by Carrie Adams

I remember getting a phone call from Joe Desena that the Amesbury permit had been pulled from our Sunday heats for the 2011 Spartan Sprint Race.  I panicked.  It couldn’t have come at a worse time.  It was our first two-day event in Spartan’s race history and now we didn’t have the opportunity to hold our second day of heats.  We were devastated.  Of course, true to form, Joe D had a plan.

“Tell them to come early Saturday morning.” said Desena.

“Who?” I asked.

“All the people in the Sunday heats.  I’ll take them out and we’ll do the course my way.” And then he hung up before I could ask what that meant.

And just like that, the Hurricane Heatwas born.  With some last minute scrambling and coordination between staff on the ground and staff at HQ, I emailed the entire roster of Sunday racers offering them the chance to run with us early Saturday morning.  Not knowing what would happen next, we all held our breath wondering if anyone would come.  And come they did.  Saturday morning, over 150 of would-be Sunday Spartans showed up to get put through their paces by Joe and other Spartan staffers in what would become a Spartan Race tradition.  They formed into teams, gathered up sandbags, and set off to spend nearly three hours on the Spartan course before the Saturday crowds.

The Original Hurricane Heat Amesbury 2011

Two of those racers were Jennifer Sullivan and Danny Allen.  Sullivan is now a full-time Spartan employee but they have both been a part of our community as well as two of the founding members of the Storm Chasers since that fateful morning.  And from that day in August of 2011 Jennifer and Danny went from strangers, to friends, and then on August 23, 2012 they became husband and wife.

At Spartan Race HQ, we are a tight knit family.  Despite our growth, we’re still a pretty small shop and we’d like to wish a warm and loving “Congratulations” to Jennifer and Danny.   They aren’t the first marriage as a result of Spartan Race, but they’re certainly very special and we are thrilled with their good news.  It’s only fitting that it began in the midst of a hurricane.  That’s the Spartan version of a fairy tale.   Congratulations, Jennifer and Danny.  We love you both very much, wish you all the best, and are thankful to be a part of your story.

Our Spartan Wedding

by Jennifer Sullivan

We can thank Irene.

Unknowingly, Danny (my now husband) and I both signed up to run the Sunday, Spartan Race Sprint in Amesbury, MA in August 2011. However, due to Hurricane Irene’s predicated landfall, the State of Massachusetts shut down the race venue. Thankfully Spartan Race (With a special Thank You to Carrie & Tommy) was able to create a new heat, based off of teamwork, which was to take place before the storm: the Hurricane Heat. That heat changed my life.

Over the next few weeks, via Facebook and text, those strangers from my team became my friends. When Spartan Race offered us the

Storm Chasers in Chicago, 2011

opportunity to race in Illinois, we all jumped at it. Twenty-five of us from states across New England worked together to coordinate a road trip that would get us there. We decided to name our team the Storm Chasers, in tribute to that original Hurricane Heat (because we were following the ‘storm’).

It was on this road trip I first met Danny, well; I heard his voice over the walkie -talkie while we were all sharing ‘war’ stories. Danny was the crazy outgoing, totally over sharing guy from the road trip and I was the girl that showed up with a binder, itinerary, map, list of contact numbers and waivers pre-printed for everyone…in his words, “a total dork”.

After this trip our team became like a second family to both Danny and I. During the next year many of us from the team would go out together, run races or just hang out. Eventually Danny asked me out… well more like eventually he got me to say yes to a date. He drove from Connecticut to New Hampshire to take me to dinner; and to be honest; it was the worst date ever.

We both ended up telling our friends how badly the date went. I may even have dodged a few phone calls in the aftermath of the terrible – awful – really bad date. Thankfully, we had some history with the Storm Chasers and we were able to stay friends, and even got to hang out a few more times with the team. At this point most of Danny’s time was spent in a pineapple under the sea… aka out in a Submarine. My time was spent convincing Spartan Race to hire me, which entailed me being on my computer for hours on end. This gave Danny and I plenty of time to spend emailing and chatting on the phone (when he was out of the pineapple), thank god for technology!

Around Christmas, Danny invited me to the Navy’s Submarine Ball down in Connecticut.  This was a really big deal; people bought crazy fancy dresses, got all dolled up and it sounded… well terrifying to me. I’m an introvert and Danny, well extrovert almost covers it – ask someone who knows him or come to a Hurricane Heat and hear him. He will be the one in the middle yelling out the Warrior Ethos…But anyway, that Navy Ball sounded terrifying and although I agreed to go, I ended up backing out. I think I may have used my new job with Spartan Race as an excuse (Don’t feel bad for him, he found a backup date and has yet to let me live it down!) His favorite way of introducing me to his Navy friends and co-workers is by saying, “this is my wife Jennifer, and she’s the one who ditched me at the ball last year.”

Shortly after the ball Danny left on an underway (fancy Navy jargon for riding around in a submarine practicing secret squirrel stuff). During this time we emailed daily, actually multiple times a day, and I started realizing that he might be the one for me. The more we wrote, the more I found we had in common outside of Spartan Race. Even more exciting than that, I found that he challenged me to think about things in a way I had never really done before.

Now, I only had one more time to see Danny before he left on another underway lasting almost two months (these are a big part of his job and something that I am still learning to deal with). We went on an amazing date to a NASCAR race with some fellow Storm Chasers. We were able to walk around and talk, which was something we hadn’t really had a chance to do alone or in person for quite a while. We started talking about having a life together and our ideas about the future and I realized he felt pretty much the same way I felt about him: he loved me too. I guess this was obvious to everyone else in the (Spartan) world, but I tend to be a little oblivious to this type of thing. The first time I realized the extent of how he felt was when we told his brother we had eloped and his response was, “Jeez Danny it took you long enough, you’ve been talking about her forever”.

Over the last year Danny had become my best friend, the person whom I would turn to when I had a bad day, and the one person I could see spending the rest of my life with. Two months later, on the day he got home, we were able to video chat online and I asked him to marry me.   He said “yes!” and we decided to elope the week after Spartan Race returned to Massachusetts, in August 2012.

On August 23, 2012 Danny & I were married. We only told two of our closest friends and teammates and asked them to join us on our trip to the Virginia Spartan Super which was also our Honeymoon. We then decided to wait until the October South Carolina Beast to tell our families. After completing the Beast with my Dad, Brother and Danny we went back to the hotel, and before anyone even took showers we announced it: “Mom- Dad… Danny and I eloped!”

~ Nothing worth having in life is easy to come by ~

Ms. Jennifer Sullivan & Mr. Danny Allen

Storm Chasers

We also want to thank all the friends and family who helped us get to where we are today. Whether you were part of the Spartan Race team (Carrie, Tommy, Joe) that helped get the HH to happen, Storm Chasers who helped us meet, or our families who supported us and continue to support us – You are all part of our lives and we are thankful to have you.

[Editor's Note: As we see the East Coast yet AGAIN staring down a hurricane with Sandy, we would like to wish everyone a safe week as it bears down the seaboard.  Stay safe, Spartans!]

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Spartan WOD for Thursday, 10.25.12

By Jason Jaksetic and Robert DeCillis

 

Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.

Steve Prefontaine

 

Spartan Mobility/Speed Workout (1 of 4)

The warm-up is usually the first item people omit when they train.  People usually hit a couple of stretches and then get after the workout.  The warm-up however should be the last thing that you pull out of your training.  Your warm-up can be used as time to increase joint mobility and your relative body strength.  The warm-ups you see here consist of two parts, mobility work based on the ground and animal movements.

Ground mobility work is essential if you want to reduce the likelihood of injury and improve the mobility of the joints that you will use in an obstacle race.  If you know you are going to be on the ground crawling and rolling around in the mud then you should prepare for it in training.   There are many types of mobility drills that will help you accomplish this.  Here we outline five ground based mobility drills.

For each of the five drills you will have to perform the amount of sets and reps on each leg.  The five mobility drills are designed to get your lower body firing and ready to perform the training session.  These mobility drills are great to use prior to any running or sprint workout as well as any lower body strength day.

The animal movements are called that because they mimic the movements of different animals. Animal movements are a great way not only to warm-up your upper body but increase your relative body strength and coordination.  Here they are used in a warm-up but the intensity can be increased such that they can also be used as an entire training session from time to time.  Done often enough the animals will help you improve your movement and strength.

Breathing and Stretching

Dynamic Warm-up

 

Ground Work

Fire Hydrant 3 sets 12 reps with ISO Hold for 5 seconds after each rep.

Alternating Arm and Leg Raise 3 sets 8 reps

Straight Leg Fire Hydrant 3 sets 8 reps with ISO Hold for 5 seconds after each rep.

Prone Knee Raise 3 sets 12 reps

Double Leg Bridge 3 sets 12 reps

 

Animal Movements

Lateral Crab Walk 3 sets 25 yards

Lateral Bear Crawl 3 sets 25 yards

Tiger Crawl with a pushup 3 sets 25 yards

Frog Hop with jump 3 sets 25 yards

Alligator Crawl 3 sets 25 yards

 

 

Run 1-2 miles

 

Speed Work

4 x 400 meters

4 x 100 meters

by Chris Rutz

Money, money, money – Part I

Let us talk about the cost of traveling to the Spartan Races and how to make you and your money go as far as possible. This is going to be a two parter, Part I is going to be how to get the money, Part II is going to be how to spend it wisely. Stick with me through this, I was a finance major in college so this is kind of my area of expertise and a second passion.

Finding money in your budget to travel to a Spartan Race can be tough. We all have obligations that we have made that are necessary expenses and almost all of us have some discretionary income.

Let us first talk about necessary expenses. I have always lived far below my means. My friends often ask, “What are you saving your money for?” I do not always know ‘what’, I just know I like being able to do what I want when I want. I also know I draw much more pleasure from ‘experiences’ than I do ‘things’. I do not have the latest Apple product, the newest SUV nor am I a slave to the latest fashion. I inherit my girlfriend’s ‘obsolete’ laptops, drive a 9 year old car that gets close to 40MPG, and wear boring khakis and button downs to the office. I keep the cost of my necessities low which gives me excess funds to spend on the experiences I enjoy the most. Today I really enjoy Spartan Races. The next time you are making a big purchase think about it twice, do you really need that new ___________, or would you rather take on the challenge, experience and adventure of a Spartan Race in another state or even country?

Discretionary income, what do you spend this on? I am a pretty simple guy. My family vacations are pretty low cost. We usually head off into the woods for some camping. I live in Arizona, which provides many great nearby weekend and week long escapes. Eating out is something I never really enjoyed due to its cost and now with the close focus I have on my nutrition, I hardly ever eat out. This saves a lot of money. I am also a big do-it-yourselfer. I wash and detail my own car, clean my own house, maintain my own yard, and try to fix my stuff when it is broken. All of this frees up cash to do take advantage of experiences. Little things add up to, that magazine, that app/download, or that cup of coffee. So if you really want to carve our some money in your budget, look at your discretionary spending. We are disciplined with our training, time to get disciplined with your money. Redirect some of that into a Spartan Race travel fund.

Up next, in Part II of Money, money, money…how to spend it wisely.

Who is Christopher Rutz?

Christopher is a member of the juwi Solar Obstacle Racing, has 6 top three finishes in Spartan Races this year and is the current leader of 2012 Spartan Race Points Series. He manages a health and fitness blog, www.livethetoughlife.com and a Facebook page, Tough Training.  We’ll be featuring his blogs about how to travel Spartan style over the next few months.

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Long Slow Distance (LSD) for Endurance

by Jeff Godin, Phd.D., CSCS

Director of Spartan Coaching

In recent years there has been a focus on High Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) to improve anaerobic and aerobic capacity concomitantly. One of the earliest studies to show this was conducted in 1996 by researchers at The National Institute for Fitness and Sports in Japan.  This study showed that moderate-intensity aerobic training improved maximal aerobic power but did not change anaerobic capacity and that high-intensity intermittent training improved both anaerobic and aerobic energy systems significantly. This change was most likely due to imposing intensive stimuli on both systems. A year later, research out of McMasters University in Canada corroborated these findings and showed that HIIT improved aerobic enzyme activity. Since then much more research has come out confirming early findings with other populations including women and trained athletes.

Although the method is proven and it is a time efficient method of training, I think we have lost our appreciation for Long Slow Distance (LSD) aerobic training. CrossFit nation has just let out a collective sigh. But wait… I haven’t finished, I think we can all get along.

The idea for this blog came about during the Ultra Beast and Beast race a few weeks ago in Killington, VT. As I was trucking up the last big climb, I came across a number of very fit appearing athletes who were clearly exhausted by 5-6 hours of continuous exercise. They had the power to barrel through obstacles, but lacked the endurance to keep up the intensity for more than a few hours. The Super Spartan and Beast requires athletes to go long at a submaximal pace.

Those studies that show HIIT improves aerobic capacity focus on VO2max as the variable of interest. Although this is an important parameter for predicting aerobic performance, it isn’t the only one, and in fact aerobic efficiency may be more important. By aerobic efficiency we mean consuming less oxygen or expending less energy for a given amount of work. The best way to develop efficiency is through LSD training. If you look at the training plans of some elite endurance athletes, the majority of their training (80%) is made up of this type of training.

 

I am not suggesting that we follow this path, rather suggesting that most Spartan racers would see huge gains in their performance if they would include some more LSD training into their programs. For most people, an hour of steady state submaximal running twice per week would satisfy this need. For athletes racing in the Beast, at least once a week they should build up their running time to 3 hours. For the well trained athlete, they could even do a HIIT workout followed by a LSD run.

I think the biggest complaint against LSD training is boredom. I cure this problem by running the trails, or by hiking mountains. The change in scenery and constant undulations in the terrain seem to make time go by faster. Buy a headlamp and try running the trails at night or early morning. The darkness and low visibility force you to go slower, and being in the woods in the dark adds an element of excitement. Don’t go alone though, and make sure you know your way around. I love HIIT training, but it needs to be accompanied by LSD training in order to promote long distance endurance. Rock hard abs won’t get you to the top of the mountain. Get at it!

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Spartan Ab 300

by Jeff Godin, Ph.D. CSCS and director of www.SpartanCoaches.com

 

15 crunches

30 bicycles

30 back-scratchers

30 rotating crunches

15 leg-lowers

30 scissor-kick

30 side-crunches

30 bicycles

15 crunches

30 back scratchers

15 leg lowers

30 side-crunches

 

Exercises for the AB 300

Crunches

–      Lay in the supine position with the knees bent at 90 degrees and the feet flat on the floor. The hands are interlaced behind the neck and the elbows are out. Slowly curl the torso upwards, until the shoulder blades are about an inch or two off of the floor. Slowly return to the start position. Don’t pull on the neck while doing this exercise; keep the elbows back and the head and neck in a neutral position.

Bicycles

–      Lay in the supine position with the legs extended and the hands interlaced behind the neck. Crunch up slightly and hold. While holding the crunch position, flex the right hip and knee and rotate the torso so that the left elbow moves towards the right knee. Repeat with the opposite leg and continue until the desired repetitions have been reached.

Back Scratchers

–      Lay in the supine position with the knees bent at 90 degrees and the feet flat on the floor. The arms are straight by the side. Curl up so that the shoulder blades are just off of the floor and tuck the chin in to take stress off of the neck. Laterally flex the spine from side to side touching one heel and then the other.

Rotating Crunch

–      Lay in the supine position with the knees bent at 90 degrees and the feet flat on the floor. Flex the right hip and place the right foot on the left knee. The right knee should be pointing outward. The right arm is straight by the side. Place the left hand behind the head with the left elbow pointing out to the side. Curl up and rotate towards the right knee. Keep the elbow out, think about bringing the left shoulder towards the right knee.  Perform the desired number of repetitions and then switch to the other side.

Leg Lowers

–      Lay in the supine position with the legs extended, and the arms straight by the side. Begin by flexing the knees and hips moving the knees towards the chest. Once the hips are fully flexed, extend the knees and slowly lower the straightened legs to the floor. When the feet are about six inches from the floor repeat the sequence.  The key during this exercise is to maintain a neutral lower spine throughout the movement. Brace the stomach muscles as if someone was going to punch you in the gut. Keep the back from arching.

Scissor kicks

–      Lay in the supine position with the legs extended, and the arms straightened by the side.  Raise the legs so that the feet are about 12 inches off of the floor. Open and close the legs for one repetition. The key during this exercise is to maintain a neutral lower spine throughout the movement. Brace the stomach muscles as if someone was going to punch you in the gut. Keep the back from arching,

Side crunch

–      Lay in the supine position with the knees bent at 90 degrees and the feet flat on the floor. Roll the hips to one side, but keep both shoulders flat on the floor. Crunch up by lifting the shoulders off of the floor. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and then repeat on the other side.

Vertical toe touches

–      Start with the legs straight but flexed at the hip so they form a 90 degree angle. The feet should be pointed towards the ceiling. Crunch up and try and reach the toes. The shoulder blades should come off the floor by about 6 inches. Perform the repetitions under control. Tuck the chin to prevent straining of the neck.

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by Carrie Adams

LTJG Jason Redman knew he’d been hit, how many times he wasn’t sure, but two of his Teammates were also wounded. They were still engaging Al Quaeda fighters in an intense firefight outside Fallujah, Iraq taking heavy machine gun and small arms fire.  The Mobility Force and Assault Force Commander Redman could think only of getting his team out alive.  “I called out to God to give me strength.” Redman recalls.   Responsible for over 40 Direct Action missions throughout western Iraq, he was not new to the dangers and as he continued to take rounds to his body armor, weapon, helmet and Night Vision Goggles, he still led his team to win the fight without losing a member of his team.  That was September 13, 2007.

Redman joined the Navy in September of 1992 and had escalated up the ranks, starting as an Intelligence Specialist before graduating with BUD/S class 202 in December of 1995.  He balanced his time with deployments to South America working in Counter Drug Missions and in 2000 became a SEAL instructor for Marksmanship, Reconnaissance and Surveillance operations for his SEAL Team’s Basic Land Warfare training block.  He continued to excel in the Navy and was ultimately commissioned in May 2004 as a Navy SEAL officer.

All this led up to his assignment as an Assistant Platoon Commander and the deployment to Afghanistan in July of 2005.  The Task Unit he was injured with was directly credited with capturing over 124 Al Qaeda and Anti-Coalition fighters and killing thirteen Al Qaeda fighters.  Unfortunately for Redman, he was headed home to Bethesda due to the severity of his injuries he sustained during that September firefight .  All told, he was shot twice in the arm, once in the face and would, “Spend four years getting myself put back together again.”

Tenacious throughout his recovery, he demanded no special attention or pity for his wounds, focusing on his love of the job and country that led to his injuries.  In fact, he was fiercely proud of the scars and wounds he earned on the battlefield knowing the full risks and dangers are part of the job.  Redman committed himself to an optimistic and full recovery and showed the staff, his family and friends that despite 34 surgeries and painful treatments, he was proud of what had brought him there.  As he recovered, it was obvious he needed modifications to clothing and he realized that it was something he wanted to not only create but he wanted to promote awareness around the warriors themselves in the process.  Encourage pride and motivate those who were injured and honor those were fallen.   To that end, he began Wounded Wear three years ago, a Non-Profit organization whose mission is to raise the national awareness of the sacrifice of wounded warriors, their families, and the families of fallen service members.

According to their website, “In support of this mission Wounded Wear advocates on behalf anf facilitates opportunities for those who have sacrificed so much, as well as providing free fashionable clothing kits and modifications to wounded warriors that empower them to rediscover the hero within.”

Redman states, “I don’t know why I was spared and others didn’t.  But it made me say I have to make the most of this.”  Emboldened by his own survival and recovery and the growth of Wounded Wear, Redman took his mission a step further in the recent creation of Team Wounded Wear.  Team Wounded Wear is comprised of physically fit, adventure racers.  They are active and former military, wounded warriors, and patriots who are looking to endure some of the country’s most challenging adventure races, marathons, and Fitness challenges, and do all of it wearing full combat equipment while carrying a 185 pound downed man.

Team Wounded Wear

Led by James Ogden who ran Spartan’s Carolina’s Spartan Sprint earlier this year six times in support of Wounded Wear, you may remember his story told HERE, they are taking on the Carolina’s Spartan Beast for the first time, leaving the start line at 10:50 AM.  Ogden has beena supporter of Wounded Wear and a fan of Jay’s since he met him in 2002 at Old Dominion University under the Navy ROTC program.

Says Ogden, “After the dust settled from the Carolina event, I wanted to do something bigger but I wanted to incorporate some of my closest veteran athletes.  Originally, we were just going to do one event; this year’s Carolina Spartan Beast.  But since it’s conception, it has grown into what will now be a formalized team that will be traveling all over the country, motivating and inspiring wounded warriors, the American’s they fought for and their communities, and ultimately ‘Helping Warriors rediscover the Hero within.”

We look forward to seeing them on race day!  Learn more about Wounded Wear and their mission by watching this video HERE.

How can YOU support Wounded Wear?

Anyone can purchase Wounded Wear clothing – All proceeds from clothing sales go back to support their mission.  Wounded Wear clothing is Clothing for Patriots.  It symbolizes the Sacrifice that built this nation and the costs that our veterans have to endure, both physical and mental, once they come home. http://woundedwear.org/store.  Additionally, Donations are always accepted.  They can be made on Wounded Wear’s website. http://woundedwear.org/

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by Carrie Adams

When he emerged at the Spartan finish line, he was exhausted.  The last official Spartan racer to finish the Georgia Spartan Sprint, he was hours behind the top of the field.  Spartan staff members had to help him get back to his car because they feared he wouldn’t be able to do so under his own power.   An incredible accomplishment for a man who was nearly 700 lbs just a couple years earlier. His weight loss journey was far from over, in fact, as he crossed the finish line; he was also crossing a line that intersected with his destiny and a decision that would change his life forever.  It was the first time Spartan Race would meet Chris Davis and from that moment, none of us would ever be the same.

The dramatic finish was the first step in a journey that would lead Davis to Pittsfield, Vermont, home of Spartan Race HQ and the place Davis would call home for 20 weeks as he continued his path towards a healthier future and many more Spartan finish lines – his last, the World Championship Beast where he would begin at 4 AM and finish just before night fell, earning his medal and celebrating a staggering weight loss of over 530 pounds.  His weight loss in Pittsfield alone was half that amount.  How he got to Pittsfield is an incredible story in it’s own right… When Spartan founder Joe Desena heard about Davis and how far he needed to go to finish what he’d set out to start, he offered up an incredible opportunity:  move to Vermont and Spartan Race HQ, lose the weight by following Joe and Spartan Coaching’s plan, and race the Beast in September.  Davis, with the support of his employer (Comcast), family and friends, accepted the offer and just like that, the Chris Davis Project was born.

Crossing the finish line it was hard to find a dry eye.  Davis’s family was in attendance to witness his nearly 15 mile race.  The pinnacle of several races he’d finish in preparation, the hours on the mountain with Spartan founder Joe Desena and other Spartan athletes and staffers getting ready.  Spartan staff joined him on the mountain, Joe Desena carrying a 100lb sandbag as well.  His weight loss and training program conducted under the watchful eye of Dr. Jeff Godin, Spartan Death Racer, physician, and Spartan Coaching founder.  As Chris received his medal and hugged friends, staffers, and family, it was clear that his achievement was one that was felt by everyone who was lucky enough to bear witness.

His journey to the finish line has been well-documented, in his athlete page and on YouTube with videos updating his weekly progress.  If there was ever a doubt that you could do something, let this story be your lesson.   See his final video summary HERE.

Spartan HQ hasn’t been the same since Davis’s return to his home down South.  Since his heroic finish, he has returned to his job at Comcast in Atlanta, Georgia, an employer who would give Davis the life-changing chance to relocate to Vermont for his transformation and allow his return months later.  We’d like to thank them for their vision and support.  Mad Motion provided the video footage of Chris’s journey and we’d like to thank them as well for giving his story a platform.

Congratulations to Chris, he will always be a part of our Spartan family and what he taught us about never giving up is something that has made us all better for knowing him.  That’s the reality of what these races are about – celebrating health, pushing limits, and finding out what you can accomplish when you dare to believe in all the things you CAN do and forget about what is deemed impossible.

 

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by Carrie Adams

At last year’s Texas World Championships, elite racer Elliott Megquier was ahead of fellow elite Alec Blenis by about 100 yards.  Reaching the traverse wall towards the end of the race ahead of Blenis, Megquier fell almost halfway across and began his pentalty burpees as the crowd looked on.  Blenis reached the wall seconds later and also fell halfway through.  Even though Megquier was halfway through his set of the mandatory 30 Blenis finished his first and edged out ahead of Megquier, snagging a top five finish.  Burpees have meant the difference between a cash purse and a lonely car ride home, but for most of us, they’ve just mean a lot more pain on race day (and the several days following.)  Despite the burpee hangover, our runners keep coming back for more despite the harsh Spartan penalty that are also often featured in our Spartan WOD’s.  Let’s explore the Spartan burpee…

Meet your maker, Spartans.  The burpee is a  feared, abhorred, and often bringer of tears and pain at Spartan Races.  Sometimes the difference between a non-podium finish or a giant cardboard check.  At Spartan Races, we operate with a different set of rules than most races.  You don’t get to opt out of obstacles, oh no.  Don’t want to climb that 8 foot wall?  30 burpees.  Failed the monkey bars you say? 30 burpees.  Want to bypass the low crawl, drop and give me 30 (burpees, of course).  Didn’t quite make it across the traverse wall?  Yeah, that’ll be 30 burpees.  They’ve been a part of Sparta for a while, our Winter Death Race crew got real good at them last year, they did over 3,000 for their over 24 hours of effort.  We even had a founders Buck Furpees day!  Read about that HERE. 

The spear throw, a prime location for those relegated to doing burpees.  A fan favorite, it’s usually near the end of the course and the finish line.  Spectators swarm the fences to watch as Spartans advance cautiously, knowing how high the fail rate is on this intrepid obstacle.  Weighing the spear in their hands, the techniques vary but it often ends the same way… the thrower watching in horror as their mis-thrown spears bounce off the straw targets, fly recklessly off to one side, or the worst, when they almost land but fall dejectedly to the ground.  It’s always the same reaction.  The Spartan’s face falls and their head drops, knowing that the burpees are now imminent, and off they go to begin their, what else?  30 burpees.

What’s proper burpee protocol?  Not all burpees are made alike, but for starters, watch this video that demonstrates proper burpee form.  As Hobie Call has often pointed out, burpee form tends to degrade over the course of a race as athletes fatigue but a few landmarks hold true to executing a proper burpee and we’re going to give them to you so that you can perfect yours in time for your next Spartan Race.

Obstacle fail! 30 burpees on deck!

1. Chest to deck.  When you drop to the ground, you must execute a full push up with your chest touching the ground.

2. Press out of the push-up jumping your legs underneath your body so that you are in a squatted position.

3. Stand up, extending the hips, and jump off the ground with hands overhead.

Repeat 29 more times.

This 30 burpee penalty is often repeated several times over a Spartan course with finishers often comparing burpee statistics at the end.

“I did 150 burpees!”  says one, “Oh really?  I only did 90.”  Yes, in Spartan we say things like, “I only did 90 burpees today.”  Regardless of number, burpees numbering more than about seven are just a suckfest.  That might be why we love them oh so much.  So, don’t expect them to go away anytime soon from Spartan Race courses.

Want to get registered?  What’s stopping you?  Go HERE for details.

 

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Understanding BMI, Body Composition, and Body Fat

by Jeff Godin, Ph.D., CSCS, of Spartan Coaches

 

The Difference between BMI and Body Composition 

It is no secret that the incidence of obesity is on the rise and that the approximately 34% of Americans are obese. These statistics are based off of data collected using the Body Mass Index or BMI.

BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s body weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters.

A score between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal, 25-29.9 is overweight, 30-34.9 is obese, and greater than 40 is extreme obesity. The advantage of the BMI is that it can be easily administered, can be administered to large groups, and it does correlate with other chronic disease risk factors. The negative, for some, especially people that are Spartan fit, it can classify people that are of normal weight as overweight or even obese.

BMI doesn’t take into account body composition. Body composition is the relative amounts fat mass versus fat free mass. For example, we could have two people of identical height and weight, one is sedentary the other is a highly trained athlete. They would have an identical BMI, yet if you compared them side by side they would have widely different physiques. For this reason, in athletes I coach we don’t use BMI, I measure their body composition and actually calculate percentage of body fat.  But don’t misunderstand, BMI is a valuable tool and will correctly classify 85% of the population, but for people that train regularly (5+days per week) it may not be the best tool in the chest.

Measuring percent body fat isn’t a perfect science either. The margin of error is dependent on the method used. For the two most common methods used, skinfolds and bioelectrical impendence, the standard error is 3-5%.

For example, if an athlete’s measured body composition is 10%, their actual body composition is between 7-13%.  It takes experience and practice under a trainer technician’s supervision to be proficient in skinfold measurement, so the error may actually be larger in many cases. Bioelectrical impedance varies widely depending on time or day, hydration, previous exercise, and food intake. Are they useless? Yes and no.

When people use the score as an end themselves, yes they are useless.  Yay I am 5% body fat!!! Pointless.  But as a tool to track changes and progress it is excellent. In order for the measurements to be reliable, they should be made by the same person and under the same conditions. Even though the process is standardized, if one person deviates slightly from the protocol, or uses a different piece of equipment, or does it under different conditions the score may differ. I monitor my % fat with a bioelectric impedance scale. I measure it every Friday morning after voiding, before exercise, and before eating. The numbers are reliable and will track changes. I use it to make sure it is going in the right direction or staying the same.

What is ideal?

But what is ideal? For most of us to have a body fat % lower than it is now would be better, but what is that target number? Somewhere between 10-20% and 20-30% is considered healthy for men and women respectively. But what about those who want to race competitively in a Spartan Race? Like many endurance sports, having extra body mass is a hindrance to performance. An athlete has to carry that extra mass up hills, over obstacles, or crawl with it under barbed wire. Body composition recommendations for athletes have been determined by taking the average body weights and fat percentages from large groups of athletes in various sports. These body fat percentages ranged from 5-15% in males and 10-20% for female athletes.  But that is not to suggest that they represent an ideal for a particular person, and actually for some having a body fat percentage too low may actually be a hindrance.  Very low body fat is associated with increased risk of infections, maladaptation to training or overtraining, amenorrhea and poor reproductive health in women, and chronic fatigue.

A logical strategy would be to compare present body composition to standards for good health. The first goal should be to make sure it is within that range. Next, if the goal is to improve performance try and reduce body fat percentage to the mid to upper range cited for athletes. Notice any significant improvements in performance? Are you recovering well, do you have energy, have you been avoiding infections? If yes, this new body composition is appropriate for you. You could then set a new goal and strive for a percentage slightly lower and monitor those same feelings. You may also just decide to maintain your current level. Essential fat for men and women is 3 and 12% respectively. Striving for body fat percentages below essential fat will be detrimental for just about anyone.  There is no “ideal” body fat percentage for everyone. Get healthy first, then if you desire, see what you can accomplish that is reasonable for you.

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by Carrie Adams

The rain hadn’t let up in hours.  Mike Morris checked his watch again as darkness started to fall.  He and the three other members of his team were two days into a three day Adventure Race in Maine, had paddled nearly 75 miles that day, and they had a five mile portage to the next checkpoint looming ahead.  As if that weren’t enough, their canoe cart had broken so that meant their heavy canoes and gear would be carried the five miles to their next checkpoint (CP) .  It was a bad omen for Morris and his team, who was new to the sport at the time.  All he could think was, “Cold, raining, cold, raining.”

Team GearJunkie

When they finally got to the next checkpoint, Morris and his team threw their boats in the water, paddled to inlet to what they believed was the next CP, the rain still fell heavy and cold. Something was wrong.  They scanned the area but saw no checkpoint.  So, they began the “go in circles and cross your fingers” approach in hopes that they would stumble upon the CP.

Then they retraced their steps, attempting to confirm their position on the map they’d spent all night before the race plotting.  By midnight they were colder, wetter, frustrated, and a bit delirious for not sleeping for two nights prior.  Their only option was to lie down under their canoes, wrap up in tarps, and sleep.  When they awoke it was nearly 5 AM and they were all shivering uncontrollably they needed to move.  Lucky for them they had daylight on their side for the checkpoint search.  But they still had no luck.

Morris and his team got in the water and paddled to all the inlets in the area for the next five hours double checking their location.  They took breaks only to eat, pee in their wetsuits, and finally call the Race Director (RD) on the satellite phone to make sure that the race organizers didn’t get worried and send out the rescue team.

But when it was noon and they had made no progress, they had no option but to go back to the map to confirm the checkpoint they had plotted earlier (in most Adventure Races, or AR’s you have to plot the checkpoints yourself on your map).  Stunned and frustrated, they realized they were one grid off and had been searching for the CP in the wrong spot.  After plotting it correctly, they were on their way, hours wasted being lost.

Morris and his team, were “short coursed”, meaning they were allowed to continue racing despite having missed mandatory cut-off times.  They ultimately finished on a shorter length course earning a finish time but were ineligible for prizes and they earned no ranking for all their trouble.  They did learn a valuable lesson about course plotting.  As Morris puts it, “We spent the entire winter/spring training for this race and had wasted it (and hundreds of dollars) because we were morons.”

Getting lost is something that all racers fear but is always a risk, even on the well-marked Spartan courses.  How can you minimize your risk of getting lost?

Pay Attention to Course Markings

Spartan Courses are marked well, but you can still miss arrows and tape if you aren’t vigilant or if you become distracted during the longer running segments. Our recent Vermont Beast (and Ultra Beast) course was marked with over 10,000 feet of marking tape and there were over 400 course arrows placed by our crew, but folks still got lost, most notably when they took an existing mountain bike trail up the mountain that wasn’t part of the course instead of following the arrow down the mountain.

“It was  a well-worn path so my brain told me to follow it,” said one Ultra Beast racer who ended up doing an extra six miles.  “I saw the marker on the second loop after I figured out where I’d gone off track.  Whoops.”

Morris, Race Director for Spartan Race and experienced Adventure Racer is no stranger to being lost. “I’ve been lost too many times.  Not including the races where I had to navigate with a map and compass.  Most of the times I got off course though were my fault,” says Morris.  “Once I was trying to adjust my music player and blew right by a turn.  I was pretty green at racing and just kept running thinking the course markings would resume.  Well… they didn’t.  I went a few extra miles during that race.”

Don’t Just Follow the Herd

 

Never assume that the person in front of you knows where they are going – “herd mentality” or a momentary distraction can lead a racer off track easily.  Just because a whole group is moving one direction it doesn’t mean it is the right direction.

“I’ve been lost and just followed the people in front of me,” explains Morris.  “I figured if the entire pack was running this way then I was OK.  All of a sudden the entire group was turning around. “I quickly learned that during off-road races it’s my responsibility to watch out for my own well-being on the course… nobody else. “

What if you DO get lost?

Don’t Panic.  If you’ve gone a ways and are not seeing any trail markings, you could be lost, but the reality is that you may not be as far off or out as you think you are.  Stop moving and use your senses to get oriented.  Look for trail markings in all directions, listen for familiar sounds, and if that doesn’t give you a direction to follow then attempt to backtrack to your original location where you may have gone off-course.  With 350,000 racers and counting, we haven’t lost a racer yet!   We have course sweepers, full medical, and rescue crews on site for every race as well.  We won’t leave a Spartan behind.

So don’t sweat it or try to over plan on our courses on race day.  Have fun, pay attention and you’ll finish as you intended without any extra FREE miles.

 

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