Dear Joe,

My name is Nathaniel Fuentes and I’m a Santa Clara Pueblo Native (Tewa) from New Mexico. From 2003 until 2013 I was a massage therapist/bodyworker, when in 2013 I decided that I wanted to expand who I was and what I could become.

My career as a therapist is something that I could not complain about. It had provided, entertained, enlightened and inspired me, but when I went through being partially paralyzed as I’ll mention a little later – and the recovery – it made doing bodywork a very physically unpleasant occupation. Today, I no long practice in a clinic or from my home office but instead manufacture a pain salve that I created and later refined during the days of pain and discomfort in order to free myself from the pharmaceutical opiates that I had started to become addicted to for the management of the pain and discomfort that I was going through. Currently I’m in the continued process of repairing and evolving from where I was to where I now can be.

I finished my first Spartan Race, a Military Sprint in May 2014 at Ft. Carson, CO and I’m now training for the Spartan Trifecta that’s being held on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii this August. I started training in October 2013 for the Spartan Race, after losing 45lbs while being on a traditional Pueblo food diet.

My starting weight was 160lbs from 215lbs and a 35% BMI and running a mile took me over 15+ minutes. Now in June 2014 after gaining 45lbs I weigh 200-205 with a BMI of 23 and I average a mile in 6:30, while running up to 12 miles and hitting the gym almost daily.

Why I do this? Besides wanting to be a healthier individual? In 2011, I was diagnosed with an incurable disease known as Degenerative Disc Disease. This a disease that deteriorates the cartilage between the bones and leaves those who suffer from it in discomfort or pain. Because of the disease’s accelerated progress, it left me paralyzed for three months. With the inability to move from my bed, from my house, to walk, run, jump and even hold the ones I love, freedom and independence would no longer be the same. Battling through depression, self-doubt and the inability to move with wherever and whenever I liked, combined with the realism that in the near future the use of one or both my legs could be gone, I decided and made a change. This change would be to push myself to my limits and beyond, to enjoy the gifts that we all take for granted like the ability to walk, to jump, to run, and to not cower from my pain but to use it to pick myself up, to rebuild from the ground up who I am, and no matter what the outcome.

Thanks, Spartan Race

Here is a link of a teaser trailer for the Road to the Spartan Trifecta.

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Showing “tough love” is perhaps hard on the eye, but arguably the most sincere form of love a father can give. Taken directly from the same principle applied to boys in Sparta when they were trained to become warriors, the nurturing arm around the shoulders wasn’t always there. The long term lessons the child learned would prove, ultimately, that the best interests were always at heart, despite being hidden behind a veil of something they didn’t like.

A familiar face of not just the east coast races, but of the Death Race, too, the man known to everyone as Steve-O Opie Bones. But behind the wild hair and unmistakable beard, lies something a little more serious. His number one priority has been and always will be his two boys.

“Being a Spartan Dad was an easy decision. My main focus in life is and will always be my kids. I never sugar coat anything with them and always tell them the way the world really operates. My goal is to make them better then me. I want them to experience all that life has to offer. They have a ‘never quit’ attitude. It is a code that they live by daily. Kieran and Colin both ran their first kids race in 2012 while I was running the Beast. Since then, they have raced at Fenway Park, Citifield, Philly, and will be doing Tuxedo this weekend. While they were at Citifield this year, they also had the life changing opportunity to assist with the Special Needs Race. They have been surrounded by many incredible people during these races and many have become role models to them. They have learned to respect our Nation’s Vets and Honor our Wounded Warriors.”

Play time with Steve is a little different to most fathers.

But his passion for the right thing doesn’t just stop at his children. He points his finger at the country and remarks how a father figure is missing across this great nation.

“I hate to say it, but there are so many other countries who look at us as being “fat, lazy Americans.”  Take a look around and give it some thought. They might just be right. If you are allowing your son or daughter to sit around, eat junk food, watch tv and play video games, you are doing them a disservice. You are doing the entire U.S. a disservice. There are so many preventable and controllable diseases that plague our society. Take responsibility for your actions and get your kids moving. Your kids will thank you.

“I recently read a story about a Father that had his son carry a 23 pound rock as punishment for watching too many videos and not doing his homework. It is difficult for me to form an opinion on this when I do not have all of the facts. I do, however feel that we are too soft with our children. The fact that everyone gets an award and that everyone passes does not sit well with me. Getting away with the bare minimum just doesn’t cut it. Everyone, adults and children alike have more to give than we do. Our culture proliferates this thought that it is okay to quit. To not try harder than the bare minimum.

If you are a Dad and you are not racing with your children, you are doing it wrong.”

Michael Mills, the first Spartan Pro Adaptive Athlete – and good friend of Steve-O – shares his sentiments entirely. Tough love is good love. Although maybe the child won’t appreciate it at first, when they are old enough to realize – when it matters – it’s then when those loving seeds that were planted all those years ago come to fruition.

Steve and Michael worked together at the Death Race.

“People look at me and tell me I look just like my dad and that we have a lot of the same ways. I take that as a compliment. I remember growing up and dad was always there. He always made time for us. He would play games with us and he never worried about getting dirty in the sandpile. He always took us through the toy isle and would sneak in a Hot Wheels or two in the grocery cart when mom was not looking.

When you are young you don’t realize at the time why your dad had you do choirs or made you work for rewards, but as an adult, you appreciate those small life lessons. In the fall dad would make us go to the woods, make us help and cut firewood for the winter. We would have us load and unload the truck full of firewood. We would even have to go out at night in the cold and collect firewood at the time, I felt like it was slave labor. But little did I know it would be something that I took into my adulthood and to this day, I thank my dad for making me do things like that.”

“Another thing I can remember is being taught to say ‘yes sir’ or ‘yes ma’am.’ We were taught to be respectful and that was instilled in us at a very young age. He instilled the values of how to treat others and that no matter what you always had to do your best.  Everything my dad taught me as I grew up, I use today. My dad taught me to be a dad and I did not even know it and for that I am thankful.”

“A few weeks before I was in the car crash that paralyzed me, I had told my dad that I wanted to be different and that I did not want to be like the others. Dad told me to be careful what I wished for, I just might get it. Fast forward a month, as I am laying in the hospital on life support, I was fighting for my life……. Shortly after coming out of my coma and where I was actually alert, Dad leaned over to me one night and reminded me of the conversation that we had about being different. He said to me, ‘remember you told me you want to be different than anyone else, well, you got your wish! Now go out and live.’ Dad did not allow me to feel sorry for myself. He did not allow the wheelchair to own my life. He taught me how to own my own life and not allow something like a wheelchair or being paralyzed consume me and take my life away! I remember him making me push on my own in the thick mud after a rain from our front door to our grandmothers across the road. It was to build strength and to show me that it could be done. He taught me to be independent. Dad made me strong!

“Now, here I am a dad and my oldest of three, Brandon and I have quite a bond. At first, we tried all sorts of things. We tried cub scouts that did not work. We tried baseball that did not work. Then, we found Spartan Race. I decided almost two years I would compete in my first Spartan Race. Brandon wanted to try the kid’s race as I competed in the GA Spartan Sprint last year.  After we finished each of our own races, Brandon told me he wanted to follow in my footsteps. He made his choice; he wanted to be a SPARTAN. Now as a dad, this is what I wanted to hear. He found what he wanted to do and it was something we both had in common. This year alone, we have completed 4 OCR events together, he and I have completed our Spartan Sprint and our Super and Beast are planned already. This year, I will earn my first TRIFECTA alongside Brandon. I have seen him grow and grow in the last 2 years. He went from shy, quiet and almost afraid of trying new things, to the adventurous, dare devil that he is today. I put down his growth to Spartan Race and us having this in common. We both look at life obstacles and we take them on. That is what a Spartan father and son do!

“I have learned a lot in my life and I have been taught so much. All these things I have learned, I am passing them down to my children just as my father did for me and his father did for him. Passing down values is more important than leaving someone a lump sum of money. The money spends and eventually goes away, the lessons and values we pass down, never go away. Watching your children grow and become stronger each day and watching them become their own person has been a blessing. Seeing your children succeed and knowing you had a part in that is the greatest reward. Being a Dad or a father, or whatever you want to call it, has been my greatest reward. No medal, no paycheck, nothing can match that.

If you haven’t already done so, speak to your father today if you can. Pick up the phone, go to his house, whatever the case may be. Then thank him.


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Dear Joe,

Hello! As I’m sure you guys there are Spartan HQ receive a lot of these emails, I still wanted to share my story and how much of an impact your organization is. My name is Sean Fitzpatrick and a good portion of my life young life has been filled with struggles and setbacks, some out of my control and some not. In 1st grade I had my first kidney stone which had to be surgically removed, something doctors said was very very rare for a child of that age. I continued to get kidney stones every year and still do. I’m 21 years old and have had 25 stones thus far, some passing on their own and some having to be surgically removed. The frequency of having these stones made exercising very difficult as it would put my on bed rest for extended periods of time and I eventually stopped exercising all together, thus leading me to weighing 250lbs at the age of 18.

I discovered Spartan Race three years ago when I at my heaviest weight and the lowest point in my life. However, the idea of the Spartan Race resonated deeply within me – seeing many people of different struggles completing your races, and the strong motivation your company displays for it’s racers. It was then I decided to make a change and bring life back into my life. I was determined to run a race that coming summer. It started with running down the block and not being able to catch my breath, to running a 13 minute mile, to running multiple miles at a time. I kept track of everything I ate, weight lifted, 5 days a week, running 6 days a week. As my weight went down, my happiness sky rocketed. I told myself over and over how I was going to run that race for myself and accomplish something for me. Four weeks before the Sprint, I felt an all too familiar pain in my lower back and I knew what it meant. I drank a gallon of water a day in hopes of passing the stone, but it never came and the pain grew and grew. As the race crept closer I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it, so I had to put it on the back burner and I was crushed. I eventually passed the stone, but my pride still took a hit, but I still have one thing: A new found confidence, a new found self, and a new found life. I wouldn’t put my physical fitness to the waste side any more.

Flash forward three years, and I’m now, as of June 5th, 2014, weighing in at a healthy 175lbs, running 25+ miles a week, weight lifting/training 6 days a week, hiking frequently, and experiencing all the joys that come with being able to have control over your own body. I still get kidney stones (to my doctor’s dismay), but I push trough the pain when I can, and it actually helps pass the stones with no complications.

On 6/01/14 I ran my first Sprint at Tuxedo Ridge, I put my all into it. At the starting line I wasn’t as confident as I thought I was going to be, looking at fellow Spartans and seeing how confident they looked. But as I began I pushed past many in my heat and blew through each obstacle, not failing any of them. Once I reached the finish line I was overcome by my personal accomplishment – I ran 95% of the race, uphill and down, completed every obstacle without any problem, and helped individuals who needed it. My girlfriend and friend were literally shocked how well I did ! I placed in the top 7% overall, something I never thought would be possible. I’m now on my way to earning my first (of many) trifecta’s!!!

I know this was a long-winded story, but I just had to share with you guys at HQ because it’s because of you guys that I was given the tools to turn my life around. Everything the Spartan Race stands for is something I wish to bring to my life, and the lives of those around me.

Overall, I just want to say thank you.

Sean Fitzpatrick 

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Being strong physically is one thing, but when you bear the weight of some emotional or spiritual to yourself to keep harm away from a loved one – especially a son or daughter – you know that parent is as strong as they come. Iram is no stranger to battling demons. But his greatest battle is making sure that his daughter Kiana flourishes and grows, hopefully following in his footsteps.

“As I try to do the most important task the universe has ever assigned me, raising a little girl, I try to balance the let’s have fun, let’s push our limits and let’s share what we do. Kiana and I had ran together, bear crawled together, done the monkey bars together as I trained for Vermont last year.

As anyone that follows Iram via social media, reads his blog or has the very good fortune to know him personally, there is nothing more important to him than his daughter. Post after post he shares follows Kiana’s progress and even “humble-bragging” about her scoring a part in the school play. She is the center of his universe. Everything else is secondary. Even his training incorporates her, as he recalls, “the point of life, at least mine, is relationships and Kiana is above all others in that pecking order. So when I trained for the biking century, it didn’t feel right to be learning how to learn to cycle unless I was teaching Kiana how to ride a bicycle. With the Spartan events, they felt incomplete because Kiana had never been to one. So, when one came back in to Texas, it was time to take Kiana to do the kids Spartan. Because the point of my therapy is to keep going because of those relationships, but sometimes that therapy and that relationship happen simultaneously.

“I don’t know if Kiana will focus on being a girl who likes to workout or a girl who likes to do her make up but like the Spartan women of old and the Spartan athletes of now, I want her to know that her gender is not pre-destiny. That may mean big things or it may mean little things like when her and I paint our toenails together. I was raised by a great woman. If there’s ever any question of how I have any capacity to raise a princess, it’s because I was raised by a Queen.

“There’s a saying of a Spartan woman whose son was complaining that his sword was too short and she responded with “add a step to it.” Some of the arsenal since cancer isn’t what it used to be, finances, medical things, literally a piece of my brain. But you know what, that Spartan women’s spirit lived into my mother and I hope to pass it on to my daughter and we’re going to add a lot more than one step to it.”

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I asked my ten year old son Michael what he thought a Spartan dad was. He responded that it’s coming home from races on the weekend with barbed wire scratches across your back and bruises all over your body. While that is definitely part of being a Spartan dad, there is certainly a lot more to it than that. In the Krueger family we have a passion for health and fitness. It wasn’t always like that – there was a period of time for about 7 to 8 years where I did not exercise and ate everything from pizza to Chinese food on a daily basis. I woke up about 5 years ago 30lbs overweight and looking pretty chubby. I am now 40 years old and through clean eating, exercise and the support of my family, I dropped 30lbs and I am now in the best shape of my life.

It is not easy. We have lacrosse practice, wrestling practice, violin, saxophone, piano, chorus – my wife Gretchen coaches’ middle school soccer in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. Gretchen and I do CrossFit as well as run and work out. Then there are the races…The key that we’ve found is making time for the family. Our “selfish” activities (training, races, and competitions) are all worked around our children’s activities. It is not easy but we make the time. In the winter, I get up at 4:40am to train so I can be back home by 6:15 for Gretchen to be out the door by 6:30am to go teach while I get the kids ready for school. If the children do not have any activities in the evening, they train with us. Michael and Mya have both been doing CrossFit for the past year and love it. Gretchen and I do not always get to train together but we all go to races together.

Our front and backyard have become an obstacle training playground for both adults and kids. We have a 20’ rope climb in our front tree. Our backyard has a spear throw, pull up bar, box jump and rings from our back tree. Our children are engaged in healthy activities, root for us at races (and race themselves) and are included in our passions. It is difficult but doable.

I am incredibly lucky to be a Spartan dad because I truly have a Spartan wife and Spartan children.

Dan Krueger

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It’s that guiding hand that is the key. Children have always and will always see what the elders do and imitate them, forever and ever, amen. So logically, showing the next generation the path they should tread would be the best form of parenting. This is something Californian Spartan, Chris Cow, takes very seriously.

“My wife, Anne Plourde, and I did our first Spartan Race in January of 2013, the SoCal Super Spartan in Temecula, and were instantly hooked by the challenge and sheer physicality required.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have her share my passion for OCR, and it was natural for us to want to get the whole family involved. At the end of 2013 in Malibu, we were able to make this happen.  My youngest daughter Lianna did the kids race with a few of her friends, and after running early with my wife for time. I had the pleasure of taking a second lap of the course with my then 14 year old daughter Gabrielle.

“Being along to encourage and help her through the obstacles was a great bonding experience, and seeing her smile through a very tough and freezing cold course was the highlight of my Spartan experience to date. Having the picture of us jumping the fire in perfect synchronicity is a priceless souvenir.

“As the father of two beautiful and intelligent girls, it’s very important to me to instill a love of health and fitness in them, along with the deep sense of satisfaction that only comes from doing difficult things. Both of them completed a half marathon at 11 years old, but Spartan training requires all over body conditioning while encouraging a healthy sense of play doing monkey bars, rock-climbing traverses, and of course, playing in the mud.

“Being a Dad, especially of teenage daughters, is fraught with difficulties and unexpected obstacles in your path.  Navigating these often hits deep emotional waters as your growing child naturally pushes boundaries and declares their independence while you try to keep them safe and encourage them to make wise decisions.  I believe it’s important to strike a balance between setting boundaries and encouraging them to develop into strong, capable and confident young ladies.  Often this involves letting them make their own choices and take risks.  Spartan races are filled with risk, and the burpee penalty provides consequences of their choices while encouraging them to try their hardest.

“While I love the physical challenges presented by the races, one of the things that keeps me coming back again and again are the people I’ve met; on the course, through social groups like the Weeple Army and SISU, and of course in line for a celebratory beer after the race.  Many of their stories and personal journeys are incredibly inspiring, and these are the people I want my daughters to hear about and get to know so they can also be inspired by their accomplishments and/or the difficulties they’ve overcome to get where they are now.

“In September, My wife and I are running the SoCal Beast, then our whole family is returning on Sunday to do the Sprint together. I’m looking forward to sharing this with both my girls this time, as Lianna has graduated beyond the kids race and is ready to climb the rope and conquer the traverse wall like a champion.  I hope that our love of OCR is passed on to the next generation, but even if Lianna and Gabrielle end up not doing more of these races, the memories and lessons instilled during training and on the course will last a lifetime.”

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If you ever see a couple of guys at a Spartan Race that looked so similar that you have to do a double take, chances are it’s The Unbreakable Joneses. With their unmistakable headbands and Thing 1 and Thing 2 daubed across their chests, if you don’t see them doing something bizarre (liked doing the course blindfolded or tethered together, or perhaps carrying huge sledgehammers), it means they’re on only on their first lap. “Only”. What some might not know is that this is an awesome father and son team that have dazzled Spartan racers and spectators for quite some time with their unfathomable spirit and resilience. Eston, the son in the team, puts this all down to one man – his father.

“My Dad has always been the one pushing me to try my best at anything I attempted and guiding me to reach for those goals I may not think are possible. But he doesn’t do this just by talking to me, he does this through example. My Dad has always been right there with me in all the things I try, pushing me to try harder because I know that he is doing his best to beat me. He always set the bar to where he knows I can’t resist giving it my all to pass him. This motivation has meant the world to me in not only physical challenges and endeavors but in life in general.

“My Dad isn’t like normal dads. He doesn’t sit on the sidelines cheering me on. He doesn’t ‘leave it to the young buck’ to go out and do something challenging and worth while. He is always right there with me, participating in any and all of the crazy ideas that I may have. I get the bright idea that I want to run a 100 mile race……. he’s in. I want to go all the way to Vermont to run a race….. he says ‘I’ll do it’. Then when he announces that he wants to run 4 laps of a race and then get up the next day and run even more……. well… how can I say no to that?

Eston considers this his favorite picture of him and his dad. Note the training equipment in close proximity.

 

“They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and when it comes to this competitive spirit I have in me, that is perfectly spot on. My dad is always trying to beat me. We are always pitted against each other in an epic battle for who can win. Whether its lifting a weight, running the trails, swimming a few laps, I always know in the back of my mind that he is gunning for me. This friendly rivalry pushes me to be the best that I can be every day. Because my dad is no joke. He’s not some fragile old man to be taken lightly. There is every chance that he can beat me if I don’t push myself. If I don’t train hard every time. This motivation has been one of the most important things to me in my athletic training. It has made me be better than I ever would have been without him.

“Even though my Dad is my biggest rival, I know that he always has my best interests at heart. I know that he has always got my back and that he would do what is best for me. He is always making sure that I have everything I need to be the best I can be and to succeed in whatever I do. He doesn’t hand it to me on a silver platter, but he makes sure that, with hard work and dedication on my part, that whatever I am trying to do is possible.

“Thank you Dad, for everything that you do for me.”

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Dear Joe,

The shirt reads “Chemo gave me superpowers”

Thank you so much for all that you do.  Not only for regular athletes, but also for people like me. I was diagnosed with bone cancer of the right femur when I was 11-years-old. I underwent 18 months of intensive adult dose chemotherapy and 15+ surgical procedures, but I came out on top. Due to numerous complications, I will spend my life on crutches. It may slow me down (and boy am I slow!), but it won’t stop me. I like to think of it as taking life in “swing.”

I did my first obstacle race in 2012 because a friend decided she didn’t want to go. A random dude next to me at the start line told me there was no way I would be able to do it. But I did. Since then, I have done two mud/obstacle races (local races), one half marathon, and about ten 5Ks, including the Boston Marathon 5K. My husband and I were supposed to do an obstacle race in Massachusetts, but unfortunately the event changed the date and location. Since this change conflicts with another race, we cannot go. I am so bummed! I was really looking forward to tackling a real obstacle race!

I am hoping to do the Spartan Sprint at Fenway someday, where I know my husband will walk along side me as my support crew. It looks awesome! Even though I live in upstate New York, all of my treatments and surgeries were in Boston, so it truly is my second home.

Looking forward to the day I can yell, “AROO!”

Thanks again for all you do! You are definitely making the world a better place.

Devann Murphy

Sign up here for your next Spartan Race and we’ll see you at the finish line!

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Dear Joe,

I’m a pretty normal citizen; a 25 year old female, former collegiate athlete, and now in a career which I absolutely love – teaching. A couple of years ago I began to get involved with running, and truly found my niche. It was something I could do, a way to clear my mind and spend time with myself. It was simply “me time”, and I enjoyed it. I eventually ran a few half marathons and figured “Hey, that was great, good job!” Then that was it, I casually kept up with it, ran a little here and there, but nothing much. Until recently when I found the Spartan Race. Now I have never done a Spartan Race, I have only heard about it and began seriously considering it just a few weeks ago. I saw that the book ‘Spartan Up’ had been released and decided to get myself a copy. Since it’s arrived in the mail, I’ve really had my head in it, and was able to read the majority of it while traveling back to California yesterday, bookmarking  it just after the chapter about the “Cookie Test”.

I was pretty intrigued by the test and immediately thought to myself, “Hey that’s me!” For the last few months I have been taking the cookie, the easy way out, not even giving myself the chance to hold off. For example, I was choosing to sleep in rather than run. Each night I would tell myself, “Ok Alex, you’re going to run in the morning”, but when morning would arrive I’d get up, move around in my nice warm bed, and just tell myself, “Nah, I’ll run later”. But did I ever run later? Nope.  This cycle continued for a while, the pounds packed on again, and I was back to square one.

Alex Lopez was inspired by “Spartan Up!”

But then I read about the ‘Cookie Test’, and it made me think about it a lot. After being exhausted from my trip back home (3 hour drive in the morning, flight to LA, bus ride to Union Station, train ride to Corona, and a car ride to my final destination in Lake Elsinore), I had originally figured the next day I would sleep in. That is what my plan was, and I was sure I wasn’t going to wake up till noon, but somehow now my intentions seemed to be different.

The next morning I woke randomly at 6:30am, slowly rising while I lay in bed. I kept telling myself, “30 minutes more”, but I couldn’t seem to fall back asleep. Then all of a sudden the ‘Cookie Test’ came to mind. I told myself that I wouldn’t take the cookie this early, that I’m going to get up and go run. So running I went. I was pretty shocked at myself, thrilled with the realization that I could talk myself out of sleeping in another 30 minutes, and there I was, outside in the fresh air in my running gear. I wanted to make the run count so I set out for a distance of 5 miles. No big deal, I’ve been running here and there, trying to be consistent, so hey, “I’ve got this” I told myself. The route I took began with a loop, a mile to the left with direct route back which would result in two miles right before I hit the straight away stretch on the other side of the street to achieve three miles.

My run was going great, it felt good to breathe in the fresh air, to take in the scenery, and to enjoy the fact that I was home. I had reached a mile and made the turn to head back to the point where I began, which is the entrance to the street where my house is.  As I’m running, I reach the two mile mark and begin the three mile stretch when I encounter an older woman walking on the sidewalk.  I made the decision to jog off of the sidewalk to pass her, and when jumping back on the sidewalk I felt a painful poke right below the base of my big toe. I had to do  a ‘hippity hop’ and stopped to figure out what was wrong. I immediately took off my shoe, looked inside, and what I saw was a thorn coming through my shoe. Not just your typical thorn, but a 2 inch thorn; where it came from I had no idea. My foot began to throb in the most painful way ever. I tried to take out the thorn but it just wasn’t happening. I finally removed the insole, bent my shoe backwards, and with my teeth pulled it out.

Before putting my shoe back on, I took off my sock to see the damage. I saw blood on the outside of my sock, then saw a puncture wound where the thorn had pierced through my foot. I couldn’t shake the pain, but tried to put my shoe on anyway. So there I was, at was the entrance of the street where my house is, and my first thought was “I could stop my run now, go home, and rest.”  At that point I was really talking myself out of continuing my run. I was about to throw in the towel and just say “F it”, but the next thought that consumed me was “Don’t take the cookie”. I began repeating that phrase over and over in my head, “Don’t take the cookie”. I put my shoe back on, laced it up, and went for the rest of my run.  The throbbing in my foot was immense, it freaking hurt like hell, but I had already decided that I wasn’t going to take the cookie; so I kept going, further, harder. One mile passed, then another, until I reached my goal . After reaching five miles, I decided to continue on and went for a hill workout. I figured the pain that I would feel from my workout would take over the throbbing pain in my foot, and soon enough I had forgotten all about it.
After I completed my five plus mile run and hill workout, I returned home. I immediately took off my shoe the pain returned. But it had drastically diminished because I felt incredibly accomplished; I had pushed through the pain, I fought it, I SPARTAN’D UP! And although walking is a hassle because my foot is still in pain, it’s all good! You know why? Because I didn’t take the cookie.

Alex Lopez

To buy your copy of “Spartan Up!”, click here.

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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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