by Aja Varney, Guest Blogger

It isn’t the size of the gift that matters, but the size of the heart that gives it. ~Eileen Elias Freeman

When Carrie Adams, and the other founding members of the Spartan Chicks, created a FaceBook group (sorry guys, it’s for ladies only!), it was for the purposes of connecting women across the country who were all interested in Obstacle Course Racing. It was intended to give them a safe space to discuss training issues, racing tactics, share concerns, while supporting and motivating each other. In a short period of time, this group has grown from a tiny group of 100 ladies, to an 8000+ crowd of Chicks. More importantly, the group has identified itself as a real community of united women, running with each other at races, keeping tabs on each other via email, connecting via phone for workouts – a community of Chicks, always ready to chat and lend a hand at a moment’s notice, and show Obstacle Racing that women are a force to be reckoned with.  The Chicked logo seen all over the race course on the tank tops and other “Spartan Chicked” gear.

In that vein, we’re launching our Second Annual Spartan Chicked Holiday Gift Swap! It is open to women across the globe (yes, no matter where you do your Chicking, you can participate!) to sign up. You will be provided with the name and address of one other Chick, with whom you’ll get to share some Holiday Season cheer. Gifts range from simple cards and baked goods, to fun and functional fitness gear, to handmade scarves, blankets or ornaments. The only limit is your creativity! We’re not looking for you to spend billions, but help continue to unite our community of awesome ladies, by connecting with one specific Chick around the holidays.  To date, we have women from all over the globe from London to Australia, Malibu to Manhattan!

To join in on the fun, fill out this form with your information. In a few days, you will be contacted with the name and address of your Giftee. From there, take matters into your own hands; friend your Giftee on FaceBook, check out what she’s been posting about in the Chicks group, get to know her and let your creative juices flow!

Submissions will be accepted until MIDNIGHT (EST), DECEMBER 7th.

Aja Varney

For your privacy, your name and address will only be shared with the one Chick who will be sending you a gift. If you do have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me: aja.varney@gmail.com (Even just to say Hi!)

[Editor's Note: Aja Varney is a Spartan Chick many times over.  You can follow her adventures on her blog, What a Beautiful Wreck, where this post was originally published.

The Chicked Movement began in 2011 at the Vermont Beast, the brain child of Spartan staffer Carrie Adams, with about a dozen women wanting to run together  (Adams included) for support, and has grown drastically since the humble beginnings.  With over 130,000 women passing across a Spartan finish line and a closed network numbering over 8,300 at press time, it shows no sign of slowing down.  The Chicked movement is even featured in the soon-to-be released book Ultimate Obstacle Race Training by Brett Stewart.  Are you a Spartan Chick who wants to join the movement?  Click HERE. ]

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by Chris Rutz

Money, money, money Part II.  We talked about expenses for Spartan travel in Part I.  Here is more information on how to get to your Spartan destination cost effectively.

There are a lot of different means to go about saving money on travel. Of course the best way to travel on the cheap is bum a ride off of someone, stay with someone you know nearby, or campout at the race. I have done all of these. Some people chose Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz etc… to make their travel plans. For me I have very good success with directly booking with my favorite travel partners. I like to be able to change my mind. You never know when you might get injured, sick, or just cannot make it. I am always looking for the best deals without having to fully commit and make a nonrefundable deposit.  So for those of you that have to buy a plane ticket, rent a car, and stay at a hotel, here are some tips that work for me. My number one tip is to join AAA. For about $55 you get great discounts on top of their other benefits. Second big tip is networking. When I dove into Spartan Racing for 2012 I knew no one at the races. Today, every race I go to I am able to share a hotel room and sometimes a car. I am trying to figure out how to share an airplane seat, lap child anyone?

I do not work for, nor am I sponsored by any of these companies. But we really do need a few official travel partners of Spartan Racing. Is anyone listening?

Airplane –

Southwest Airlines is my carrier of choice. Phoenix is one of their major airports so I can usually find great fares on Southwest. The best part is that there is never a change fee with them. If I rebook, cancel, or change a flight, there is no fee to do so. I book my flights early and typically over the course of time the airfare goes down. I check the flight periodically and if the price has dropped I rebook the flight the same flight, and get credit for the difference. I have had fares drop over 50%. I fly enough with them to be on their A-List so I can get in the express security lanes and board the place first. This makes the travel a little less tiring, which helps come race day.

Rental Car –

It seems I am always able to get great rates with Hertz by going directly to their website. Much of this year they have had a special for $14.99 ($13.49 for AAA) per weekend day for an economy car. I always reserve the least expensive option. Rental companies hardly ever have an ‘economy’ car and you will likely end up with something a little nicer. I typically get a Focus, Cruze, Jetta, or Mazda3. Small cars equal great gas mileage, so this saves money on gas too. I can cancel at any time, or even just not show up, and there is no charge. As a bonus I get points on Southwest.

Hotel –

No favorites here. I have an online resource through my employer that I typically use. I punch in the city I am traveling to and a radius and then it pulls up what is available by price. Similar tools are available via AAA and other travel websites. The key here is similar to what happens with Southwest. Rates change. Book early and check back frequently to see if the rates have dropped. If they have, rebook, no penalty. You will have to decide how much time and effort it is worth to you to keep checking. Always book a double bed room. This gives you the flexibility to share the room as the race date approaches as people look for a room on Facebook. I also know a bunch of people that are willing to sleep on the floor. So you should likely never have a problem filling your room up. Most of the Spartan Races have event pages. You can usually find someone to share a room with, depending on your sense of adventure.

Okay, now that you have framework to help you save some money on your trip, next up we will talk about how to make the most of your trip to the race.

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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by Carrie Adams

Spartan Race is no stranger to Guiness Book World Records.  Some of our founders, including Noel Hanna have a few on their walls.  On Veteran’s Day in 2012 a very special record was broken by another familiar Spartan face, well, gas mask.  Introduced to Sparta in Leesburg, VA female Team X-T.R.E.M.E. athlete, call sign “Justice” was the record breaker!  A member of Team X since January 2012, she’s participated in two of our Spartan events and recently became a world record holder when she was the first female to complete a marathon’s full 26.2 miles in a gas mask.  Completed as a Team X event, it was done in honor of all Wounded Veterans and was an accomplishment not lost on the Marine, who when masked is referred to simply as “Justice.”

Justice, whose real name will be withheld out of respect for the anonymity of the team and the commitment to their focus on their wounded comrades, has been a member of Team X since January when she went through the INDOC process.  She was asked to join after 48 grueling hours of physical and psychological testing.  The INDOC testing phase was the third and final stage of Team X-T.R.E.M.E.’s intense indoctrination process.  The first step Justice underwent was the submission of a two minute video.  Upon acceptance of the initial video submission there is an invitation to join the athlete community to show a candidate’s dedication to the organization by raising money and awareness.  If proven in the community, the candidates are invited to participate in the Richmond, VA 48 hour test.  The most recent INDOC with seven candidates actually resulted in no new team member invitations, a nod to the difficulty and exclusivity of the process.

Justice not only succeeded, she excelled, and has been a remarkable addition to the team.  For her first Team X event and weighing in at just over 120 pounds she carried 45% of her body weight for 26.2 miles through the New Mexico high desert while wearing a gas mask at the 2012 Bataan Death March.  At the Spartan Race in Leesburg she carried almost 90% of her body weight with wounded warrior athlete USMC Cpl. Todd Love on her back throughout the course rotating with the rest of the male-based team every half mile.  Not once did she miss her turn to carry the weight, not once did she falter or complain.

She repeated that again the Carolina’s and will be in attendance of many more Spartan events in the 2013 season.  We look forward to her return and congratulate her on her incredible record-breaking accomplishment!

Want to join her?  Sign up for one of our many events in 2013, it looks like we’re going to have nearly 60 worldwide by the time the year is over.  Join us!

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by Chris Rutz

Last weekend I was off to yet another Spartan Race, my 20th of 2012. I have gotten pretty good at knowing what I need to have with me along the way. I check a few things night before my departure, such as my airline, rental car and hotel reservations. Most have sent me a confirmation e-mail in the past few days, so I just save them on my smartphone. I also map out the airport, Whole Foods/Trader Joes, hotel and race site so I get my bearings for the trip. Once I have completed that I move onto my nutrition packing list.

You can take food and water with you on the airplane. I use one of the Gaspari Nutrition/Spartan Race cinch sacks to carry my food. For my flight today I have packed the following:

  • 2 grilled chicken breasts
  • bell pepper
  • banana
  • apple,
  • fresh raspberries,
  • carrots,
  • cauliflower,
  • a bag of frozen broccoli (keep the chicken next to the frozen broccoli)

Why so much food you might ask? Well, pre-race nutrition is very important and you can never predict what food will be available at the airport or if your flight will be delayed. I would rather have too much rather than too little. Once you get to your destination, you can eat the “leftovers” on your way to the hotel.

I also carry an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at the gate. You need to hydrate before a race especially if you are flying.

Once I land I generally head to the grocery store to pick up what I will need for my weekend. This eliminates the need to figure out restaurants and allows you more time to relax and rest before the race. If you want to eat out, do that after the race. I try to get a hotel with both a microwave and refrigerator so I can stick to my nutrition plan.

This should help you get to the race primed and ready to deliver you best possible performance.

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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by Carrie Adams

It started with an email.  A friend sent me a recent Travlete article featuring a man, and accomplished athlete named Michael Mills.  He was looking for training tips for the upcoming Georgia Spartan Race being held near his current home, Covington, GA.  It’s not uncommon for first time Spartans to seek out tips to tackle our courses.  Known for their brutality and secrecy, we don’t release course maps, any insight into how to prepare is something that our community is always looking for.  His request, however, was unique because of how he’ll be completing the course.  Said Mills in the email, “I am looking for all pointers anyone can give, training and etc. I am actually going to crawl almost the entire 3 miles of the course. I will use my wheelchair some, but the majority of the time I will be crawling.”

Mills is a T12 paraplegic, the victim of a head on collision with a drunk driver in 1993 and though he’s been tackling wheelchair racing since 1996, competing in over 160 road and track races in the twelve years since, even representing the United States three separate times, he saw the Spartan Race series and realized it was the next challenge he wanted.

“I have the strength and the heart, just need a little advice.” He assured Travlete.

Intrigued, I contacted Michael myself, the polite Southern man with Southern manners, who insisted on calling me Miss Carrie had completely won me over and I was willing to help in any way possible to help him not only get ready for the race, but to share his journey with our Spartan community.  Not since the Chris Davis Project did I feel so compelled to share this story of toughness, of dedication, and of heart.  Michael Mills has all three.

I’ve asked Michael to share weekly blogs about his training his preparation and his journey towards Conyers, GA 2013.  Here is part one, how he found Sparta.

Michael’s car post-accident

My name is Michael Mills and I’m a T12 paraplegic from Covington, GA. I’m 36 years old, married with an amazing wife named Tiffany Mills.  We have two children Brandon, 11 and Katriana, four. We also are expecting our third child on or around 12/3/12. We are excited to welcome Michael Elijah to our family.

On 5/2/93 I was headed home from a typical day working from my best friend’s house and was less than three miles away when I struck head-on by a drunk driver.   The accident nearly cos me my life and left me with countless injuries.  When the paramedics arrived, I was dead for 28 minutes.  They pronounced me D.O.A.

My car had landed in a yard near the scene of the crash. The woman who lived in the home actually got into my car with me and tried to save my life before the paramedics arrived.  After they pronounced me dead, she pleaded with them to, “Please try one time,” to revive me.

The paramedics tried one time and as soon as they shocked me, I came back to life.  My injuries were significant.  I sustained a left eye socket fracture, left jaw fracture, left broken shoulder, all of my ribs sets broken on the left side, and almost all on the right.  Both of my lungs were punctured, I sustained a compound fracture of the left femur and required countless stiches. My aorta was severed and my left ventricle was damaged to my heart. Because of the damage to my heart, I lost the majority of blood from my body.

Lastly, I was left paralyzed from the crash. The doctors told my parents if I made it through the surgery, I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life.  I survived the surgeries but only time would tell.   Two weeks later I came out of my coma and was for the first time since the accident alert and aware of what was going on.  I had survived.  I was still alive.  I spent the rest of my summer in the hospital, I also turned 17.

I made it out of the hospital just in time to go back to school the same year. I was back in school just three months post-injury. I spent more time in the hospital later on in the year and the following year but still was able to graduate that next school year.

In 1996, I found wheelchair racing. I found racing by watching the 1996 Olympics. I was hooked. I went out bought a used racer and the rest was history. I started racing everywhere. I began to get better and faster. I started to compete all over the world.  Here it is, 12 years later and I’ve raced over a 160 road and track races in my career.  I’ve been world ranked and have had the opportunity to represent my country three times in my career and have loved the opportunities to do so. I just recently finished my 2012 with one of the best seasons ever.

A few months ago, I came across a photo of man dawning full military gear and saw him with only one arm.  It was Todd Love from Team X-T.R.E.M.E.  He was crawling through mud and when I Iooked a little deeper I found Spartan racing.

I thought to myself, “I can do this. I want to do this. I need to do this. I’m going to do this.”

I immediately signed up without hesitation. I decided I was going to do this Spartan Race. I posted up on Facebook I was going to do it and I had a few friends say they’d do it with me. I had some people say it couldn’t be done and that fueled me even more. So, I set out to prove everyone wrong that didn’t believe in me. I want to prove that there was no such thing as a disability. I wanted to prove that a disability is simply a mindset. You can do anything once you set your mind to it and I know that.

I wanted to raise awareness for a local charity called Berts Big Adventure. BBA is a non-profit who takes chronically and terminally ill children to Disney World so they can be kids for one week. They treat the parents too. This was a big deal for me, because without support from the people in my home town of Smithville, MS my family and I wouldn’t have made it. Everyone pulled through to help us and that’s why I want to help BBA.

I’ve decided to do my first ever Spartan race crawling on my hands and knees for a better part of 3.1 miles.  So I train six days a week and sometimes three times a day to get ready for my event on 3/9/13.

Want to stay tuned in to Michael’s journey?  He’ll be regularly posting his story and training on our blog in a series we’ll be calling “Chasing Michael Mills.”  Follow his facebook page.  Want to support his cause? Check out Spartan Sprint for Berts Big Adventure | Michael Mills’ Fundraiser on CrowdRise. http://www.crowdrise.com/ChasingSpartanMichaelMIlls

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Spartan Group X:  Breaking Down the Warm-Up

by Jeff Godin

Always start your workout with a warm-up.  Although flexibility and unrestricted movement may be important for long term injury prevention, static stretching and flexibility exercises are not an important part of a warm-up. Stretching moves a joint through its full range of motion, however it does this passively and does very little to increase the temperature of muscle. The warm-up should be active and move the joints through their full range of motion. The warm-up progresses from low intensity towards high intensity. For some, the warm-up may actually have them gassed by the end. The benefits of a warm-up include; increased tissue temperature, tissue compliance, energy metabolism, movement efficiency and reduced tissue stiffness. The warm-up can also be used to reinforce fundamental movement mechanics related to speed and agility. The warm-up should emphasize proper foot placement to promote acceleration and prevent deceleration.

Perform one set of each movement at a slow speed for 20 yards and then perform a second set at a faster speed for 20 yards. Stationary movements should be performed for 15 repetitions.

Linear Movements

Focuses on the muscles that cross the hip, knee, and ankle on the anterior and posterior side.

High Knee Walk

As you step forward, grasp just below the knee on the opposite legs and pull the knee towards the chest. Extend the stepping leg, and rise on the toes. Keep the chest high, don’t lean back.

 

 

 

 

High Knee Skip

This exercise is gentle skipping to warm-up the hip muscles. The focus is on rhythmic movement not height or distance. Swing arms opposite the legs. If the left knee is forward the, left arm is back.

 

 

High Knee Run

Start by running in place, keeping the knees high. Slowly progress forward. Focus on landing on the ball of the foot.  Do not lean back or round the shoulders. Pump the arms.

 

 

 

Heel-up

Quickly flex the knee bringing the heel of the foot towards the buttocks. Pump the arms in sync with the legs.

 

 

Straight-leg Walk

March with straight legs, and reach for toes with the opposite hand. Keep the chest high, don’t lean back. Do not kick the leg up, actively raise it until you feel tension in the hamstrings.

 

 

 

Straight-leg Skip

Same as above with rhythmic skipping included.

 

 

 

 

Straight-leg Deadlift Walk

Balance on one leg with the arms out to side. Rotate at the hip and lean forward until the chest is parallel to the ground. Keep both legs straight. Return to the upright position. To move forward, swing the back leg through for one large step.

 

 

 

Backward Run

Literally run backwards. Take large steps, reaching as far as possible with the lead leg. Lean forward at the hips, keep the eyes looking forward.

 

Backpedal

Start with the hips low, in a ¼ squat position. Take smaller steps compared to the backward run, keep the feet beneath the hips. Focus on short quick steps. Keep the hips low, and the chest held high.

 

 

 

Backward and forward lunge walks

Take one giant step forward; drop down into the lunge position, and then using the forward leg rise out of the lunge position and step forward with the opposite leg.  For the backward lunge, do the same except you are walking backwards.

 

 

 

Inchworm

Begin in the push-up position. Drop the hips until they touch the floor,  keep the arms extended so that the chest is off of the floor.  Keeping the legs straight, walk the feet as close as possible to the hands. Then walk the hands out until you are back in the push-up position.

 

 

 

Lateral Movements

Focuses on the lateral and medial muscles of the hip and thigh

Lateral Lunge

Begin with feet about four feet apart. Shift your weight to the right, flex the right knee and hip, and keep the left leg straight.  Keep the right heel down,and sit back without rounding the back. Drive through the right foot and step back into the upright position.  Repeat for the desired distance and repeat for the left leg.

 

 

Spiderman

This drill is done in a stationary position. Assume a push-up position and step forward as if trying to step on your right hand with your right foot. Then, drop the right elbow and touch it to the ground. Return to the start position and repeat for the right side.  Complete 6 reps for each side.

 

 

Upper Body

Focuses on the muscles that cross the shoulder and shoulder girdle

Jumping Jack

Stand upright with the hands by your side. Jump and raise your arms up from your side overhead and land with feet wider than shoulder width apart. Jump and return to the start position. Repeat for 15 repetitions.

 

 

 

Seal Jack

Stand upright with your hands together in front of your chest. Jump and move arms out to the side and land with feet wider than shoulder width apart. Jump and return to the start position. The arms are making a seal clapping motion. Repeat for 15 repetitions.

 

 

 

Ski Jack

Stand upright with the hands by your side. Jump and move arms and legs in a cross-country ski motion. Repeat for 15 repetitions.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a link to the videos.

 

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7TwR2KN5VcTupx4BZlEp4A/feed

 

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