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

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Littering and….littering and…littering…and stop littering the Spartan Festival Area!

Every Spartan Race is a big event, with nearly 10,000 people showing up throughout the weekend we understand that a lot of trash is going to accumulate. We as Spartans do our best to make sure the course, the festival and everything in between creates a stellar experience for all of our guests. Do you know what makes for a less than desirable experience? Having to pick up the trash of others.

If you’ve ever volunteered at a Spartan Race, then you know that we have people who are out there volunteering their time. These are a select few of the most caring, non-complaining people you will find that will spend their days walking around the festival area picking up YOUR trash. Stop it! Stop littering. You are better than this.

When there are trash receptacles positioned all throughout the festival area there is absolutely no reason why someone should walk around and find a piece of trash lying on the ground not even twenty feet away from the nearest trash bin. You know what we call that. LAZY. Yeah, I said it. You, who dropped your Clif Builder’s Bar wrapper by the merchandise tent, you’re lazy. You, who didn’t take the time to walk an extra thirty feet to throw out your timing chip baggie, you’re lazy. You, who couldn’t afford the extra twenty-five seconds to mosey on over to the nearest garbage to toss away that empty bottle of Core Power, you are LAZY. It doesn’t stop in the festival either, it happens on the course too. We’ve discussed trail etiquette before but with so many new Spartans showing up at every race perhaps it’s time we revisit the topic. Whatever you bring with you onto the course, you clearly had a place to stash it, that means when you’ve finished sucking down that gel packet, or devouring your scrumptious energy chews and all you are left with is an empty wrapper do the right thing and put it back in your pocket, your camelback or where ever it is your were storing it before you ate it. If you can bring it with you on the course, you can take it right back off the course. Stop being lazy and SPARTAN UP!

Remember we are all in this together, we cannot make these events happen without each and every one of you. Take a moment to think about how much extra work you are creating the next time you consider littering at any event. If you’re going to litter you might as well just drop down and do 30 burpees because that’s the penalty if someone catches you from here on out. Don’t litter. We’ll be watching you and we’ll be dishing out the burpees.

Sign up for a race and we’ll see you in the trash free festival!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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Growing up as a boy in Germany, I was always fascinated by the endless pine forests that seemed to go on forever. I’d see men with forearms like Popeye and chests like barrels quaffing beers and throwing axes at logs in almost nonchalant disdain. The way the wood would explode into halves as the blade shot through it was almost hypnotic. The action, the smell and of course, that glorious sound made everything so delicious. It remained with me throughout my life and now, finally, not only do I have an excuse to chop, but it contains benefits that I embrace with the same arms that swing those axes.

Why would anyone want to chop wood, though? It’s actually very simple. It’s good for you.

Chopping wood is, simply put, one of the best workouts you can give your body. Let’s think about this. First of all, you need a good solid stance, right? Making sure the feet part at a comfortable distance, usually about shoulder width, in order to have a good solid base, you are prepping for action. Doing this means your hamstrings, calves, quadriceps and gluteal muscles are all in use and are tense and braced. Going on from there, you have the swing itself. This is generated in the latissimus dorsi, the lower and middle trapezius, the deltoids, obliques and the pectorals. Completing the swing, you will use smaller muscles in order to stabilize it. It’s one of the few motions, not unlike swimming, that uses a whole range of motions and muscles in order to complete one action.

Best of all for folks that hate doing floor exercises, but still want to try and work those abs, is that this action is basically like doing crunches, only you’re standing up and aren’t getting bored to tears. Crunches are boring. There, I said it.

But it doesn’t end there. Because wood chopping is considered a low-intensity workout, it can improve cardiovascular endurance when you perform is slowly and steadily for a protracted amount of time. With practice, the constant repetition of the swing of the axe will build precise form. This form will raise your heart rate, burn calories and improve your circulation.

Additionally, the motion of the swing – which should be smooth and fluid-like with practice – will not adversely affect your joints, because this exercise is effectively not a weight-bearing one. If you chop wood, say, twice or perhaps three times a week, it will help build aerobic fitness and as we all know, this is what you need in order to efficiently take in oxygen while you perform not just exercise, but any kind of physical activity.

As with any physical activity that requires certain amounts of exertion, you’ll be releasing both endorphins and adrenaline. These are both feel-good chemicals produced naturally within the body.

So chopping wood is in that bizarre situation of being both creative and destructive at the same time. Chopping wood is so rewarding and from personal experience, way more rewarding than any clinical workout in any gym or Crossfit box. You’ve achieved something and have actually something to show for it. You can feel all the muscles working and best of all, that satisfying ache of a job well done. Not to mention the fact that chopping is a confidence booster. Add that final element of problem solving when you come across that one particularly knotty and stubborn piece of wood that just doesn’t want to be split and you have what could be argued as the perfect workout.

As any Spartan Death Racer will tell you, log chopping is a staple part of the Death Race as it’s the perfect workout. Perhaps going back to basics is sometimes the best approach to go forward. So get chopping and sign up for your next race now.

See you at the finish line…

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Joe Desena isn’t keen on lethargic attitudes and procrastination. Putting something off because you, “just want to see the end of this episode of Storage Wars” doesn’t cut it. Get out. Move. Do what a human is supposed to do. Work, sweat and get dirty.

The Spartan Race founder shakes his head when he sees the state of not just America but of the world today. He observes how mankind as a race has allowed itself to become accustomed and content with comfort, quick fixes and the easy option.

Fast food may be quick, but it’s no good. Sitting around and not moving may be easier than going outside and getting things done, but it hides one fast track you don’t want; the fast track to a heart attack. Avoiding a struggle or something that is difficult is largely the root of what we today see as the biggest problem. Not wanting to work for something is how we got into the mess we’re in. As Flogging Molly once sang, “…and we find ourselves in the same old mess, singing drunken lullabies”.

Having had his fill of what he has seen, Joe has written a book that reminds us what it means to be human. It’s time to revert back to what mankind did before. What we were built for. What we were actually meant to do. As he puts it, it’s time to “Spartan Up”.

Sign up right here for a race and start living, not just existing. 

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Jo Pearson doesn’t recall very much of her life before she turned 27. It’s not that she suffered a terrible accident or violent traumatic experience, it’s simply her coping mechanism.

“All the days I spent before that life-changing year are cloudy memories that I have stored in the recesses of my mind.  I’ve locked them away from others and myself because they are just too painful to remember and they do not bring any light or love to the life that I lead now”, she explains.

Deciding to change her life has not just made Jo a new person on the outside, the one within shines a thousand time brighter, illuminating her outlook and focus.

“The life I have now is one worth fighting for – it is one filled with joy, success, love, energy, zeal, and passion.  However, it also one that forces to me to suffer at times, to feel the pain of defeat and the frustration of setbacks, and to feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.  The old me would have cowered at these type of tribulations and hid among the darkness.”

That new found radiance has permeated her attitude and zest for life, but also her mentality of how she approaches life.

“That woman that cowered is gone.  I have evolved into a warrior – a woman who will fight for what is right, just, healthy, and good in this world and who believes in her ability to make a difference in her own life and the lives of others.  I am proud of my journey for the small steps I have taken along the way are the ones that help me stand strong at the foot of mountains and keep me poised to carry on with strength, courage, grace, and honor.”

There was a point in her life when Jo weighed around 415lbs and wore a size 28. Despite being a young woman in her prime, she felt that she hadn’t even begun to live and experience life. Travelling anywhere by flight wasn’t an option because she couldn’t fit into an airplane seat. Amusement rides provided the same difficulty. This meant she rarely went out to enjoy happy times with her family or friends. This led to a vicious circle of staying indoors. Accusatory and mocking looks, pointed fingers and stares led her to feel isolated, with only family and a tight, small circle of friends being around her.

“Physically, I can remember not being able to walk up the 16 stairs at my parents’ house without feeling like I had just ran a marathon.  And, I never ever contemplated setting foot into a gym because it would have been too embarrassing.  I had become a person that wasn’t truly alive and that was sad and depressed.  I knew that I ate poorly and that I didn’t get any exercise, but for years I wasn’t ready to make any changes. I chose instead to eat huge amounts of fast food, sodas, sweets, and processed foods and then not exert any type of physical activity.  I had fallen into a black hole lifestyle that kept me shackled underneath hundreds of pounds of weight – taking a toll on my body and my soul.”

Her epiphany came one day as she looked back at the woman that greeted her in her mirror. Tired of feeling so sad all the time and craving something better, the blanket of doubt that had stifled her for so long was beginning to lift. Jo began to move. Slowly at first, but it was a start.

“I began walking late at night around my parents’ neighborhood so that no one would see me walking.  I was too afraid of being made fun of to actually do my exercise in the light of day.  I was still hiding in the shadows, but I was making my way out – slowly, but surely.  I cut out sodas and fast food entirely and began researching ways to eat healthy.  There wasn’t one magical diet or workout plan that I followed in the beginning.  I was just taking baby steps to becoming healthier.  But, changing the way I ate and incorporating moderate physical exercise, helped me shed pounds over the first couple of months.  I kept up my walking and healthy eating for about 6 months and I ended up losing about 60 pounds.  Once that initial weight came off and I could begin to see a different face and body in the mirror, my whole attitude changed. I knew I could do it. I knew I could make even more progress.”

Home workouts were the next phase. Scheduling set exercises to work out to gave her something to work with. Still fearing what she believed to be the glare and audience that was a gym, she avoided the gym. This was one fear she wasn’t ready to face – yet. Not before long, she’d shed 100lbs. She took this as the signal to employ a trainer to help her push further.

“I found a local trainer, Jonathan Smith, to help me continue on my journey.  He incorporated muscle confusion, strength training, cardio, boxing, and outdoor exercise.  I lost nearly 115 pounds by combining training like this, along with another BeachBody program, P90X, in about a year.”

By the end of her turnaround, Jo had lost around 215lbs and dropped from a size 28 to a 10. The confidence this journey gave her then shifted to another aspect of her life. The classroom. Harnessing the willpower she’d shown throughout her weight loss journey, obstacles were no longer things to fear, but opportunities to conquer. While she attended law school, she knew that the stresses and strains she experienced in an academic sense could be alleviated with a good diet and continued physical exercise.

“So, in my last year of law school, back in 2013, I decided to get another trainer.  I was able to find Jason Johnson, through Independence Gym in Scottsdale.  Jason has helped keep me in shape and believe that I am more than just a woman who has lost weight.  I am an athlete that has been hidden for so many years.  He incorporates high intensity interval training with both boxing and heavy strength training.  I have defined muscles now that I never knew even existed! Through his training I felt poised to take on a challenge that I never thought I would ever have a chance to even think about. The Spartan Race.  I decided that my law school graduation present and the best way to celebrate passing the Arizona bar exam and becoming an attorney was to finally compete in the Spartan Race!”

Training for it with the same precision and determination she had shown throughout her weight loss victory and graduating from law school, she prepared herself for what lay ahead. She was ready.

“On February 8, 2014 I approached the starting line of the Arizona Spartan Sprint ready to face my biggest physical challenge ever.  My fiancé, Jules Demetrius, who is battling Stage 3 colon and liver cancer, had hoped to be in those spectator bleachers cheering me on, but due to his diminished physical capacities, he was unable to do so.  But, he voiced his support all over social media, touting his love and admiration for what I have accomplished.  Every day he endures horrible pain as he fights against cancer and his strength and courage only spur me to continue to face my fears and give 100% to everything in my life.”

“As I crossed the finish line I began to cry.  It had been the biggest physical challenge I had ever faced and subsequently conquered.  Years of hard work, determination, and struggles had culminated in the completion of this 4.5 mile race.  And as Arisotle penned, ‘We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’ I have truly embraced the Spartan code of never quitting and never accepting defeat.  I will carry those virtues with me for the rest of my days, for I am, and always have been a fighter.  AROO!”

Jo knows now what it means to know at the finish line. Do you?

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

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

1) Low Impact

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

2) Cardiorespiratory fitness

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

3) Life long activity

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

4) Muscle mass improvement

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

5) An aid for the injured

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

NFL star Chad Jones in water rehabilitation after injury.

 

6) Family fun

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

7) Burn those calories!

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

8) Flexibility

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

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

9) Help your heart!

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

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

Swim to win.

See you at the finish line…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Volunteers are the oil that lubricates the gears of Spartan Race. Wherever you are at an event, you’ll see the souls in red shirts helping at obstacles, handing out medals or water and helping you along the way.

But why would anyone want to volunteer? In her role as Volunteer Coordinator, Katie Morrison explains why volunteering is a smart choice.

“Volunteers get an inside peek at what it takes to produce a Spartan Race.  Volunteers work closely with our staff to deliver an amazing Spartan experience, and get to encourage and support their fellow Spartans as they race.  They also get to assign burpees! Volunteers receive a volunteer t-shirt, snacks and the immense gratitude of competitors and staff.”

The assignments, tasks and jobs that you could do are extremely varied. Even with no experience, as training is given, anyone can help out should they want to.

“There are many different volunteer opportunities with Spartan Race from pre-race, to race-day, to post-race. Before the race even begins we have a dedicated group of volunteers help with our course build”, says Katie.

“These volunteers work closely with our build staff and get a sneak peek of the course before anyone else.  This is a great opportunity for volunteers with carpentry, painting, or event production experience, but there are also tasks that non-experienced volunteers can lend a hand with.  Volunteers also help with packet-stuffing before the race, helping our Registration staff prepare all of the racer bibs.  On race day, volunteers help in our Registration area (handing out racer packets and checking in spectators), our Kids Race, Bag Check, our Finish Line (handing out medals, bananas, and water to the finishers), Merchandise area, and on the course (enforcing obstacles and ensuring the safety of all participants).  Post-race volunteers help our build team with the break down and load out of our materials.”

But how do you go about applying? Very simply, as it turns out.

“Before the race, volunteers should express their interest in volunteering by visiting our web page right here.  If the event isn’t for a few months, the volunteer will just sign up under a general interest link.  Once the event is 1-2 months out, specific volunteer shifts will be posted and the volunteer coordinator for that specific event will contact you with instructions.  Day-of, volunteers will check in with either the Build Production Assistant (for Build shifts), the Registration team (for packet stuffing shifts), or the Volunteer Coordinator.  The Volunteer Coordinator will check you in and give you a t-shirt, snacks and a sandwich, and your assignment for the day.  You will then report to a specific Spartan staff member who will train you and get you started for the day.  At the end of the day, you will check-out from your shift.” 

Naturally, volunteers get more than a pat on the back and a firm handshake for their troubles, too.

“Spartan Volunteers get a t-shirt, snacks, lunch, a great time and a FREE race. The free race can be used either at the event that you volunteer, or at any future US Spartan Race except the Death Race or Ultra Beast. Our full day volunteers receive an EXCLUSIVE Spartan volunteer hoody. Furthermore, nonprofit groups of 10 or more volunteers are also eligible for a $50 per person donation for full-day volunteering.”

“Volunteers are the heart of Spartan Race.  They dedicate their time and energy to help Spartan Race put on an amazing, life-changing event for its participants.  Without the selflessness of our volunteers, we would not be able create such an epic experience.”

Go to Spartanrace.com to sign up to volunteer today!

See you at the finish line…

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