by Carrie Adams

Mount Whitney

Hey Spartan nation… who’s heading to California this weekend to race?  Did you know that California’s Mount Whitney measures as the highest peak in the lower 48 states? Its most famous climb is Mount Whitney Trail to the 14,495 feet summit?  That sounds like a fun weekend training hike…

In honor of the California Spartan race, I’ve concocted a delicious energy-boosting smoothie inspired by “The Land of Milk and Honey.”  For all you Spartans out there running this weekend, make sure you fuel up before you head out and destroy the course.  With hearty oats, healthy fats, protein and carbs, this balanced drink is just what a Spartan needs before a race.

So-Cal Spartan Smoothie Recipe

1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt

3/4 cup fiber-rich rolled oats

1 tablespoon flaxseed

1 cup of milk

1 tablespoon honey

1 banana

1 large carrot

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 – 2 scoops whey protein powder

Ice

Put all ingredients in a blender on chop, then pulse, until desired consistency.  Enjoy!

by Harmony Heffron

image credit http://www.omega3heals.com/flax-seed/flaxseed-is-old-school-now-part-1

One of the oldest know crops grown for fiber, flax is also an amazing superfood.

The health benefits of flax have been known for so long that King Charlemagne even ordered his subjects to eat it. Today, these benefits  are beginning to be scientifically supported. Flax is best known for containing omega-3 fatty acids, but it also contains high amounts of dietary fiber and micro nutrients. Flaxseed is thought to be useful in treating high cholesterol as well as stunting the growth of breast and prostate cancers.

The omega-3 acids contained in flaxseed are what primarily benefit athletes. These can reduce inflammation, help repair cell membranes and support the immune system.

Flax is available processed into flaxseed or linseed oil. In this form it can be an easy addition to many dishes you prepare and eat already. Simply add a teaspoon or two at the end of the recipe to what ever dish you are already making. Soups, curries, stirfries, salads and porridge are all good choices to add flaxseed oil to. If you’re in a rush, you can take it straight as well. Flaxseed is also available ground, whole, as sprouts and in capsule form.

Try sprinkling ground flaxseed over your cereal or a salad, adding it to bread or other baked goods, or throwing it in a smoothie for a flavorful fiber burst!

Consumed even during  the age of the ancient Spartans, flaxseed is still a good health choice for the modern warrior.

by Carrie Adams

image via La Repubblica

Spartan Race reader Luke Roberts asked for some words of wisdom on cleaning up the kitchen after meals. It’s all fun and games until the dishes need washing!  I can spend hours happily in my kitchen planning and preparing meals, eating with friends and family, but when I find a looming stack of dishes waiting for me, I always shudder.  Luckily, I have found ways over the years to ease the burden, speed up the process, and keep it all in perspective.

1.     Slave labor

Make it a joint effort!  I bet you have roommates, a significant other, friends, neighbors, or kids who you regularly eat meals with.  Sharing the prep and clean-up time makes the process much easier, faster, and more fun.

2.     Liven it up

My kitchen has a permanent iPod player that is always turned on.  It’s so much easier to scrub quinoa off a pot when your favorite tunes are playing in the background.  If you really get after it, you can burn up to 140 calories an hour!  Disclaimer: Be mindful of dancing if the floors are wet after mopping.  I say this with experience – you only make that mistake once (maybe twice).

3.     Clean as you go

I like to put things away as soon as I am done with them.  It makes the mess more manageable when all is said and done and it keeps my pantry and fridge as organized as is humanly possible.

4.     Bigger Picture

Eating clean is arguably one of the healthiest ways to fuel your body, but it does take a little time in the kitchen.  The alternative is disposable food from fast food joints but then you are stuck with a messy, tired, unhealthy body.   A few minutes of tidying up after your clean meals in the kitchen can add years to your life and your body will thank you for that.

by Keith Grogg

image via naplesnews.com

Believe it or not, you can get fit by holding still. Isometric exercises, also known as “static strength training,” are exercises that you can do which require no movement at the joints. Although isometric exercises are not a replacement for normal resistance training, you may find that when injured or at the office full movements are not possible. If you have a little space, try these.

The Plank:

This is probably the isometric exercise that you’ve seen or done most often. Used in combination with other workouts to train your core, the plank is done with your forearms on the floor in a modified pushup position and your abdominal muscles contracted. Your abdominals should be contracted enough to keep your back in a straight line.  Hold this position until you can no longer keep your back straight.

The Bridge:

The bridge is very similar to the plank except that you are oriented to your side. Hold your weight on the floor with your forearm propping you up. Maintain a straight back and keep your abdominals tense!

The Flexed Arm Hang:

Start with a horizontal overhead bar and pull off the ground. Keep your arms in a flexed position and maintain the position as long as you can. This is a great way to work your way up to pull ups.

Many other exercises like these can be performed by utilizing your body weight or shifting your center of balance and don’t require much or any movement.

by Carrie Adams

The food pyramid is an excellent way to ensure you are eating the right foods, in the right combinations, and the right portion sizes. The old pyramid just didn’t work for me, so I created my own! It breaks down how to eat clean each day with practical suggestions and recommendations.

• Drink lots of water (2 or 3 liters a day)

• Eat a colorful and varied diet of whole, unrefined, and unprocessed foods.
What does that mean? If it grew in the ground, you can pronounce it (sodium benzoate is not naturally occurring in nature), and/or if it had a mother you can eat it. Think about what you see on the perimeter of your grocery store…

• Avoid processed sugars and white carbs or foods with a high glycemic index.
White breads and white rice have delicious whole grain (NOT multi-grain) substitutes so you can avoid those processed foods altogether.

• Avoid saturated fat and trans fats, and instead substitute healthy, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
So, no French fries – try a handful of almonds or peanut butter spread on live grain toast and no milk chocolate… dark chocolate instead but an ounce or two at a time.

• Always combine complex carbohydrates (most fruits and veggies) with lean protein at every meal.
Pairing a protein and a complex carbohydrate is the most efficient way for your body to digest your food and convert it into energy NOT fat.

• Spread your food out over 5-6 smaller meals, consumed every 2 ½ -3 hours. 
Try to eat smaller meals each time.  Giving your body high-quality (NOT high-quantity) calories ensures that you won’t be hungry and that your blood sugar won’t crash, leaving you asleep at your desk at 3 PM.

• SIZE MATTERS.
Practice portion control. One serving size of complex carbs like fruits and veggies is about two handfuls.  One serving of protein is about the size of the palm of your hand, and one serving of healthy fats is a small amount – like a dozen almonds, a couple pieces of dark chocolate or a tablespoon or two of olive oil on your salad.

• Eat for maximum nutrient density.
In other words, avoid “empty” calories found in fast food, soda, snacks, cakes and cookies, and substitute nutrient-dense foods. Quality calories fill you up faster, longer, and help your body function like a machine. 

• Enjoy your food.
Food is supposed to be something you enjoy. Eating clean lets your body experience flavorful, hearty, and delicious wholesome food.

by Carrie Adams

[Editor's Note: We're extremely excited to welcome Carrie Adams to our writing team.  She will be giving us her insight into diet, nutrition, and clean eating.  You can keep up with her on her blog, www.keepingitclean.org.]

“One should eat to live, not live to eat.”  – Cicero

I am a single mom of two beautiful girls, I work full time, I am an active triathlete, and I am a clean eating advocate for physical fitness and overall well-being.  There is something very holistic about taking care of yourself so you can take care of others using your best and most authentic self.

We live in an instant gratification society- let’s face it, that’s why so many people find themselves heavy, unhealthy, tired, sluggish and unhappy.  The fact is that 80% of your health has to do with what you put in your mouth.  You are what you eat.  It’s just that simple.

When you eat “clean” you are not only directly initiating a process to fire up your metabolism and melt off excess pounds, but you are giving your body nutritious and wholesome foods.  This optimizes your performance and effectively wards off health risks like heart disease, stroke, cancers, high blood pressure, and type II Diabetes.

My clean eating journey started with a goal of wanting a healthy lifestyle I could sustain long-term and share with my daughters.  I wanted my family to be healthy, but I wanted it to be fun, easy to maintain, and delicious.  With the help of some clean eating books and websites I made changes slowly, and now it’s second nature.

I cook all the time– it’s my passion.  I surround myself with people who are positive and supportive.  I do have imperfect days, but it’s a lifestyle, it’s not a diet.  You have to begin by asking yourself what I did when I started this journey of eating clean and focused training:

“I gave my life to become the person I am right now.  Was it worth it?” –Richard Bach

by Anthony Adragna

Jordan Waxman trains for a marathon on his stationary bike | image via WSJ

Today is a day to keep your significant other in mind.  And to make sure that you’re not using exercise to keep your distance.

It turns out that some people are doing just that.  The Wall Street Journal warns of another unintended consequence of tackling a new fitness regimen that every Spartan Race participant should seek to avoid: creating an “exercise widow or widower.”

Profiled in the article are a series of married couples that deal with incorporating exercise into their relationships.  Marriage counselors have noted an increase in couples dealing with problems brought on extreme exercise regimens.

One of the couples profiled is the Waxmans. Jordan works at Merrill Lynch during the day, but manages to incorporate one to two hours of physical activity during the weekdays and upwards of five hours during the weekends. In addition to the exercise, Mr. Waxman often avoids the meals the rest of his family eats and goes to bed by 9 every night.

Unlike other marriages that failed under the demands of exercise, Mr. Waxman makes certain sacrifices. He eats dinner with the family every Friday, has a date night with his wife on Saturday and incorporates the entire family into his vacation plans.  When pressed, he acknowledges that his lifestyle is “selfish.”

This past September, he completed a long-term goal when he swam across the English Channel. He hopes that the feat will help his family understand what pushes him to such physical extremes.

So, Spartan Racers, make time for both your loved ones and training. Maintaining a happy life could depend on striking the right balance. For the stories of other couples, see the rest of the article.

photo c/o Wall Street Journal.  Jordan Waxman trains for a marathon on his stationary bike.

by Anthony Adragna

image c/o “Oregon Women’s Report”

In addition to some of the positive benefits that exercise brings— weight loss, positive body image, increased academic performance— The Montreal Gazette reveals some of the odder side effects that come with physical activity. Among the side effects included in their list:

1. Passing Gas: Leg lifts and crunches (which occur quite often during core work and yoga especially) increase pressure around the body’s midsection. Avoid foods like dairy, beans and broccoli before working out, if you don’t want to let one rip.

2. Coregasm: An especially intense core workout can sometimes trigger an orgasm. Yet another reason to do exercise!

3. An Allergic Reaction: It’s true, some people are actually allergic to exercise. In less than .5 percent of population, exercise can cause hives, wheezing and flushing.  To avoid the allergic reaction, steer clear of foods that you have a known allergy to and carry an epinephrine with you at the gym.

4. Heartburn: This is usually caused by the meal you ate before your workout. However, don’t take any chances and stop exercising once you note any chest discomfort.

For the rest of the list, see the Gazette article online.

image c/o “Oregon Women’s Report

by Harmony Heffron

image c/o fashionfame.com

When I go to the gym, comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict movement as well as running shoes are necessities. Some people don’t feel this way, to say the least. Spartans beware! Athletes do not wear these things to the gym:

Exercise shorts that were once (and still are!) underwear: Too short, too thin and giving away too many anatomical details, these shorts do not appear to be made for exercise. They look like underwear. Maybe it was laundry day, I don’t know. What I do know is that any other pair of shorts, rather it be swim trunks or denim cutoffs, would an improvement.

Work boots: They track mud and debris everywhere, leaving the gym a mess. They also have bad arch support, not a good choice for running a few miles on the treadmill.

Suits and jeans: Looking nice is nice, I won’t argue. Wearing clothes that impede your movement and limit your exercise routine, though, is silly. There is no way you can properly exercise if you constantly have to be careful not to wrinkle, sweat on or rip what you’re wearing.

Pushup bras and thongs: Maybe you feel better working out when you look attractive and sexy and that’s just fine. However, accidently flashing the gym your ‘goods’ is not okay. The same goes for men wearing short shorts with ‘improper support’.

Image Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/54165622@N00/146360654

by Harmony Heffron

What does it really mean to be called a Spartan? Greek warriors, minimalists, and extreme athletes have all used this title. In the Oxford Dictionary, Spartan is given three different definitions:

Spartan: adjective: relating to Sparta in ancient Greece.   noun: a citizen of Sparta.

Spartan: noun: a Canadian dessert apple of a variety with crisp white flesh and maroon-flushed skin.

Spartan: adjective: showing or characterized by austerity or a lack of comfort or luxury

To start with I think we can be sure that when we athletes are called Spartans we are not being referred to as Canadian dessert apples, although I apologize to any of our readers that are sweet Canadians with crisp wits and maroon-flushed skin, you all are certainly Spartans too.

Now some of the Spartans out there reading this may be from Greece, but not ancient Greece, so that definition doesn’t exactly fit us either. Although, when we look at the behaviors of the Spartans in ancient Greece, they certainly share some attributes with modern Spartan athletes.

They were unrelenting in battle, as we are in our races and athletic events. They trained hard and with great determination and focus, as we train our minds and bodies in the gym and on the field. The ancient Spartans were also brave, choosing to die in battle rather than come home in defeat. Now, we modern Spartans don’t die in a race rather than lose it, but it does take a lot of bravery to choose to compete, to choose to put ourselves out there and race against others.

If we take a look at the history of the word Spartan we start to see how it came to relate to us now. It started to be used first around 15 CE. to describe the ancient Greeks hailing from the area of Sparta, also known as Laconia. From Laconia, we also get the word laconic, meaning concise or abrupt. The use of the word laconic came from the ancient Spartans’ habit of replying to questions in a short, witty and sometimes abrupt way. For example, a Spartan mother replied to her son when he complained that his sword was too short, “Add a step forward to it.”

The ancient Spartans were also known for showing great austerity and the discipline to go without comforts and luxuries. So, in the early 1640′s, the word Spartan started to be used as well for people who shared these traits with the ancient Spartans, regardless of where they came from.

Today, Spartan is frequently used in a broader context, not just to compare people with the austerity of the ancient Spartans, but to compare them to the ancient Spartans bravery, physical determination and unwillingness to back down. Perhaps it’s time for the dictionary to add a new definition:

Spartan: adjective: athletically minded, extremely determined, unwilling to give up

Words reflect the meanings we attribute to them, they evolve through time to fit modern context and needs. So, when someone calls you a Spartan, make sure you act like one.