LAFAYETTE, INDIANA- September 17, 2017
I am crawling through nasty, grimy mud. It has a greenish tint and smells like a sewer. I am up to my elbows with 12 other “trainees.” It is 6am and I am having the worst and best time of my life.
“Faces in the mud,” yells our instructor.
The scene is a boot camp called “Viking Quest” (VQ). It is a workout system that adheres to a simple philosophy: commit to a goal, put in the work and get it done.
From this simple philosophy are three sadistic brothers from Norway teaching us to be Vikings. It is a mind and body-bending experience that teaches you to overcome obstacles through discipline and persistence. It has helped me to reach my fullest potential.
I am a non-macho broken down fortysomething who was unprepared and out-of-shape when I started VQ. My first workout was a “Welcome to Hell” moment that was a marathon of pain and misery.
We did over 200 squats, 100 push-ups, and 100 sit-ups in the first ten minutes. I learned to keep going, no matter what. It was a gruesome workout on a quiet autumn morning. After the first torture session, I was hooked and have been coming almost every morning for the past month.
“It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it does need to get done,” screamed our lead instructor Olaf. Olaf looks like he walked off the set of the movie “Thor” as a stunt double.
“It’s best to go ugly early, just keep going,” says Olaf.
A tall, blonde muscle man with single digit body fat Olaf, is an excellent instructor who I love to hate. I am his opposite in every way- short, fat, and bald. Olaf and his two brothers are experts in dishing out pain, but he has a softer side. He encourages and cajoles us through our morning torture sessions. Mud and misery play a big part in teaching some great lessons.
In the Beginning
In a large room on the first floor of a nondescript building in a rundown part of Lafayette, Indiana, a beatdown is about to happen. The space is dark and cavernous, and the overhead lights flicker in the pre-dawn morning, the air is thick with sweat and fear.
Three brothers, all blond, muscle men walk in front of us. On my left is a guy with a shaved head, to my right is a tatted-up lean guy with a mane of wild brown, long-hair. They are smiling. The shaved guy is Mike and tats is Chris.
Chris asks, “You’ve been here before?” I smile nervously and say, “No.” Chris smiles back and says, “Then welcome to ‘the suck’!”
On a makeshift plywood box Olaf, the oldest of the Gunderson brothers, starts yelling out instructions. He walks over to a dry erase board points to some exercise and roars, “Get it done!”
“Welcome to the suck,” I think.
Mike and Chris pick up shields, slap hands, flex muscles then collide in a burst of concentrated fury. Sven and Ragnor, Olaf’s younger siblings, get on either side to give encouragement and criticism of technique.
Things get ugly quick. The other guys around me are veterans of VQ, and they know how to rumble. The violence is a little shocking and lots of fun. This is a not-for-wimps workout. Over the last month, I’ve seen a lot.
I watched a woman howl in agony when she pulled a muscle, tough men cry, and a group of us collapsed in a pool of sweat after a tough run in the “shield wall.” I’ve limped away from a few workouts vowing never to go back, but I always do. VQ is a no-frills extreme workout that caters to the slightly insane masochists.
VQ taught me to ditch my old mindset and embrace the suck. Using a mix of powerlifting, old school military-style calisthenics and practice shields and wooden swords VQ teaches a philosophy. VQ is as much about psychology as it on physicality. It’s not about muscles or looking fabulous in a t-shirt. VQ is about finding yourself.
You learn to thrive on tough love. The workout are done in an old garage with no heat and no air conditioning. Everything about the workout space screams hardcore.
There is a great quote from “Fight Club.” It reads: “Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive.”
Once you’re past all that, the mood in the gym is warm and inviting. Misery loves company, so we all suffer and grow together. Viking Quest has changed my life.
I want to share with you some recent lessons I re-learned from VQ. I can relate to feeling depressed, working a horrible job to making ends meet and being broke. I know how hard it can be to just to go through life on a day-by-day basis. Feeling overwhelmed and wishing for a more comfortable life.
I decided to pray for the ability to endure a hard life. I knew I needed to work and hone my discipline. VQ’s philosophy is aggressive and sounds like a bad infomercial. To create discipline you have to practice it every day. A positive mindset builds your mind and creates discipline.