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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8 Reasons Warming Up is Vital

by Robert DeCillis

 

Warming-up is one of those aspects in a training session that people either do on a consistent basis or do minimal movements or none at all. Many people feel as though they warm-up effectively but many actually do not do what is necessary to get the body ready for the work that is about to take place. How many times have you seen an athlete just go through the motions of a warm-up?

Warm-ups have improved over the years. I remember a time when you would do a couple of stretches, some would pretend to actually stretch, run a few laps around a track and get into whatever practice or training you needed to do. Still today you will see many gym goers do some quick stretches before they are off to the races.

If you are going to compete or even if you are just doing a Spartan Race for fun you will need to warm-up.

The main reason we warm-up is to prevent injury. Now many of you are thinking, I never get injured. Most people think of injury as something big, even if you get a small tweak in a hamstring during training you have injured yourself. These small injuries are usually overlooked until they become bigger problems down the road.

Warming-up properly will ensure that you are ready to go not only before your training session but also prior to your races. Besides the prevention of injury, the warm-up can serve several different purposes. These are in no specific order but are of importance nonetheless.

The purpose of the Warm-Up:

1. To Increase Core Temperature: Getting a little sweat going in the warm-up is a great way to start off a training session. Most times people train cold. A warm-up will get the muscle ready for the work to come.  Muscles will fire or contract much quicker when they are at a higher temperature. This obviously leads to a better training session or competition.

2. Increase Heart Rate: When performing a warm-up it is key to get your heart rate up. I have completed warm-ups where my heart rate has been between 130-150 BPM. You will see in the warm-up below how fast we can get your heart rate going and waking up your body. Here is a piece of advice that will help tremendously with your training, go out and buy yourself a heart rate monitor. Your heart rate will be your guide to how well you are progressing especially in your conditioning.

3. Introduction to New Movements: This warm-up may introduce you to new movements that you may not have performed before. As part of a warm-up I have included movements that will target weak area in many people. These movements will allow the athlete to improve on their weaknesses, which will help reduce nagging injuries later.

4. Increase Strength: Not only will the inclusion of new movements improve your weak areas, but you will also have the great side effect of training, which would be getting stronger in many areas.

5. Increase Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity: Once you get the movements down of the warm-up presented here you will see how you will begin to flow from one to the other. This will allow you to increase your heart rate that will also help increase your aerobic capacity. The sprinting at the end of the warm-up will also get you anaerobic capacity fired up.

6. Become More Flexible, Mobile and Stable: Our bodies are meant to be flexible in certain areas, mobile in other and stable in yet others. But as time goes on our bodies seem to lack all of the qualities above. A lack in these qualities will eventually lead to an injury. During the warm-up you will be able to see where your weaknesses are. The different ranges of motion performed in the movements will allow your body to improve on its mobility, stability and flexibility. By performing the warm-up you will see how all the qualities will improve and you will become a better athlete.

7. Improve the Function of the Central Nervous System (CNS): The warm-up acts as a wakeup call for the CNS. The connection between the CNS and the muscles become strengthened during the warm-up. If you are doing the movements the right way each and every repetition you will see how easy it will be to acquire new skills as well as become more coordinated with the skills you already possess. If your CNS is firing on all cylinders you will be that much more prepared to perform well in the training sessions or the race that follows.

8. Improve Focus: During a warm-up is a great time to get your head in the game. Obstacle course racing and training are very similar. Your head needs to be in the right place to achieve a high level in either one. The warm-up is a perfect time to begin to focus on the task at hand. During training you not only train your body but your mind as well. While warming-up, focus on positive things and leave all distractions at the door. There is no room for negativity creeping in during training or a race.

Check out our calendar.

 

Robert DeCillis is a strength and conditioning specialist and a Spartan Group X coach. He coaches athletes from different sports including those preparing for obstacle races. He operates the site http://obstaclecoursetraining.com and is the owner of Training for Warriors Long Island.

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Spartan 100

By Joe De Sena

 

Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.
—Ernest Shackleton

100 meter sprint
10 push-ups
100 meter sprint
10 jumping lunges
100 meter sprint
10 pull-ups
100 meter sprint
10 burpees
100 meter sprint
10 bodyweight squats
100 meter sprint
30 crunches

A workout like this is going to sharpen your speed and power. Your recovery period should be about as long as each work period, or until you know you can proceed with good form.

Beginner: 1-2 sets
Intermediate: 3-4 sets
Advanced: 3-6 sets during a run

Warm-up big time for this one. Here’s 8 reasons warming up is vital!

 

 

 

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A Multi-sport WOD for July 31, 2013

All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.
- Bruce Lee

Triathletes might have the right idea by cramming three sports into one event. Why settle for one mode of exercise a day when you can maximize your fitness and athletic adaptability in the broadest sense by combining three distinct disciplines together into your own fitness routine?
Tomorrow, try to participate in three different activities, all with varying skills sets and muscle groups worked. This will be a challenge – but the results are big. Who knows what might be around the corner at your next Spartan Race? Be prepared for everything by being ready for anything.

Plan your own triathlon for your workout(s). This could be done back to back to back in one long session, like a triathlon event, or you can try three separate workouts in one day, each with a different sport at its center.

Swim, road bike, run?
Mountain bike, canoe, burpees?
Rock carrying, tire flipping, truck pulling?

What will your 3-some be? Be creative to maximize fun and fitness.

Read more on our blog: Obstacle Racing vs Triathlon – Understanding Multi-Sport Fitness

 

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Spartan Fartlek

 

Happiness is the interval between periods of unhappiness.

–Don Marquis

 

Earn your recovery interval!

On a 2-5 mile easy run, perform 1-3 of the following 10-minute strength intervals written out for time and a 2:1 work-to-recovery ratio.

Strength Training Interval:

1 minute of burpees

.5 minutes of easy jog

2 minutes of burpees

1 minute of easy jog

3 minutes of burpees

1.5 minutes of burpees

x1 = Sprint Distance Training

x2 = Super Distance Training

x3 = Beast mode

Beginners keep it simple. Just do a total of 6 minutes of burpees, as fast as is comfortable for you, during a run.

Intermediate athletes try and put two burpee sets into your run. Try and run at race pace in between.

Advanced athletes should be trying to do this workout for both time, and cumulative burpee counts, doing all three sets.

Fartlek – (“speed play” in Swedish) a training method that combines aerobic training (continuous efforts) with anaerobic training (interval efforts). Traditionally it is associated with running, but it can be integrated into any style of training and geared toward strength, endurance, or speed conditioning. The reference to ‘play’ indicates that these types of workouts can be tailored uniquely to the athlete in a way much less structure that traditional interval training. Read more here.

Strength – 4 of 5
Endurance – 4 of 5
Speed – 4 of 5

 

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Basic Group Workout

 

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

- Michelangelo

 

Set a goal as a team, and you’ll find your own personal best. Training and racing in a group will help you aim high, and get there. This workout is easily done as a unit of individuals. Regroup after each interval of the main set if you become separated – group recovery, group motivation.

Warm-up:

Dynamic warm-up

Main Set:

Run 1/2 Mile, 30 Burpees

Run 1/2 Mile, 30 Jumping Lunges

Run 1/2 Mile, 30 Bodyweight or Sandbag Squats

Run 1/2 Mile, 3 x 5 Pull-ups

Repeat optional.

Cool Down:

Stretching

Beginner groups – Concentrate on the dynamic warm-up. Plenty of movement there.

Intermediate groups – Work on organizing yourself to effectively achieve both individual and group results. It’s more challenging than you think.

Advanced Groups – The main set can be ‘for time’.

Strength 3
Endurance 3
Speed 3

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Variations on the Long Run

by Jason Jaksetic, Spartan Fitness Writer and Editor

Once a week I plan on performing a long run.  Doing this for awhile now, I’ve come to refer to this weekly activity as the long run.

The long run, once completed, become’s my long run for the week.

What is a/the/my long run?  The long run is the run workout I do once a week that focuses on building my aerobic capacities through prolonged exposure to aerobic conditioning.  Depending on where I am in my fitness, and in my racing season, this could be anything from a 45 minute road run to a 5-hour trail adventure.

The term “long” is in reference to the duration of the workout relative to my other runs of the week, whether measured in distance or time.  For example, if running 25 miles in a week, through workouts of 5, 5, and 15 miles in length, the 15 mile run would be ‘the long run’. If I were running 57 miles in a week, and breaking it down into 5 workouts of 5, 10, 10, 12, and 20 miles, the 20 mile run would be ‘the long run’.

Running long is the theme.  Here are some variations to keep your training fresh from week to week so that you don’t burn out or dread this looming day on your calendar.  Besides, your body will benefit from the different ways you can push your aerobic and anaerobic systems with a long run.

Variations with Time and Space

Think distance, forget about time:  This is a great long run for when you have a particular run course you want to enjoy.  Leave the watch behind.  You will be finished when the miles are run.  There is no rush.  And there’s no reason to slow down either.  Just enjoy the run each step of the way.

Think time, forget about distance:  When traveling this is my ‘go to’ for the long run.  If I am in a new area and know I have the next 90 minutes free, I’ll pick an interesting looking direction and run for 45 minutes, before turning around and running back the way I came.  The goal is to maximize each minute.

Forget about time and distance.  Too often we are slaves to both our watches and our regular routes.  Keep it simple:   Start running.  Run.  Stop running.  Resume normally scheduled life.

 

Variations with Tempo

Start Stong:  After a solid warm up, throw down your first 3-5 miles at race pace.  Then pull in the reigns and ease up into a conversation pace for the rest of your run.

Finish Strong:  After warming up, ease into the first 3 quarters of your run at conversation pace.  Stay loose.  Then, with 3-4 miles to go, drop the hammer.  Negative splits.

Track Intervals at end.  Doing this ensures you will be above a great deal of the competition.  Try and find a long run route that wraps up at a running track.  Running fast on tired legs is different than running fast on fresh legs.  Get some practice running fast at the end of your run by doing some ½ to 1-mile repeats to wrap up your run.  Recover 1–2 minutes between each interval by keeping it to a light jog or even walk.

 

Variations with Strength Building

Carry a sandbag:  Great for building stabilizers.

Wear a weight vest:  Be sure to be gentle on your joints.

Do 10 burpees every mile:  Simulate the race day experience of mixing up lots of strength building burpees into your running.

 

Regardless, of how you want to approach a long run, be flexible and keep an open mind.  Your long run might be determined by how much time you can free up that day.  That’s cool.  Make every second out there count!

 

For more details on training for long distance, check out this blog by Dr. Jeff Godin, of Spartan Coaches.

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Understanding Hill Workouts

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

 

The beauty of obstacle racing is that it exposes your weakest link. Lack upper body strength? You will pay for it on the 12 foot wall. Lack balance? You will pay for it on the balance beam. Lack hill climbing endurance? You will pay for it all-day. Spartan Race is well known for its lung crushing climbs, and quad destroying descents. According to one racer that I overheard last Saturday at the Tri State Super, “the number of climbs is ridiculous”.

The only way to beat the hill is to embrace it. Hill running increases oxygen consumption considerably. For example, an athlete running at an easy 10 min/mile pace has an estimated oxygen consumption of 36 mlO2/kg/min, where running the same speed on a 10% grade (a grade of 100% = 45 degree angle) increases oxygen consumption to 50 mlO2/kg/min. That’s almost a 40% increase in energy expenditure! Running on a flat surface, a runner only needs to produce energy for horizontal work. The extra energy needed to lift the body vertically against gravity accounts for this extra energy expenditure.

Running at an oxygen consumption of 50 mlO2/kg/min will be close to many athletes maximal oxygen consumption and certainly above the lactate threshold for all but the elite runners. This will result in an increase in muscle acidosis and increased rate of glycogen utilization. The end result is fatigue and possible glycogen depletion.

Although training will improve VO2 max and running efficiency, it will not be enough offset the increased metabolic demand of steep uphill running. The best solution is to adjust the pace or speed so the energy expenditure remains the same. For most, that will mean walking uphill at a much slower pace. This will prevent fatigue and spare glycogen and prevent bonking. Pace yourself on the hill climbs.

Walking or running uphill places unique stress on the locomotive muscles when compared to walking or running on flat ground. The change in slope puts the foot into severe dorsi flexion, stressing the gastrocnemius, soleus, and plantar fascia. The trunk also leans forward, placing more stress on the hamstrings and back extensors. A couple of small hills won’t negatively impact these muscle groups, but in the longer events where there will be 3,000 – 5,000 ft of climbing, there can be major damage to these muscles, especially in athletes who have not prepared on hills.

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The Wrestler

 

The art of living is more wrestling than dancing.
– Marcus Aurelius

 

Muscular Endurance:  The ability to work hard for extended periods of time.

Yes, you’ll need some during a Spartan Race.  Better try ‘The Wrestler’.  We do this weekly at HQ.  Joe De Sena did one round through the main set in 8:08.

Even if you can’t do all the exercises, try out what you can.  10% of a Spartan WOD is a world’s apart from 0%.  Get closer to your goals of finishing.

Warm-up:

75 jumping jacks

Spartan Warm-up

Main Set:

75 burpees
30 squat tosses with sandbag
10-30 pistol squats each leg
10-30 pull-ups
5 rope climbs

Cool-down:

Stretch

 

Amount of suggested rounds:

 

Sprint Distance = x 1

Super Distance = x 2

Beast Distance= x 3

Elite or Ultra Distance athlete= x 4

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