Basic Basics

Spartan Fitness Simplified

by Jason Jaksetic

You can get really far on just a little information. For example, you can travel 1000 miles with simple direction ‘North’. You just want to make sure that ‘North’ is the right direction for where your heading before you set off.

What fitness tips give you the most traction for fitness gains? This blog is an attempt at breaking down these basics, to give your broad directions like “North” to follow. If you keep stumbling in the direction of these 5 fitness practices you’ll eventually get where you need to be.

In the words of Thoreau, ‘Simplify, simplify.’ If you were to come to Spartan HQ we’d have you focused on these 5 things before anything else. The less time you spend worrying about what to do, the more time you can spend doing. When in doubt, focus on one of these 5 fitness components, and begin.


Drink More Water

The minute the animal kingdom crawled itself out of the ocean, land based life needed to establish a means to keep water levels internally. Life is water based. You need water or you will die. Since you can’t absorb water through your skin like an amphibian, you need to drink it. This is why you hydrate.

Before you worry about what to drink, make sure you are drinking enough water. If you are thirsty, drink a glass of water. Sounds simple, but most people don’t really take the time, or opt for other options. Before you drink a glass of calorically dense and sugar-laden juice drink, drink a glass of water to quench some of that thirst. Before reaching for a soda, drink two glasses of water. This is a surefire way to reduce unwanted calorie consumption.

The goal is not to consciously try and stop drinking other kinds of beverages, but to just make sure you adequately quench your thirst with zero calorie water, so that you are not supplementing your caloric intake simply out of thirst. Also, thirst sometimes triggers the sensation of hunger. Drink more, and you might find yourself eating less.


Eat More ‘Real’ Food

There are a lot of different diets. It can get a bit complicated.

Regardless of particular diet, there is an underlying component that most viable ones involve: eat more food, and less food products.

The fewer ingredients the better. The less processing the better. Whatever the diet (fad) that you subscribe too, try and make sure the foods that you eat are as ‘real’ as possible. Real food is produced by nature. It grows. It has a very clear name like ‘apple’. Read the label on any food, and put it back if there are any unpronounceable things inside it. If you can’t figure out what it is, most likely your body will be confused too.

This is a principle that can be applied to any meal, regardless of your diet philosophy. Reach for apple sauce instead of apple pie. Reach for an apple, instead of apple sauce. In any given situation you can practice the reduction of ingredients.

The good news is, that you can eat as much as you want when you are eating raw fruits, vegetables, and seeds. They aren’t calorically dense like processed food. Your stomach will most always fill up on broccoli before you’ve overdone your caloric allotment for the day.



Running is the most efficient way to condition your body for the demands of obstacle racing. No matter how ripped you are, you will need to transport yourself the entire distance of the course on your feet. If you want to be competitive, you need to practice doing this fast.

Running can be done pretty much anywhere. Road, trail, beach. Just get out the door and go. Somehow in recent times we found ourselves having to spend 20 minutes putting on and calibrating our running gear. There are many cyborg-looking types trail running these days, replete with an isle of Radioshack strapped to their bodies. This is cool, but don’t let it stand in your way of quickly running out the door for a 15 to 20 minute run. Most importantly don’t let it lead you to believe that running is too complicated for you. Heading out for a run should be a zero stress experience. Just like when you were a kid, and you ran out the door and didn’t stop until you came back. Start with 10 minutes at a time and don’t worry about the distance you cover. Go five minutes out and then turn around. It can be that simple.

Don’t over-think your running. If you are on your feet and moving forward you are doing better than most. You are surely doing better than if you are on your couch. If you have 20 minutes, grab a pair of basic running shoes and go for an easy jog. Once you are spending over 2-4 hours a week pounding pavement, then start your in-depth running research.

Do Burpees

The human body, with the addition of gravity, supplies most of the requisite gear for getting stronger. The burpee is the optimal dance between your body and gravity that will maximize your fitness gains for your entire body. No equipment needed. Hell, do burpees in your underwear first thing in the morning and you can have your daily workout taken care of before you brush your teeth.

This is a burpee. Learn it. Master it. When in doubt, do burpees. Here is a complete muscular analysis of the burpee.

A complete analysis of the burpee can be found here. You can study that, or simply do a bunch, and feel the ache all over your body as you start to suck wind. That will indicate that you are doing it right. Cardio plus strength equals your fitness foundation for Spartan Race.

Start with 1 burpee a day, even. Then move on to 2, only when you can do the first one with perfect form. Really, it’s that simple. Go slow, be careful, and just keep taking steady steps day to day. Take off every 3rd, 4th, or 5th day to rest. Figure out what works for you.


There are legions of tremendously ‘fit’ athletes who are as inflexible as iron rods. This is actually a terrible weakness, and you are as strong as your weakest link. If you are inflexible, you will most likely break, at those times when you should bend. This is a serious chink in your amour, as one injury can end a season.

Stretch numerous times during the day. Take a break from playing desk jockey every hour for 5 minutes of stretching. You don’t need to perform extreme yoga poses. Just touch your toes. Reach up and touch the ceiling. Or simply squat down with your heels flat on the ground and stand up a few times.

By scheduling yoga into your week you are guaranteed to integrate stretching into your practice. Yoga is a great way to recover from your more intense training, too.

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Eat Your Crucifers

A Closer Look at Brassica Oleracea aka Super-Veggies

by Jason Jaksetic

What do kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts have in common? That is, besides being damn flavorful, densely nutritious, and hearty vegetables? They all fall under the umbrella of being Brassica oleracea.

Brassica oleracea is a species of the plant kingdom that contains some of the most nutritionally dense foods that you can pick up in the produce section of your local food store or co-op. Another common term for these species of plants as they relate to human consumption is cruciferous vegetables (or crucifers). Whatever you decide to call them, just file them away in your mind as ‘good foods’. In short, eat more cruciferous vegetables. So, what exactly is a crucifer?

In nature, when speaking of Brassica oleracea, or crucifers, one is speaking of wild cabbages. But in your diet (unless you gather your own wild cabbage), this species of plant boils down to a common vegetables that have been cultivated for human consumption for thousands of years, examples of which are cabbage, kale, broccoli, bok choy, collards, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.

It is thought that humans have been eating crucifers since the most ancient of times, but the first documentations of their cultivation for food can be traced back to the Greeks, specifically to the writings of Theophrastus (a guy who not only studied with Plato in his youth, but took over the Peripatetic school of philosophy after Aristotle – a very smart fellow, who obviously understood the importance of these vegetables)[1].

From the standpoint of your palate, these beefy vegetables are big on flavor. Some people find that they are, too, flavorful, in fact, and are taken off guard by the intensity of vegetable taste that has been lost in our contemporary diets of processed sweets, sugars, and syrups. They are like the steaks of vegetables – thick, luscious, and something dense to sink your teeth into. They fill you up like few items from the garden can. They make a soup a meal. They make a salad a feast. Stir fry them with rice, and you might be too full to worry about having to prepare a meat. However, they are not only big on taste, they are big on nutrition, delivering huge amounts of the vital elements that make your body go, and keep your immune and cardiovascular system in great shape.

Generally speaking, crucifers are noteworthy for a few reasons:

- They contain a type of flavonoid that activates liver detoxifying enzymes.[2]

- Crucifers are high in vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.

- They regulate white blood cells and cytokines. White blood cells are the scavengers of your immune system, while the cytokines are the messengers that coordinate the activities of the immune system’s cells, in general.[3]

- They are great preventative weapons against cancer.

Cancer Fighting Properties of Cruciferous Vegetables

Most research and documentation about crucifers focuses on the anti-cancer qualities of these vegetables. A review of research published in the October 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that 70% or more of the studies found a link between cruciferous vegetables and protection against cancer.[4] These studies ranged from examinations of reductions in oxidative stress (the overload of harmful molecules that called oxygen-free radicals) to the benefits of phytochemicals (specifically sulforaphane, which stimulates the enzymes involved in detoxification of carcinogens).

In short, the badass nature of these vegetables in the anti-cancer realm is well documented. Do some research and you’ll find more reasons to eat crucifers that you’ll fell like reading.

Nutritional Values of Common Crucifers

A quick peak at the nutritional values of common crucifers. [5]

How to Cook Crucifers

Like with most things Spartan, less is more. Raw consumption of these vegetables insures that you are getting the most of the good stuff, without breaking down and boiling away the good stuff (like phytochemicals). Light steaming is second best to raw. But, ultimately, just eat your crucifers, your body will thank you.

Tips for Including More Crucifers in your Diet

- Use kale on your sandwiches instead of lettuce
- Scooping hummus? Use broccoli or cauliflower.
- Add them to soups and salads alike.

A Spartan Crucifer Recipe: Kale, Broccoli and Sweet Potato Soup

Kale, Broccoli, and Potato Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
6 garlic bulbs, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, chopped
2 broccoli crowns, chopped
3 cups of chopped kale
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh or dried thyme

In large sauce pan heat up olive oil. Add chopped onion, garlic, and sweet potatoes. Saute on medium heat for 5-10 minutes.
Add vegetable broth, water, salt, and thyme. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and then let simmer 10-15 minutes.
Add broccoli and kale, and let simmer additional 10 minutes before serving.



[1]Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 199.
[2]Trivieri, Larry, John W. Anderson, and Burton Goldberg. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2002. Print.
[4]Clinic-Feature, Elaine Magee, MPH, RDWebMD Weight Loss. “The Super-Veggies: Cruciferous Vegetables.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.


Spartan Chicked Challenge 1.1 -1.4

At Spartan Race, we like to see our female obstacle racers out front. Ladies, try this 4-week challenge, and see if it helps you drop your race time, not to mention leave much of the male field in your dust. These workouts all feature bodyweight exercises that address the specific needs and physiology of female obstacle racers.

The Bowler Squat
The Reverse Bear Crawl
The Jumping Pull-up

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Beast Mode Challenge 1.1 to 1.4

Let this 4-week workout challenge kick your Spartan training into the next gear.  Try each workout 1-2x a week for 4 weeks to experience the intense training that you will find our most vicious racers doing to prepare, especially for the brutal endeavor of completing a Spartan Beast.

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Spartan Thanksgiving Feast Week


This Thanksgiving try to these Spartan takes on traditional favorites.  Simply changing a few key ingredients can make these classic dishes into fitness friendly supplements to your training.  There is no reason to have your training and dieting plans derailed by the holiday – subscribe to the Spartan FOD and get recipes sent to your inbox daily.


Sweet corn is a gluten-free cereal, and may be used much like rice and quinoa by those with celiac disease and those wishing to maintain a gluten-free diet. In addition, corn is also a source of high quality fiber.

Spartan Roasted Corn

by Jason Jaksetic

60 minutes
Serves 4
140 calories per serving
Vegan, gluten-free


4 ears of corn
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 small onion
1 small garlic bulb
Salt and pepper


1.  Soak corn (still in husks) in water for 30 minutes.
2.  Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
3.  Chop up garlic cloves and onion into small pieces.
4.  Remove corn from husks.
5.  Rub coconut oil all over each ear of corn. The easiest way is to slather it on with your fingers.
6.  Put each ear of corn in a piece of foil along with 1/4 of your chopped garlic and onions.
7.  Salt and pepper everything and then wrap up your corn, garlic, and onions in the foil.
8.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F, unwrap, and serve.


Following decreased risk of urinary tract infections, increased health of the cardiovascular system is perhaps the best-researched area of the health benefits of including cranberries into your diet. The combined impact of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients found in cranberries help ensure that your cardio will be top notch.

Healthified Cranberry Sauce

by Andrew Thomas

20-30 minutes
Serves 3-5
Vegan, gluten-free


3 cups of cranberries
2 oranges
1/3 cup of honey
1/4 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons of nutmeg


1.  Peel orange, remove white rind, and chop into 1/2″ pieces.
2.  Add cranberries, orange pieces, honey, water and spices to saucepan.
3.  Bring to boil.
4.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring every now and then.
5.  Remove from heat and pour into bowl. The sauce will thicken as it cools.


Potatoes are a great source of vitamin B6, which plays numerous roles in our nervous system, many of which involve our neurological activity. B6 is necessary for the creation of amines, a type of messaging molecule or neurotransmitter that the nervous system relies on to transmit messages from one nerve to the next.  Potatoes also contain healthy doses of iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, copper and potassium.

Rosemary and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

by Andrew Thomas

25 minutes
4-6 servings
Vegetarian, gluten-free


4 medium Yukon gold potatoes
2 tablespoons of organic butter
4 tablespoons of organic heavy cream
1 teaspoon of olive oil
3 cloves of fresh garlic
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper


1.  Put potatoes into a saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add water until potatoes are covered. Bring to boil.
2.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
3.  Warm cream and melt butter together in a pan on the stove.
4.  Drain water from potatoes. Put hot potatoes into a bowl.
5.  Add cream and melted butter. Use potato masher or fork to mash potatoes until desired consistency.
6.  Dice garlic and rosemary, then add to mashed potatoes. Mix thoroughly and serve!


Plan a wicked hard workout before sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, for there are about 32g of protein in a 4-oz. serving of turkey, making it a solid source of essential amino acids. In fact, just one serving of turkey provides 65 percent of your recommended daily intake of protein.

Turkey is also considered a good source of vitamins B3 and B6. A serving of turkey meat has 36 percent of the daily allowance of B3 and 27 percent of your recommended intake of B6. Additionally, turkey also contains selenium, which is essential for the healthy function of the thyroid and immune system, and also plays a role in your antioxidant defense system, helping to eliminate free radicals from your body.

Spartan Turkey

by Andrew Thomas

3-4 hours
4-6 servings
Gluten free


12 lb turkey
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
Salt and pepper


1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Rub the lemon juice, salt, and pepper on outside of the turkey.
2.  Place the turkey breast side down in a shallow roasting pan. Roast un-stuffed turkey 3.  for 15 minutes for each pound.
4.  45 minutes before it is done, measure the internal temperature with a thermometer. 5.  When it reaches 125°F, turn the turkey and increase the oven temperature to 400°F for the remaining roasting time.
6.  The turkey is cooked once its internal temperature reads 165°-170°F while the thermometer is inserted into the mid-thigh.
7.  When it is done, place turkey on a large platter and let it sit for 15-20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to be redistributed and the meat to become moist throughout.


Make pumpkin a part of this holiday season and harvest for yourself the benefits of its mood enhancing amino acid tryptophan – a serotonin boosting agent that can positively affect your mood.

Pumpkin Mango Pudding

by Rose Marie Jarry 

15 minutes
2 servings
154 calories per serving
Gluten-free, vegan


1 cup of frozen diced mango
1 cup of cooked pumpkin
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
1 tablespoon of agave syrup


1.  Blend together the fruits and agave syrup.
2.  Add the chia seeds, and mix well.
3.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for a more jellylike texture.


When cooking desserts, reach for sweet and savory cinnamon. Seasoning a high carb food with cinnamon can help lessen its impact on your blood sugar levels. This is because cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after a meal, thus reducing a rise in blood sugar after eating.

Cinnamon Apple Crisps

by Andrew Thomas

40 minutes
Serves 6-8
Vegan, gluten-free


6 apples, peeled
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup of almond flour
1/4 cup of coconut oil
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
Pinch of salt


1.  Peel and slice the apples, then lay them into a 9 X 11 baking dish.
2.  Squeeze lemon juice onto the apples to prevent browning.
3.  In a bowl, mix the almond flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, and sea salt, 4.  until it resembles a crumble.
5.  Sprinkle crumble over the apples, and place in the oven at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.
6.  Remove from oven, let cool, and indulge!

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Spartan Beginner Challenge 1.1 – 1.4

by Jason Jaksetic

Let this 4-week progress act as your introduction into Spartan training.  Try each workout 1-2x a week for 4 weeks to get your feet wet, and you’ll soon be more than confident to sign up for a Spartan Race.

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Challenge: Spartan Chicked 1.2

Part 2 of a 4-week Challenge

At Spartan Race, we like to see our female obstacle racers out front. Ladies, try this 2nd installment of a 4-week challenge. These workouts all feature bodyweight exercises that address the specific needs and physiology of female obstacle racers.

This week, .


Chicked 1.2

20 minute run
3 x 25’ reverse bear crawl*


30-second plank
10 crunches
30-second plank
15 bicycles
30-second plank
5 laying leg raises

x 3


WTF is a reverse bear crawl?

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Beast Mode 1.1 – Spartan WOD Challenge:  Week 1

Think you are ready for a beast of a challenge in your weekly training?  Try this workout as part 1 of a 4-week Beast Mode Challenge and rip up this November.  Swing by our Facebook wall for more info and to post your progress.

Click here for week 2.


Well done is better than well said.
– Benjamin Franklin

At the end of a run, and/or after a serious dynamic warm-up, perform the following high intensity intervals:

High Intensity Intervals:
30 seconds of burpees
30 seconds recovery
30 seconds sprint
30 seconds recovery

8 x


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Grit vs. the Ventilatory Threshold

By Michael Levine and Jason Jaksetic

In response to the recent Wall Street Journal article on exercise, here at Spartan Race, we felt a certain responsibility to weigh in on the subject of what allows one individual to exceed all her perceived athletic limits, while another individual can’t endure a week of exercise.

When you read the WSJ article, you are going to see terms like VO2 Max, CO2 levels, lactic acid, and, particularly, ‘ventilatory threshold’, and these numbers are going to used to help breakdown athletic achievement and failure.  Thus making the case for certain individuals ‘being hardwired to hate exercise’.

What you won’t see is any talk about resiliency, guts, personal value, or grit – and it is these core constituents of human data the unbalance any equation set up in a lab.    Yes, people often move to quickly into exercise and they find themselves waning at the prospect of success, and many biological factors do play into this fact.  However, more often than not, people do not test the basic limitations of their body.  Instead of slowing down, they needed to accelerate.

We each have a tremendous capacity for physical growth.  Need proof? Google ‘Chris Davis Project’.  This mild-mannered computer specialist from Atlanta was nearly 700 pounds before starting to train with Spartan Race CEO Joe De Sena.  Over the next year, Chris learned just what it meant to truly be out of breath, and then keep walking another five miles!  What he would tell you if he were sitting next to me is that he discovered new limits every day.

The problem was that individually,  he was never able to reach such a point to surpass his preconceived notions of physical effort and what he could accomplish.  Fast forward one year and Chris Davis completed the Spartan Race Beast in Killington, Vermont at just over 260 pounds.

We contend that you need to go no further than the starting line of any of our races to see what grit means.  Maybe, in the end, ventilatory threshold might be a pretty good scientific explanation for what most people mean as ‘grit’, but this leads to a false conclusion that, if the ventilatory threshold is a capped number, then a human’s capacity for grit were also capped, or ‘hard wired’.

Be sure to download the free Spartan eBook for first person accounts of grit and determination.

Subscribe for our daily Spartan WOD email.


IOC makes room for Obstacle Racing in the 2020 Olympics

by Jason Jaksetic

There have been many recent developments in Olympic history, and if you couldn’t keep up, here is a breakdown.

The good news first.

1. Everyone got to learn about modern pentathlon.  One does not often discover an Olympic level sport that somehow integrates shooting, swordplay, horse jumping, running, and swimming. My mental imagery goes somewhere between superheroes and samurais. This is great, and I’m not going to suggest the IOC put the pentathlon back on the chopping block, which was the original plan by some accounts.

2. The I.O.C must have caught wind of our bid to bring obstacle racing to the 2020 Olympics. We understand there has to be the limit to the sports in the olympics.  Otherwise there would be backyard sports in the Olympics  like horseshoes and trampoline…

Wait, incase you haven’t heard, trampoline is an Olympic sport and will remain an olympic sport while…

3. Wrestling is out of the Olympics. At Spartan HQ, we are still grappling with this, as Spartan Race has a close connection with wrestling.

In our first eBook (download it for free), there is an entire chapter written about a future Olympics, with a cast of characters that includes wrestlers and obstacle racers training, and possible competing against each other.

The imagery is no figment of our imaginations.  In 2009, Spartan HQ, located in Pittsfield Vt., was host for one of the United States Wrestling Team’s training camps. Here is an article that details the week of wrestler’s chopping wood and carrying logs in the Vermont Mountains (video here).

Jeff Funicello was put on the round table of Spartan Coaches because of his extreme understanding of fitness through his success in international level wrestling, grappling, Judo, and other competition forms that have lead him to so many world championships.  (Here is a list of all his world championships).

Recently, in 2013 there was wrestling at a winter Death Race.

Wrestlers make an amazing obstacle racers.  They make great people.  We’ve seen many lists lately of presidents, generals, and all around hero types who thrived as wrestlers.

Dismayed at the decision of the IOC, we are hoping you will join Spartan Race in support of bringing wrestling back to the Olympics.

Please help support the effort: