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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image credit http://pure-well-water.blogspot.com/

by Harmony Heffron

Being depressed and having weight issues frequently go hand in hand for women.  A study by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle shows that helping women fight depression may also help them fight obesity. The lead author of this study, Gregory Simon, M.D. said, “Increased physical activity leads to improvement in depression and improvement in depression leads to increased physical activity. We see in our study that they go together, but we can’t say which causes which.”

The women studied in this experiment were divided into groups, one only focused on losing weight and the other focused on losing weight and healing depression.

After six months of treatment the two groups showed a marked difference in their response to treatment. In the group that was treated for depression, 19% more women, compared to the group solely focused on weight loss, showed a weight loss over 5%.

This study is a great reminder that, more often than not, a healthy mind lives in a healthy body. A lot of people try to be happy by losing weight or getting fit, but it may be just as effective to become happier in order to get in shape. In the end, a balanced focus on both mental and physical health can’t be beat.

Remember, when all is said and done, laughter is the best medicine.

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Family and friends look at you confused. You’ve explained what you’re doing and why you need to pack a change of clothes. They’ve seen you train and possibly even seen a couple of videos on Youtube. But they still have that glazed over expression and don’t fully understand why you’re doing a Spartan Race.
We asked competitors recently what it was about doing a Sprint, a Super, or a Beast that gave them the most satisfaction.

Dane Bustrum of San Diego, California answered, “I thought about this after Malibu and for me, the best thing about being a Spartan is watching someone else who is about to give up on an obstacle and helping them to successfully complete the obstacle without doing burpees. In Malibu it was a woman at the slippery wall who said, ‘I’m just going to walk around’. Another runner and I literally pulled her entire body weight up and over an obstacle. She was both thankful and happy. I’ve been helped and I’ve helped others and there’s just something about being a part of a defining achievement in a complete stranger’s life and then never seeing them again.”

Andrew Schweizer points out, “It’s a very welcoming experience. Finding people who will accept you and are happy to have you run with them in an event takes the trepidation out of participating in something challenging like a Spartan Race.”

Kyoul Cha. Just another day at the office

The sense of camaraderie at any Spartan Race is something very unique. Kyoul Cha, who lives in Chandler, Arizona, highlights perfectly the whole human aspect of belonging.

“Because, in suffering, we find common ground and bond no matter race, color, creed, religion, or age. You can look at the person next to you on the course and truly know the hardship that they face because you are going through it with them. And in the event of real life, when you see that Spartan Race shirt at the grocery store or Jiffy Lube, it is that badge of brotherhood because you can walk up to that person and have an immediate common interest as you compare notes and scars. So it is in the suffering of the Spartan Race where you find your humanity.

“Knowledge. That is what I gained. An entire world opened up for me that I never even thought about in the past. Being the type of person who is self-contained in his own private little world, SR showed me all of the things that can happen when you take that deep breath and let go of the safety rope of Life. I have met greater people than I knew and realized more of my potential than previously known. For  that I will always be grateful.”

The whole idea of having a purpose and something to aim for in life is a response we received time after time. After watching the videos of past events and seeing the photographs, some see where they feel they might need areas of their physical fitness or strength, and some see where they need to address and perhaps rectify what they feel isn’t quite right. Michael Meade of Los Angeles knows this only too well.

“For me my first Spartan race was about setting a goal. I signed up for Malibu 2012, eleven months ahead of time when I was in no physical shape to actually do it. It gave me a purpose for my training, something to work toward. By the time the race rolled around on my 50th birthday, I was ready. I still failed some obstacles though. This gave me new a goal to work toward: monkey bars. I made the bars for the first time at the Monterey Beast, so now I have set my sights on the rope climb. I don’ know if I will ever master the traverse wall, but damned if I’m not going to keep trying! That is why it has been good for me to run Spartan Races.”

There’s a certain parallel with Spartan Race for life in general. The notion that while the race has obstacles and parts of the course that will test you and try to break you, so there is in life. Jesus Valdez, who can often be seen helping folk at the Slippery Wall and countless other obstacles says, “I run for kids with epilepsy and encourage them that life is full of obstacles you don’t have to go through it alone. Just because you have some kind of condition it’s not an excuse to give up on your dreams.” Adam Evans of California echoes that sentiment.
“Rather than avoid difficult situations, learn to face them head on, enjoy them, and conquer them. It’s just about going for it, doing your best, and not avoiding things that make you feel uncomfortable. Spartan race gives me a tangible practice for this philosophy. Many obstacles I, or we, face in our daily lives are not as simple as climbing a rope or crawling through barb wire. Still it’s the philosophy and practice of tackling them head on to reach your goal. I feel like this mindset can help you succeed in many other aspects of life.”

Holly Scudder embraces Spartan like does her training tire

Holly Scudder of Cedar Park, Texas points out that while a clock is always ticking on the course, it’s not always all about the ranking.

“It’s as competitive as you want to make it. Whether it’s competing against others or yourself. Love the camaraderie on course and even more so off course in this type of group. Inspiration to do more and a chance to be an inspiration to someone else. When else does a weekday suit like myself get to play in the mud? And showing my son that it’s okay to play, even when you get to be ‘so’ old!”

Amy Fuchs of Erie, Pennsylvania adds, “For me, it has really added depth and purpose to my life. There has not been too much in my life (besides my son) that I have been really, truly passionate about. I have spent a lot of time pondering over how to go about having a more meaningful life: Do I need to focus more on spirituality, meditate more? Be more selfless and do more for others less fortunate than me? Work harder? Find a new career? Choose a cause and become an advocate? Donate more of my time; volunteer more? And so that’s what I did. While all of those things are well and good and important, they did not scratch the itch; none of it really cut to the core of me in such a way that left me feeling truly fulfilled. Then I discovered Spartan Race. I have found that OCR (namely Spartan, of course!) has really been the one thing that excites me deep in my soul. It has ignited that passion that I have been searching for so long for. My next race might be months away, but I literally wake up every morning with it on my mind. I’m always training for it, pushing myself to do better and be better than I was yesterday. To prove to myself that I can do great things, even if it is only in my own mind, and to satisfy that desire for depth of feeling and purpose.”

Training for a Spartan Race brings with it certain life skills as a happy side-effect of preparing to race. In order to complete the Atlas carry and Tractor Pull Becky Walker of Long Beach, California undertook rigorous arm and shoulder exercises and became much stronger in her upper body.

Logs and rocks became Becky Walker’s playthings

“I often see many abandoned and stray dogs. I’ll go to see if they’re ok and often, they’ll need a little TLC. Picking up bigger dogs now is so easy. In the past, I’d have to, hopefully, coax him or her into my car to get a good look for tags to find their families. Sometimes I even had to take them home before I could find their owners. In a worst-case scenario I’d take them to foster parents or no-kill shelter. Now I can handle the bigger dogs, and more importantly, hold onto them. The training has given me not only the strength, but also the confidence.”

Matt Trinca, of Lakewood, California, remembers how an obstacle became the focus of something he sought to beat in his own way.

“Climbing a wall! I remember coming to a set of 8′-10′ walls at my first OCR several years ago and simply walking around them because I didn’t have the strength or technique. But in Spartan Race, you can’t simply walk around an obstacle. So, what did I do? I built my own freakin’ wall in the backyard, and practiced ’til I could climb 10′ walls with ease! Now, I see walls as mere speed-bumps. Talk about a metaphor for life!”

In closing, Jonathan White sums up what seems to be a reoccurring theme that runs through all the responses we received.

“Being a Spartan represents facing your challenges head on. Not just in the race, but in your life. In 2012 when I set out to lose weight and improve my health, I set as a goal to run a Spartan race. And I did…..and now I am hooked. I’m going to be running four Spartan races in 2014.”

All these people knew at the finish line. Will you?

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When was the last time you got a good 8 hours sleep? Not 6 or 7 hours, or were woken up in the night because the dog next door was barking or the car alarm across the street was going off. We mean a good, solid, dreamless 8 hours? We’re willing to bet it’s probably been awhile. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that we need a solid 8 hours of good sleep if we are to work and play at our optimum level.

Being fully rested isn’t simply just common sense, it’s actually more beneficial than you may realize. Studies have found that while you sleep you strengthen memories and even “practice” skills that you learn while you’re awake.

“If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice,” says Dr. Rapoport, who is an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But something happens while you sleep that helps you to learn it better.”

Sleep also helps to restructure, sort and organize those memories, therefore helping you become more creative. Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep. This may actually help spur the creative process. A well-rested mind is an ordered mind. Sleep well and you can plan your attack on the Beast, Super, or Sprint you have coming up.

Getting enough sleep sharpens our ability to pay attention. While short-term fixes may plug the occasional hole, such as sugars, caffeine and other stimulants, ultimately they can become habit forming and unhealthy. Sleep is a good, free, natural resource available to us. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation by only one night is on par with having consumed enough alcohol that would otherwise land someone operating a vehicle in jail.

It is fairly common knowledge that inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and even premature aging. Research on sleep levels indicates that people who get less sleep (around 6 hours a night or less) have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get a solid 8 hours. A 2010 study found that C-reactive protein, which is associated with heart attack risk, was higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night.

“People who suffer from sleep apnea or insomnia can have an improvement in blood pressure and inflammation with treatment of their sleep disorders”, Dr. Rapoport says.

Cardiovascular health is effected by both stress and sleep as well. It therefore stands to reason that getting the right amount of sleep can play a part in reducing blood pressure levels. Being well rested is good for you!

Sleeping well means more to our overall well-being than simply avoiding irritability. Emotional stability comes from being well rested and in turn, reduces the chances of depression. If you think the long hours put in during the week are the cause of your anxiety or impatience Dr. Rapoport warns that sleep cannot necessarily be made up during the weekend.

It’s not a myth that rest days are as important as training days and sleep is a huge part of that. Spartan Races aren’t places to come underprepared. Whether it’s in terms of training, nutrition,,equipment, or just as importantly, your own mind set. The brain and body both need sufficient amounts of rest. Finding that balance is something each person must do for themselves. Don’t underestimate the power of rest!

 

“If you sleep more on the weekends, you simply aren’t sleeping enough in the week,” he says. “It’s all about finding a balance.”

 

If you’re thinking about going on a diet make sure that sleep is a part of it. The University of Chicago recently found that those dieting lost more weight when well rested than those who were deprived of sleep. Some dieters in the study complained of feeling more hungry when they got less sleep than those who were well rested.

 

“Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain,” Dr. Rapoport says. “When you are sleepy certain hormones go up in your blood. It’s those same hormones that drive appetite.”

 

So what if you’re an athlete struggling to break PRs? What if no matter how many times you try you just can’t get past that training plateu? Then there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep.

 

A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for 7 to 8 weeks improved their average sprint times, had less daytime fatigue, and improved overall stamina. The results of this study reflected previous findings of studies conducted on tennis players and swimmers. Something to keep in mind if you’re finding that while your legs may have the muscle memory to run, jump, and climb, you’re still missing that last 10% you need to make a big push. Turns out it may be because you’re just not resting properly.

So whether you’re trying to learn the S-hook in order to finally beat that rope climb, or nail that technique of beating the slippery wall, or simply wanting to do better overall in your life, try getting a little more rest. You may find that you improve the way you want by adding one amazing thing to your routine…sleep!


Sources; National Sleep Foundation, Health.com

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By Guest blogger Coach Pain DeWayne

It’s a New Year and you have decided to step up to get in the best shape of your life. To some, resolution is a new beginning.  The time is now and sacrifices will have to be made starting with the challenges ahead, it will takes 90% mental and 10% physical toughness to achieve your ultimate goal.  How to stick with your goal is to plan.

Take a pen and pad and write down your plan for the day, starting with your food intake and finishing off with a good productive training regiment NOT A ROUTINE. Routines are predictable and life isn’t.  When starting off with a food plan, it’s a process and to some, it’s very challenging, but it is not impossible to accomplish.  Remember, the workout is only the tip of the iceberg.  You must stay focus and not allow anything to throw you off track.  Fitness is a lifestyle and a journey for which you can and will accomplish.  Start off on the right path and remember, you must crawl before you walk and walk before you run.  When exercising, stick to a moderate program that is sufficient for your fitness level and try not to do what you see others do inside or outside the gym at an advanced level because what works for them may not work for you or it may not be your time to work at that level.  You are a work in progress. Beginning means to start so starts up right for example, food, limit the bad choices you make: pizza, fried chicken, chocolate chip cookies and alcohol intake.  You don’t have to necessarily deprive yourself from these choices.  Food is for us to enjoy, not to gorge.  Everything exists in a delicate balance.  Listed below are examples of good and bad nutrition:

 

Fat: Healthy fats vs. damaged fats.  Eat more healthy fats; eliminate all damaged fats

Protein: Naturally raised vs. unnaturally raised animals.  Go organic and natural for animals because these are at the top of the food chain.

Carbohydrates: Whole carbohydrates vs. refined carbohydrates. Eat more vegetables – eliminate refined grains and sugars.

 

Healthy Fats

Almonds

Flaxseed

Pecans

Sunflower seeds

Walnuts

Avocado

Good Fats

Fish – Salmon, halibut, sardines, anchovies

Eggs – organic, hormone free/antibiotic free and fed no animal by products

 

Oils

Coconut oil (best for high heat)

Olive Oil (medium heat only)

Walnut, Flaxseed, avocado oil (Do not heat)

Cod liver oil (Do not heat)

Hemp seed oil (Do not heat)

 

Good Proteins

Grass fed meat (beef, lamb)

Fish

Eggs

Poultry (Chicken & Turkey)

Carbohydrates

Lower-Glycemic Carbohydrates – High in fiber, these are always your best carbohydrate choices any time of the day. Examples: Cabbage, Celery, Cucumber, Lettuce, Broccoli, Kale, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Lemons, Strawberries, Granny Smith Applies

Moderate –Glycemic Carbohydrates – Reduce consumption of these after lunch.  Completely eliminate these carbohydrates after lunch if weight loss is a concern. Examples: Brown Rice, Pinto Beans, Sweet Potato, Squash, Steel Cut Oats, Whole Grain Breads, Ezekiel 4:9 Bread, Tangerines, Kiwi, Pears, Melons

High – Glycemic Carbohydrates – Eat these carbohydrates only during recovery from exercise.  Avoid them completely if weight loss is a concern. Examples: Banana, Honey, Grapes, Pineapples, Mango

Refined Carbohydrates – Sugars and refined grains are eliminated completely on the maximized living nutrition plans. Examples: Brown & White Sugar, Sweetened fruit juice and honey, fructose, glucose, sucrose, syrups, white rice, white flour, white pasta.

 

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Let’s face it – When it comes to running, sometimes we can’t make it to the gym. Other times it’s so cold out (Polar Vortex, anyone?) that it endangers your health. Or you just don’t want to. We get it. But that doesn’t mean that your fitness must suffer.

A personal home gym or treadmill notwithstanding, our homes don’t seem like the most hospitable spaces for a jog. However, there are multiple ways that you can still simulate a run using some creativity. And with the #Spartan30 “Run 1 Mile a Day for 30 Days” Challenge underway, we want to supply you with some ways to completing your runs from the comfort of your home.

RUN IN PLACE
Although Spartans are not huge fans of the Romans, they did have a few tricks worth adopting. When the Roman army would march to and from battle, they would count how times they took a step on their left foot. When soldiers reached 1,000 steps they knew they had walked a mile. Hence, 2,000 steps equal a mile walked. This can be performed from anywhere in your home. What’s more, you can throw in movements to enhance this workout such as high knees and lunges. A 190 pound man can burn over 510 calories an hour running in place, not to mention you can watch 300 all the while.

RUN THE STAIRS 
Many Spartan Race courses climb up and down mountains and it’s likely your afternoon jog will encounter elevation. Rather than bundle up, take a tumble and end up like Otzi the Iceman, stay indoors and attack your staircase. Sprint up the stairs, pumping your arms all the way to the top. Use the walk down as your rest period. Try performing 15-20 stair sprints in a set. To run a mile, you’d have to complete approximately 526 flights on conventional 15 step stairway. Time to take a deep breathe (oh yeah, don’t forget to keep breathing!).

SPRINT INTERVALS
This method requires a bit more space – the type that can be found in a basement or garage – and focuses on building your fast-twitch muscles necessary for making quick movements on the course. Clear a runway that will allow you to push your speed  beyond a jog, making sure that your floors surface is not slippery. Also, make sure to put the dog in the other room, it’ll try and join in. Starting at one end, quickly sprint until reaching the other end. Anticipate the turn and, using your hand if necessary, pivot on your back foot and change direction. Sprints are great for burning fat and will prepare you for the short bursts of energy necessary to topple gladiators at the end of a long race.

SIMILAR LINKS
Join the #Spartan30 Mile a Day Challenge

Find a Spartan Race near you

Burpee Calculator Shows Workout Equivalent to Common Junkfood

 

 

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by Harmony Heffron

Blueberries recently made the news when companies were discovered putting fake ‘blueberries’ in their products.  Though you now have to be careful to avoid purchasing counterfeit blueberry products, there are plenty of reasons to add this wonder food to your diet.

Rich in antioxidants, blueberries may even prevent some types of diseases, including cancer. A study by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center reports that blueberries may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and reduce fat in the stomach area. High in vitamins A, B complex, C, and E, these berries can keep your body healthy and help your immune system to function well.

Since fresh berries are only available a few months a year, frozen blueberries are a great alternative. They make a fabulous, nutrient-rich addition to health shakes. Just throw them in the blender with everything else!

If you buy fresh berries, check the color. The more blue they are, the more antioxidants they have in them.

Check out our Food Of The Day for more help with eating.

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