The path to Maximus pain
Rome is the home of culture, art, history, gladiators and hot Italian women. We went there to experience two of these, one being gladiator training.

The Scaevola Gladiator Roma is the training ground for any would-be gladiatorial candidate. We had recently watched Gladiator on Blu-ray and figured we could manage that easily enough. We were wrong.

Enter the battlefield
Early morning wake-up done, hangover firmly weighing down, and no clue what to expect, we stepped onto the sandy battlefield thoroughly unprepared. We were met by a rugged looking, quick-spoken gladiator trainer called Alexander. We were told to strip off and change into our training gear, which consisted of a big t-shirt and a rope belt. The rare choice to wear underpants, despite the ninety-eight degree heat, was a good one.

After spending the night in the best bed on earth at the Rome Cavalieri hotel, life seemed to be at an all time high. Now we were covered in the spit of a shouting Italian man in a dress. How fickle fate is. The few Anglo-Italian words we could make out told us to assume a strength test position, where lifting our arms became near impossible.

Then we got swords

After a change of underwear from trying a bit too hard, it was on to battle. Armed with wooden training swords, or Rudis as they are known, we were taught four basic attack and defence moves. Suddenly Russell Crowe deserved a lot more respect as even the most basic of combinations left us picking splinters out of our parts. On top of that Alex demanded we squat and run while in that position to stay ‘forte’ as he called it.

Imagine assuming a seated position, without a chair, for ten minutes, and that’s near to the screaming pain our legs were suffering. The thought that real gladiators had to deal with this intensity of training on top of their fear of death was staggering. It all proved too much for one trainee who ran off and emptied his guts into a brass replica helmet. Alex was angry – we suffered more while being shot with a hose.

The battle royale
The day culminated in a battle of swords, tridents and nets where the winner was allowed to live and all the others were fed to the lions. Or so we liked to pretend. Needless to say we fought bravely and secured a second place (out of four, one being a girl), which in real battle would mean death. It was off to the Coliseum for a tour, followed by a trip to the hotel bar to top up that hangover and forget we had just died in battle.

You can experience a day training as a gladiator yourself or if you're not up for going to Rome we have a challenge a little closer to home. Or, since Gladiator is now out on Blu-ray you could live it all from your couch. Still feeling riled up and energetic? Do you reckon you've got the speed to beat FHM in a running race? Click here to beat FHM running.