by Alec Blenis

393595_10150389196771861_251061411860_8883561_1155940080_nAt times running over 100 miles per week in freezing temperatures, he takes endurance to a whole new extreme. Placing third in the Spartan Race World Championship, he won the World’s Toughest Mudder competition just two weeks later. Mechanical engineer by day, hardcore endurance athlete by night, he often doesn’t finish his grueling workouts until after midnight. This extraordinary gentlemen is known by some as Pak-man.

Sparta, meet Junyong Pak.

Junyong, 34, was born to a loving family in Korea. To survive the harsh winters in his homeland, extra body fat was sometimes a necessity. Always slender however, Junyong was actually considered unhealthy by his family. Now living in Boston, perhaps it is this background which helped him win the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24 hour test of endurance in which icy waters and harsh weather kept all but ten of the initial competitors from even finishing the event. With a 2:33 Boston Marathon finish previously this year, it’s no surprise that he did well. Second place was more than four hours behind. “I could have run farther,” he says, “but I didn’t want to get hurt.” Junyong has other big races coming up…

Junyong started racing in middle school when a friend convinced him to join the cross14641_590787849279_2811400_34885900_7814527_n country team. Never one to disappoint, Junyong ran hard for his high school coach but, regrettably, he didn’t run in college. He had always wanted to run an obstacle course competitively, but “there was nothing like [Spartan Race] when I was growing up,” he says. When he saw an ad for Spartan Race a few years ago, he jumped on the opportunity. An inspiring athlete, Junyong always places well at Spartan Races. With another successful racing season behind him, Junyong has big plans for 2012. He’ll be running in multiple Spartan Races: the infamous Spartan Death Race and the Spartan Race Championship to be held in Killington, Vermont.

So how does he balance a full time job and personal life with his rigorous training? Admittedly, he is not a morning person. He does all of his workouts when he gets home from work around 10:00pm, tired and hungry. It’s not always easy though. “Not working out is simply not an option. The rest of life starts when you’re done training. I just make it happen.” Junyong has no secrets. In fact, his training log is available for all to see online. What separates him for his competition is his grit, work ethic, and passion to succeed. He envisions each workout as the one that will make him a better and stronger athlete than the rest.

This year at the Spartan Race World Championships in Glen Rose, Texas, Junyong briefly overtook Hobie Call at the spear throw, only to be passed again at the herculean hoist. Never too far behind Hobie, the reigning champion, many wonder if Junyong has what it takes to claim the title next year. “Hobie’s on top,” says Junyong. “I don’t think anyone can beat him right now. I’ve gotten to be such good friends [with Hobie], I don’t think I would want to beat him even if I could.”

190201_194462037254114_126442634056055_566080_1122835_nI asked Junyong what new obstacle he would like to see in an upcoming Spartan Race. “A peg-wall… It would only be feasible for the top athletes, but it would be great to see at a championship level event.” This obstacle would be a wooden wall filled with holes. Athletes would climb the wall by hanging from two pegs which would would be moved from hole to hole.

Along with his World’s Toughest Mudder victory, Junyong took home a $10,000 prize.
“I’m giving it all to my dad,” he says. “The sacrifices he has made for our family are so great. He really needs to retire, and I want to help make that happen.”

It’s easy to see why everyone loves Junyong Pak.  We’ll be seeing a lot of Pak Man in 2012. 

Editor’s Note: Alec Blenis is an accomplished endurance athlete and Spartan competitor.  Finishing in the top three at several Spartan events and top five in the Spartan World Championships he was the youngest competitor in the field at 17 years of age. 

Tags: , , ,

by Carrie Adams

What would you do if you were alone in the middle of the densest woods in Maine and the battery on your headlamp died? In the midst of a competitive adventure race (involving paddling across lakes and towing canoes through the woods), you bushwhacked off-trail to find the next checkpoint, which had eluded your team.  You left your teammates behind on the trail, with a heavy cargo of canoes—and your spare batteries.

It happened to Brian Duncanson, Spartan Race CEO.  During one memorable adventure race, he and his teammates paddled across seven lakes, carrying their canoes with them as they walked through the woods that separated each lake from the next.  They searched unsuccessfully for the next checkpoint, until they were too burdened by the canoes to go further.  So Duncanson set out on his own to find it.

He was alone in the woods without a light or a friend or hope of contacting his team, who were out of earshot–when a member of an opposing team stepped in to help out. Using the light of his opponent’s headlamp, the two men managed to locate the next checkpoint and make it back to the trail, where Duncanson replaced his batteries.

Adventure races, like Spartan Races, are all about cooperation–not only between team members, but also between opposing teams. “There are many times during a race when it becomes advantageous to temporarily cooperate with another team,” Duncanson says.  ”Whenever we’ve found things and not told other teams, it always came back to bite us, because we may need their help down the road.”

Despite close calls like these, Duncanson stays passionate about adventure racing.  “I really like doing different things, and I love being outdoors,” he says.  But “the most interesting thing is the fact that there’s navigation involved.  It’s a mental challenge as well as a physical one, like solving a puzzle.” Adventure racers use only a map and compass to determine their path through wilderness and swampland.  In this way, adventure races are quite similar to Spartan Races: competitors’ creativity and ingenuity are tested, as well as their physical strength and endurance.

For Duncanson, life and career are no different from the extreme challenges and team mentality of adventure races.  He’s been competing in adventure races for the past ten years, and his team was even sponsored by Guinness.  Adventure racing led him to his job at Spartan Race, since he met co-founder Joe DeSena at a race event.  Duncanson’s chosen career, athletic event organization, reflects his commitment to adventure racing as well.

“You’re on a team, and working together,” Duncanson says, whether it’s out in the woods or in the office.  “Different people have different personalities and different strengths.  I see my job as not only organizing race events, but also blending different personalities together.”

Do Spartan Races have anything in common with adventure races?
Duncanson says yes.  ”Number one, it’s about having a new experience and doing something out of the ordinary.  I think that’s what attracts a lot of people to come out and do the events.  You sign up for a 10K and you know what you’re getting into.  Spartan races are something totally different and a little mysterious.”

Tags:

[Editor’s Note: Selica is director of Quebec and Ontario Spartan Race Markets. Richard is the director of the UK Markets.]

If you want to know how exactly Spartan Races came into existence, you have to look to the story of Selica Sevigny and Richard Lee, the British-Canadian couple that literally stumbled into Pittsfield, VT in spring 2009.

Montreal native Sevigny, 26, was working for Global television in Montreal in 2008 when she met the Iron Man finisher, and endurance athlete Richard Lee, 29.  He was on vacation and it was love at first sight.

In spring 2009, the pair was hiking south on the Appalachian trail to help Richard recover from a broken leg.  After 2000 miles, they hit Pittsfield, VT only a few days before the start of the Death Race, Joe De Sena’s brutal 48+ hour test of mental and physical endurance.  Richard was confident he was up to the challenge of the Death Race, and he dared Selica to do it with him.  She agreed, although she had never competed in an endurance race before.  But, she said in a recent interview, “I’m just a very determined individual.  When I set a goal, I try to stick with it and get through.”

Remarkably, despite his lack of preparation, Richard finished first in the race.  He said though he found the Death Race psychologically more difficult than the military training he received before sustaining military career-ending injuries.  Selica, who said the race was “by far the hardest challenge I’ve ever experienced in my life,” developed hypothermia during the race and was unable to finish.  She said, “Many times during the race, I could only put one foot in front of the other, but I thought, as long as I’m moving, I’m still in the game.”  Her determination and persistence led her to return for the winter Death Race  in December 2009, where she placed third.

Needless to say, the race made an impression on both.  “It’s so unpredictable that you can’t really train for it, and we really liked the idea of not knowing what’s coming,” Selica said.  “In a marathon or triathlon, you know exactly what’s coming.  In the Death Race, you don’t know the obstacles and you don’t know how to react.”

The day after the Death Race in 2009, Richard broke his foot, effectively stranding the couple in Pittsfield for a month.  In that month, they spent some time hanging out with Joe, and the idea for Spartan Races was born.  Selica and Richard, both inspired by the sense of accomplishment and confidence they felt after competing in the Death Race, wanted to offer that feeling to a much wider audience.  Due to its extreme nature, the Death Race is open only to the most elite athletes—those who have the time to train extensively.  “We wanted to invite just anybody, regardless of fitness level, to give it a try,” said Selica.

Why Spartan?  “We brainstormed to come up with iconic images of strength, bravery, and ingenuity.  Spartans were a small group, but they overcame so much adversity.”  Plus, the fact that the Spartans were an ancient people offers an appealing alternative to the questionable values of our modern society.  “The essence of what we’re doing is encouraging people to return to their ancient roots,” said Selica.  “Our ancestors lived in the woods, hunting and gathering as a daily lifestyle.  Now we depend so much on technology that people use a GPS system just to go for a walk.  Not only are we living a pampered life—we live a life where people get stressed by little things like having to wait for an elevator or being stuck in traffic.  We want to encourage people to return to the days of running in the woods, getting lost, challenging themselves, getting dirty.  Even just getting in contact with that for a day is fantastic.

“If the race inspires people to just get out of their comfort zone for a day, or if it inspires lasting change, then we’ve done our job.”

Tags: ,

by Carrie Adams

mike-morris“Anyone can get off the couch tomorrow and do a Spartan race,” says Spartan Race Director Mike Morris. “Sure, you might suffer, but the feeling you get when you cross the finish line is going to bring you back again and again.”

Morris, who selects venues and designs Spartan Race’s unique courses, knows what it feels like to cross the finish line after an arduous race. He’s a competitive adventure racer who has competed in multi-day races around the world. Adventure racing, for those who don’t know, is a sport in which teams of two to four people hike, run, mountain bike, and paddle for upwards of nine days across hundreds of miles. They navigate their own way through forest and wilderness, from checkpoint to checkpoint, eating and sleeping when necessary.

Since 2003, Morris has competed in Adventure Races in Vermont, Florida, Missouri, California, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Canada, Georgia, and Costa Rica, and has raced in the yearly United States Adventure Racing Championships three times. He’s no stranger to adversity on the trail. In one memorable instance, he developed knee tendonitis eight hours into a three-day race through the mountainous terrain of Vermont and New Hampshire. Every time he bent his leg, pain shot through his body.

Did he consider quitting?

“Of course,” he says. “The pain was really bad. But I knew I couldn’t let my team down, even though we had to go a lot slower because of my injury.”

Adventure racing can involve getting soaked in 40-degree pouring rainstorms, meeting up with alligators while paddling through Florida swamps, and at times even falling asleep while hiking or biking due to sheer exhaustion. You rely utterly on your teammates for support and guidance, which is why it’s important to compete with people you know well, according to Morris.

Morris knows that not everyone can afford the commitment of thousands of dollars it takes to buy a mountain bike and travel to compete in adventure races. He sees Spartan Race as an alternative that is accessible to everyone. “Spartan Races are an opportunity for people to experience something different that might intimidate them, but ultimately will be that much more rewarding if they finish,” he says.

Morris believes that absolutely everyone can benefit from racing. “I enjoy the challenges of endurance racing,” he says. “It all comes down to mindset, which in more challenging and longer races is equally, if not more important than physical abilities. I always say, ‘If I can do it, anyone can do it.’”

Tags: ,

by Carrie Adams

All too often we spend our waking hours trying to find and stay comfortable in our own lives. We look for short cuts, gadgets, and processes to make things easier, seeking what we consider personal fulfillment. We believe that there are things we can do and things that we can’t, and we become conditioned to that distinction. It creates our everyday reality and it makes us feel secure, because we think we know what to expect of the world and what to expect of ourselves. Enter Joe DeSena, the man who will turn that world upside down.

Growing up in Queens, Joe’s mother valued healthy eating and living and passed on that value system to Joe.   It’s been well-documented that he worked hard growing up and ultimately got to Wall Street, where he made his mark and made himself a small fortune.  He moved his family to Pittsfield, Vermont and quickly entrenched himself and his family in the local landscape.  Joe moved to Vermont in an attempt to get back to the way things used to be.

It’s also well-documented that Joe turned an interest in endurance racing into a passion.  His racing resume is the stuff of legends – over 50 ultra-events overall and 12 Ironman Events in one year alone.  Most of his races are 100 miles or more with a few traditional marathons in the mix.  (He once told me that my running a 26.2 marathon distance was “adorable.”)

To put it in perspective, he did the Vermont 100, the Lake Placid Ironman and the Badwater Ultra… in one week.  For those that don’t know or just don’t want to hear the gory details, the elevation climb for Badwater is over 8,500 feet up to Mt. Whitney and temperatures soar into the 120’s.   Joe also rode cross-country to the Furnace Creek 508 which has been coined “The Toughest 48 hours in sport.”  It’s no wonder his favorite quote is, “Death is the price we pay for life, so make it worth it.”

Montage of Joe racing

In 2005, Joe decided that the world needed a new race, something that had never been done. And so, together with Peak Races, he created The Death Race, a 24-hour mental and physical test filled with unknown obstacles.  Racers couldn’t and wouldn’t

know what to expect.  The fear of the unknown would either break or motivate, and all they could do was try to survive.  The race waiver consists of three words: “I may die.” It doesn’t get any more real than that.  No way to train, no way to prepare, just show up and make it to the end.  And don’t expect any love from

Joe or the volunteers.  They want to break these people, make them quit.  Joe’s been quoted as saying, “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. We’re basically holding your hand to help you quit. The same way life does, right?”

Tags: , , ,

by Carrie Adams

SR_ICON_LOGO_186“Never believe that a few people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead

Defining the soul of a race like Spartan took the collected effort of seven extraordinary people.  Inspired by the spirit of the Death Race, expect the unexpected and the brain child of endurance athletes, and mountaineers, the Spartan Race is the toughest series of events on the planet.  These individuals, dubbed the “Founding Few” in the inception of the Spartan Race obstacle racing series, these individuals have blazed new trails in their respective events, broken world records, and traveled the world seeking bigger and better challenges.  They bring that experience, that fire, to each and every Spartan Race around the World.

The people who bring you Spartan Race are the real thing.  They’re tough. They’re daring. They’re bold.  They’ve been out there, pushing themselves physically and mentally further than they thought possible, facing adversity and overcoming it.   Every member of the Spartan Race Team is dedicated and talented, many accomplished athletes, relentlessly pursuing the next level of competition and their own personal best. And each one of them brings this intense enthusiasm to Spartan Race and to its participants.

Here’s your chance to get to know them a little better.  The “Founding Few” who have blazed the trails as epic athletes of their own right, making Spartan Race the toughest obstacle race series in existence and the one and only Spartan Death Race, the World’s Toughest Race, period.   

For the next seven days, we’ll tell their stories and in a follow up series we’ll share the stories of those who hold it down at Spartan Race HQ each and every day. 

Hear their stories, be inspired, come out and race with us… you’ll never be the same. You’ll know at the finish line.

Tags: , ,

Introduction and Closure by Carrie Adams

“It’s simple…If you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history.  You’re denying who you are.” – Dr. Bramble

When Hobie Call crossed the finish line of the 2011 SoCal Super Spartan he was unknown.  His accomplishments, however remarkable, remained largely undiscovered and he was just a man with a plan that would take nearly a year to see through.   Crossing the finish in SoCal in early 2011, he was ending one race a champion but beginning another, the race of a lifetime for a man who thought his time may have passed.  While we, Spartan Race were introducing a new sport, Obstacle Racing to the masses, we were also unknowingly meeting the man who would come to define excellence in the burgeoning sporting event and who’s valiant efforts would inspire a community of Spartans to find their own path to glory.  He was featured in our SoCal video about Overcoming Adversity where we first heard part of his story. 

Hobie’s first Spartan Video, SoCal 2011

Venue after venue, race after race Hobie’s winning streak continued and almost every race he touched he owned. After SoCal, came many more races for Call to take on, even the Death Race, and despite his DNF at the Death Race and his loss at the Beast, his fans never faltered and the interest in what this humble man from Utah was pursuing grew.  His journey that began in California led him all the way to Glen Rose, TX and a shot at $10,000.  The cash prize heat was on the minds of many of our Spartan community when the heat took off at 3:30 on December 3, 2011 at Rough Creek Lodge.  With Xterra racer Josiah Middaugh hot on his heels the entire course, Hobie still crossed the finish line first earning him a check for $10,000 and the right to call himself Spartan Race champion. 

In his own words, he remarks on a year of racing and on where he started, how he’s changed, how very thankful he is as an athlete, husband, and father. 

081016_hobiecallOh what a remarkable year!  I was 33 years old and my best athletic accomplishments were virtually unknown to the world.  I’ve logged a 4:40 mile on a treadmill with a 40 lb. vest on, a 17:36 5k on a relatively slow course with a 40 lb. vest on, and I had lunged a mile with a 40lb. vest on in 34:01. (and I don’t use my hands to help when lunging, lunging is a leg workout). Guinness world records wouldn’t recognize my lunge mile because apparently lunging a mile without any weight is hard enough.

I was disappointed enough about the lunge mile, that I never bothered to see if there were even records established for the runs with the 40 lbs. Anyway, in the midst of producing these records, I moved to the city where the smog is too thick, the winters are too cold, and my new job took too much time and energy to train properly to continue to improve. Of course, I’m not one to settle for mediocrity, so I tried anyway. This just caused me to get injured.

I attempted for 1-1/2 years to get back into shape, but to no avail. My job was just too demanding. For the first time in my life, I decided that my chance to be a great athlete had passed. I would attempt a few marathons next year, make a few thousand dollars, and retire. It was a disappointing end to a lifelong dream. As winter settled in, I switched up my training, because running outside, in the dark, on cold icy roads, in the smog just didn’t sound like a good idea. I shortened my runs and focused more on building extra strength, which I could quickly transfer to endurance as soon as spring came. And I did aerobically intense upper body workouts a few times a week in place of my easier runs, so I could stay indoors to workout. 

Early in February, my wife showed me this race that someone had FaceBooked to her and she thought I would like it, so she showed it to me. I saw a picture of a girl crawling through a mud pit under barbed wire. I said no thanks, I’m not a big fan of mud. I don’t even like walking through it to get to my job sites!  But later, for some unexplainable reason, I decided to take a closer look.

310567_10150297865671861_251061411860_8456162_348277038_nAs I was researching the race, I came across an article where the race founder was offering $100,000 to any of the winners of the survivor show who could win his Death Race. And then on a whim (and just for publicity reasons I’m sure) he threw in “if anyone can win all of my other 2011 USA Spartan races I will also give them $100,000”. Nothing on his website said anything about this, nor any other article I could find. But that was enough to get me excited. I could handle a little bit of mud for a prize like that. I figured that as good as I was at running, I would actually be even better suited for a race like this because I had a lot more upper body stamina than a typical runner, especially considering the way I had been training for the last few months.

I talked to Irene (my wife), and we decided to give it a try. So, 2 weeks before the race, I clip_image005 (1)signed up, went and got some contact lenses, and spent every last penny we had to pay for gas to get to California.  And for the first time in many years, I remembered just how fun racing was supposed to be. I felt like a kid all over again. No boring road race here. I was running up and down hills, sometimes on trails, sometimes not. Over walls, under walls, through walls, crawling under barbed wire and through tunnels. Running through freezing water, jumping over a fire, pulling a bucket full of concrete up a pulley. Solve a Rubik’s cube, throw a spear…The list goes on. I was having the time of my life.

SRFL_AB_0012Well, as you can imagine Joe DeSena (one of the race founders) was happy to see someone take on his challenge. As the races progressed, so did the excitement. Joe was happy to see me winning, but was also getting nervous that I would actually win the $100,000. They couldn’t find anyone to challenge me. But, as he was quick to keep reminding me, he still had his Death Race, and I had no chance of winning that. I did a total of three Death Race training workouts. I had never tried working out when sleep deprived, and had no idea what we would even be doing for the race. But, I was healthy and had been working a full time manual labor job while also training for the other Spartan Races, so I knew my endurance was good.

But, the theme of the Death Race is to “expect the unexpected.” We started out by lifting rocks for six hours. As monotonous as it was, I actually enjoyed it. Then we found my kryptonite. The cold. We hiked up a river in the middle of the night, in the rain, had to swim through a freezing pond seven times, and hike back down the river. The seven times through the pond were the seven hardest decisions I have ever made in my life. It’s amazing my body didn’t shut down on me. Anyway, I got held back with a small group of other people for going too slow, and had to wait until the very last person finished. By the time we finished doing group challenges, and arrived back at the farm, I was 1-1/2 hours behind the leaders.

262164_10150227079801861_251061411860_7837628_189769_nNo worries, the race was just getting started, and as long as I was warm, I was gaining on them. But it seemed that for every two steps forward, I took one step back. It was constantly raining, and my body was hypersensitive to the cold because of the night before. I had to wait out rainstorms, and change my clothes often to try and keep warm. Twenty-five hours into the race, I was approximately one hour behind the leader (Joe Decker, who would ultimately win the Death Race for the second year in a row), and gaining fast. Carrying a log up and down a mountain was my kind of fun. But just as things started to look up, a big storm hit as I was reaching the top of a mountain. I had to wait out the storm while my brother brought me a wetsuit. Then, while going down the mountain, I got lost. By the time I reached the bottom, I was over 2 hours behind. Now 29 hours into the race, I concluded that there was no way I could possibly win. So I stopped.

I still had a lot of races left this year, and there was no point in possibly injuring myself268274_10150227079701861_251061411860_7837627_4225439_n just to say I finished. I was not there to finish, I was there to win. So, the cold bested me before Joe ever got the chance to. I won’t be naïve and say that I would have won if the cold wouldn’t have been so severe. The endurance/strength, and sleep deprivation of the next 10 hours may very well have got the best of me. 

Leaving Pittsfield and the Death Race behind me, I had more racing to do before the year was done.  The agreement was, no Death Race win, no $100,000 but I wasn’t done.  People wonder why I continued to race after even when the $100,000 was gone, but if you understand me, it’s obvious. If my pursuit for excellence was driven by money, I would have quit 10 years ago. It’s always been my desire to inspire others to never give up, eat healthier, get out and exercise, take care of your body; it’s the only one you’ve got. These races were accomplishing that more than anything else I had ever done. Besides, I was having the time of my life. Well anyway, to keep this thank you letter from turning into a book, the rest as they say is history.

374691_10150389185026861_251061411860_8883400_172098013_nI would like to thank everyone for such a memorable year. I would try to mention names but would surely miss many of them. From everyone at Spartan Race (of which there are more than a few), the volunteers (many of which didn’t even race, but are just good people looking for an opportunity to help out), to those who donated money, those who put me up in their homes and drove me to the races and back and forth from the airports, and all of the fans with all of their encouragement and support.

I would also like to thank my wife and children, who for most of the year only lived on the386409_10150389197686861_251061411860_8883570_1579919594_n sacrificing end of things, but supported me anyway; my brother who took the time off of work to come to many of the races, and help make a workout video (that you can get at www.hobiecall.com). I would especially like to thank my Heavenly Father for blessing me with the knowledge, ability, and opportunity to be where I am today.

“I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.”  – William Shakespeare

We at Spartan Race would like to extend our own thanks and congratulations to Hobie Call for an epic year.  His kindness, generosity, dedication, and work ethic has come to represent the Spartan spirit.  Whether it was voluntarily pitching in at a pre-race packet pick-up in Malibu when we were overwhelmed with racers wanting bibs and chips, to chopping wood for fellow Death Racer, or posing for pictures, signing autographs, giving tips on training and nutrition to eager racers, and making fun videos and commenting on FaceBook questions, he’s a class act.  Always with a smile and always with honor and  integrity leading him we’ve loved having him as part of our Spartan community and look forward to 2012.

Tags: , , , , ,

by Dan Camp

Woman-Pull-upsWhile burpees are a Spartan staple, there are other exercises that will become a foundation to your Spartan fitness routine.  T

What does “form over reps” mean?  It simply means it is ALWAYS more important to execute the specific exercise properly with good form at a controlled tempo than to do it with shaky form at a faster tempo.  This includes both weight training and cardio moves.

Good form is basically about:
1) Understanding what muscle(s) you are primarily isolating.
2) Having your body in proper alignment
3) Knowing what other muscle groups are supporting the exercise in a synergistic manner.

Here are a number of moves, I will do my best to describe proper form and common pitfalls!

The Pull-Up
Pull-ups are one of the hardest thing in the world to do, literally.  It takes a lot of control and upper body strength.  What most people don’t realize is that they are truly a BACK exercise.  Try this: stand up and bend at the waist like a hinge.  Now, bring your shoulder blades together, but try to do it without moving your arms.  Congratulations! You just isolated your back.  That feeling of “engaging” the back is essential before you execute a pull-up.

Now go to the pull-up bar.  Clasp the bar with your thumbs around the bar, palms facing away from you.  Hang and make sure you are in proper alignment by NOT collapsing your shoulders.  Now engage the back by slightly pulling your shoulder blades together like I described above.  Now keep your elbow in as you bring your chin over the bar and slowly lower yourself!  What you’ll find is that as you build your arm strength you might be able to muscle yourself over the bar a few times with your arms and shoulders only, but realistically to up your pull-up number, your back has to be involved.  It really is a synergistic move where many upper body muscle groups work together, but the back is the driver.  For a slightly easier pull-up, try a chin-up which has the palms facing in.  On this pull-up, the biceps are also integrally involved.

One last note, make sure to bring yourself all the way down in between pull-ups, don’t go halfway down and then use your body to “kip” up, at that point you aren’t using the full muscle groups in your back and are also using your body’s momentum to get you up.
Now, when doing modified pull-ups, like with the chair, ALL of these principles still apply.  Engage the back and go all the way down!

The Squat
If you do P90X Plyo or an Insanity workout and your quads are sore, but your glutes are squat - Ringwood sports massagenot sore, you might be doing something wrong with your squat.  It’s important when doing any kind of squat, whether you are jumping, standing, doing a leap frog squat, a squat switch pick-up, or whatever, that you TAKE A SEAT!  A squat is bringing you butt back while bending your knees and putting the weight on your heels!  This means you should almost feel as though you are going to topple over backwards.  To really test this see if you can ever so slightly lift your toes off the ground.

Additionally, whenever you do a type of squat where you touch the floor on the way down, make sure your head always stays up, your butt always stays down, and your back stays mostly straight, and you don’t arch it.   If you bow your back and look at the floor you are cheating yourself out of precious inches!!  Always keep your eye on the TV when doing these types of squats, it makes sure you are looking up.

The Curl
Biceps curls, easy right?  Not necessarily!  In order to really isolate your biceps, hold the weights with your elbows at your sides, and while gripping your weights have your palms facing out.  Now, slowly lift the weights keeping your elbows at your sides, don’t let them “drift” forward!  Additionally, don’t bring the weights ALL the way up so that they hit your shoulders and are in a resting position.  You should actually squeeze the biceps and do an isometric hold just at the top point while it still feels difficult, then slowly bring the weight down again.  That is the basic biceps curl.  Adjust from there if you are doing single arms, cross-body, hammer curls, twisting grip, etc.  Unless you are doing something like “21′s” where you intentionally do curls halfway up, make sure to bring the weight all the way down between reps.

If you are standing, the back is always somewhat involved with a biceps curl, but it’s important for you to make it as much about the biceps as possible.  That is why preacher curls, or Tony’s “crouching Cohen curls” are great, because they further isolate the biceps.  These almost always call for a lighter weight than a standard curl, but you really feel the burn!

Whether you use a barbell, or dumbells, this form is of utmost importance if you want guns! (girls too!).  The benefit of the dumbbells is that each arm is pulling the exact same weight.  Sometimes with a barbell, if you have a stronger arm, that arm will take a little more of the load.

Those are just 3 exercises, but I hope my description gave you a little insight into them!  If you have other moves that you think you need help with, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help you!  Basically, when you use good form, you not only reduce the risk of injury, but you complete the exercise as it is intended and work the correct muscle groups at the right times.  Even if you do fewer reps, using proper form often “elongates” the moves, whether it is a lower squat, or a larger range of motion on a weighted exercise, which in the end gives you move burn and more results!!

[Editor’s Note: Dan Camp is a certified STRIDE Instructor and a certified Sports Nutrition Consultant who has raced with Spartan in Staten Island.  Dan Camp’s posts from http://fitasylum.com/ will regularly be making an appearance on the Spartan Blog.]

Tags:

I hadn’t worked out in 20 years.  This spring, I decided I was tired of it all!  So, I begged a friend to let me lift weights and workout with him.  Between our schedules, we were sporadically working out once a week or so.  When I started, I couldn’t lift the bench press bar alone off the rack.  I couldn’t run one town block.

This sporadic workout regime kept me going through the summer, and even though I didn’t do enough I did see some small results.

I planned to do a few Warrior Dashes, and those dates passed me by, obligations got in the way.  Then along came Month of Denise (what I call the celebration of my birthday month). It’s the month when I focus on doing things FOR ME, and focus on what makes me happy each day.  Kind of finding the good in each day…  Anyway, I decided that this should be the month that I do my warrior dash!  Then I looked again and realized it was 4 and a half hours away. A friend told me about the Midwest Spartan Sprint, and said, “It’s just like the warrior dash, only it’s an hour away, same day!”  We signed up about 10 days before the race, maybe 12.

SO, I signed up, and coaxed my friend into doing it with me by telling her it’s just like a warrior dash!!  Oops, was I wrong.  I did a little more research, and wondered what in the world I’d gotten myself into!  I still wasn’t working out more than once a week; I was hardly running, and I sure couldn’t climb a rope or do a burpee!  But we signed up, we showed up, and we did not give up!  The more I looked at Spartan Race, the more I realized I’d stumbled upon an awesome group: people who weren’t in this for the business, but were in it to improve people’s lives!

I still don’t run much; I do workout more, but I am a Spartan! I am strong.  I will never quit. I will always continue to try to make myself a better person.

My knees no longer ache.  I don’t get winded playing with my kid, and I can wave to someone without the back of my arm waving back.  Small steps perhaps, but definitely steps in the right direction.

~ Denise Hall

By Maurya Scanlon

Historically, Spartan women were quite possibly the toughest women on the planet.  After all, it takes a warrior to raise one.  Today, that tough, fighting spirit still drives women to achieve amazing feats.  Rose Marie Jarry has used the strength and courage characteristic of a Spartan woman not only on our courses but also in her business-life.  I recently had the pleasure of conversing with this amazing woman: the founder of Kronobar.

Jarry has been an athlete almost her entire life.  “For many years I competed nationally in Track and Field running the 400m and 800m. Competition also gives me an excuse to take care of my body; I only eat healthy… It keeps me feeling young!” she shared.  That competitive spirit and passion for health and fitness carried over into her adult life and are what inspired her to train for and race Spartan Races.  She has “[run] about 11 Spartan Races to date! And [she’s] completed the Spartan trifecta: the sprint, the super and the beast.”  It’s no surprise that someone so active and dedicated to racing and being fit would create a product geared towards athletes.

Jarry, an artistic woman with a passion for flavor, studied “gastronomy at a well-known school in Montreal.”  It’s no surprise, then, that Kronobar started out in her own kitchen.  “At first I just wanted to make a nutritious snack for my own training…I needed something tasty and healthy, but couldn’t find anything on the market that satisfied me.” At that, Jarry decided to make her own recovery snacks.  “I made a few flavors and gave some to my friends, who asked if I could make more. It was once several gyms and sports shops in the area started asking for bars that I realized I had something special.”  Kronobar took off from there!  I asked her if she noticed any similarities in her attitudes towards business and racing.  She replied, “What I love about racing is that you keep pushing your limits and realizing that you’re capable of way more than you expected. When I apply that same mentality to my company, good things tend to happen.”  Good things like awesome partnerships!

Kronobar became a partner with Spartan Race when it sponsored the second ever race in Mont-Tremblant.  Jarry explained, “It was a total success, so we’ve been partners ever since! ..But to be honest, it wasn’t a business decision to partner-up. It was mostly that I wanted to run (and win) the race; which I did. And then I caught Spartan fever!”  We can’t blame her!  The partnership continues providing opportunities for racers such as the “Krono challenge” for all the Canadian Spartan Races.”  This challenge, she explained, is another way for her to race.  “Any female competitor who beats me will get free Kronobars and a bunch of other prizes. We also have a guy running on the Krono team, so if any male competitor beats him, they’re also eligible for the prizes.”  She added with a little laugh, “Last year no one beat me, so I’m hoping for more competition this year!”

That sounds like a challenge to me, Spartans!  I encourage each of you to take the opportunity to be a part of the Krono Challenge in the Canadian 2012 season.  Jarry and her team will challenge you to have the race of your life, after which you can indulge on a delicious Kronobar!