For generations, women have felt immense pressure to be thin. We have felt inadequate as we compare our bodies to those of the women displayed in magazines, on TV, and on the runway. We are lead to believe that we are not beautiful if we cannot attain the unrealistic figures of the rail thin women who smile at us from their glossy displays. Despite the fact that we may realize what we desire is the product of genetics, photo shop, or could perhaps even be a completely fabricated digital woman who doesn’t even exist, we still continue to beat ourselves up, convincing ourselves that the way our bodies look is not good enough to be considered beautiful.

I’m here to refute that fact, and to provide a few quick examples of why Spartan women are incredibly beautiful, sexy, and just perfect the way we are. Ladies, it’s time to look in the mirror and remember why being a Spartan is so much better than simply being skinny.

 1) Spartan women are confident! Instead of whimpering as we look in the mirror, wishing we could squeeze into that size 0 skinny jean, we love our curves, our muscles, and how our athletic wear hugs the amazing body we’ve worked so hard to achieve! Spartan women are not cookie cutter, and we accept the fact that we all vary greatly in size, shape, height, and build. Many of us are actively working toward losing a few pounds, but what separates us is the fact that, for a Spartan, it’s not all about the weight loss, but instead it’s about getting healthy, feeling great, and being strong. A Spartan woman does not base her self-worth on what clothing size she wears, but instead takes stock in the fact that she works hard to be healthy for herself and her family, and her lifestyle reflects that.

2) Spartan women eat! As lovely as a 700 calorie diet based around food avoidance (all while obsessing about it!), unrealistic restrictions, and the insatiable grumble of a stomach confused as to why you are neglecting it, a Spartan woman knows she must eat to sustain herself.  To become strong, we must eat healthy, nutritious foods which are full of nutrients to provide ourselves with the energy to properly train.  We work hard, and we eat well! We don’t diet, but instead we commit ourselves to providing our bodies with what they need to perform their best. We don’t starve ourselves as though punishing our bodies for having curves; we nourish them so as to provide them with the best opportunity to be healthy and well.

3) Spartan women are strong! In a world where women have always been called “the weaker sex”, Spartan women are determined to prove that this is not the case! We flip tires, climb ropes, and scale walls. We lift weights, we practice our burpees, and we rejoice as we gain the strength to complete a push-up or pull-up.  We get up early to train, and we love sharing our progress with other women committed to the same journey. While few of us will ever earn a podium victory, we each tackle our races with a fire in our hearts, and the resolve to continue through to the bitter end.  We continually strive for growth and improvement, and we never give up.

4) Spartan women are fun! Who doesn’t love a carefree woman who enjoys challenging herself, and who doesn’t worry about breaking a nail, scraping her knee, or getting dirty? Spartan women are confident without makeup, and we show off our bruises as though they are badges of honor. We don’t mind being covered in mud from head to toe, and this laid back attitude makes us incredibly fun to be around. We don’t sweat the small stuff, we roll with the punches, and we are all about getting fresh air and living life to the fullest!

5) Spartan women support each other! While many women striving simply to be thin seem to endure their plight solo, bogged down by their jealousy of others while engulfed in their own self-conscious battle, Spartan women band together to support and encourage each other. We cheer each other on, provide advice when called upon, and never let each other give up.  We are a family of women committed to improving ourselves as individuals, and we do this by being there for each other as we each continue on our own personal journey. Spartan women cover the globe, yet we are not strangers to one another, we are connected by a beautiful passion for living life to the fullest, and we accept all members of the Spartan family as our sisters.

So to all of the gorgeous, strong, amazing Spartan women out in the world today, keep training hard and remember to love your body for what it is!  While the desire to be thin may always gnaw at the back of your mind, remember that a woman who starves herself to be skinny would never have the strength to climb an 8 foot wall, nor have the ability to lift a heavy atlas ball, much less survive miles of ruthless Spartan terrain. Be strong, be confident, and love the fact that the body you are building to be better and stronger is uniquely yours.

Spartan is the new skinny ladies!

Let’s share this message and continue to build this beautiful sisterhood that is Spartan Chicked.  AROO!

Holly Joy Berkey

www.muddymommy.com

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Each Tuesday I rise early to quietly prepare for my morning run, careful not to disturb the rest of my sleeping household. Once ready, instead of simply stepping outdoors and traveling through my own neighborhood to complete my training for the day, I instead hop into my Jeep and drive twenty minutes south to a beautiful waterfront park in St Petersburg, Florida. Tuesday is unique, as this particular day of the week compels me to wake much earlier than my typical training days, provides a commute which (even at the ungodly time in which I’m driving) seems to find a way to halt me at nearly every stop light along the way, and results in a run that is generally below my preferred training pace and mileage.  Yet, each and every Tuesday morning, I faithfully wake and journey south to complete this ritual.

Why do I do this? When the paragraph above is read, I’m sure it sounds less than desirable, and perhaps somewhat strange. But there is one main factor that keeps me coming back to this location each week, eagerly anticipating my morning run, and that is the fact that this is the day in which I get to run with my friends.  This aspect alone makes Tuesday a special day, one that I look forward to each week, and I’m sure anyone reading who has the pleasure of running with a friend, or group of friends, can attest to this fact as well.

Since I initially began running, and (to be completely honest) still to this day, I tend to be a bit of a loner when it comes to my own personal training.  I like the ability to push my own limits without feeling like I’m going to hold someone back, and also without the pressure to wait for someone who may be lagging behind.  I can train at a pace that suits me, and modify my workouts at a moment’s notice depending on how I’m feeling on that particular day.  I also cherish my alone time each morning, as my work and home life thrusts me headfirst into the non-stop hustle and bustle of constant interaction with so many people on a daily basis. Although I love my family, and truly enjoy my day job, life without my morning workout to aid in clearing my head would greatly increase the chances of leaving me with a tad less patience, and feeling much more stressed.

The buddy system! It works! Try it!

With that said, even though I do love my solo workout sessions, there’s still nothing quite like Tuesday morning.  It rejuvenates me, and provides me with a morning that combines my love of running with a few of my favorite ladies.  We’re able to catch up on life, talk about our current emotional triumphs or woes, and unload on each other the random thoughts that pass through our minds so early in the day.  We laugh, we encourage each other, we divulge our stresses, we share our hopes and our dreams; and the miles pass by effortlessly as we travel along the otherwise quiet streets in the wee morning hours.  Some Tuesday’s we run side-by-side in silence, simply enjoying each other’s company, and other times we chat endlessly; but in the end, no matter the tone of the morning, we are together, and we each cherish the special time spent running in unison.

The reason I feel compelled to share this personal information is due to a recent Spartan Race challenge that was brought to my attention.  This challenge made me ponder my own dedication to my weekly group run, and also the bond that we (women specifically) glean from training and racing together.

Each month Spartan Race puts forth a 30-day challenge for those who are willing to accept the task appointed.  From push-ups to planks, burpees to squats, each month a specific workout is elected, and each month thousands of people commit to taking on that task for 30 full days.  The month of May brought with it a slight variation, as Spartan Race challenged individuals not to take on a specific bodyweight exercise, but to commit to completing 30 workouts in a group setting instead.  Whether it would be with one friend, or a whole team of people, it was encouraged to join together and complete daily workouts together.

The Spartan website detailed this challenge by saying, “A team workout is any exercise that can be done two or more people. Ideally, it incorporates movements that require a partner to complete. But in most cases, it is exercise where the motivation of a friend helps complete the workout.”  This idea intrigues me, and although I do not make a point to train with others on a daily basis, I can absolutely understand why this is such a great idea!

I bet that if you took the average American today and asked them about their current fitness status, they would most likely tell you that they wished they had more time for exercise.  They may lament as to their desire for the drive to achieve results they can be proud of, and to finally lose the added pounds that have crept on over the years.  But finally, with a defeated sigh, they will likely tell you that there’s just no way that that will ever happen.  Although past fitness goals may have been made, and things may have started out great, slowly but surely motivation ran dry, the snooze button became easier to hit, and now, months (maybe years) later, they realize that the initial resolve to get into great shape has dissipated.

But take this same person lamenting over their failed attempts at weight loss and add in a friend, a confidant, and more importantly, someone to hold them accountable, and this can result in a game changing formula much more likely to bring about the success that they so desire.  By incorporating another person into your daily routine, they will not only help keep you committed to your training, but you will also be doing the same for them.  Together you will celebrate each other’s strength, work toward improving your weaknesses.  You will encourage, support, struggle, and eventually succeed together.

Spartan Race events also display this very same concept on a very grand scale, as each race is full of teams of all sizes.  While there are some who choose to run the course solo, most participants elect to band together with a team of friends to tackle the course head on.  I’ve seen so many instances of a person frozen on an obstacle, terrified to continue on, but by the encouragement of their teammates they’ve been able to muster the courage to complete the challenge.  They emerge triumphant, celebrating their accomplishment with those who helped give them the confidence to continue on.  It’s an amazing scene to behold, and it happens hundreds, perhaps thousands of times at each event.

Run with others! It’ll make motivation easier.

Running, working out, or racing with a friend will build memories that are lasting, and help to make an uncomfortable situation bearable, even enjoyable.  By joining forces with others with the same goal in mind, each person of the group will find it more difficult to back out of the commitment to train together, especially on mornings when hitting the snooze button sounds so much more appealing than rolling out of bed before the sun rises to get a workout in.  Friends hold each other accountable to their pledge by keeping each other moving forward, and by allowing for anyone to fall by the wayside.

If you’ve been struggling to find the motivation to keep up a consistent workout routine, I strongly encourage you to find a friend or two and ask them if they are willing to join you in your training.  Set a schedule and stick to it!  If no one is willing, there are typically many different style indoor and outdoor fitness classes available in most areas that you can join for a low cost.  In addition, many communities have local running groups that you can join for free or a very low cost as well (some even stop for a drink after their scheduled run!).  If all else fails, find a gym nearby and stop in to see if they offer any group activities, or have personal trainers available to help whip you into shape!  There are so many different resources available for someone looking for options to be held accountable; all you have to do is ask!

So my challenge to you as summer approaches, and the impending threat of the dreaded “bikini season” looms nearer, is to grab a friend, make a plan, and stick to it together! Already have a great workout routine in place?  My bet is that you know someone who’s struggling with theirs!  Invite them along to join you, even if only for a day or two a week, and I can guarantee it will help them stay more committed to their goals.

Being a part of the Spartan Race family brings along with it the obligation that we take care of all of our members across the globe.  We are all at different points in our fitness journey (some aren’t even off the couch yet!), and it is up to us to encourage and support each other, no matter our level of fitness, so we can hold each other accountable to the expectation of self-improvement.  It’s a big part of why I love Tuesday morning, and you can bet I won’t be giving up on that weekly run anytime soon.

Check out the Spartan 30 online and sign up for the current workout of the month.  Once signed up, get someone else to commit with you too!  My husband and I recently completed a 30 days of 30 push-ups, and we wouldn’t let each other forget our commitment!  Now grab some friends, create a team, and sign up for the next Spartan Race that’s coming your way!  A year fully of training and racing with friends will be a year enriched with great memories, and amazing results.

~Holly Joy Berkey

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“What should I pack for race day?” I’ve seen this question asked a million times by curious women as they anxiously consider how to prepare for their upcoming race. Some meticulously over pack, while others don’t realize until after passing over the starting line how much more they should have brought along. In order to ease the minds of the many women who find themselves aimlessly staring at their closet in hopeless confusion, here’s an easy go-to list that will help even the most novice racer show up to her race with every essential in tow, thus creating an ideal environment to aid in making race day a success from beginning to end.

1 – Sunscreen: Completing an obstacle race will typically consume several hours of your day, not to mention the additional time you’ll want to spend hanging out in the festival area celebrating your accomplishment afterwards. This means your skin will get plenty of sun exposure! Be sure to pack a sport SPF (as well as face lotion and chap stick with SPF) to apply generously before your wave is sent across that starting line.

2 – Extra Hair Tie: Long hair can get extremely tangled in the mud and dirt, and a broken hair tie could make an already hairy situation even worse. Trust me from experience, it helps to have an extra hair tie along just in case the one you arrive in gets lost in the mud! I also highly recommend wearing your hair in a braid instead of ponytail to reduce the post-race knots that can be nearly impossible to comb through.

3 – Flip Flops: Once you cross that finish line, your feet will be screaming for some fresh air! Make sure to toss a cheap pair of flip flops or sandals in your bag to throw on for the post-race celebration and drive home.

Carrying your own water is useful!

4 – Deodorant: While you may not realize it mid-race when in the thick of tackling wicked terrain and overcoming challenging obstacles, the lovely mixture of mud and sweat will create a unique and rather pungent post-race perfume. A travel size deodorant will help tame the tang, so you can focus on celebrating instead of obsessing over any sort of feminine-funk.

5 – Plastic Bags: Everyone has a stash of plastic grocery bags somewhere in their house. Be sure to pack a few to stash your dirty shoes, socks, sports bra, shorts, and any other dirty apparel that you don’t necessarily want touching the interior of your car.

6 – Sunglasses: Although not a practical accessory for during the race, you’ll definitely want to throw on a pair once you’ve crossed the finish line and collected your hard earned medal. This is one of the easiest items to forget, since many times you’ll need to leave home before the sun rises to get to the race venue on time.

7 – Wallet & Cash: You’ll need your ID and cash for packet pickup, parking, food, and merchandise. While your brain is whirling about everything from what to wear, to what to eat, to the last minute stress over if you’re truly ready to take on your race (stop worrying so much, you are!), your wallet may end up in the back of your mind as you consider all of the other items that you need to bring. I’ve seen it happen at every race, and have even realized it myself while driving out of my neighborhood with my wallet tucked comfortably in my purse back at home, they do get forgotten! I recommend you pack this first, since no wallet equals no race!

8 – Change of Clothes: Although this may seem like a no-brainer, there are a couple of items that I recommend as the top needs for post-race comfort. To begin with you’ll want to bring a pair of comfortable shorts or pants (yoga pants work great!). Of course the post-race hose off doesn’t always completely take care of the dirt, but a fresh pair of comfortable pants will, at minimum, take away the issue of crunchy running pants from dried on mud (quite uncomfortable for a drive home!).  Another accessory you may appreciate is a fresh sports bra. A dirty, soggy post-race sports bra can end up getting itchy and uncomfortable, so bringing a clean bra to throw on under your race shirt will help keep your skin dry and itch-free.

Tie back long hair. It’ll help you!

9 – Hydration: Most events will offer water stations throughout the course, as well as water and a protein or sports drink at the finish line. While this is great, you may still want to bring your own source of hydration for before and after the race, and possibly even for during the race as well! Water or sports drinks are great to bring along to make sure you are properly hydrated before you approach the starting line, and post-race you may find that you need more than what’s provided to properly re-hydrate your body from the nutrients that you’ve lost while racing. Depending on the length of the event, you may also want to invest in a hydration pack to carry through the race. Dehydration can greatly affect your ability to complete your race comfortably and confidently, so be sure that you drink lots of water on race day as well as over the week prior to your event.

10 – Nutrition: Not only is hydration a key component to effective racing, but nutrition plays a huge roll in your ability to complete your race without bonking. Everyone is very different when it comes to what works pre-race as a quality meal (ideally something that won’t sit in your stomach like a rock!). Use the weeks prior to your event to find what works best for you, and stick with that the morning of.  For pre and post-race, be sure to pack healthy snacks to replenish your depleted energy stores. I find that snacks which contain a combination of protein and carbs make a huge difference in helping maintain energy once you’ve finished racing.

I hope this list helps you be able to more effectively plan how to pack for your big race! But now that I’ve told you the items that you’ll want to make sure you bring with you on race day, there are two things that I recommend you leave at home.

1 – Jewelry: As much as you may hate taking off your favorite ring, bracelet, or necklace, it’s a good rule of thumb to leave anything shiny safely at home. Don’t risk losing your bling in the mud, or damaging a precious stone on an obstacle, it’s just not worth the potential stress should your treasure go missing. Married or engaged? For those who feel uncomfortable going completely without their rings, there are some great companies who sell inexpensive rubber wedding bands (check out saferingz.com) that are perfect for race day! (I rock a hot pink rubber wedding band to all of my events, and I love it!)

2 – Makeup: I know that some women feel uncomfortable foregoing the security blanket of wearing makeup while in public, but I’m here to encourage you to embrace your natural beauty and rock your fresh face at your race! Why? No makeup also means no mascara running down your face, no foundation smudging, and no melting makeup mixing in with the sweat and mud that you will inevitably be wearing instead. You are beautiful without it, so leave the makeup at home and rock the glorious glow that water, mud, and fresh air will provide instead!

So there you have it! Your go-to list of the essentials you’ll want for your next Spartan Race! Now instead of stressing over what to pack, you can focus on your training and arrive on race day ready to take on the course with confidence.

I can’t wait to see you there!  AROO!

Holly Joy Berkey

www.muddymommy.com

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By Heather Gannoe of Relentless Forward Commotion

Scaling 8 foot walls.  Crawling under razor sharp barbed wire.  Leaping through waist high flames.   These are the type of daredevil moves one might associate with a Hollywood stunt double, not a suburban stay at home mom.

Until now.

Obstacle course racing has seemingly taken over both the athletic and weekend warrior world alike.   Now your average Joe or Jane are given opportunities to test their physical prowess with so much more than a road 5K; they are getting dirty, facing fears, and proving that they are capable of so much more than they ever imagined.

As an avid obstacle course racer and fitness professional, I often encounter people who tell me that they could never do a Spartan race.   They think that perhaps a “fun” mud run with a few walls and a beer at the finish line is more realistic,  but never a course as physically and mentally demanding as a Spartan race.   I always immediately interrupt and inform them that not only could they do it with proper training, but they absolutely should…and here are four reasons why:

Spartan races challenge your entire body.  One of the weaknesses I see in a lot of my clients, especially runners, is a huge focus on cardiovascular endurance, with little to no focus on muscular strength and endurance. Spartan races require not only cardiovascular endurance to cover the course distance (and climb those infamous ski hills), but also muscular strength to complete many of the obstacles, such as the herculean hoist, sandbag carry, or rope climbs.  Therefore, the playing field is often leveled: everyone who steps up to the starting line of a Spartan race will have strengths and weaknesses. What better way to get in shape and improve overall physical fitness than to train for a race?

You are capable of more than you think…and that is a great ego boost.  It sounds vain, but it is true. I will never forget the first time I actually made it to the top of a rope climb during a race.  Countless races prior I climbed a few feet up, felt weak, and quit.   But during the 2012 Ultra Beast, I pushed those negative thoughts aside, and despite my shaking arms and the fact that I had failed a rope climb just a few miles earlier, I kept climbing.  I rang the bell at the top while simultaneously shouting “YES!!!!!”  Though exhausted, scraped, and bruised, I could not stop smiling for the rest of the race (and trust me, it was a long race!). Spartan races challenge us in many physical and emotional ways, be it facing your fear of heights or running farther than you ever have before.  Successfully completing tasks you once thought were impossible is an empowering, amazing feeling that carries over into your entire outlook on life.

Spartan athletes are some of the friendliest people on earth.  Need a boost to get over the wall? Turn around and ask the stranger to your left.   Struggling with the tractor pull (dragging a cement block by a heavy chain, typically through rough terrain)?  Chances are someone will come along and help you drag it to the finish.   The camaraderie among obstacle course racers is like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my athletic career; just look at the massive teams such as the New England Spahtens, Weeple Army, or Corn Fed Spartans.   We are one big family, and that family will not let you fail.

Because your inner child really wants to jump in that puddle…and your mom isn’t there to tell you not to. You will get muddy. You will get soaked. You will have dirt in places you never imagined. And you know what? It’s really fun. You may even get to jump off of really high walls and play with sharp spears. (Shhhh….don’t tell mom!)  Despite the competition and often difficult challenges, Spartan races truly bring out a primal feeling of freedom and fun that so many of us lose in our adult lives.

Sure, I’ve seen avid athletes humbled by the difficulty of an OCR. But I’ve seen a 60 year old woman successfully cross the finish line of her first race beside her grown children.   I’ve seen new friendships formed.  I’ve seen lives changed by the sport as a whole.  But one thing I’ve never seen is a person cross the finish line and say “I regret doing this”.     Here’s the thing: Spartan races are not only for the elite athletes, they are for anyone who is willing to step up to the challenge.  Do not be afraid of the possible difficulty of your first Spartan race; instead use this opportunity to truly realize you are capable of so much  more than you think.

As they say…you’ll know at the finish line.

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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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A Call for Confidence: Building up The Spartan Woman

“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle”. 

This quote has been a favorite of mine for several years now, and I keep it close at all times as a constant reminder to continually strive to treat anyone I encounter with respect and understanding, even if I don’t completely comprehend or agree with their personal life decisions. As an inherent people pleaser, it took me many years to be able to acknowledge and accept that not every single person I meet in life will like me, and in the same respect, I also needed to understand that I won’t see eye-to-eye with everyone who crosses my path either. People are born with many different personality traits and preferences, and the vast array of different personal life experiences also has a great influence on how we feel about, and react to, certain situations.

We live in a world which has always struggled with the acceptance of those who are different than we are. Our history is marred with the indiscretions of our ancestors, as, for centuries, we have resisted the approval of others who hail from different races, lifestyles, and religions; and unfortunately this is still an issue in our world today.

Not only do we tend to struggle with accepting others on a grand scale, but we also hold onto our own personal opinions about what we believe makes a person good or bad, and this typically seems to be based loosely on our specific experiences with certain people or events. This very circumstance also rings very true in the fitness world, but not only there, as it is also quite prevalent between the women who pursue a healthy lifestyle.

For centuries, women have felt the pressure to maintain a certain exterior image, while our male counterparts seem to receive much more leniency with regards to the expectation of attaining a specific physique. Now I’m not saying that men don’t put pressure on each other, or themselves, to achieve a specific body type (I’m sure every man dreams to some degree of attaining those 6-pack Spartan Gladiator abs), but women specifically tend to place high expectations on ourselves when it comes to body image and how we should physically look. And while we struggle with our own personal insecurities with regards to our bodies, we tend to take this frustration out on other women who are not currently dealing with our specific issue.

I recall just three years ago, at 50 pounds overweight, I was sorely insecure. Each time I would see a woman who was thinner than I, or who had an athletic physique making it clear that she took the time to work out, I would quickly fluctuate between moments of jealousy, admiration, and downright dislike. This range of emotions were directed at a complete stranger, and left me feeling inadequate, and an unhappy mess. The silly thing is, it wasn’t the other woman’s fault for having a beautiful body, nor should I have judged her for making a personal choice that provided her with a body that I wished I had. Instead of focusing on the negative emotions toward her, which only existed because of my own insecurities, I should have been inspired by her. Unfortunately at that time I was not in a place to realize this negative cycle, and I have to admit, that even today I’m not perfect, as I need to consciously remind myself regularly to put away my insecurities, to squash the instinct to react negatively, and to realize the beauty in the person who creates such a reaction.

I also see this sort of behavior within many groups of women, and even within the Spartan Chicked community. While the majority of women in the group are wonderfully supportive, inspired, and encouraging, there are times when specific photos or posts create a negative backlash. Whether it’s someone we judge to be too heavy, too thin, or perhaps we think they choose a workout method we don’t quite understand (anyone want to get into a CrossFit debate?), we occasionally get sucked into a feisty debate, thinking we know best. I know I’ve done my fair share of judgmental thinking in my day, so I’m not writing this self-righteously by any means. I don’t always understand where everyone is coming from, nor do I always agree with them, but I also strive to approach each topic or person with the acknowledgement that I do not know their specific story.

My goal for writing this is to raise awareness about how critical we as women tend to be on each other, when perhaps we are reacting out of our own insecurity. I believe there are times when we need to sit back for a moment and assess why we are feeling these negative emotions toward a person we’ve never met; and we may just realize that support, understanding, and affirmation is probably what they are looking for, just as much as we are.  I love when I see women in the group build each other up, it’s so amazing! And I want to see that awesome encouragement to grow exponentially.

That woman who looks perfectly fit with the 6-pack abs? I can guarantee you she still has days when she feels bloated, gross, and insecure. How about the overweight woman who gasps for breath along the road, appearing to barely shuffle along as she struggles to continue on her run? Don’t look at her with disdain, applaud her for getting out and trying. We are all different, with different stories and different challenges. I’m certain that I’ve gotten some strange looks when training with my tire, boldly decorated in hot pink duct tape and race stickers. But does that mean that my style of working out is better or worse than someone who chooses Zumba as their favorite way to work out? Absolutely not.

I’d like to challenge every woman of Spartan Chicked to stand up not only for each other, as we all continue on this great journey toward healthier, happier living, but to also believe in yourself! Gaining personal confidence will aid in your ability to also build others up, and if we truly continue to strive toward supporting one another as a unified group, no matter where we are at in our journey or how we choose to get there, we will truly become an unstoppable force, inspiring many more women to tear themselves off the couch, get healthy, and (hopefully!) come lose their sparkle with us at an upcoming Spartan Race.

Thank you all for being a part of this wonderful, beautiful movement full of vibrancy, beauty, and motivation. Let’s keep Spartan Chicked growing by inspiring one another daily. AROO!

~Holly Joy Berkey

www.muddymommy.com

Sign up for your next Spartan Race right here. 

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By Jamie Gold

Martha Stewart made cultural history last year by announcing her online dating plans on national TV.  Perhaps she should consider entering a Spartan Race to meet Mr. Right instead.  Men who obstacle race are far more energetic and fit than many she’d find online, at least according to the female members of 40+ Spartan Singles, (an unaffiliated Facebook group created last year).

“I am no longer on any dating sites,” shares 44-year-old Rhode Island racer Kristine Dreher.  “Too many billed themselves as active or fit and were very heavy,” she adds.

“They would like a fit woman, but are not much into fitness themselves,” agrees Laurel Wilson, a 47-year-old Spartan in Texas.  Many other 40+ group members, male and female alike, have shared the same impressions about their online dating experiences in group discussions.

Singles events and groups haven’t proved to be successful dating outlets for most of these active adults either.  Unlike their 20- and 30-something counterparts, men and women 40 and older tend to have more strings attached to their free time, more challenging dating criteria, and more difficulty in finding compatible partners.

Quite a few are single parents, caring for older relatives, serving on charitable boards, running businesses, serving in the military, or managing corporate divisions.  Obstacle racing for many began as a stress outlet, a new fitness pursuit, or a fun way to spend some precious “self” time on the weekends.

Having caught the “mud bug,” though, these single racers started looking for a partner who will share this new passion with them.  They can see the health-oriented lifestyles, and a sense of adventure and confidence in their fellow participants that they hadn’t found elsewhere.

“I thought it would be a good place to meet active men,” shares 44-year-old Massachusetts mudder Lynn Clark about one of the factors that interested her in the sport.  “And obstacle races have raised my confidence level by seeing what I am capable of, and being part of such a supportive environment.”

Jamie Gold is no stranger to Spartan Races.

For Florida-based Spartan Darren Brent, 44 himself and co-admin of the 40+ group, the dating possibilities occurred to him later.  “When I first started, finding a partner did not enter my thought process. I was more concerned with just being able to finish the races. As I got more involved, I met a few couples who had met each other at races and I used to joke that I wanted to find my partner in the mud; if I do start dating someone again, interest in obstacle racing is a requirement.”

Virginian Chris Bellone, 43, is impressed by the women he sees at the races.  “Spartan women are more committed to physical and mental self-improvement by facing often insurmountable obstacles, which translates into success in their personal [and] work lives,” he says.

Brent adds, “I think men and women in this community are different from others in the dating pool.  Obstacle racing athletes have a combination of athleticism and willingness to have fun that I don’t see elsewhere. Also, if someone is willing to play in the mud, it demonstrates a silly, youthful attitude that I find attractive.”

You can tell a lot about someone on the obstacle course, 40+ members share, much more than you can tell online, in a phone conversation or on a standard first date.  Shares Texan Laurel Wilson, “My experience with racing is that it certainly exposes character.  People can be charming, say all the right things, give all the right answers, but put them in situation like an obstacle race and you get a MUCH better picture of who you’re dealing with.”

“Do they skip obstacles, skip burpees, cut the course,” observes Brent. “Do they complain and make excuses that obstacles are too hard? Do they help others, even if it’s as simple as yelling out encouragement?” These are tell-tale signs for many that the person you’re racing with may cut corners in their life… And in your relationship, as well.

One question that often arises in obstacle racing circles is dating compatibility.  What if one partner is an elite racer – i.e., someone who ranks in the top of their age groups or competitions – and the other is a much slower “newbie.”  Several members of 40+ Spartan Singles do race at the elite level.

Forty-seven-year old Spartan and Ironman Wes Barnard of Connecticut is one of those elite racers. As is Kari Roberts, 43, obstacle racer and triathlete, of Georgia.  Both are divorced professionals, single parents, successful competitors and 40+ group members who want supportive partners, at the very least.

“I think both can be at different abilities and have fun together,” notes Barnard.  “Sometimes, I’ll hang back with a girlfriend or others and have fun. And, sometimes, I’ll run [in the] elite heat and then do a second heat with [a] girlfriend.”

Roberts shares, “I would love to have a partner who was interested in and participated in obstacle races. Regardless of his athleticism, whoever finished first would wait for the other.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have my partner put my medal around my neck and seal the race with a kiss.  (Hopeless romantic?)  Yes, two Spartans of different abilities could definitely be happy.”

A couple that runs together, stays together.

So how does one go about meeting someone in obstacle racing?

1) Join several obstacle racing Facebook groups, (including those for singles), and participate in the conversations.

2) Consider joining one of the large co-ed, regional obstacle racing teams.  These include New England Spahtens, Weeple Army (West Coast), Lone Star Spartans (Texas), Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners, Corn Fed Spartans (Midwest) and many others.  They all have Facebook groups for training, tips, race discounts, carpooling, socializing and hotel sharing at events.

3) Look for training partners in your area through Facebook, MeetUp.com, CrossFit, boot camp and other gyms.

The same meeting and dating precautions apply here, as they do in other dating situations:

1) Always schedule dates (and training sessions) for high visibility public places and meet someone there until you trust him or her enough to visit each other’s homes or take secluded trails.

2) Don’t become intoxicated on a first date, even if it’s a post-race celebration.

3) Be honest about who you are and what you want in life and love.  At 40 or older, life’s too short to waste time with the wrong person.

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up today for your next Spartan Race and who know? Maybe you’ll meet that special someone at the rope climb, traverse wall, barbed wire crawl….

 Jamie Gold is a Certified Kitchen Designer, author, journalist and co-admin/founder of 40+ Spartan Singles.  She completed her first Spartan Sprint in January and will complete her Trifecta at the Monterey Beast. And, yes, she is single.

40+ Spartan Singles
https://www.facebook.com/groups/40plusspartansingles/

New England Spahtens
https://www.facebook.com/groups/nespahtens/

Weeple Army
https://www.facebook.com/groups/WeepleArmy/

Lone Star Spartans
https://www.facebook.com/groups/thelonestarspartans/

Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners
https://www.facebook.com/groups/GORMR/

Corn Fed Spartans
https://www.facebook.com/groups/CornFedSpartan/

MeetUp.com
http://www.meetup.com/

CrossFit
http://www.crossfit.com/

Jamie Gold
http://www.jgkitchens.com/

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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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By Holly Joy Berkey

When I was a young girl growing up in suburban west Michigan, I distinctly recall some of my fondest memories being endless summer days spent outdoors.  From dawn till dusk, each day was spent running and playing tirelessly with my neighborhood friends.  Hours of Kick the Can, Capture the Flag, and Kick Ball were played, trees were climbed, hills rolled down, and grass stains earned on the knees of all who traversed the soft grassy yards of my neighborhood.  The street I grew up on was home to more boys than girls, and I melded in as the tomboy of the crowd, simply happy to play outdoors and enjoy the fresh summer air with other kids my age who enjoyed to do the same.

As I grew up, my interests changed, and the joy of running free in the wide open spaces became simply a memory.  There were boys to chase, malls to cruise, and social groups to befriend.  Grass stained knees were traded for awkward heels and thick makeup. I no longer had the desire to be that tomboy, because I thought that for a boy to take notice of me, and for the girls to want to be my friend, I had to fit a specific mold.  I needed to be pretty and thin, I needed to laugh at the right jokes and act cool.  And as I progressed through my teenage and college years, instead of taking the time to figure out who I was, I did my best to become the girl who I thought everyone would want me to be.  Never once did the idea that I could be feminine, I could feel pretty, and I could also hold onto the tomboy in me that truly brought out the happiest part of me.

Thankfully, after years of trying to be someone I wasn’t, I stubbled upon my love of running quite by accident, and this eventually lead me to my love of obstacle racing.  And as I fell more deeply in love with living a healthier lifestyle, something in me reignited.  For the first time in years, I felt passion, I felt excitement, and I finally felt alive!  With each race that I ran, with each pound I lost, and with each milestone I acheived, I realized that I had found my true identity, one that I am not only incredibly proud of, but feel blessed to have discovered.

Today I am honored to feel as though I can consider myself a tomboy.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love that I am able to wear makeup, jewelry, and heels, and through that I am able to feel feminine and beautiful, but it’s great to know that this is not all that defines me.   I can also wash off the makeup, throw my hair in a ponytail, trade the heels in for a pair of trail shoes, and feel just a beautiful getting muddy, sweaty, and tackling a tough race.  Being able to meld into these two roles as a woman also makes me feel incredibly empowered.

I am not an object, I am a force to be reackoned with.  I am a strong woman who can acheive great things not just by how I look, but by the things that I can do.  I am not a trophy, I seek to earn a trophy.  I am a beautiful tomboy.

My hope is that women from all walks of life can feel this way as well.  There is no shame in being feminine, but there is no reason you cannot be both feminine and incredibly fierce.  With this same idea in mind, Spartan Race recently began their “Beauty and the BeastMode” photo albums, which displays side-by-side photos of women who have submitted a photo of them dressed their best along with their favorite photo being covered head to toe in mud at a Spartan Race.  You can see by the genuine smiles of the women in these photos that they have discovered their true ability to live life to the fullest, and to let their beauty shine in every facet of their lives.  So many women are discovering the fulfillment of being free to live a healthy, active life while not feeling pressured to give up their girly side.  I’m so happy that I did, and I hope that you can as well.

If you have yet to try an obstacle race for fear that it may be too masculine a sport, I urge you to please try one.  Grab a group of friends, dress in all pink or wear a tutu if you’d like, then get out there, get muddy, and celebrate the wonderful, amazing things that we, as women, can do!  I promise you that it will be a life changing experience!

For all of you who have already joined the Spartan Chicked ranks, you are amazing, I respect you, and keep up the good work!  I hope to see you out on the course someday!

~Holly Joy Berkey

www.muddymommy.com

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By Holly Joy Berkey

As I sit at my desk, pondering all of the things I can write about as I sip on my morning cup of coffee, I cannot shake the overwhelming thought that has been constantly been permeating my brain over the last few days.  What’s that you ask?  Well, in less than a week’s time, I’ll be running the longest race I have ever run in my life.

By the time you read this I’ll have packed my bags and headed north to western Michigan, to participate in the nation’s largest 25K.  Over 21,000 people from around the world will attend this event, and it’s one that I’ve had my sights set on running since early on in my running journey.  Being that it’s hosted in my hometown, there will be something very nostalgic about running a race in the city that holds so many memories for me.  And since my adventures with running and fitness did not begin while I still lived in this northern state, I’m looking forward to introducing my new life to an old, familiar place.

And so, on Saturday May 9th at 8:20am, I will embark on a fifteen and a half mile journey through the streets of downtown Grand Rapids.

Distance races can be daunting, even for seasoned runners.  They are challenging, both mentally and physically, and have the ability to make a runner feel invincible, or completely discouraged, based on how the race itself progresses.  I myself have only run a handful of distance races races, both obstacle and road, and each one has brought with it a distinct memory of either triumph or failure.  Some races I’ve excelled, felt strong, and gained a personal record that I was elated to have earned.  Others I’ve learned a hard lesson due to either beginning too fast, having to deal with pain or discomfort, or struggling through due to lack of proper nutrition or hydration.  These factors left me yearning for relief, as I mentally switched from seeking a personal record, to instead simply praying for the finish line to come quickly.  I do believe though, that it’s these difficult races in which I learn the most from, that keep me wanting more, and that provide me the resolve to continue improving.

But it’s not just distance that can be frightening to people.  The current events that provide me personally with apprehension are the ones which involve higher mileage.  For some, a 5K sounds impossible, for others contemplating an obstacle race is daunting, as the threat of failing obstacles can be a crippling fear.  Each race brings with it it’s own set of challenges to overcome, but when it comes down to it, racing wasn’t meant to be easy.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.  People wouldn’t prefer to stay on their couches, watching the world go by, too afraid to try.  Racing is tough, it tests your mental grit, and forces your body to complete a task that your brain tries to convince you that you cannot do.  But it’s in overcoming these demons that helps push people past their comfort zone into realizing what they truly are capable of.

So how do you overcome these fears?  I’m sure that each person reading this today can come up with at least one concern that eats away at their psyche with regards to racing.  Some people let these concerns deter them from ever trying, they simply give in and tell people, “That’s not for me, I could never do that.”  But the thing is, they can!  They just have to get out there and give it a try.  There are a myriad of examples of people who have missing limbs, debilating disabilities, and major physical handicaps completing amazing feats in the racing world on a regular basis.

Take the example of Todd Love, a Marine who lost his legs while deployed in Afghanistan.  He has heroically completed several Spartan Races, refusing to let his disability hold him back.  His girlfriend, Amanda Sullivan, was involved in two serious car related accidents in 2009, which left her with severe spinal injuries and damaged her right leg to the point that it does not function. With the use of forearm crutches, she has also completed several Spartan Races, and with a smile on her face, has positively influenced so many people to get out and try to achieve physical gains they did not believe they could make happen.

You are blessed with a body that has the potential to achieve amazing things!  No matter what physical obstacles you feel that you may have, it’s the mental obstacles that will hinder you most.  Three years ago I was unable to run a full mile, but by changing my way of thinking about what I had the ability to accomplish, I slowly but surely worked my way toward running that mile.  I distinctly recall the very first time I ran three miles without stopping to walk, I was elated!  I felt on top of the world, so ecstatic that I had just completed something that not long before was a feat that seemed impossible.  If you start slowly, and believe in yourself, you too can experience these physical gains, and the progess you make will aid in giving you the confidence you need to continue on.

Now, as I prepare for my longest race yet, I still feel that twinge of nervous excitement.  I have high hopes that I’ll finish this race feeling empowered, yet I know that I could just as easily finish feeling deflated.  Distance running takes precision, strategy, and the resolve not to give up.  And this 25K is just the beginning of a string of longer distance events I’ll be completing, as I plan to finish two Spartan Beasts and a full marathon within the next 8 months.  I’ll be honest, these are events that scare me a little.  They make me nervous, they make me question my ability, but it’s this small amount of intimidation that gives me the resolve that I must do them.  I’ve changed from a person who says “I can’t”, to a person who resolves “I will’, and as I evolve as a runner I strive toward testing myself in new ways.

I challenge you to be this person as well.  Be the one to make a change, to get off the couch, to lace up your shoes, and to get out and get healthy.  And please don’t get discouraged or give up, real change takes time.  It took me nearly a year to lose the weight that I needed to, two years before I began racing competitively, and I’m still growing and learning each day.  I know I’m not yet the best that I can be, but I know I’ll never give up and I’ll keep working toward bigger achievements.

Not sure where to begin?  Be sure to set a reasonable goal for yourself.  I recently spoke with a friend of mine who had just begun running, but he was having a hard time staying motivated.  I recommended that he sign up for a local 5K, something several weeks out, and train with that event in mind.  Many times the knowledge that an event is approaching will create a resolve to train. I think it’s good for runners to sign up for one event a quarter, as this will maintain a constant goal to work toward.  We, as humans, tend to have a desire to improve each time we complete something, so once your 5K is complete, find another to sign up for and work toward a better time.  Once you feel comfortable with a 5K, it may be time to flex your running prowess and try a longer event.  The same goes for obstacle races!  Although I jumped in head on and chose a twelve mile event for my first mud run, there are so many events with varying distances, so start with something that makes sense for you.  Spartan Race offers three distances of races, the most common being the Sprint, which is typically 3-5 miles.  Once you’ve completed your Sprint, you can then decide if you’d like to try another Sprint to see how you’ve improved, or maybe then you will be ready to train for a Super, or a Beast!  It’s truly up to you as to what you can conquer, but if you keep in mind that much of the roadblocks that we encounter with regards to running and racing are mental, you’ll be able to find ways to surpass that self-doubt and complete the unimaginable.

So as I sit here contemplating the distance I’ll be tackling this coming weekend, I want you to know that you too can take on grander distances than you think!  Whether it is one mile, a 5K, or a marathon, just remember to take it slow, set some realistic goals for yourself, and never give up.  You can gain results that will astound you with dedication, commitment, and metal grit.  And perhaps someday you may just find yourself looking in the mirror at someone who no longer cringes at the idea of a mile run, but to someone who can run so many more than that.  You too can go the distance.

Holly Joy Berkey

www.muddymommy.com

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