Originally posted in Dirt in Your Skirt

by Margaret Schlachter, Spartan Chick

It is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed… But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical will live the relation to another as something alive.“ ~ Rilke

In life sometimes we are presented with opportunities. These opportunities may only present themselves once so when given the chance you can either continue along with your life or take the opportunity and see where it goes. A couple of months ago I was in a conversation about a new program starting through Spartan Race called the Certified Spartan Coach Program. I was lucky enough to make into the first certification weekend. This is how I found myself in Pittsfield this past weekend, experiencing a life changing two days surrounded by truly incredible people. But it all started with the application…

THE APPLICATION

Not just anyone can apply to be a Certified Spartan Coach, the mandates include training specific from one or the major organizations (ACSM, NSCA, NASM or ACE) or a four year degree in Exercise and Sports Science. Yes, this is a no joke certification. It was even asked for proof of this certification. All applicants were required to have five years working experience and a resume to back this up. We were each required to write two different essays the first of many more essays to come regarding our ideas on coaching and training.

To prove we weren’t just gym rats we were asked if we had completed in the last five years this short this: 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge, Marathon or longer, Century bike ride, or 50 mile mountain bike ride, 2 mile swim,  Super Spartan or greater. Again here we needed to include proof of results from races. A major part was do you live by the Spartan Code which included a list of several aspects of life.

Finally, the most rewarding part of the application was the letters of recommendations, eight from former or current athletes and an additional five character letters of recommendation. This was the most rewarding for me. I had letters of recommendation spanning from 10 year olds up through one of my former athletes who is now a Division 1 college athlete. It was wonderful to get to read what they all had to say about what they had learned from me. The most rewarding aspect was finding out the pieces that stuck with them the longest were the other pieces for many it was the emotional support I gave them and this struck home with me.

Dr. Jeff Godin who is in charge of the process I thanked as I submitted my 30+ page application for the exercise within itself was reward enough for me. However, I found out I would be making the initial cut and thus I found myself packing my bags on Friday and heading down the road.

THE PACKING LIST

Dr. Jeff is a veteran of the Death Race so when I got the packing list for the weekend I was not surprised at the randomness of some of the items. Our packing list included many basics; notebook, pens, pencils, snacks, workout attire, extra socks, calculator, copy of your consent form, jump rope, resistance band, and extra socks. None of these things stood out in my mind as strange items for a certification weekend.

The came the items that had the Death Race and Spartan Race flair to them; backpack, sleeping bag, headlamp, swim goggles, duct tape, first aid kit. But still being a Wilderness EMT and living in Vermont all of these items still seemed logical. Although this was the point where I was thinking we were going to be spending more time then they were letting on outside (sleeping bag).

Finally, the items that made you say WTF and scratch your head; “extra rope” no detail for what it was for, Aluminum foil, oven mitt (my thought cooking might be involved), and finally a copy of your favorite non-exercise book.  It was at this point I started to think carefully about what this weekend would actually entail. I sent Jeff an email:

Hi Jeff,

Not sure if your packing list is DR style or if you are actually going to give me a helpful answer. I spend far too much time around Joe. In the things you need list I had a question or two. 

1. Extra Rope – are we talking paracord like for rescue scenario or are we talking more like climbing rope or something like that. Also what lengths? I don’t need to begin to know what we are doing just want to have the right thing.

2. Aluminum Foil – For cooking or survival as in a foil wrap or heat blanket. I am assuming cooking but want to be sure.

3. Backpack, full on camping pack or light pack used for training.

His answer, DR style. So it was going to be one of those weekends. I packed with this thought in my head the whole time knowing it was a weekend which would most likely include very little sleep, high stress physically and mentally, and you would be judged at all stages of the weekend.

CERTIFICATION WEEKEND

Nothing with Spartan Race is easy nor is it ever a straight line. A weekend in Pittsfield is also never as it seems on paper. As I pulled into Trailside Lodge just 5 miles from my house armed with all I would need for the weekend I knew it was on. Quickly I got to meet my fellow candidates, an impressive group of people. We had trainers who work with college and professional athletes, CrossFit trainers, strength guys, MMA specialist, gymnastics backgrounds, Parkour Trainer, Movement Specialists, and many more. Over thirty people applied for the certification only seven were picked from this pool and an additional seven were invited based on experience and expertise. We had a highly knowledgeable and diverse group of individuals.

Friday

The weekend started off nice with some time to chat and get to know one another. At dinner we had a lively round table discussion regarding nutrition and supplements. This was the most relaxed the weekend would be. After our discussion the first of three tests began. We had two hours to answer over 350 multiple choice questions. Remember those scantron sheets you had in high school, yup it was one of those tests. The test was comprehensive to say the least, detailed questions regarding the all aspects of the body function and how it applies to fitness were asked. If you want this certification you better know all about ATP, the respiratory system, muscle development, how to train children, VO2Max and many more topics. The topics were diverse and at the end of two hours I found the questions blending together. I was also still about twenty short of the last one when we had to hand the test in. Yes, wish I had studied more for that one! Only two people in the room actually answered all the questions and one is a current doctoral student finishing his PhD in exercise science.

After the test we met as a group and were informed that Bikram Yoga would start at 6:00am and we had two options A) Run (5 miles) to yoga or B) Run back to breakfast after the yoga session. This was the easiest decision of the weekend. Yes it cut into sleep time but knowing Bikram running home was not the better option. Also the run there was all downhill. We were then told we could go to bed. Knowing Spartan Race I felt as if we were going to be messed with overnight. I slept in my yoga clothing with shoes and essentials less than a arms reach away.

(More to come from Margaret on Spartan Coaching weekend)

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by Mike Morris, Spartan Race Director

283422_10150251576106861_251061411860_8082902_6099537_nEarlier this year we announced the inclusion of the Ultra Beast.  A 26.2ish distance event to coincide with the Beast in Vermont in September.  IN addition to the new distance race, we announced that the race (both Ultra and regular Beast) would be mostly unsupported.  That means the athlete’s will have to provide for themselves their own nutrition, hydration, and fuel for the race.  To help athlete’s prepare, we have begun a series of posts designed to educate those taking part.

As a Race Director, I’m always trying to find new and creative ways to safely challenge our competitors.  Given the nature (and history?) of our Killington event its important this race continues to set the bar high.  Most of the Spartan Founders come from an Adventure Racing background; races lasting anywhere from 4 hours to 9 days with multiple disciplines, intensive navigation, and little to no support.  You could go days without seeing another person.  Proper planning of nutritional needs could mean a top ten finish versus needing to call in for an evacuation.  Even a “sprint” race required forethought on what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat.  Thus we thought it fitting to add an unsupported element to the event.  As you prepare for the Killington Beast, I want you to start thinking about those three things:

1. What

2. When

3. How much

If you can’t answer them as you face the start columns then you are going to have a hell of a time.  Consider these tips as you start to create your plan.

Water/Hydration.  You need it.  If you don’t carry any on the course you risk cramping,216632_10150251576831861_251061411860_8082923_6114783_n nausea, heat stroke, and a 99% of not finishing the race.  Start with 20 oz per hour and adjust as needed.   If it’s a hot day as you climb a double black diamond with a sandbag then you will wish you had more.  Since everyone will be on course for more than three hours, you should consider adding an electrolyte supplement (especially if you don’t get enough through your calorie supplements) to help prevent muscle cramps and keep your body working most efficiently at many levels. 

Calories.  The longer your race, the more you need per hour.  The more intense the activity, the more you need per hour.  Stay away from high fat and protein dense items, your GI tract will thank you later.  Stick with relatively high glycemic index foods, and shoot for around 100 calories per hour.  Big Spartans will need more, little Spartans could work with less. 

My next blog will include some specific examples of what to eat/drink.  In the meantime, do some homework of your own (some Google searching can be very effective), you’ll learn 10x more than my few blog entries can accomplish which will empower you to have more effective training and successful racing moving forward.

Aroo!

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by Carrie Adams

When Chris Davis drove into Pittsfield to embark on his weight loss journey, Spartan was ready for him.  The Spartan Coaching program, which is actively being developed under the watchful and thoughtful eye of Dr. Jeff Godin, who also happens to be a Death Racer, was ready for him.

The program  was developed and ultimately designed to help Davis transition through his journey deliberately and with measurable goals accounting for the various stages he’ll go through physically, mentally and emotionally.

Here is the breakdown.

Stage 1: (April 11-May 1) (Goal: 10 mile walk, Bikram yoga, lose 40 lbs)

Enthusiastic beginner (D)-A new athlete is usually motivated, enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity to do something new and move to a new place. This person is already very motivated, requiring only a limited amount of support from Spartan. What the person doesn’t have is much information about the tasks and-what exactly is needed, how best to approach the task, etc. They will listen during this period extremely well.

How: (Kung Fu, Raw food, walking with pancake)

Stage 2: (May – June1) (Goal: 20 mile walk, 4 Bikram yoga classes in a row, lose 40 lbs.)
Disillusioned learner/student (D2)-This stage of a transition occurs when “the honeymoon is over.” At this stage, the initial excitement of their new life has worn off, and some aspects of the Joe’s tasks have proved more difficult than originally anticipated. Because the athlete is still learning and has little to show for his or her effort, the difficulties new pain are especially frustrating. Expect the student to become vocal about his/her frustration and start to look for outside confirmation of the logical reasons he should quit.

How: (Kung Fu, Raw food with introduction of SOME other food, walking with pancake, swim 2 hours)

Stage 3(June 1-Aug15) (Goal: back to back 20 mile walks, Seven Bikram yoga classes in seven days, lose 60 lbs.)

Capable but cautious contributor (D3)-Once new athlete is completing a big task successfully, they demonstrate that they will reach their goal. But having only completed small success, the new athlete hasn’t had enough time to gain confidence in their abilities. As a result, the athlete tends to be overly cautious and reluctant to repeat their success with the job.

How: (Kung Fu, Raw and healthy foods, short jogs, Bikram Yoga)


Stage 4(Aug15-race day) (Goal: jog 20 miles, complete two Bikram Yoga classes in one day, swim five hours)
Self-reliant achiever (D4)-At this stage of development, an Athlete has demonstrated competence and commitment to doing the job that was asked of them, and has essentially become self-managed and can not only maintain their new life but might now help others.

How: (jogging with pancake, Bikram yoga, diet will depend on where we are weight wise)

Other:

-Ideally long walks, jogs will take place on Sundays.

-There will be many days that more work is added than planned.

-The targets will be “moving” based on small successes noticed.

-Days off will be active swimming

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Signature Founder’s WOD:  Barn Edition

This winter I had the pleasure of training with Joe Desena most weekday mornings.  We’d usually snowshoe up a nearby mountain with 40lbs sandbags.  Joe often accessorized with a 40lbs weighted vest.  The idea being to just get our strength and endurance fired up in an intense workout of climbing steep gradients usually lasting 60 minutes.  We’d wind down with the following Barn workout before starting the work day.  This WOD works great alone or when paired with a cardio based workout. – Jason Jaksetic

 

Barn Workout WOD

1. 30 Burpees
2. 30 Burpee/Pullups
3. 30 Pullups
4. 30 Box jumps
5. 30 Medicine Ball Squat Throws
6. 100 Jumping Jacks
7. 300 crunches
8. 30 body weight squats
9. 30 side kicks (each side)
10. 30 jumping lunges
11. 30 curls
12. 30 Tricip overhead presses
13. 30 frog jumps
14. 30 squat jumps
15. 3 x rope climbs

Stretch

Typically a workout like this is done after an outdoor workout.  Here is a short one to do first:

1. Stretch for 5 minutes
2. 10 x 100 yard sprints with 1 minute break between
3. 100 burpees
4. Slow 1 mile jog
5. Stretch for 5 minutes

My Journey to Sparta – The Chris Davis Project

by Jason Jaksetic and Chris Davis

4/27/2012

Yesterday when I said it was going to be an interesting day, I had no idea just how interesting the day would have turned out.

After I wrote my blog, I did some looking back on my run keeper account and found that that my 5.18 mile walk to the Spartan HQ office was the longest walk I have ever completed. I love the fact that I am breaking all of my previous records for walking up here.  Records are made to be broken.

Later in the day yesterday I had my first interview with a newspaper reporter. It is a surreal experience knowing that every word you say is being recorded, and will be used to make a story.   To say it’s a cool feeling is an understatement, and I feel nervous to see how it comes out.

After the interview, I got back to the office and Joe told me the words I had feared all day, “Chris, you get you walk back to the lodge tonight.”

I know the walk this morning for the most part was downhill, so you can imagine how much I was looking forward to the walk back home. Over five miles uphill on an empty stomach were in store for me.  With this on my mind, I started on my way back to the lodge.

I have been walking on the roads for two weeks now and I have only seen a couple of people that I know as I walk, but today was different.  It seemed like everyone I knew in town stopped by and asked if I wanted a ride back to the lodge, and I passed every time feeling like someone was testing me to see if I was going to give up.

I am glad to say I passed.  I made it all the way back to the lodge under my own power. After it was all said and done, I walked over 11 miles yesterday. A new personal record. Two records in one day… what a great feeling.

 

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Refer your friends to Spartan Race and earn rewards!  

Spartan Race’s mission is to rip one million people off of their couches and encourage them to start living a healthier, more fit lifestyle!  In honor of us hitting one million Facebook fans and one million people “liking” this mission, we’ve decided to launch a special, rewards program for our friends!  

Here are the details:  Refer your friends to register for a Spartan Race and we’ll reward you with a FREE race!  In addition, for each referred registration, we will be donating $1 to Team in Training (TNT)!  Team In Training is a fundraising program of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), a non-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c)3 organization and the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer.

For every 4 people you refer and get registered for a Spartan Race, you will earn a FREE pass to any Spartan Sprint Race!  

For every 8 referrals, you will get a FREE pass to the Spartan Race of your choice (a Spartan Sprint Race, a Super Spartan Race or a Spartan Beast Race)!

If you get 15 referrals, you will earn a FREE season pass!  That means, you can register for free to any and all Spartan Races of the 2012 season, as you’d like!

Get started HERE!

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Chris Davis is much smaller Spartan

Chris Davis is Shrinking

My Journey to Sparta – The Chris Davis Project:  Part 4

by Carrie Adams and Chris Davis

Since arriving at Spartan’s HQ in Pittsfield, VT Chris Davis has lost 28.2 lbs., well on his way towards his goal.  Under the watchful eye of Dr. Jeff Godin, the Director of Spartan Coaching a new part of Spartan Race, Davis is being monitored and his stats tracked as he trains and eats his way to a new life.  The picture below shows Chris’s progress from where he started at over 700lbs.  Here is his blog installment of April 24th. 

4/24/2012

Last night I started out taking it easy because I was still nervous about my hip. But as I progressed though my workout, I started to feel more and more confident.  By the end of the workout my hip was sore, but it did not give me any additional issues, so I hope we are over that potential injury. Now I just have to work to strengthen the muscles in my hip so I do not continue to have these kinds of scares.

This morning I had to wake up a little earlier than normal so I could get in a quick workout before going to my first speaking event. So I started out my morning with a two mile walk from the lodge towards Spartan Camp at 5:30am this morning. My ride showed up and took me the rest of the way to Camp. Once I was there we started starting doing ‘burples’, not quite burpees but close, followed by walking up the stairs with the 35Lb Yellow Spartan Pancake. We did this for about an hour.  So much for kung-fu this morning, but there is always tonight and tomorrow.

After my morning workout, I headed over to Castleton College and spoke to Andy Weinberg’s (A Spartan Race Founder) class on my experience on how I got to 700lbs and some of the challenges both physical and physiological that you cope with when you are that heavy. It felt good to tell them about my experience, I hope that my story will help them understand some of the challenges larger people deal with.

CLICK HERE:  for The Chris Davis Project Part 3

CLICK HERE:  for The Chris Davis Project Part 5

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Chris Davis in Vermont

Chris Davis in Vermont

My Journey to Sparta, The Chris Davis Project:  Part 3

by Jason Jaksetic and Chris Davis

 Last week we began to see how training at Spartan HQ was beginning to affect Chris Davis both mentally and physically.  This week we see the stress of training begin to take it’s toll even more.

There will always be bad days.  Sometimes the bad days roll into bad weeks.  And sometimes we can bounce right back.  Does Chris Davis have what it takes to lose so much weight and meet his goals of participating in the Vermont Ultra Beast?  Time will tell, we suppose. 

4/23/2012

Last night was a bad night for me.  I had started out the night doing my normal evening Kung Fu lessons, and things were going great.  I had completed several sets of stretches and I was working on my kicks when my right hip gave out. It felt like someone a had ripped my leg out of my socket.

I slowly made my way over to the wall and tried to some pressure back on it and that seemed to be ok.  So I tried to walk on it, and I started out limping badly, but the more I walked the better it felt.  So I kept walking on it for about 5 minutes. That was when Joe arrived back from the Indiana Spartan Race. He had me do some more stretches and then sit ups using the rope, and we called it a night.

I felt so disappointed in myself after my Kung Fu session. We have been working so hard to push my body without hurting it, and the one night I try to go through my work out without supervision I mess my hip up. Now the good thing at this point is that it looks like I just over exerted one of the new muscles that I have started to use. At this point I do not think I did and real damage, I just need to take it easy on it for a bit and slowing continue to build up strength in these new muscles.

This morning I woke up with a very sore back.  I think it is because I changed rooms last night at the lodge and the new bed… well it’s a little harder that I am used to.  OK, a lot harder that I am use to.  But I am sure that after a few nights of sleeping on it one of two things will happen:  my body will adjust to the new bed, or I will not be able to stand up.  It will be fun to see what happens!

This morning workout went good, my hip was a little stiff, but for the most part it did what I asked it to do without complaining too much.  Nothing like yesterday, which is a very good thing.  That helps me to believe that whatever I hurt yesterday is just temporary and should not set me back in the long run. So today is a good today.

Here is a video recap of Chris Davis’s first week in Pittsfield: CLICK HERE

continue to The Chris Davis Project:  Part 4…

read part 2 of the Chris Davis project…

 

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WOD for Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

~By James Villepigue CSCS & Hobie Call

www.ConquerAnyCourse.com

Hey gang! Todays’ Spartan WOD is once again brought to you by Gaspari Nutrition, pioneers in sports supplementation, including pre-race, intra-race and post-race performance.

Today’s WOD is a metabolic resistance training Burst Bout – In other words, we’ll be using resistance during each exercise Burst, but moving at a rapid pace to ensure an intense cardiorespiratory effect.

Your objective should be to try and use a ton of weight – you can use heavy weights, but please don’t sacrifice the quality of the exercise Burst for quantity, as your results will suffer. Choose a weight that is challenging, but something that you believe you can handle for the duration of today’s 40-second work time Bursts.

If you find that you must stop during your work time, then listen to your body and stop, BUT, if you don’t need to stop, then don’t quit! If you do need a breath, take it and then get right back into the Burst for the remaining work time.

Your goal with these types of metabolic resistance training workouts is to progressively add weight or repetitions during each successive workout – In other words, let’s say you used 40 pound dumbbells for the Incline Dumbbell Press and did 15 repetitions, the next time you perform that exercise during a WOD, either jump up to 45 pound dumbbells or shoot for 20 reps…or do both! If you did a Pull-up during today’s WOD and hit a 20-rep mark, next time shoot for more.

So, let’s get to it! Each of today’s Burst Bouts exercises will be performed using a 40/10 Work-to-rest ratio. Advanced exercisers should perform 3-5 Bouts aka Rounds of the 12 exercise Bursts. Beginners can start with 1-2 bouts and take it from there.

So that’s 40-seconds of non-stop work time and no more then 10 seconds rest as you transition from one movement to the next.

Again, remember: You want to keep the movements fast and smooth, but remember to always go at YOUR OWN PACE!

If you ever feel dizzy, nauseous or just weird, STOP, assess your condition and take it from there.

Here are your WOD Burst Bouts Exercises – 40/10 W-T-R

1.  Step-Ups – Set up either a workout bench or at least a sturdy chair or some other type of platform to step up onto. Remember to force the stepping leg to do all of the work and do not push off the back foot for help! Alternate legs.

2.  Chin-Ups – You’d be surprised where you can do a chin-up or pull-up. Look in your home for a sturdy ledge or outside for a fairly low hanging horizontal branch. Make it fun and challenging!

3.  Incline Chest Press – If you don’t have a bench, fold a bunch of towels up and prop your upper torso up, so that it’s angled from the floor – This angled position will allow you to focus in on the upper chest muscles and front shoulders.

4.  Piston Presses – Sit upright in a chair or 90 degree bench. Press one arm up at a time, creating that piston motion effect. This will both force each side of your body to work hard and will also engage the core to maintain that upright-seated position.

5.  Narrow Stance Squats – For focus on the outer quadriceps, take a less than shoulder width stance. When you squat down, really push the toosh out, stick your chest out and bring your shoulders back and down to ensure proper posture. Keep those knees behind the toes. Go as low as you can, getting as close to parallel, to really engage those legs and glutes!

6.  Pull-Ups – Same as chins.

7.  Flat Fly – You can either set up a bench or even lay flat on the floor for this one. One of my favorite pieces of training gear is a blow up fitness ball AKA Swiss Ball. They are incredibly versatile and quite inexpensive. Remember, that when you fly, you are only supposed to be moving from the shoulder joint and not extending or flexing at the elbows. As you’re bringing the dumbbells together, imagine hugging around a tree – This arching motion will help to keep the focus on the chest muscles.

8.  Upright Row – Take hold of two dumbbells and take a hip width stance, with feet straight, knees slightly bent, abs tight, chest pushed out and shoulders pulled back and held down. Bring the dumbbells in front of your body with palms facing your thighs. Now, lead the motion with the elbows angled up and out to the sides of your body and drag the dumbbells up the length of your body, keeping them about two inches away from your body. Stop when you reach chin height. As you drag/pull the dumbbells up, allow your hands to flex down, so that the dumbbells are actually held by your fingers. If you try to keep your wrists straight, you could apply too much pressure to the wrist muscles and connective tissue.

9.  Close Grip Bench Press – Just like the traditional barbell bench press or dumbbell bench press, where you lay flat on a bench or on the floor, but here you want to keep those elbows held in tight to the sides of your body. Now press the dumbbells up and focus on keeping the resistance upon the triceps muscles. The more you think about contracting your triceps, the more likely you’ll be to really fire them up!

10.  Incline Dumbbell Curl – For this one, you can either keep those towels propped up or invest into that fitness ball we mentioned. Lay back to create that upper torso angle and allow the arms to hang straight down to the floor (yes, your body will have to be adequately elevated to allow this). With arms fully extended, you will feel a nice stretch in the biceps muscles. Now flex at the elbow and keep those elbows pointing directly toward the floor throughout the movement. As you reach the midpoint of the exercise, contract aka “flex” your biceps muscles as hard as you can and then return to the start position.

11.  Dumbbell Kickbacks – I love this exercise, because it forces those triceps to really work hard. It’s easy for the chest to take over during most triceps exercises and with this one, those tris will be forced to do the muscle hustle! ;-) Take a pair of dumbbells that aren’t too heavy – Guys, put the ego top the side and trust me on this! Hold the dumbbells in a neutral position, where your palms are facing the sides of your body. Now, bend over at the hips, arch your lower back to create a tight and maintained lumbar curve, bend at the knees, keep your abs tight, chest out and pin your elbows against the side of your body, so that your upper arm (Humerus) is positioned horizontal to the floor). With the elbows pinned and your lower arms (Ulna, Radius & Hands/DB’s) hanging down vertically, contract the triceps and extend at the elbows, bringing the dumbbells back and even with upper arms. Make sure to briefly hold this position, by contracting the triceps muscles as hard as you possibly can!

12.  Reverse Curl
- Take a hip width stance, bend the knees slightly, bring elbows to the sides of your body and pin them there. Palms are facing behind you in a pronated grip. With abs tight, chest out and shoulders retracted back and down, flex at the elbows and reverse curl the dumbbells up. Make sure to keep those elbows pinned to your sides and focus on allowing the forearm muscles (Brachioradialis) and outer biceps (Brachialis) muscles to do the work. These are the muscles that often get injured during rope climbing and monkey bar obstacles and are usually due to a weakness in those arm muscles.

1 Minute Rest Between Bouts

As always, please have some cool water and a towel with you. Please let Hobie and I, know how you did!

Keep Going!

James Villepigue & Hobie Call

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by Carrie Adams

IMAG0089Erica Green emailed me with her story and I felt compelled to tell it as it had a familiar ring to it.  How many women put others first time and time again until they find themselves at their lowest point and their highest weight.  Erica shares her story of triumph and her journey towards a Spartan finish line.  Here is her story in her own words.

A little over a year ago, I was close to my heaviest weight I had ever been. I couldn’t run a lap around a track or walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. I had been a 3 sport All-County athlete in high school and received a full college volleyball scholarship to a Division 1 school. But, that was SEVERAL years ago.

You never hope you change your lifestyle when things are going well. I was in great shape when I was in college…I had to be; my scholarship was riding on it! And I loved the fact that I was “athletic looking” not some skin and bones size 0 model. So, why didn’t I keep up my workouts and trainings after I graduated from college? I have no idea. Hind sight is 20-20, and if I could redo it again…I would have. But, I didn’t.

Nope, instead of keeping up with running and lifting…and even eating right…I let it all go. I graduated from college and immediately went for my Masters degree in education. While in grad school, I was also going through a rough time at home, as my younger sister was battling Leukemia and my mother was suffering from MS. Between the pressures of school and watching my sister dwindle away from her heinous disease and my mother in constant agony, I never had the chance to think about what was best for ME; how I should be at the gym relieving my stress with weights instead of eating away at it with cheeseburgers. Gaining 5 pounds turned into gaining 15 pounds and then 25. But it only gets worse…

My sister ended up passing away from her long illness in 1998 and my mother’s condition ended up taking a turn for the worse. I hit rock bottom, literally. No drive, wouldn’t work, let alone work out. My soon-to-be husband had to force me to get out of bed some mornings. He finally convinced me to seek counseling, which I did. I was given some anti-depressants and ballooned up even more. Over the next few years, I had two children. They are truly a blessing, but of course, my weight continued to sky rocket. And, as a parent, I felt that I needed to put my kids and family first. My weight and unhealthy lifestyle became a backseat to their soccer practices, football practices, my husband travelling for work, school projects etc. I think I had truly lost my identity.

At my heaviest weight, I was probably a little under 300 pounds. I gained over 100 pounds in the time between college and raising my 2 kids. I was embarrassed not only at how I looked as a former college athlete, but how unmotivated I had turned out. I tried dieting on my own, but that didn’t work. I tried joining a gym, but all I did was keep paying monthly fees for a membership I never used. I knew I had to stop this rollercoaster ride I was on and realized there was still something missing – EXERCISE! The “athlete” that had been hidden inside of me for all those years was DYING to emerge! Next step…get a personal trainer.

I’ve worked with various personal trainers over the years…some male, some female; some older and some younger…but none of them made a lasting impression on me. I was their “client”. When I left, after the hour was done, and they received credit for my session, I was nothing to them until the next time I returned. That all changed after I met my most recent trainer, Brian.

As a scholar athlete, I have been pushed for most of my life. I have been taught to strive for goals which may seem out of reach. However, I have never been both mentally and physically transformed as I have since I started working with Brian early in 2011. He pushed me WAY beyond any limits I thought I had. His workouts were grueling, challenging and extremely mind-blowing. But, he believed in me…and more important, he made me believe in myself. Brian never allowed me not to finish something I started, never allowed me to EVER say the words “I CAN’T” never allowed me to take the easy way out without feeling guilty and most importantly, never allowed me to be satisfied with anything but the best.

Throughout my months of training, I found that I was able to actually make it around the track again – many more times than I had thought. In fact, I was doing so well with my training, that Brian had mentioned the “Warrior Dash” to me. He said it was a “short, 3 mile obstacle race.” My first thought…there is NOTHING short about 3 miles! I immediately told him he was crazy but he said he would actually run the race with me and help guide me through it. Hesitantly, I signed up for the Warrior Dash in South Florida in December 2011…had SUCH a great time that we even ran another one in Central Florida the following month, but this time, without him by my side.

And then…Brian popped the dreaded question – “How about running in a SPARTAN RACE now?” No clue what that was, I asked him if it was similar to the Warrior Dash. He explained that it was, except that instead of 3 miles, it was 9 miles…and instead of 12 obstacles, it actually turned out to be 30 obstacles! My first thought now – the guy has lost his marbles! I knew I had been improving, but 9 miles? 30 obstacles? Yeah, right! But besides the actual petrifying THOUGHT of competing in this race, I had been having some knee problems (which turned about to be arthritis) and had NEVER gotten above 7 miles total at a time…let alone, with added obstacles! My nerves were at their peak. The race was expensive and I didn’t know if I would be able to complete it. I had just ran the two Warrior Dashes and would find it difficult to justify to my husband to spend that much money on another race – but this time, one that I might not be able to finish because of my knees. I contemplated for weeks, all while I continued to train for it with Brian…until I came up with an idea. The idea was far-fetched, but I decided I wanted nothing more than to be able to complete that race!

While doing some research on the Spartan Race, I decided to contact them and explain to “Sparta” my situation. My email was forwarded to a helpful gentleman by the name of Tom McCormack who said, “I want to see you out there…if you are serious about participating in the race, I will get you in!”

Looking back, I think there was actually a small part of me that was hoping Tom would say that there was nothing he could do to help me. That would have been my easy ticket out. But, nonetheless, on February 25th, thanks to Tom’s help with registering me…I rode down to Miami, with Brian, to combat Spartan. I don’t think that I can recall anything I talked about or did on the way down as my nerves had eaten away at me. But the next thing I knew, there I was, race bib pinned on, standing at the starting line with hundreds of runners, fire blazing, counting down…listening to Brian say “HAVE FUN” as he smiled, high-fived me…and took off!

FUN?? I thought I was going to be sick – literally! I knew Brian wasn’t going to run this race with me as he did the first Warrior Dash, as he had his own personal goals to attend to, so it was going to be a lot of intrinsic motivation on my part to keep me going. But what if I couldn’t finish? What if I couldn’t’ walk half way through because of knees? I knew financially that I had lost nothing…but what about pride? What about my self-esteem and sense of accomplishment? Not only would I be letting myself down, but I would also be letting my trainer down…one who believed in me and devoted so much time to help me conquer this race. My only goal I had – FINISH THE RACE!

It was a few miles into the course that I had come to my first obstacle that I was not able to defeat…the monkey bars. I was soaked from the trudge through a lake that my grasp just slipped out from the bars. In Spartan land – that was 30 Burpees heading my way. So far, I had been feeling fine. The swims and crawls through the water was a nice break from the run, but how would I handle the burpees?

About 2.5 hours into the race, I finally was in sight of the finish line. I was also in sight of IMAG0090the approximate 7 obstacles in a row I had to overcome before I crossed that finish line. By now, my knees were killing me. I was wet, exhausted and completely covered with mud. After emerging from the mud crawl, I had failed at the next three obstacles in a row…that’s right, 90 consecutive burpees.  I did the burpees – all 90 of them – and with tears of both joy and pain streaming down my face, I finished the Spartan Race. It was just over 3 hours, but I accomplished my goal!  As I kept staring at the blue Spartan Medal I EARNED that hung around my neck while I inhaled the water…

I finally located Brian. At first, no words were needed. We smiled at each other knowing it had been a long morning…longer for me, but just as exhausting for him. He congratulated me on finishing the race and although he is not the type to say it, I think he was thinking that he was actually proud of me for completing it. But as we walked toward the car and we compared “war stories” of the different obstacles and parts of the race, I actually was thinking how proud I was of HIM. I mean, I knew HE would finish the race…but the fact that he was able to take a person – SO overweight and out of shape…and transform her into a Spartan…is simply amazing! I think that was equally as impressive for him that day as was his race.

I have lost most of the weight I had gained since college and, as I get ready to turn 40 this year, I am in the best shape of my life. My physical transformation is incredible! I actually look forward to exercising and get upset if I have to miss a work out. I still train with Brian and, in fact, I decided to have him train my volleyball players I coach in high school, so they can benefit from him as well. Not surprising, their progression is also incredible.

Although my knees still aren’t doing too well, I do have aspirations of running in another Spartan Race next year and would love to complete a half marathon before then. When I contacted Tom to thank him and tell him about my amazing experience at the race, I had told him that if there was anything I could do to show my appreciation for his help, to let me know. He said to me…”In fact there is, tell your story for our blog.” So here it is. Hopefully it motivates someone else who is questioning their ability to GET UP…and GET MOVING.

People hope that they have the ability to manage their problems on their own, especially when it comes to weight. But sometimes it takes an outside source, or person, to get you moving in the right direction. I lucked out. I finally came across someone who not only understood where I wanted to be, but knew exactly how to get me there. And it just wasn’t by giving me a weight to lift. It was changing my mentality. It was by proving that he actually was interested in my progress and not just my payment. It was by displaying confidence in my potential and it was by making me believe in myself…and pushing me, even when I felt as if I could not go on. Whatever or whoever it takes to get you moving in the right direction – take advantage of it.

A little over a year ago, I was close to my heaviest weight I had ever been. I couldn’t run a lap around a track or walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. Today, I am a SPARTAN FINISHER. I stare at my medal hanging around my rear view mirror every time I get in my car and still feel that same sense of pride I did crossing that finish line in February. I hope you are able to conquer that “Spartan Race” of your own someday…whatever that may be.

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