Warriors of old, and in particular their training philosophies, have always interested Man. OK, who am I kidding, maybe just me. From Spartans to gladiators, the idea that leaders and legionnaires had to train soldiers in preparation for warfare or likely death has always been intriguing. Placing the philosophical concerns and the disposability of human life aside, the best generals were the ones who won wars, thereby ensuring the survival of their people. From Hannibal of Carthage who had the challenging task of understanding that he had to look after the stomachs of his marching soldiers, to Scipio who had the task of restoring the glory of Rome by salting the earth of Hannibal’s former city of residence to ensure nothing would grow from the enemy city’s remains, warriors have come and gone leaving behind legacies of ideals gilded in bravery, honour and tormenting hardship.
Modern day athletes can take a few notes from the history books, especially in these trying times when men and women cancel training sessions because the treadmill is on the blink. Here is some food for thought on how to toughen up.
Shaka Zulu (pictured above) is one of South Africa’s most revered warriors. The Zulu nation in fact, is a direct byproduct of this man’s legacy. Not bad for a boy born out of wedlock and allegedly disowned by his father. At the height of his career which was probably at about the time of his death at the age of 41, Shaka ruled over about a quarter of a million people and could muster, one would assume over a few weekends and with slight prodding, about 50,000 warriors.
The story goes that Shaka lined up his new underlings, some with sandals, some without, some with spears, some without. As a tactician he must’ve thought them a ragged bunch and immediately realised that he had to train these men and remedy their equipment issues.
Sports coaches nowadays would’ve realised that sponsors were required immediately making a call to the Mizuno or Newton Running shoes marketing teams. The Military would’ve petitioned parliament over a number of months and ordered full combat gear with a 45kg bergen and chemical warfare gear. Shaka did not have the luxury of brimming coffers, or time. He was at war, and as such he had to act swiftly and with maximum effect. Furthermore, he realised that the mobility of his troops, and not necessarily their longevity, was his number one priority.
Immediately he ordered his troops to remove their sandals. And, as Arthur Lydiard would instruct his kiwi athletes almost hundred years later, Shaka instructed his men to march up to 70 kilometres a day through the bundu, including thorn bush, rocks, stones, rivers, sand, and jagged Kikuyu grass.
A month later he would recall his men for an assessment of their prowess in running on the spot. Those who had skipped a few sessions would soon fall to the ground with bruised and bleeding feet. With the rhythmic sound of toughened feet beating in their ears, these poor souls (soles) would be taken aside and executed.
The moral, it seems, is that even tough Zulu warriors need to keep fit and be prepared for the tough road ahead. Consistency in training is paramount, and having the Draconian sword of fear (swift execution, failure, inner turmoil, gloating competitors, an abusive spouse, house cleaning, etc) hanging over you is probably the best catalyst to ensure you get out of the house (hut) and stay on the road.
Training is warfare. Plans need to be implemented, conditions assessed and battle plans executed. Waking up every day needs to be a challenge of monumental proportions, logistics and incentives. Taking days of rest in front of the television is not recommended unless it is exercise induced recovery. Gone are the days where the penalty is death for missing a workout, however bearing in mind what our forefathers went through, and including smidgeons of humour and adventure into our daily routines, is always good to keep things rolling in the right direction.
Tough is not born. It is created.
Tap into the fear,