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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

No obstacles: Spokane fitness guru on NBC’s new ‘Spartan: The Ultimate Team Challenge’

Throwing a spear, flipping a tire, leaping over a wall of flame, it’s all in a day’s work for triathlete turned obstacle course racer Ben Greenfield.

After competing in more than 120 races and 12 Ironman triathlons, writing 13 books, and launching a highly rated fitness podcast, Ben Greenfield, owner of Ben Greenfield Fitness Systems, wanted a new challenge.

He found it in Spartan racing.

“I got bored doing Ironman,” he said. “There’s more to fitness than just riding a bike or moving your feet.”

Though he was undeniably fit, Greenfield said seven years ago he couldn’t climb a rope or flip a tire. Now, he’s been selected to join a group of elite obstacle racing competitors in a five-race U.S. Spartan Race series leading up to the 2017 Reebok Spartan Race World Championship which will be televised in September.

He’s no stranger to television. Last year he appeared on “Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge,” and he recently returned from filming “Spartan: The Ultimate Team Challenge” in Atlanta.

The show premieres Monday night on NBC.

In “Spartan: The Ultimate Team Challenge,” Greenfield and his team will race across a Spartan course against other groups of families, co-workers and friends. The course is engineered to test endurance and determination. The winning team will receive the grand prize of $250,000. Greenfield’s team includes wife Jessa, brother Zach, sister Rosie, and long time family friend Jason.

“This year the show was filmed in an urban setting where they filmed Terminus in ‘The Walking Dead,’ ” he said. “It was like Spartan races on steroids. It’s a fun show to watch and film.”

As an avid bow hunter, Greenfield said this style of competition was right up his alley.

“Bow hunting is obstacle course racing with a weapon,” he said, shrugging. “And I can’t say I get bored doing Spartan.”

The rise in popularity of this gritty sport doesn’t surprise him a bit.

“People want to get out of the office and return to their ancestry and roots,” he said. “Men and women all over the globe want to feel like badasses and compare their barbwire scars.”

Greenfield has plenty of his own scars. Indeed, probably one of the biggest challenges of Spartan racing is staying healthy and coping with the injuries that come from hefting huge logs and scrambling up cargo nets.

“I always hurt,” he said. “But I’d rather burn out than die of Type 2 diabetes.”

Greenfield says social media is partially responsible for obstacle course racing’s rise in popularity.

“It’s very conducive to social media. People love to post photos on Instagram and Twitter.”

(Greenfield is on Instagram as bengreenfieldfitness, and on Twitter @bengreenfield.)

For him, the appeal lies in spending time outdoors and, of course, the competition. The Lewiston-born University of Idaho grad has built several obstacles on his wooded Spokane acreage where he lives with his wife and twin sons River and Terran, nine.

“I’m an author, speaker and consultant, but I don’t want to spend all my time hunched over a computer writing about fitness,” he said. “I’ve always loved to compete and these races push me and challenge me. I like competitions that tap into my creative side.”

He says he is just average at many of the obstacles.

“Where I usually pass people is carrying heavy (stuff).”

His frequent swims in the Spokane River also give him an advantage.

He laughed. “Cold water swimming? I destroy that.”

When he isn’t traveling for competitions or speaking engagements, you can find Greenfield snowboarding on Mt. Spokane (“We have season passes,” he said.) Or paddle boarding down the river.

He and his family like to dine at Thai Bamboo or Wild Sage, and when eating at home they buy local and eat local – very local.

“We’ve got goats and chickens,” he said.

Always ready to tackle something new, Greenfield is finishing his first novel and a deal is in the works to sell it to Sony pictures.

“I’m a firm believer that life is like a book. You have many different chapters,” he said.

But as to the chapter on how his team did in “Spartan: The Ultimate Team Challenge,” Greenfield’s not giving anything away.

He grinned. “You’ll have to watch the show and see what happens.”