By Holly Joy Berkey

After much of the country endured a very long and bitter winter, the cold has finally subsided and we now find ourselves eagerly anticipating the warmth of the summer months.  But along with the excitement of balmy summer days and the promise of sunshine and plenty of time spent outdoors, this time of year can also bring with it the jarring realization of forgotten New Year’s Resolutions, a sudden awareness of an overabundance of holiday indulging, and the overwhelming dread of “bikini season”.

Women are constantly bombarded with the pressure to fit a specific body type, especially as the warmest months of the year arrive.  It seems as though a wave of disappointment begins to wash over us as we are forced to peer back at the women on fashion magazines, smiling happily at us as they pose confidently in their tiny bikinis.  The headlines enticing us with their perfect “quick fix” to help us magically drop 10-15 pounds in just a matter of days.  And just like that our brains convince us that we are inferior, telling us that because we have not achieved the body we see before us that we have failed, and a sudden drop in self-confidence leaves us spiraling into a self-loathing depression.

Each year we repeat this cycle, and each year the pressure is on to achieve the perfect bikini body.  Unfortunately it seems that our society teaches us that little to no actual effort is required to attain long lasting results, and instead we are bombarded with ads promising that we can drop a copious amount of weight within just a few days by completing a quick workout and sticking to their prescribed diet.  This is not realistic, nor is it a healthy way to lose weight.

How many women do you know (or perhaps are you one of them?) who suddenly hit the panic button when summer suddenly arrives? Thus begins a manic flurry of massive calorie restrictions, diet pills and workout overkill guaranteed to burn out even the most determined of women.  Even though a few pounds may be initially lost, this weight reduction is fleeting, as sooner or later our bodies need proper nutrition, realistic fitness goals and a healthy approach to maintain lasting results.  The yo-yo effect can wreak havoc not only on your body, but on your self-confidence as well, as you swing back and forth between self-hatred and frantic desperation while trying to maintain a lifestyle based around deprivation.

So how do we overcome this vicious cycle and instead find ourselves approaching summer with confidence?  You may even wonder if this is even possible.  To begin with, committing to a lifestyle which combines healthy eating with a workout plan which is consistent and realistic is key.  Our bodies aren’t meant to gain and lose excessive amounts within a short period of time, but a pound or two lost a week by means of a healthy diet and exercise is much more likely to stay off in the long run.  We also need to realize that these goals take time.  Just as it takes time to gain weight (which is why we generally don’t realize the vast impact that we’ve made on our bodies until more pounds than we care to admit have crept onto our bodies), it also takes time to lose weight.  I’ve met countless women who have begun a journey towards better health, who become frustrated when results do not instantly happen, and then they give up, convinced that the desired weight loss will never occur.  It’s then that they then tend to revert to the “quick fix diets” which unfortunately will never truly deliver the results that are so desired.

But not only do women need to focus on committing to a lifestyle focused on healthy diet and exercise that is a long term investment, but also (and this is much easier said than done), we need to stop being so hard on ourselves.

I recently saw an incredibly inspiration video that had been shared in the Spartan Chicked Facebook group, and it moved me to think about how hard we as women are on ourselves, and a lot of times on each other as well.  The video hosted Tarynn Brumfitt, a woman who has struggled with body image issues for years, much like the majority of women in our society today.  As a former body builder, she realized that even with the “perfect body” she still found herself lacking confidence as to how she felt about herself.  She then went on to become a mother, which produced curves that left her feeling much less than perfect.  Upon taking on a project to ask 100 women to describe themselves in one word, she was horrified as each woman she asked replied with a self-loathing description; “Lumpy, Fat, Ugly, Average, Stumpy..” these are just a few of the replies she heard, and she began to wonder if her own daughter would someday feel the same way about her own body, refusing the see the beauty that she too possesses.  This changed something in Tarynn, and she has now committed to loving her body, no matter her shape, and began the “Embrace” movement, which is raising money for a documentary that will be centered on teaching women to learn to love their bodies.

Tarynn’s story is just one of many in which women are choosing to fight against the urge to fall into a pattern of self-hatred, fad dieting, and unrealistic workout goals.  What we as women need to do is band together to support one another in our individual objectives.  We need to encourage, love, and advocate for each other, and we need to commit to loving ourselves as well.  This isn’t easy, but it’s possible, and surrounding ourselves with other women who are devoted to this same mindset will help us be that much more successful in our own personal fitness and health goals.

I recently saw a great meme online that said, “How do you get a bikini body? Simple.  Put a bikini on your body.”  Several drawings of women of all shapes and sizes in bikinis were then displayed.  What a great message!  Yes, I do believe we should all strive to be as healthy as we can, but we also must realize that we are all at different stages of that journey.  Just because you may not look like a model on a magazine, does not mean that the great things that you are working toward achieving shouldn’t be celebrated!  Just don’t give up; you can do what you set out to do!

So should you rock that bikini?  Yes!  Wear it confidently!  Love the body you have, and keep working steadily toward your goals, I know you’ve got this! Spartan Chicked women are strong, confident, and dedicated, and as long as you don’t forget how beautiful you truly are, you’ll live with confidence as you continue on your journey of healthy, happy living.

~Holly Joy Berkey

www.muddymommy.com

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Just the words “Virginia Super Spartan Race” sends shivers down the spines of many who witnessed what course designer Norm Koch prepared for them last year. One of the most brutal courses in the history of Spartan Race left many competitors really experiencing what it meant to “know at the finish line”. Those Blue Ridge Mountains just seem to go on and on, don’t they?

Virginia 2013 was also notable for the emergence of Matt Novakovich, who exploded from nowhere to not only win, but dared to beat the legend, Hobie Call, by around two minutes. The Alaskan has since gone on from strength to strength and is now a regular podium finisher and a staple of the Spartan Pro Team.

So, what’s in store this year? Well, let’s just say that while, as per usual, we’re not giving anything away, we’ll just tell you that having good leg muscle memory will be useful to you. With the race being a Super, there will be at least 8 miles of obstacles and trails. We’re going to put down 3 water stations for you, but if you don’t think that will suffice, by all means bring your own means of carrying fluids. Cramping and dehydration aren’t fun things to experience and bear in mind that Nellysford experiences average temperatures in the mid 80’s in August, as with most things Spartan related, if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.

For those making a road trip to the beautiful surroundings of the Wintergreen Resort in Nellysford, the first priority is somewhere to stay. By clicking here, you can have a browse through which hotels tick your relevant boxes. If you’d prefer something a little cheaper, there is a hostel close by that might be able to help you. With the accommodation in the area all boasting good reviews, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’ll be well looked after.

There’s also the option of the good old-fashioned bed and breakfast, should you choose to go down that route. With all the establishments with reviews scoring either 4 out of 5 or higher, it’s clear that making travelers and strangers welcome is something that Charlottesville excels at.

The same goes for when you want to either carb up or replace all those calories you’ll have burned off on the course – because trust us, you will!

There are almost 450 restaurants and places to eat that are featured on Tripadvisor’s site and thanks to their site, you can select the style you are looking for, if you have those pangs for something particular. Whether it be your typical American steakhouse, or if it’s something a little more exotic, such as Greek, Indian or Thai cuisine. With so much on offer and such a broad range available, there will almost certainly be something that will fill whichever hunger hole you have.

Some of the best terrain is waiting for you.

But if having a drink and possibly shaking your stuff is something that is high on your list of priorities, that’s well covered in the reviews section on Yelp for the area. Additionally, you have a selection of wine bars, nightclubs and even “dive” bars, if you prefer that kind of thing. Again, with many scoring very high and positive reviews, having a good time is an almost certainty.

Naturally, the responsible Spartan makes sure there’s a designated driver if alcohol passes the lips, but if not there are some local taxi companies that will be able to make sure you get back to your accommodation safe and sound.

For more information about the area, there is a very useful website that is all about Charlottesville. Have a look here and you’ll find out about things to see and do, just in case you choose to make a long weekend of it after celebrating your Super finish.

See you at the finish line!

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By Pro Team Member Chris Rutz

“Everything is bigger in Texas” is phrase that Spartan Race was determined to live up to in Austin. The race returned to Reveille Peak Ranch for its third year and drew in excess of 12,000 athletes. New this year was the Super distance. In past year only the Sprint distance race was run. This year the Super was added. All racers on Saturday ran the Super and all runners on Sunday ran the Sprint. This created the opportunity for 2/3 of the Trifecta in one weekend. It also creates the opportunity to earn a Trifecta without leaving the state on Texas. The Dallas Beast will be later this year on 11/1.

The Sprint course was essentially the first 1/3 and last 1/3 of the Super course. The Super course added a number of challenges not seen by those that ran the Sprint. The highlight of the Super course was a hill climb on slick rock that reminded many of the runners of sections of trail near Moab, UT. Much of the added distance of the Super included off trail bushwhacking and stream crossings. In addition the Super racers had an Atlas Stone carry and double the distance on the tractor pull to name a few of the additional challenges.

Both courses had some significant challenges. The climbing ropes seemed to be especially slick. Perhaps it was the Texas mud. The Spear also seemed to have a higher failure rate than normal. In a twist which runners hate and obstacle racers love, most of the “burpee” obstacles were clustered at the end of the course. The Traverse Wall, the Hercules Hoist, the Rope Climb and the Spear were all within the last ¼ mile of the race. Just before entering the festival area where these obstacles were clustered, racers were challenged with a 150 yard swim section. PFD and a bypass were available for non swimmers. This definitely is a favorite venue by most the Spartan faithful.

The Elite heats on each day were won by the same athletes,  John Yatsko of Flagstaff, AZ and Rose Wetzel of the Spartan Pro Team from Seattle, WA.  They each took home $2,500 for their victories, $2,000 on Saturday and $500 on Sunday. Prize money for Saturday’s race was funded by Navy Federal Credit Union. Rounding out the top 3 on Saturday were, Hobie Call (Utah) $1,000 and Chad Trammell (Washington)  $500 and Chikorita De Lego (Mexico) $1,000 and KK Paul (Arizona) $500. On Sunday’s Sprint, home town racer Isaiah Vidal and Elliott Megquier, both on the Spartan Pro Team placed second and third, with Chikorita De Lego and Laura Lunardi taking those same positions for the ladies.

It was a perfect weekend for a race in Texas. The weather was just right, the racers were pumped and the course delivered on the promises of Spartan Race. Next up are the Tri-State Sprints.

See you at the finish line! 

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In this installment of “How To”, Elite Pro Team athlete Miguel Medina shows us how to get past the Atlas carry without too much worry.

With each person comes different skill, strength and technique levels. Just bear in mind that simple golden rule: lift with your legs, not your back!

Use this technique at your next Spartan Race and we’ll see you at the finish line!

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Michael Mendoza wasn’t always the rippling torso of sinew and muscles that he is now. One fateful day, only 30 yards into a 10k that he’d signed up for and not trained for at all – despite his lethargic attitude to life – he realized that taking his body for granted was a dangerous thing to do. His life was going to change immediately and it all began with his diet. He explains…

“Going vegan was definitely not an overnight process, which is why it bugs me that so many people think they can guilt someone into going vegan. Look, I knew that we tortured animals, but I could have really cared less. They were our food, so who cared if they were ethically treated before slaughter, right?

Vegans and animal rights activists just have way too much time on their hands! Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely an animal lover, dogs, cats, and anything on the endangered species list, but not our food supply.”

Michael explains that he got to where he is by what he calls his “Matrix Effect”. He decided to take that  pill and see just how far the rabbit hole led him. Having already started an exercise regimen with healthier foods and leaner meats, the thought of giving up meat never crossed his mind.

“I was pretty successful in losing a large amount of weight when a book called “Skinny Bastard,” made its way into my hands. I laughed at the notion of vegetarianism but read it anyways. After reading the book, I was horrified and in disbelief. I didn’t want to buy into the fact that our food supply was really tainted. I didn’t want to believe that the government could allow any of these practices to go on. I did more research and eventually adopted a vegan diet. I lost even more weight but reverted into vegetarianism. Years go by as a vegetarian and I had gained a substantial amount of weight back.”

Michael didn’t know another vegetarian or vegan (or “v*gan”, as they are commonly referred to in text) at all by this time. This eventually changed due to social media and he met many others with the same philosophy online. Noticing that many of the vegans he saw online were athletes, he decided to give it a try and go vegan. He bought the book “Thrive” by Brendain Braizer – a successful vegan triathlete – and took his advice.

“I followed his program and had this energy that I never had before. I was able to go faster and further with this new diet. I was running 10k’s and half marathons for fun! I dropped a lot of weight and was in the best shape of my life. All thanks to social media.”

“Another thing that happened was that I learned compassion for animals. I gave up leather and anything related to animal products. Being vegan does open your eyes to the fact that you really don’t need animal products to survive. Heck, being vegan is why I have all this energy.”

But there wasn’t just one tipping point or moments of clarity that Michael puts this down to. He was around 300+lbs, smoked occasionally and drank all the time. He recalls how what he consumed on a daily basis wasn’t good. “My diet was also pretty horrendous. I never ate a single meal without meat and drank at least three cans of diet cherry coke every day.”

“I was at a party and a few friends were talking about a 10K they entered. I had run a 10K for a college final once before, and I was still confident about it. I jokingly said that I was able to run a race, and everyone just laughed at me. To prove them wrong, I signed up for it.  It was a scorcher and well over 100 degrees outside. I met all my friends and we headed to the starting line. Keep in mind, I had zero training and did not prepare for this run at all. They shot that gun and we all started running like rats abandoning a ship. I had a good stride until about 30 or so yards. My lungs started to hurt, my legs started to ache, and I could barely breathe! I took a look back at the starting line and seriously thought about heading back in shame.

300 pound guy trying to run six miles? What was I thinking? I decided the shame of turning back would be too much to handle, so I pressed forward. I decided that I would finish this God forsaken race even if I had to crawl to the finish line.”

As he was bent over double, gasping for air, he was passed by a lady that was in her 70’s. The full horror of his own physical fitness was now washing over him like a cold shower. The alarms were ringing and life was slapping his face from left to right and back again. Time to wake up, Michael.

“She looked like someone that I should help cross the street and here she was passing this guy in his 20’s?! This was ridiculous! So I gave all that I had and passed her up. It was a back and forth race for miles with this lady who should have been knitting at home, not competing with me in a race that I was obviously losing! I finally gave up! She passed me and I was embarrassed. I started to hyperventilate and seriously thought I might die that day. But Like I said, I decided to finish even if I had to crawl across that damn line!”

He eventually finished the race in what he considers to be the worst shape of his life. Sweaty, drained of energy and feeling utterly humiliated and beaten down, it took Michael 1 hour and 52 minutes to cover the 10k. Feeling so drained, Michael had to rest for a few hours before he considered himself good enough to drive home, such was the level of his exhaustion.

“Ever since that day I knew that I needed to get into shape but never really knew how. I was so lazy and eventually lost the passion to get fit. A few months later I took a trip to Europe. My life forever changed since then.”

Some of Michael’s training would include things like uphill sand dune sprints

“In the States I was huge but there were others that were equally large around me. In Europe however, I was the biggest guy in the Continent! It didn’t take very long to realize why! My first day in Venice Italy, I went to a local shop and ordered a pizza and soda. It was such a tiny slice of pizza and the smallest soda I have ever seen! I laughed and thought I must have ordered in the over-priced tourist area!

Later on for dinner, I went to another restaurant and ordered some ravioli. Oh I was super excited! I mean, I’m in Italy eating Italian. Awesome right? Nope! Here comes the waiter with my bowl full of ravioli, 4 pieces. 4 freaking pieces! It was the Twilight Zone here!”

Reverting to type, Michael resorted to what he knew – American fast food. Going to Burger King and McDonalds, he knew he would be in familiar territory. Sadly for him, he soon found that there wasn’t a “Super Size” option for him to fall back on. He quickly understood that he would “either starve or go broke.”

“Slowly but surely I started realizing that these Europeans didn’t have tiny portion sizes, but we Americans had gigantic portion sizes. I also figured out another thing, my feet were killing me. I was walking everywhere. In California, walking was for people who didn’t have cars, not for everyone else.

I came back with a new outlook on life. There was a Starbucks about a quarter mile from my apartment that I would drive to. I never took my car again and started a portion control diet with exercise.”

In regards to training, Michael was a rudderless ship. Not really knowing what he wanted to do, or even how to do it, he was all over the place.

“I started this popular diet called “Atkins.” It was great! I got to eat tons of bacon and eggs and didn’t have to worry about anything. Well, that didn’t last long. I didn’t lose any weight and I felt horrible. I started researching different programs and eventually found one that I liked. It was superset lifting with 33% protein, 33% carbs, and 33% fats. It told me to stay away from fruits and not to do any cardio. I cheated and ate fruits and started to run.”

His vendetta was consuming him. He had a score to settle with 10K of asphalt. He wanted to be able to run a distance that he considered a man of his age should easily be able to do.

“I calculated a full 3 miles around my whole apartment block. It wasn’t easy at all but I was completely motivated. My first run was similar to that 10K I did months before. After about 30 yards in, I was done, but pushed myself to keep going. Days that I wasn’t attempting to run, I started to lift. I was way too embarrassed to hit up a local gym, so I used my apartment gym instead. Luckily we had a decent amount of weights and exercise equipment. I didn’t know what I was doing so I just followed a workout plan.”

The difference in his body wasn’t something he noticed at first. Not overly concerned with how he looked, moreover how he felt, he eventually saw that, over the months, his body was changing in a positive way.

“After months of running, months of eating healthy, and months of dropping pounds, I ran 6 miles without stopping. I didn’t even really notice that I had reached this level of “athleticism.” It was everyday work for me and I had never taken notice.”

There was a quote that I printed up and went like this, “Unless you’re giving 100% every time, you might as well stay at home. So that’s what I did, gave it my 100% every time I went out! Granted, you’re going to have good days and bad days, but I never limited myself.”

“What really made me realize the difference were the compliments from friends and family at how much weight I had lost. I honestly did not notice much changing, it was only till my friends said something that I was able to really look at old pictures of myself, and notice the change.”

But as every Spartan Racer knows, there is an area that every single person has, regardless of strength, stamina, build, body shape, age or mental fortitude. A common bond that we all share and one that we all have to push past in order to make it worthwhile – the comfort zone.

“Yes! Getting out of your comfort zone!”, Michael laughs, “the hardest thing for me was getting rid of the people who were negatively influencing me and hanging out with those who would positively influence me. You cannot get into shape if you’re hanging out with people who do nothing but drink, smoke, and eat horrible food.”

“I put friendships, nightlife and fast food on hold. I told myself that it was a temporary inconvenience and that it would be worth it in the end. Boy did it pay off. I seriously felt like a whole new person afterwards. Accepting that everything I knew about food was completely wrong was hard but necessary. Admitting being wrong about a lot of stuff was tough but was the first step to recovery. Once I accepted that I had no idea what I was doing, I was then able to move forward and learn about food and fitness.”

Offering advice for those open to what he experienced, Michael is quick to lay out some pointers, should anyone want to follow his example.

“It is hard and boy is it tough! If it were easy, everyone would be in shape! You have to want it bad and be willing to struggle for it. Once you get to that point where you have that, “nothing is going to stop me,” mentality, you’ll be successful! Most people quit at the first sign of a struggle and wonder why their “diet” doesn’t work. If there is a wall, you climb it. If there is a ditch, you jump over it. If there is a lake, you swim across it. That’s it. That’s the secret! For every object that gets in your path, you have to overcome it. And that is how you will succeed.”

Obstacles are not there to prevent your progress. They are opportunities to show what your mind and body can do.

Sign up today and we’ll see you at the finish line.

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When one talks to friends and family about training, one activity often gets unfairly overlooked. Despite being arguably one of the better ways to get in shape, and more importantly stay that way, it remains bizarrely underrated. The activity we are talking about is swimming.

The benefits of swimming are numerous and what’s more, it’s a skill that ideally everyone should have. Swimming can literally save your life. So why doesn’t swimming play an active role in your training? It should, and here’s some reasons why:

1) Low Impact

As part of being active and training, running will invariably be part of your way of life. The wear on your joints while running however, can take their toll. This isn’t an issue when it comes to swimming. There is no ground impact when you swim. In fact the Arthritis Foundation are very keen to push this fact. So much so that you may even find sponsored classes all over the country. Water or Aqua aerobics are increasingly popular for this very reason, as the natural buoyancy in the water means that this is an change to your routine you should explore if you haven’t already done so. When the human body is immersed in water it automatically becomes lighter. When immersed to the waist, your body bears just 50 percent of its weight; dunk yourself to the chest and that number reduces to around 25 to 35 percent; with water all the way to the neck, you only have to bear 10 percent of your own weight. The remaining 90 percent is handled by the pool.
Even better news is that if you have access to a pool that is heated, rheumatoid arthritis sufferers will notice the difference in how stiff joints are “loosened”.

2) Cardiorespiratory fitness

Regular swimming builds endurance. In fact, one study amongst sedentary middle aged men and women who swam as training for only 3 months found that maximal oxygen consumption levels improved by around 10% and stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped with each beat which indicates heart strength) improved as much as 18%.

3) Life long activity

The idea that swimming can only be done up to a certain age is utter nonsense. Because of the lack of impact, swimming is an activity that can be done through ones entire life. The US Masters Swimming website even has a category for those aged between 100 and 104.
Never forget that one of the heroes of Spartan Race is also one of the biggest ambassadors for swimming as part of an active life  – Jack La Lanne. Jack still swam for an hour a day before he passed away aged 93.

4) Muscle mass improvement

In a study that lasted 2 months, men who completed the swimming program showed, on average, 23.8% increase in the tricep muscle. The resistance of the water when moving, whether it’s submerged running, has consistently proved itself to be an excellent way to build and tone. Because water is 12 times denser than air, and it’s been proven that resistance work aids muscles development and toning, getting in the water should be a no-brainer.

5) An aid for the injured

When sportsmen and women become injured, especially in the lower extremities, swimming or submerged training is a given. The resistance not only allows them to keep training due to the lack of impact, but it serves as an excellent rehabilitation tool.

NFL star Chad Jones in water rehabilitation after injury.

 

6) Family fun

As discussed in a previous Spartan blog, with childhood obesity levels not showing signs of slowing, swimming and playing in water is something any family can do that is a perfect example of making exercise or training fun.

7) Burn those calories!

Swimming burns lots of calories, anywhere from 500-650 per hour depending on how efficiently you swim. The good news is that as a beginner, or someone who hasn’t yet mastered a long, clean stroke, thrashing and flopping through an untidy stroke will actually burn more calories. So, if you wanted to use the excuse that you can’t swim – now’s your chance!
While swimming burns a little less than running and only slightly less than biking, it is still an excellent resource for toning and slimming. Naturally, this is dependent upon the intensity of how hard you swim. Faster strokes for longer will burn more calories, but that’s also where the endurance comes in.

8) Flexibility

We’re often told that, as a Spartan racer, there’s difference between movement and flexibility. Some of the shapes we make with our bodies during races aren’t what you’d call “normal”. Climbing over that slippery wall often has folk with one leg thrown over the side while the hands still grip the rope and the other foot is planted on the side. All very contorted and unusual. How about some of the positions some folks get in when they go over the suspended cargo net? Or the Over-Under-Through obstacle? These all require flexibility and swimming is the perfect tool for that.
While doing the crawl stroke, think about it. Your arms are making arcs, one after the other, pushing the water away from you. You’ll be turning your hips from side to side while you do this motion in order for your arms to gain a better positions. While all this is going on, your legs are kicking in a scissor motion.

Your whole body is moving and contorting in different directions. With regular swimming and different swimming techniques and strokes, your body becomes more and more flexible.

9) Help your heart!

Because swimming is an aerobic exercise, it serves to strengthen the heart, not only helping it to become larger, but making it more efficient in pumping — which leads to better blood flow throughout your body. Research also shows that aerobic exercise can combat the body’s inflammatory response as well — a key link in the chain that can lead to heart disease.
If that’s not enough to get you moving in the pool, the American Heart Association reports that just 30 minutes of exercise per day, such as swimming, can reduce coronary heart disease in women by 30 to 40 percent. Additionally, an analysis by the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that regular aerobic exercise could reduce blood pressure.

So the question really isn’t about why you should go swimming. It’s really why you shouldn’t. If you cannot swim, there are almost certainly lessons available close to you. Not only will it keep you healthy, toned, improve your respiratory system, joints, muscles and flexibility, it may even save your life.

Swim to win.

See you at the finish line…

Credits: usaswimming.org, active.com, nj.com, bodybuilding.com

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OK, bear with me on this one. It’s a little out of left field and I wouldn’t want you to go thinking I’ve turned a little bit, well, “frustrated”, but when it comes to being healthy and happy, have you considered getting frisky with your significant other?

Yes – I told you that I needed you to bear me out on this one. No giggling at the back. This is serious.

Not that you may need an excuse to leave a trail of clothes to whichever room you prefer to show your “approval” in, wouldn’t you like to know how horizontal tangos are a benefit to you?

Well, there’s the fact that whilst enjoying some conjugal rights once or twice a week experience higher levels of immunoglobin A or, for short, IgA. This is what you need to help fight off colds and flus. It binds to bacteria that invade the body, and then activates the immune system to destroy them.

Dr Carl Charnetski, of  Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylavania, and his colleague Frank Brennan researched the effect that sex had on IgA levels.

Just over 100 Wilkes undergraduates, aged 16 to 23, were asked how frequently within the past month they had had sex. In addition to this, they measured levels of IgA in the volunteers’ saliva.

According to the New Scientist, the results showed that participants who had sex less than once a week had a tiny increase in IgA over those who abstained completely, but those who had one or two sexual encounters each week had a 30% rise in levels.

Interestingly, those people who had very frequent (which was regarded as three or more times a week), had lower IgA levels than those who didn’t participate at all.

So while the research doesn’t prove that it’s a 100% certainty that enjoying intimacy with your partner will definitely keep you free from illness, it’s still a fun path to tread in the name of research. More loving equals a better immune system? Who’d have thought it?

But it doesn’t end there. Those experiencing high blood pressure – and we’ll avoid the most obvious joke here – and high levels of stress can find pleasing results in maintaining a healthy sex life. It has been proven to de-stress and while your heart rate may be a little quicker for the duration, long term it’s been shown that it is a great avenue of stress reduction.

Want a healthy heart? Have an “early night”. While you may hear stories of some men having heart attacks whilst in the middle of the deed, these instances are very Hollywood and are very rare. In fact a regular love life of once or twice a week has proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks for men.

Again, avoiding obvious and easy-to-make jokes, did you ever wonder why a man may occasionally nod off afterwards? A chemical called oxytocin is released when he’s “done” and this promotes healthy sleep. As we’ve already explained on this blog before, healthy sleep helps with blood pressure and weight maintenance.

Here’s something that will bust a few myths wide open for you. Having a headache is no longer a good excuse. Oxytocin also increases endorphins and decreases pain, especially headaches. Yes, it’s true. Sex is a great cure for a headache! A little snuggle is also a great way to heal up wounds, especially those suffered by diabetics, as it accelerates healing by regenerating certain cells.

If you’re lacking in calcium, don’t bother with milk (it actually leeches calcium from the bones, not adds to it), have sex. This especially applies to women. Women who have sex regularly have higher testosterone levels, and higher testosterone levels mean better bone density and lower risk of osteoporosis.

Sex is a great anti-aging avenue to explore, too. During sex, the body secretes the steroid hormone  DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) which is linked to longevity. It’s also good for the circulatory system. In addition it reduces cholesterol and stimulates the oxygen supply to cells as well as burning calories.

According to Help the Aged’s website, sexually active people live longer.

So there you have it. Turn off the computer and go to bed. It’s good for you.

Single? Register for a Spartan Race at spartanrace.com and maybe you will find someone to get dirty with…we mean in the mud (get your minds out of the gutter people).

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It’s not as simple as slipping into your running shoes and bolting out of the door. In an ideal world it would be just that easy. In the real world though this just isn’t the case. At best, you have a lousy time. At worst, you hurt yourself and end up out of action for a while.

The rules to a successful run are very simple to follow:

1)      Warming up and cooling down.

No matter how strong the urge, don’t just run from a cold start. A gentle 5-10 minute warm up will loosen you up, get the heart rate up, your breathing going, and lastly send blood to the muscles where it’s needed. There’s a loose rule of thumb that says the further you’re going to run, the longer your warm-up should be. Cooling down is equally as beneficial. If you finish a 5 mile run and then just stop dead, there’s a chance blood will pool in your legs and you’ll feel faint. Better to finish those 5 miles, slow down to a walk and then come to a rest gradually. Give your body a chance to realize what’s going on, otherwise it will react poorly.

2) Slow and steady.

Most coaches will agree that by going slowly and steady in terms of adding mileage, you’ll reap better benefits. Most agree that adding 10% each week to your run is a good rule of thumb. Remember that your body has to adapt to what you are putting it through. It’s the same principle as being at the gym. You wouldn’t expect to curl 20lbs on Monday and bench press 200lb on Friday, would you? It’s the same thing. Build slowly and surely.


3) Keep some back.

When jogging, leave some in the tank. That is to say 8 out of every 10 runs you do should be run at around a minute or so slower that your goal race time. If you’re breathing heavily, you’re going too fast. Your lungs and heart will adapt a lot more quickly than your muscles, tendons and bones as you up the length of your runs. Regular running at an easy pace gives your musculoskeletal system a chance to consolidate and catch up with any cardiovascular improvements you are making.

4) Hills! Hills! Hills!

Yes, sorry, but in order to get it right it’s an unfortunate quirk of fate that hills are simply the best tool there is to build muscle memory, strength, aerobic capacity and running economy. At least once a week find the hilliest route you have at your disposal and use it to build and build. The strength and stamina you build on hills and inclines will serve to make you faster and stronger later in races.

5) Rest days.

This is the “good” part. Resting is as important as training and that’s simply a matter of fact. While it’s true that pushing yourself allows you to develop and become stronger, not resting results in injury or becoming burnt out and undoing all the good work you’ve done. Flooring the accelerator in a car is all well and good, but thrash it too much and that engine is just going to go ‘pop’. That’s when the mechanic rubs his hands together while the dollar signs appear in his eyes.

Once every few weeks, cut back your distances by 20% or so and some days just rest entirely. Your body demands it. It uses this time to rebuild those torn muscles and become stronger, in turn helping you become stronger and less prone to fatigue when it comes to longer distances or running faster/harder.

6) Cross-train.

Pounding the sidewalks, tracks and trails does precisely that; it pounds on your joints and connective tissues. Taking a break away from running. Still keeping your cardiovascular system firing is important. So occasionally try out some yoga, pilates or some strength training program. Promote some upper body strength and muscle. Swimming, cycling, elliptical training, and rowing improve your aerobic fitness as well.

Swimming is an especially good tool in helping you become a better runner. When swimming you use a huge amount of all over body muscle while still keeping your cardiovascular system working hard. Best of all is the complete lack of any pounding on the joints and connective tissue.

7) Measure it all.

If you take it too easy on hard or normal runs you won’t break through that barrier and get to the next level. Go too hard on easy/rest days and you won’t build up what you need to do longer runs or speed sessions. If you have apps, use them. Failing that then talk while you are running and you’ll gauge if you are going at the right pace.

8) Increase the speed.

Even those that like to plod along at a nice, comfortable pace should consider doing some work in pace and picking up speed.

Running fast builds up cardiovascular strength by making your heart work at a higher rate to deliver oxygen to the muscles in your legs. This, in turn, makes them stronger and more efficient at extracting the oxygen in your blood. Through speed work you are raising your metabolism and increasing caloric burn, even after you have finished working out. There is also the fact that running more quickly cuts any sloppiness in your stride and in doing so you will jog or run more efficiently making it easier to run fast.

9) Race Pace.

Get used to running at race pace before you taper. When you’re at the starting line and the inevitable elbows finally finish you’ll be trotting along at a pace you realize is comfortable because it’s what you know!

10) The taper is your friend!

Around 3 weeks before your race cut your runs by 25-50%, but keep the same pace you want to run on race day. You might think this is crazy, but it’s been proven by Ball State University that those reducing the mileage but keeping the pace in their taper before race day lost no cardiovascular fitness, actually gained muscle strength, and scored improved race times!

Follow these 10 simple rules and running won’t become something that is a chore anymore.

See you at the finish line…

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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.

Run

 

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.

Stretch

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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Lloyd Weema is what you’d probably call a fit guy. Replying nonchalantly, but not arrogantly to a question of what his background is, he replies, “I ran indoor/outdoor track at Case Western Reserve University and played Ultimate ( for the University’s Club team. I’ve played a lot of Ultimate on various teams since college. I’ve played at 3 Canadian National tournaments for a team called “Too Bad” out of Toronto. I enjoy sports, I’m undefeated in Tall Bike Jousting, I’ve run numerous obstacle races, I’ve been on the curling ice, I’ve thrown a dodge ball, I do CrossFit.”

Being in shape is his “thing”. His passion. But there’s one particular exercise that he likes the most. One thing that he drinks in like the sun and the very air that keeps him alive. Burpees. We’re not talking a few dozen or even a few hundred. Thousands upon thousands of burpees. Many would argue that Lloyd is a glutton for punishment, but the resident of Portland OR, known to some as ‘The Lloyd Of The Burpee’, likes nothing better.

“I don’t know exactly when it happened but somewhere along the way I fell in love with burpees. A couple years ago I started doing burpees at random landmarks I came across. Then this summer before the Reebok CrossFit Games I decided to do a 1000 person burpee challenge. My goal was to get 1000 different people to do at least one burpee with me in 10 days’ time. There were lines of people trying to do one with me. Some even wanted to do more than one. I was doing burpees at the airport, restaurants, the hotel, even in the parking lot. Somewhere during those thousands of burpees I knew that this was a forever kind of thing.”

It didn’t end with the completion of the challenge though. Not content with simply doing the 1000 person challenge, Lloyd decided to see how far this could go. A new idea was born, something a little crazier.

“After doing the 1000 person challenge, someone mentioned how it had to be a world record. So I started to look into world records for burpees. I really wanted to do a long endurance challenge, and I’m not really sure why I thought 24 hours wasn’t long enough. I joke all the time about how I never want to run a marathon because that’s nothing but 4 hours of running, how boring, then I go and do burpees for three days. I guess I owed it to the girlfriends of the past to do something no other man had done before.”

Thankfully, organizing this feat was put together with surprising ease. A friend from LA put together his website, the live stream was worked on by a colleague in Canada and a local Crossfit box were more than happy to be the venue. Once all this had been arranged, everything was ready to go.

“I used the world clock for official start time-I started at exactly 6am on Friday and time was up at exactly 6am on Monday. It was live streamed for the entire 72 hours. I also have the entire 72 hours on video as it’s needed for Guinness -although they may not put me in the book over disagreements on what a burpee is.

I did take some random breaks, I needed to eat, use the bathroom, etc. I tried to keep the breaks to a minimum. The first 3000 burpees were easy and I reached that in 12 hours’ time. 3000-4000 was a different story. That was when I first felt any sort of fatigue and just had to keep moving. Every single burpee after 3000 was painful. I took my first sleep break the first evening, getting about 2.5 hours of sleep (I originally planned 3 hours of sleep for each night). The second day was rough. I had to deal with the fact that I wasn’t going to make my initial goal of 14,000 burpees. It turns out burpees are kind-of hard. I reached 6000 on Saturday evening and decided to change my game plan just a little bit. I was going to combine my sleep breaks into getting six hours of sleep and just push through the final 24 hours.

I also took a long warm shower and despite my having to walk up a flight of stairs to get there, it was totally worth it. Sunday morning was the next big test, after reaching 6000 in 39 hours, I was sitting at 6120 after 48 hours, I had to tell myself to keep moving forget about the pain it will all be over soon. Around 9pm on Sunday I was at 8050, feeling good and ready to hit the 10,000 mark. The next burpee I felt like I got hit in the right shin with a crowbar – anyone remember Nancy Kerrigan? – I did one more and knew it was going to be a problem. I took a moment and was like, “I can do them one legged.”

I tried eight one legged and took a break to ice the leg and order a pizza. I needed comfort food and called the only place open on Sunday night.  Pretty much from that moment on I was doing them with just my left leg. It was going to take more than that to stop me. I reached 9000 with just over an hour left on the clock and it was a sprint to the finish.

After 72 hours, Lloyd finished on 9480 burpees.

Bafflingly, Lloyd isn’t finished with his amusement of playing with burpees. Not satisfied with one colossal feat, he plans to do more.

“I imagine I will continue to do various burpee world records. I’d really like to continue on my 1000 person challenge and get 10,000 different people to do at least 1 burpee with me, so if you see me around, or want me to come do some burpees at your event I’d love to burpee with you. As for another long challenge, who knows but I’ve considered something like doing burpees across the Golden Gate Bridge. Guess we shall see what the future holds.”

The 30 penalty burpees doesn’t seem quite so bad now, does it?

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