Snow? Sleet? Hail? Nothing like a little precipitation to make things interesting, right? During their first encounter with enemy forces:
Persian: A thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!
Stelios: Then we will fight in the shade.
Ha! Not only are these dudes strong as hell and fearless, but they’re also quite witty. Oh, and they will fight anybody, at any time, anywhere.
Spartan Up: When was the last workout you skipped for some bullsh** reason? Don’t feel bad, we all do it:
- “Oh it’s raining.”
- “I had a bad day at work.”
- I’m tired, I’ll do it tomorrow.
Stop making excuses. Stop putting off until tomorrow what you can do today. Make your personal health and well-being a top priority, and suddenly workouts stop getting skipped.
- Stuck in a hotel room? Do the 20-minute hotel room workout.
- Don’t have time to workout? The Angry Bird workout disagrees with you.
- Zombie Apocalypse taking over the world? Here’s how to stay alive.
Make MacGuyver proud, and learn how to exercise anywhere at any time. This morning, I did 20 chin ups in a row for the first time in my life. Today’s chin ups were on a dead tree branch in Thailand. Last month’s chin ups were done on a kids’ swingset in an abandoned park at 11PM in Australia. The month before that? The overhang of a roof at the New Zealand Airport.
Any time, anywhere!
Giving Up Isn’t an Option
King Leonidas and the Spartans (epic band name by the way) face an army that is greater than anything they have ever seen.
They know that this enemy will most likely end their lives and potentially wipe out Sparta unless they surrender and submit. However, these Spartans have been “Taught never to retreat, never to surrender. Taught that death on the battlefield in service to Sparta was the greatest glory he could achieve in his life.”
So, despite staring certain death and destruction in the face, these soldiers know only how to do one thing:
When Xerxes, the king of Persia, confronts Leonidas about his refusal to surrender, explaining that his victory will be so complete that “the world will never know [Sparta] existed at all!” the Spartan king fires back:
“The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed.”
If you’re overweight, out of shape, and chain-smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day, the thought of losing 100 pounds and quitting smoking probably seems impossible to you. If you don’t like looking at yourself in the mirror, you probably could never see yourself going to a fun class at your gym because you’re afraid.
Spartan Up: Recognize that fear is tyrannical, keeping you imprisoned and preventing you from living a life worth living. The odds may be stacked against you, the challenge may seem too dire, but you’re a Spartan, so you fight on. One meal at a time, one work out at a time, one day at a time.
Grab your sword, find some confidence, and fight back.
Train as if your life depended on it
Before fighting the Persians, the Spartan army is joined by another group of free Greeks who far outnumber Leonidas and his crew:
Daxos: I see I was wrong to expect Sparta’s commitment to at least match our own.
King Leonidas: Doesn’t it? You there, what is your profession?
Free Greek-Potter: I am a potter… sir.
King Leonidas: And you, Arcadian, what is your profession?
Free Greek-Sculptor: Sculptor, sir.
King Leonidas: Sculptor. You?
Free Greek-Blacksmith: Blacksmith.
King Leonidas: [turns back shouting] Spartans! What is your profession?
Spartans: HOO! HOO! HOO!
King Leonidas: [turning to Daxos] You see, old friend? I brought more soldiers than you did.
Although the Spartans might not have the number of soldiers that their allies do, due to the quality and tenacity of their skill as warriors they are far better prepared for battle. For, as Dilios the Spartan explains: “We did what we were trained to do, what we were bred to do, what we were born to do!”
If you can “exercise” while watching TV, talking on your cell phone, and/or reading a book, you’re doing it wrong. You’re like the potter who calls himself a soldier. You need to think a soldier, train like a soldier, and prepare like a soldier so that you can fight like one.
Spartan Up: It’s time to start looking at each of your training sessions like a battle. To borrow from “how to become a superhero,” take a few minutes to get yourself into the proper mind frame before picking up a weight or doing your first push up.
- Change into your battle gear
- Put on your favorite song,
- Visualize your workout.
- Mentally pump yourself up for the battle.
- Start foaming at the mouth (optional).
While exercising, block out every distraction around you – do what you were trained to do, bred to do, born to do: push harder, live better, train faster, be stronger.
It’s in your DNA.
Look out for your fellow soldier
The Persians outnumbered the Spartans approximately 80 billion to 300 (rough estimates), and yet continually had their asses handed to them in battle after battle after battle.
These two passages sum it up perfectly:
Xerxes: It isn’t wise to stand against me, Leonidas. Imagine what horrible fate awaits my enemies when I would gladly kill any of my own men for victory.
King Leonidas: And I would die for any one of mine.
Stelios: It’s an honor to die at your side.
King Leonidas: It’s an honor to have lived at yours.
The Persians might have the numbers, but the Spartans train as if their lives depended on it and they’re all part of a brotherhood that cannot be broken. Spartans know that “in the end, a [man’s] true strength is the warrior next to him. So give respect and honor to him, and it will be returned to you.”
Spartan Up: If you have a training partner, or a group at work or friends that are exercising with you:
- Give them respect and honor, and expect respect and honor in return.
- If you say you are going to work out at a certain time on a certain day, be there – no excuses.
- Offer support when needed, tough love when required, and expect greatness when greatness is possible.
We are all capable of great things in this world; start pushing those around you to strive for those great things, and make sure they expect the same of you. You will all live better lives because of it.
I can honestly say that it has been an absolutely pleasure to fight alongside my fellow rebels in the Rebellion – I try to honor you, my fellow rebel, by pushing myself to the limit with every workout.
I hope you do the same.
Leave it all on the battlefield
In one of the most iconic scenes in the movie, King Leonidas says goodbye to his wife out in the beautiful wheat fields before heading off to battle and certain death. The queen delivers one of the best lines in “goosebump-inducing awesomeness” history, a new category I just created about fourteen seconds ago:
Queen Gorgo: Spartan!
King Leonidas: Yes, my lady?
Queen Gorgo: Come back with your shield, or on it.
King Leonidas: Yes, my lady.
No surrender. Only victory or death.
Reminds me of a quote from another movie I tend to draw a slight bit of inspiration from: “do or do not, there is no try.”
Spartan Up: I’m not telling you to go kill yourself trying to complete your workout today. I’m telling you that it’s your responsibility to give it your all whenever you exercise. Push yourself to find out what you’re capable of, which is always more than you think. Walk out of that gym drenched in sweat. Finish your sprints with wobbly legs.
Go hard or go home.
And home isn’t an option.
I challenge you to channel your inner Sparta during your workout this afternoon. Think of your brothers/sisters in arms as you exercise; imagine them standing shoulder to shoulder with you, all pushing to become stronger warriors, faster soldiers, better heroes.
Respect and honor your friends by pushing yourself to greater heights – it’s these extra pushes and moments of determination when faced with adversity that level up your life.
Now, go. Fight. And come back with your shield, or on it.
For the Rebellion,
Today’s Rebel Hero: Anna S. from Krakow, Poland!
Maybe my favorite picture thus far from the Rebel community. After taking this picture, Anna went to her Kung Fu (seriously) class, took her exam, and leveled up to Level 2. I’m not saying the shirt was the reason for her passing with flying colors…but it certainly didn’t hurt. Congrats Anna, you’re my new hero!
Have you ordered your Nerd Fitness shirt yet? Pick one up (only $20 with free shipping anywhere in the world), and send me a photo – you could be the next Rebel Hero!
photo 1, photo 2, photo 3, photo 4, photo 5, photo 6
76 thoughts on “How to Live and Train Like a Spartan Warrior”
80 billion to 300 is a massive exaggeration. Scholars believe closer to 200,000. There aren’t even 80 billion people on the planet. 6 billion.
80 billion to 300. Not sure if serious..
Sweet article! I just saw the new movie. I know what you mean, those shows are extremely motivational! Can’t wait to workout tomorrow. Thanks!
Their deeds was their philosophy.
No he actually is not. You are misinformed watching this Hollywood movie and thinking that things really were like that. Battle of Sphacteria for example. Or Pylos. They were not so glorious as you think. They lived miserable life, under all imaginable standards. Their lives were rougher than lives of many helots. Also, 12 year-old boys were forced to have sexual relationships with older men. They starved, beated their children, forced them to steal. No wonder there were many occasions actually when spartans surrendered to these “lousy” philosophers in the east. They were not ripped, cause of the food they were eating. Many of them possibly looked more skinny than well fed and muscular and of course full of scars, bruises and with bad teeth.
Read historical facts not some BS Hollywood. They were not some body-builders, but had functional bodies.
You may be surprised that a scholarly, factual book could provide motivation unto itself and transform your mindset, but until you read Paul Cartledge’s “The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-heroes of Ancient Greece, from Utopia to Crisis and Collapse”, you may not know. Very good book.
ever heard of humour?
mind, body and soul.
true, spartan warrior philosophy.
Truth has been spoken.
Second hand knowledge is just that, second hand.
I think this article is bull crap. Why off-balance a tri-part being? A human isn’t just body. There is a soul, which is our mind, will, and emotions. You mean to tell me that a Spartan doesn’t keep his whole being balanced like sleeping right? Sleeping is the key to life. Sleeping right and deeply. What about our spirit and meditation? This is a joke to just push hard and work out!!! What about cutting out all sugar? Fastfood? Eat only whole foods? This must be a joke.
I have news for you joker, when you eat and sleep right, your body will be screaming and feeling GREAT to run and work out and never miss it. But when your all off balance, your body is lazy and such because it is TELLING YOU THE TRUTH. You shouldn’t push it in normal calm days when its saying, “Look im slow and sluggish for a reason!”. Listen to your body and nourish your inner life too.
“80 billion to 300” lol yea rough estimates indeed, more like 1 million to 300 but others say 200 000 to 300 but yea…close enough i guess
Fun article on the Spartan. I seriously underestimated my forearm usage in the obstacle race. Great advice in this article for the Spartan. Wish I would have focused more on arms in training. http://www.beenbitten.com/top-4-training-tips-i-wish-i-knew-before-my-obstacle-race/
I love all things 300 and Spartan/Greek history related it was cool to read this article and relate it back to training. If anyone else likes this type of stuff consider reading Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. It will motivate the sh1t out of you.
80 billion to 300. This is very motivation post but that is not realistic. There is only currently like 7 billion on the planet. 80 seems like a stretch. Butbthankbyou for the motivation.
Read real history and not some BS from an unknown source on the internet.
I’m Greek and I know MY HISTORY better than anyone that posts BS on the internet trying to downgrade the importance of this battle that saved the Western Civilization.
All these BS about homosexuality, not being warriors or having bad teeth (really dude?) are bad jokes for people like you that can believe anything, but the truth.
Get your facts straight and then get a life.
well Athens is better