How many times have you stared longingly at those people at Spartan Races that effortlessly scamper up those climbing ropes and ring the cowbell with effortless ease?

There you are, hugging that rope with your hands clenched around that knot, hoping that if you can get just above the one in front of you, you’re part of the way there. Then what happens? You slide back into that muddy water and curse the whole thing to Hades.

How do they do it? It looks so easy when they do it!

Never fear – the Spartan Race Pro Team are here!

In this episode of “How to…” the Barbed Wire Queen of Green, Andi Hardy, is going to show you how to employ the “J-Hook” technique when climbing a rope. Gone are those frustrating times of shaking an angry fist at that cowbell you can’t reach.

Just watch this tutorial video made on course at a Spartan Race and all will be revealed!

Learn the technique and sign up without fear of failing it again!

Tags: , , ,

Dear Joe,

I wanted to thank you and your team for the Spartan Races.

I have been in the Marine Corps for over 19 years and done a couple combat tours. After my last combat tour I came back with some heavy PTSD, amongst a myriad of other issues. It has been a daily struggle for 4 years to grind through migraines, daily cluster headaches and back pain, TBI, and the PTSD. I ran my first Spartan in Temecula this year. I got the whim to run it when I was researching 5k’s on Active.com. I have never been the same since. It really smoked me physically, but mentally I was alive! For the first time in 4 years I feel like I am in charge of my body and spirit. 

I have run one since with one of my sons in Phoenix and I signed up for the Vegas Super, Colorado Sprints (both days), Montana Sprint and Hurricane Heat, and the Monterey Beast to complete the trifecta. The annual pass is getting its use from me! I ran the Phoenix Sprint with my son and broke one of my toes about halfway through. I refused to quit or show any pain. It wasn’t till we were done that I told my son, because I was actually thinking about coming back the next day. After 4 years of grinding with the daily debilitating back pain and headaches I felt like a broken toe was not that big of a deal. I keep getting asked by my friends who know about my daily physical pain, why I run Spartans. I tell them proudly that I run them because they make me feel alive and show my body I am still in charge.

Thank you so much. Please share as much as you want. The races and the experiences have been therapeutic.

Semper Fidelis, Lonnie

Tags: , ,

For the fourth time, Spartan Race brought the Spartans to the sunny, hot, ever scenic Oleta River State Park for the Miami Super Spartan.

It wasn’t just about surviving the heat in Miami. Competitors were thrown for a loop, encountering our newest iteration of the Monkey Bars obstacle, or should we say “Monkey Net”? That’s right – Miami introduced a version of the monkey bars obstacle which fashioned cargo webbing that began with an incline and ended with a decline traverse. The rule of the obstacle was no feet, just hands, and was meant to be performed in the same manner as you would the traditional Monkey Bars. All this, but over three feet of water. Fall off, and you know the drill. Burpees.

As per usual, the Hurricane Heat launched the weekend’s activities. Tony Matesi and John Ziegler took over 100 participants through demanding and sometimes seemingly impossible challenges that were developed to build camaraderie and teamwork. From team carries through the obstacles to being the first to test the new obstacle, this group of early morning Hurricane Heaters came together to figure out what it means to be a Spartan.

At first glance, the course may have appeared to be simple and flat given the nature of the Florida region. Assuming the lack of hills equated to an easier course would have been a massive faux pas. The course had unique terrain that acted as the ultimate obstacle in itself. Hard rocks, switchbacks and open waters delivered an exciting and exhilarating course which amplified the difficulty and created a course that was not to be taken for granted.

On Saturday the intense heat made for a very interesting day – never forget that hydration is key in these conditions. Drinking plenty of water the night before, the morning of and during a race with over eight miles and more than 20 obstacles, it is crucial to preventing yourself from cramping while out on the course.

Spartan SGX Coaches were on site leading warm-ups and cool downs. These highly educated coaches are there to assist racers in race prep and recovery of the taxing course. Joe Di Stefano, Co-Founder of the SGX lead the charge along with Coaches Sarah Pozdol and Casey Eischen. The Spartan SGX team will be traveling the Spartan Race circuit, so be on the lookout for the warm-up and cool down area near the start line.

In our elite heat, Spartan Pro Team members, April Dee, Isaiah Vidal, Brakken Kraker, also Founding Pro Team members Chris Rutz, Shawn Feiock and Hannah Orders were all in attendance. Other elite competitors included Arizona native and 2nd Male at the Vegas Super, John Yatsko, Chris McCorkle, Debbie Moreau, Valerie Smith, Sue Luck, Amanda Ricciardi and Sarah Pozdol.

Saturday’s men’s elite heat came down to the difference between making the Spearman Toss and having to complete a set of 30 burpees. Brakken Krakker successfully nailed the spear throw taking the top spot over John Yatsko. Coming in third for the men was recent Spartan Pro Team addition, Isaiah Vidal. April Dee of the Spartan Pro Team dominated the women’s division taking first place over Debbie Moreau and Founding Pro Team member, Hannah Orders.

On Sunday April Dee returned to once again take the top spot on the podium with a demanding lead over Debbie Moreau taking the number two spot and Geishel Valverde grasping a third place finish. In the men’s division, John Yatsko returned with determination after practicing his spear toss and captured a first place finish. An extremely friendly second and third place finish was taken by Isaiah Vidal who showed a tremendous amount of sportsmanship as he waited to cross the line with Joey Patriola after running a majority of the Sunday Super Spartan together.

Close to 10,000 Spartans came and conquered the course this weekend at the Super Spartan in Miami, but there was one very special set of finishing scenes that played out under the relentless Florida sun. Remembering that being a Spartan is about overcoming adversity, finishing what you start, and never giving up no matter the circumstance, it was a joy to behold the newest member of the Spartan family – a young man called Sean. His “Best Buddy”, Tripp Prevatt, has been running races for some time now, making sure to always do one lap for himself and one additional one so that he can give that medal to Sean. You see, Sean has Cerebral Palsy. After telling Sean countless stories about the races he conquered, he wanted to find a way to give Sean the opportunity to join him on the course so they could both earn Spartan Finisher medals, together.

Naturally, the Spartan Kids course again showed that same fighting resilience. Climbing over walls, crawling under neon green “barbed wire” and zig-zagging through a web of bungee cord providing a glimpse of the future Spartans of the world. Be on the lookout; one day these young ones will be standing atop the podium. Just you wait and see!

All of these incredible experiences are made possible with the support of our incredible sponsors, Reebok, ZICO Coconut Water, CorePower, Clif Bar Builders Bars, the U.S. Navy, Eco Vessel, Air Force Reserves, Nestle Water, and DeliverLean. With their support Spartan Race showed Miami once again what we mean by “you’ll know at the finish line.”

Congrats to everyone who Spartan’d UP in Miami. Next up, Spartan Race is headed to the Midwest for the Indiana Sprint. What started as a Founders Race has become a staple of the Spartan tour, it you’re not signed up yet, what are you waiting for?

Go ahead, sign up. We’ll be waiting for you at the finish line.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dear Joe,

I was recently invited to Arrows Academy in Columbia, SC to speak to three classes of students about Spartans. My friend, Katie Norman, is a teacher there and is teaching the students history starting from creation. They are currently learning about Greece and more specifically Spartans, so I was invited to give some real life examples in today’s world of what Spartans do. I started out showing the kids my medals and explaining to them the different lengths of Spartan Races. They got to see most of the medals Spartan Race offers including my double trifecta medal and the Ultra-Beast medal I earned in 2013. 

After that we went through a slide show of pictures from different Spartan Races and I got to talk to them about different obstacles that you may see at a Spartan Race. I also told them about the weather competitors would endure while completing these races, like the freezing cold 2013 Charlotte Sprint. I talked about the terrain we would battle through, like at the Ultra Beast or that brutal VA Super last year. I showed them some of my Athletics8 compression gear complete with holes from barb wire and the shoes I would wear for a race.

Katie then showed them some videos of Spartan Race including the Kids Race. They really enjoyed it. After this they got to ask questions, so I answered things about my training, where I got to speak to them about the dedication it takes. I told them about the days where I would get home from a 15 hour day of 2 jobs and then ruck all night to train for the Ultra Beast and head back to work at 7:30am. I answered questions like “Do people die doing this?” and “What happens if you fall in the fire?” One little girl asked if I had ever quit, I almost couldn’t answer it like it didn’t compute in my mind (which I’m proud of). Something like “No, I couldn’t. I mean, it’s just not in me” came out. Hopefully they got the message. Spartans NEVER quit.

After this I got to run a mini Spartan race with them. It was awesome. The kids really enjoyed it. I did it about 4 times with them and then they said, “We want to see how fast Sean can do it.” So who am I to disappoint a bunch of kids. All in all it was a great day, the kids were awesome and I’m sure some of them will one day run a Spartan Race. This is when all the pain in training is worth it. Finish lines are great, but impacting lives for a greater good is what I’m all about.

Thanks for the Spartan Races Joe,

Sean

Tags: , , ,

Dear Joe,

John Bruno Grimaldi’s Story: a true Spartan in my eyes!

Bruno is a loving husband to my oldest sister Kelly, and father to 2 year old Dean. He works as a Diesel Mechanic at Yard Trucks in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Not long after Dean was born, on October 30, 2011, Bruno was initially diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent surgery and one round of chemotherapy. This treatment course took place at Cooper Medical Center in Voorhees, New Jersey, where the Grimaldi’s lived at the time. Bruno and Kelly were thrilled to learn that the cure rate was 90%.

After the diagnosis, Bruno’s determination to get into a healthy lifestyle took place. He was not much of a fitness junkie or an enthusiast on healthy eating, but he had to start somewhere. Bruno began to walk, which lead to a run, then took it further and signed up for Spartan Races, Warrior Dash obstacle run and a 5K army/community run. The Grimaldi’s changed their diet and physical routine to jump start their new challenges. Bruno and Kelly worked together to set new goals and accomplish them.

In the winter of 2012, Bruno and Kelly moved to their new home which is currently in Warrington, Pennsylvania. Bruno’s physical appearance and need for a good workout only grew over time. Kelly and Bruno continued to go for runs and work out at LA Fitness together. Thankfully, Bruno was continuing to follow up with Dr. Kennedy, a Medical Oncologist at Aria Health in Pennsylvania. On December 9th, 2013, the Grimaldi’s received the news that Bruno was that 10% and his cancer was back. This time, the cancer had traveled to the lymph nodes in his lower back. With no hesitation, Bruno was ready to start his journey once again, knowing it was not going to be easy. Bruno began his first of four rounds of intense chemotherapy on January 6th, 2014. Each round of chemotherapy consists of five consecutive days of treatment for roughly 6 hours each.

Unfortunately, because of the intense treatment Bruno was undergoing, the trip they had planned to visit family in San Diego and to complete the SoCal Spartan Race on January 25th was canceled. However, four days before the race, Bruno decided to try and climb their hanging rope in their home. He easily made it to the top and once his feet hit the ground he knew he had to attempt the race. This diagnosis was not going to stop him! Bruno and Kelly decided to take their trip to San Diego and they both completed the race. This Spartan Race was an absolute challenge for both. Bruno understands that time will wait for no one and he needs to be the force that drives himself forward! Everyone can learn from this one man that moments must be cherished and the only way to live life is like climbing rope, the only way to go is up!

Thanks,

Jackie Gribbin

Tags: , ,

Dear Joe,

She’s gonna kill me but…

I had to thank you for putting on your Spartan Singles on Instagram. This is gonna sound crazy and it kinda is, I admit. However, well, I met the most amazing, gorgeous, genuine, inspiring, Spartan woman from this. We actually started talking on Valentine’s Day of all days and have been in constant communication since. Now here’s where it gets tricky.

Julia is a reservist in the Navy and when we started talking she was at home saying her last goodbyes to her family before she deployed to Afghanistan (where she is now). So we have not had a chance to physically meet yet. Through text, phone calls, emails…. well, we pretty much have totally fallen for each other. I know that sounds crazy… but when you know, you know.

So she is currently overseas now and as an active duty Army guy who has a few deployments under my belt, including one to Afghanistan, I find myself in a very unusual position sending her letters and care packages. Usually I’m the one getting them while I’m deployed. The whole, waiting around the phone 24/7 just in case she calls… yeah… that’s on me this time, but don’t worry, it hasn’t interfered with my burpees! Actually it has probably improved my run times because I run faster so I can get back to my phone quicker. She is blessed with a pretty good gym over there so she will be staying in shape and getting ready for the first Race we can get to together, which will probably be the Texas Beast. Looking forward to it!

I will be working towards my Trifecta this year, something that she would have really liked to accomplish and hopefully still will be able to. If not, then I guess her and I will accomplish it together the following year, because we both know that we are in this for the long term… very long term.

Now here is the kicker… If all that wasn’t crazy enough, during my last deployment I was in Alpha Company 2-30 Infantry, 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. Our nick name/radio call sign: “Spartan” (no joke, and we took that to heart that we were Spartans), but there were less than 300 of us at a remote outpost. Now, my girlfriend – yep, we made it official even though having never met in person…. when you know you know), she is located in the Area of Operations “Spartan” (also not a joke), and actually I have been to the base she is now staying at. And of course, finally we met in no small part at all due to the “Spartan Race”.

So, I (actually we) want to thank you! Not only for your races that we both have loved individually, and look forward to enjoying as a couple in the near and long future, but for bringing this Spartan couple together. Look for us on the battlefield of the Texas Beast! Shake her hand! She is my inspiration, my hero, and as crazy as it sounds under the circumstances, the love of my life.

Sincerely,
Spartan Kyle

Tags: , ,

Joe Cordovax followed the Spartan WODs every day from November through January in order to prepare for the race in Temecula. Between 4am and 6am, 5 days a week, you’ll find him there. It’s here that he met Michelle Clark, who would be his team captain for the event in Temecula. Citing Michelle as his driving force, Joe successfully completed the race. What sets Joe apart is that he is 78 years young.

Wanting to share what he experienced, Joe wrote to his namesake.

Dear Joe,

Well it is over and I ended as Age Group Champion. I was part of a team Michelle’s Minions. I will admit I was assisted in a few of the obstacles. What a great way to challenge yourself, so after all the mud, scrapes I was none the worse for wear for a 78 year old. I look forward to doing another when I hit 80.

My friends and family were not aware of me doing the run. I sent an e-mail to all my friends to let them know that I was going to attempt something I had never done before. So they were unaware until I finished.

It was a hard won battle for me but I was not about to give up. Ending as Age Group Champion is a highlight for me.

This is a quote from Ali and it fit me perfectly; “I hated every minute of training but I said ‘Don’t quit suffer now and live the rest of your life as a Champion.’”

There are no secrest to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

Thanks very much

Joe from Temecula

Tags: ,

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

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

1) Low Impact

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

2) Cardiorespiratory fitness

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

3) Life long activity

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

4) Muscle mass improvement

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

5) An aid for the injured

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

NFL star Chad Jones in water rehabilitation after injury.

 

6) Family fun

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

7) Burn those calories!

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

8) Flexibility

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

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

9) Help your heart!

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

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

Swim to win.

See you at the finish line…

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

Tags: , , ,

The impact that Spartan Race is having on so many lives goes beyond that of the actual race. The lifestyle and mentality in forging people to become a healthier version of themselves is touching so many people. Seeing a stranger wearing the Spartan logo on their clothing instantly becomes a talking point and immediately you know they are family. Shane Small saw a Spartan Race staff member at Houston airport recently and felt compelled to write in with his story.

Dear Joe,

I wanted to share insight into my experiences with the Spartan Race. I have attached some pictures.

Just to share some background information about my adventure to becoming a Spartan at my biggest weight I was 320lbs I currently weigh around 240 and have goals of cutting around 15 or 20 more. I began training with a group of guys from church for my first Spartan Race which was the Dallas Beast near Glen Rose about three months prior to the 2012 race.

I ran my first Beast at around 290lbs, which was at the time the most difficult test of physical fitness and endurance that I had ever experienced. Surprisingly, the 2013 was as much a physical test at 245lbs. The Spartan Race changed my life in many ways.

I am excited to continue my pursuit of fitness and participating in Spartan Races. Please share this with the Spartan Race group.

Thank you,

Shane Small

Want Spartan to change your life, too? Find out more here.

Tags: , ,

Spartan Coaching:  Spartans Run Hills – Part II

by Jeff Godin, Ph.D., CSCS, Director of Spartan Coaching

In my last blog I discussed the importance of hill training. Today I want to address the technique of running hills. Running efficiently during your Spartan race will be crucial to energy management. You only have so much gas in the tank, follow these guidelines and you will leave enough gas in the tank for a strong finish.

Uphill Running

Uphill running changes the dynamic of the interaction of the foot with the ground. Even the most hardcore heel-strikers cannot help but run on the ball of their foot on hills. In fact, on very steep terrain, it will be impossible.

-        Maintain a high cadence by taking small steps

-        Do no lean forward into the hill. Leaning forward will stress the hamstrings and lower back.

-        Lift and drive the knee up hill.

-        Use the elastic energy stored in your calf muscles and Achilles tendon to help propel you forward.

-        Minimize ground contact time, this will help keep the cadence quick and prevent the loss of the stored elastic energy.

-        Avoid large steps and trying to muscle your way up the hill.

-        If you are running a rocky trail, scan the trail ahead and choose the path of least resistance.  Avoid jumping from rock to rock, or jumping over rocks, that will require more energy.

 

Downhill Running

Here is where most people make mistakes. They bound downhill, taking large steps causing the quadriceps and hip flexors to absorb the energy of the ground reaction forces. Practice “letting go” and use gravity to propel the body forward rather than the muscles.

-        Keep the cadence high.

-        Take small steps and keep the feet in line with or behind the hips. If the feet land in front of the hips the legs will act like a brake.

-        Stay light on the balls of your feet.

-        If you find your foot striking the ground hard, then you are taking to large op steps

-        Take small quick steps; use your energy to pick the feet up and put them down, not to propel the body forward.

-        If you are running on rocky terrain, rock hoping can be fun and efficient as long as you remember to land with your foot under your hips not in front of them

-        Build courage. Running downhill fast is scary. But with practice you will master speed and control.

To master these techniques, it takes practice. Do your hill training and concentrate on form.  Leave the headphones at home, think about efficient movement, and eliminate other distractions. In time, you will master the hills; the movement will be natural and fluid and won’t require much thought.

Learn more about Spartan Coaching.

Are you getting your Spartan WODs in your inbox?

Registered for an event near you?

Tags: ,