Find Your Spirit Animal – Coach Ben

Have you ever felt like you identified closely with a particular animal? Do you embody certain characteristics of your favorite animal when you exercise? Are you as fast as a cheetah or as strong as a bull? Your spirit animal may be speaking to you.

Based on our genetic makeup, we are born predisposed to perform well in certain time domains, and under light, moderate, and/or heavy loads. For example, there’s a reason why we use certain animals for certain tasks. Sled dogs pull the sled while the mule plows the field. Although, through training, we can learn to take on characteristics of other animals; at our core we tend to be who we are. The essence of a person almost impossible to alter.

Spirit Animals

While there are far too many to list here, let’s take a brief look at 4 distinct categories regarding our own spirit animal, or essence. We only mention a few examples of each category, but there are certainly more that you could describe or identify with. There are other animals that we’ll leave for later entries in the series like the bear, turtle, and owl that you or your favorite coach might resemble.

The Big Cat (Panther, Lion, Tiger)

The big cat is categorized by his or her ability to strike hard and fast even under a moderate load. The ability to pounce allows the Big Cat to excel at workouts such as Grace, Fran, or 100 to 400m sprint. The Big Cat fails miserably though when asked to perform a truly aerobic workout. They simply aren’t wired for the long slow effort. Chances are, your favorite NFL skill position player or Olympic Lifter is a very big cat.

The Small Hoof (Gazelle, Wildebeest, Pony)

The Small Hoof is best characterized by his or her ability to perform well over the long migration under a light to moderate load. Endurance athletes such as marathon runners and cyclists will typically fall into this group. Workouts that suit the Small Hoof include Murph, Eva (with a light load), and most wods lasting 30 minutes or more. Having built a broad aerobic base enables the small hoof to keep on moving even when the going gets tough. The challenge for most wildebeests is digging deep when it comes to one rep maxes and other activities that involve short, powerful bursts while under a heavy load.

The Big Hoof (Buffalo, Bison, Camel)

The “Big Hoof” can perform well in most any situation. Powerful over short distances, yet capable of trudging along under a heavy load, the Big Hoof athlete finds themselves near the front of the pack no matter the workout. Your favorite Rugby or Crossfit athlete is most likely a Big Hoof. The ability to adapt and perform well under most circumstances makes the Big Hoof the most desirable choice regarding balanced fitness. Challenges are few and far between for the Big Hoof, and are mostly limited to more technical or skill based movements such as climbing a rope, or performing other difficult gymnastics skills.

The Primate (ie Gorilla, Baboon, Lemur)

Primates are capable of performing great gymnastic feats, but tend to fall short when placed under a load for an extended period of time. Gymnasts, parkour athletes, and ninja warriors all come from this ilk. We are dazzled by their skill and strength as they effortlessly navigate terrain that most of us find extremely awkward. Body weight workouts are where they absolutely shine, but hardships occur when the Primate tries to move a moderate to heavy load any distance for time.

I bet one of these categories started to speak to you as you went through the article. The next time you find yourself struggling in a workout, remember that while you are not a slave to your essence, you cannot escape it. Embrace your strengths, work hard on your weaknesses, and know that we are here to help!


Ben_AikenWhen Ben isn’t chasing his two children around, you can find him handing out tips on how to move more efficiently. Always encouraging, he likes to laugh and joke with his athletes while guiding them on their fitness journey. A gymnastics expert, he loves to teach people ninja skills and help them excel on their hands, the rings, and bars.