Stepping outside of her comfort zone, DiFrancesco enters the mud pit.

Stepping outside of her comfort zone, DiFrancesco enters the mud pit.

Working in the spa and fitness industry has definite benefits. It is an environment that allows one to feel inspired by individuals focused on health, wellness and personal motivation. I am constantly feeding off the energy of four personal trainers and other health professionals at Toscana Country Club where I work. It is with motivation from these co-workers that I would elevate my personal self-improvement plan with the help of two little words: “Spartan Race.”

How did the Spartan Race enter my life?

Upon arriving at work one day, I heard the rumblings from a small group of co-workers who were forming a Spartan team. This group was already plotting to convince me that I should be part of their “Gladiator” conquest. From the little I knew about a Spartan Race, I imagined an extreme series of hair-brained, absurd obstacles to conquer. Never in my wildest dreams could I see myself crawling on my hands and knees under barbed wire in mud to meet a physical goal. My diligent, daily exercise routine gravitated towards calmer forms of exercise such as Pilates, yoga, hiking and long, serene bike rides. I was never drawn towards P90X, CrossFit, or Navy Seal-style boot camp training.

This picture of a savage woman crawling in the dirt fed my imagination as I started to research what I would be getting myself into by committing to this team challenge. A few days passed and before I knew what hit me, I had signed up to be a fellow Spartan. After my last-minute sign up (our challenge was three weeks away!), I did my best to juggle work and workouts as well as relinquish a need to win or control the inevitable.

When the day came to join my “tribe” for this true test of personal will, the buildup of nerves and emotions vacillated between numb and nervous. On race day, our team entered what looked like a crime scene of strange obstacles and I started to scope out the participants. There were muscular head gym sharks, painted Herculean warriors, and a sprinkling of ordinary participants – such as our team – with Spartan bandana headgear.

DiFrancesco and her Spartan tribe

DiFrancesco and her Spartan tribe

Lining up before the start, my tribe huddled and reaffirmed that we would stick together and support each other. The day consisted of running up hills, carrying buckets filled with rocks and sandbags, throwing spears, swinging from ropes, jumping through fire, and doing a ton of burpees (a push up will never be the same now that I am intimate with performing burpees). All of these challenges forced us to confront physical and mental obstacles, but most importantly, they taught us the value of our strong bond of mutual support. During a harried challenge, while looking for but not finding my fellow tribe members, I briefly caught the eye of another stranger who was there for support. A plethora of fist pumps and high fives were constant proof that we were all on one team and in this thing together. There is no better feeling.

In life, our first basic need is shelter and food. After that, we must feel love and support in order to reach the pinnacle of self-actualization: the realization of being fully alive and having a defined sense of self. The supportive experience of a Spartan Race tests all conventional limits of challenge while working with others in a supportive tribe; it is the best way to feel complete belonging and personal achievement.

I cannot wait to meet up with my Spartan tribe next year.

I hope my experience encourages others to step outside of their comfort zone and add a challenge such as a Spartan Race to their bucket list of things to do in life.

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