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!

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Spartan Pro Teamer Isiah Vidal takes us through how to complete the inverted walls and gives tips and coaching advice for how to prepare for them.

Beat the obstacle and avoid the burpees!!

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We’ve all been there. You duck under that first length of barbed wire and after having moved what feels like 20 yards, you look up and realize it’s closer to 2 or 3 feet. You take a peek over the wire and it seems like this crawl spans all the way into the next state.

Pro Team member Chris Rutz knows how you feel and as such, has helped with another episode of Buck Furpees and will now give you some pointers regarding how to train for and then beat the barbed wire crawl.

Don’t forget to check out the previous episodes of Buck Furpees on our Youtube Channel (link) and brush up on other videos including the Traverse Wall, The Atlas Carry, Rope Climb and the dreaded Spearman Throw.

See you at the finish line!

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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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Spartan Swimming 101

You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.
- Edwin Louis Cole

How much swimming are you incorporating into your training? Maybe it’s time to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new?

Whether you want to actively recover from your normal routine, or introduce yourself to the full-body workout that swimming can be, consider looking for a pool when at a gym or workout facility.

Regardless, of your motives, during a Spartan Race you might find a deep appreciation for your experience in the water.

LAP SWIM ETIQUETTE–FITTING IN AT THE POOL

by Erica Smith, Elite Open Water Swimmer and Coach

Swimmer here.  I’m here to break the unfortunate news to you that swimmers (as we call ourselves–those of us who have the distinction of having been competitive swimmers in high school and/or college), are holding you in judgment for the suit you wear, the goggles you wear, and the way you conduct yourself at the local YMCA or community pool. As soon as we see you coming, we’ll start sprinting butterfly or doing extra-splashy flip turns to discourage you from sharing our lane. It’s not just swimmers behaving badly–I swear runners have taunted me in similar ways when I venture out of my territory and onto land.

Fortunately, there are ways that you can work out in peace without being taunted or judged by swimmers. First off, don’t ever show up wearing a scuba mask or ancient-looking goggles. I like Blue Seventy goggles–all models make excellent open water goggles, and you can wear them to the pool. Don’t wear swim trunks or a triathlon suit–you’re going to have to get yourself a real swimsuit made for pool swimming. Now, emerge from the locker room and walk across deck with confidence. If the lap lanes have speed designations (Slow-Medium-Fast), make sure you don’t overestimate yourself. Using fins doesn’t count towards your perceived speed. It’s taboo among swimmers to wear fins for an entire workout, and everyone knows WHY you’d be doing that.

Once you choose the appropriate lane, there are a few basic but very important rules you must follow:

1. If you are joining a lane with one swimmer, you must alert that person to your presence before you begin swimming, and ask whether your new lanemate prefers to “circle swim” or “split the lane.” Using proper swimming lingo will earn you points. Circle swimming means that you will swim counterclockwise, always hugging the laneline to your right. Splitting the lane means that you and your lanemate will each choose one side of the lane, and you will hug the same laneline going up and down.

2. Never, ever, ever veer into the middle of the lane for any reason. Pay attention to where you are in the lane at all times. Now is not the time to practice eyes-closed navigation drills. No one wants to get a concussion during a swim workout.

3. If joining a lane with multiple swimmers who are already circle swimming, you need not alert anyone to your presence, but you must join the lane in a way that does not interrupt anyone else’s workout (see guidelines below). If you join a lane with two swimmers who are splitting the lane, you must ASK both swimmers whether they will circle swim to let you join, BEFORE you begin swimming in that lane.

4. Never push off the wall right in front of a swimmer who is approaching the wall to make a turn. This is exactly the same as if you were running on a narrow track, and a slower runner stepped in front of you and forced you to stop.

5. Never push off the wall RIGHT on the feet of the swimmer right ahead of you. Always wait at least five seconds or until the swimmer ahead is past the flags.

6. Never touch the feet of the swimmer in front of you for any reason. It’s your fault for either pushing off the wall too soon, or not choosing the right lane. If you are doing a faster workout, you’re going to have to stop at the wall, wait until there’s enough space in between the two of you, and then start again. No one is looking for a negotiation about accommodating your workout.

7. If you do accidentally make contact while swimming, pick your head up to apologize. Or wait to apologize at the wall, whenever both of you stop.

8. If you are stopped at the wall to rest, make sure that you stay off to the side so that the end of the lane is clear for other swimmers to make turns. If you are blocking the wall with your body, don’t be surprised if a swimmer flip turns and their feet fly mere centimeters from your face. You’re not supposed to be there.

9. Hand paddles can be helpful for learning proper catch position in freestyle, but you should avoid using them in a crowded lap swim lane because of the likelihood of contact with other swimmers. It IS possible to break fingers or cause bloody gashes through contact with hand paddles.

Following these guidelines should ensure that you have a pleasant and fruitful experience at your local pool. Your new swimmer friends will appreciate your efforts!

 

Erica Smith was a NCAA All-American swimmer and is now an open water swimmer, writer, and professional swim coach specializing in open water training and racing.  She can be contacted at smitheureka@gmail.com.

 

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By the time you get to the tire flip at a Spartan Race, you’ll have been worn down a little. We’ll have made sure that your legs have had some punishment and that your arms feel like they are full of cement. We’re trying to break you. You’re welcome.

So, when it comes to flipping a tire that can be 2 or sometimes even 3 times your own bodyweight, it’s going to be hard. The last thing you want to do is to do it incorrectly. There are ways of lifting tires and luckily, Pro Team member Laura Messner is here to help guide you through what you ought to consider when the time comes.

Credit: explore

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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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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.

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Registered for an event near you?

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A recent trend in the running world is a return to basics: running barefoot. With the trend sparked largely by the publication of Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run, runners across the country have begun to embrace the trend of running without shoes. The book highlights groups of people that ran for thousands of years without the benefits of modern-day shoes. In particular, the Tarahumara people of Mexico’s Cooper Canyons are highlighted. Apparently, thin-soled, canvas shoes have much lower rates of injury than normal jogging shoes. 

So should you ditch the shoes for good? The short answer is “it depends” on who you listen to. One Harvard University professor touted the benefits of barefoot running, claiming he runs through Cambridge at least once a week without shoes.  Other doctors are more skeptical, claiming the number of running-related injuries has increased dramatically as their clients lose the shoes in favor of barefoot running.

Another columnist found a more practical reason standing in her way. She opted against running through streets barefoot, instead trying a local park. However, the number of dogs and homeless people led her to question what she might step in and she’s scaled back her running barefoot.

As with most trends, there is profound disagreement about the benefits of running barefoot. Still, if you’re up for an extreme challenge, this might be just the ticket.

Whatever your choice, running a Spartan Race requires training, so get to it!

Picure credit: CNN,  runmyroute.

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One thing we see again and again at Spartan Race is people failing the Traverse Wall. In this edition of “How To”, Corinne Kohlen guides us through the basic skills and shows us how, as an elite racer, she prefers to see off this obstacle with the minimum of fuss. 

In addition to this, we would also advise those that have difficulty with the Traverse Wall to experiment with Bouldering and indoor rock climbing. This sport generates great coordination and improves strength in the muscles needed for this obstacle, as well as improving strength in grip.

With practice, you need never do burpees at this obstacle again.

Sign up at spartanrace.com and see how you do!

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