Certified Spartan Coach – A Certification Like No Other, Part 1
“It is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed… But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical will live the relation to another as something alive.” ~ Rilke
In life sometimes we are presented with opportunities. These opportunities may only present themselves once so when given the chance you can either continue along with your life or take the opportunity and see where it goes. A couple of months ago I was in a conversation about a new program starting through Spartan Race called the Certified Spartan Coach Program. I was lucky enough to make into the first certification weekend. This is how I found myself in Pittsfield this past weekend, experiencing a life changing two days surrounded by truly incredible people. But it all started with the application…
Not just anyone can apply to be a Certified Spartan Coach, the mandates include training specific from one or the major organizations (ACSM, NSCA, NASM or ACE) or a four year degree in Exercise and Sports Science. Yes, this is a no joke certification. It was even asked for proof of this certification. All applicants were required to have five years working experience and a resume to back this up. We were each required to write two different essays the first of many more essays to come regarding our ideas on coaching and training.
To prove we weren’t just gym rats we were asked if we had completed in the last five years this short this: 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge, Marathon or longer, Century bike ride, or 50 mile mountain bike ride, 2 mile swim, Super Spartan or greater. Again here we needed to include proof of results from races. A major part was do you live by the Spartan Code which included a list of several aspects of life.
Finally, the most rewarding part of the application was the letters of recommendations, eight from former or current athletes and an additional five character letters of recommendation. This was the most rewarding for me. I had letters of recommendation spanning from 10 year olds up through one of my former athletes who is now a Division 1 college athlete. It was wonderful to get to read what they all had to say about what they had learned from me. The most rewarding aspect was finding out the pieces that stuck with them the longest were the other pieces for many it was the emotional support I gave them and this struck home with me.
Dr. Jeff Godin who is in charge of the process I thanked as I submitted my 30+ page application for the exercise within itself was reward enough for me. However, I found out I would be making the initial cut and thus I found myself packing my bags on Friday and heading down the road.
THE PACKING LIST
Dr. Jeff is a veteran of the Death Race so when I got the packing list for the weekend I was not surprised at the randomness of some of the items. Our packing list included many basics; notebook, pens, pencils, snacks, workout attire, extra socks, calculator, copy of your consent form, jump rope, resistance band, and extra socks. None of these things stood out in my mind as strange items for a certification weekend.
The came the items that had the Death Race and Spartan Race flair to them; backpack, sleeping bag, headlamp, swim goggles, duct tape, first aid kit. But still being a Wilderness EMT and living in Vermont all of these items still seemed logical. Although this was the point where I was thinking we were going to be spending more time then they were letting on outside (sleeping bag).
Finally, the items that made you say WTF and scratch your head; “extra rope” no detail for what it was for, Aluminum foil, oven mitt (my thought cooking might be involved), and finally a copy of your favorite non-exercise book. It was at this point I started to think carefully about what this weekend would actually entail. I sent Jeff an email:
Not sure if your packing list is DR style or if you are actually going to give me a helpful answer. I spend far too much time around Joe. In the things you need list I had a question or two.
1. Extra Rope – are we talking paracord like for rescue scenario or are we talking more like climbing rope or something like that. Also what lengths? I don’t need to begin to know what we are doing just want to have the right thing.
2. Aluminum Foil – For cooking or survival as in a foil wrap or heat blanket. I am assuming cooking but want to be sure.
3. Backpack, full on camping pack or light pack used for training.
His answer, DR style. So it was going to be one of those weekends. I packed with this thought in my head the whole time knowing it was a weekend which would most likely include very little sleep, high stress physically and mentally, and you would be judged at all stages of the weekend.
Nothing with Spartan Race is easy nor is it ever a straight line. A weekend in Pittsfield is also never as it seems on paper. As I pulled into Trailside Lodge just 5 miles from my house armed with all I would need for the weekend I knew it was on. Quickly I got to meet my fellow candidates, an impressive group of people. We had trainers who work with college and professional athletes, CrossFit trainers, strength guys, MMA specialist, gymnastics backgrounds, Parkour Trainer, Movement Specialists, and many more. Over thirty people applied for the certification only seven were picked from this pool and an additional seven were invited based on experience and expertise. We had a highly knowledgeable and diverse group of individuals.
The weekend started off nice with some time to chat and get to know one another. At dinner we had a lively round table discussion regarding nutrition and supplements. This was the most relaxed the weekend would be. After our discussion the first of three tests began. We had two hours to answer over 350 multiple choice questions. Remember those scantron sheets you had in high school, yup it was one of those tests. The test was comprehensive to say the least, detailed questions regarding the all aspects of the body function and how it applies to fitness were asked. If you want this certification you better know all about ATP, the respiratory system, muscle development, how to train children, VO2Max and many more topics. The topics were diverse and at the end of two hours I found the questions blending together. I was also still about twenty short of the last one when we had to hand the test in. Yes, wish I had studied more for that one! Only two people in the room actually answered all the questions and one is a current doctoral student finishing his PhD in exercise science.
After the test we met as a group and were informed that Bikram Yoga would start at 6:00am and we had two options A) Run (5 miles) to yoga or B) Run back to breakfast after the yoga session. This was the easiest decision of the weekend. Yes it cut into sleep time but knowing Bikram running home was not the better option. Also the run there was all downhill. We were then told we could go to bed. Knowing Spartan Race I felt as if we were going to be messed with overnight. I slept in my yoga clothing with shoes and essentials less than a arms reach away.