by Aja Varney, guest blogger

Aja Varney

Last year, on a whim, I posed an idea to a smallish group of Spartan Chicks: let’s do a Secret Santa, Holiday Gift Swap. Many of the ladies had been my inspiration through that inaugural, formative  year of my Spartan Shape-Up, and it seemed like a great way to spread out the love and camaraderie that we’d all found in the Facebook group, on the muddy courses, and frequent email exchanges.

Our Holiday Gift Swap that year had just about 100 participants. This year, with the uprising of women into obstacle racing, subsequently finding the Spartan Chicked group at a staggering 9000+ women strong, our gift exchange garnered roughly 250 eager participants. While I can claim to be the facilitator, the Chicks involved brought the event to life, creating searchable posts introducing themselves to each other, brainstorming useful and creative gift ideas and making sure there was no chick left behind (“Yes! We’ll figure out how to get a Chick gift to a woman stationed in Korea in military training! Aroo!”).

From the Pacific Northwest to the tip of Florida, the United Kingdom to Australia, Mexico to Canada and beyond, the Chicks embraced their giftee like long-lost family. Some mailed gift baskets of practical use: their favorite fueling bar or gel, training gloves to prevent blisters, anti-chafing sticks for those long runs, or technical socks to keep our feet running the treacherous mountains. Others decided to pamper the inner goddess that makes the Chicks special, shipping out relaxing bath salts, salves for sore muscles, nail polish in feisty Chicked Pink shades, or shiny delicate baubles (ironically) shaped like kettle bells or barbells, to keep our head in the game when not clad head to toe in spandex.

Finally, there were the socks… oh the socks!  While all sorts of t-shirts and gear were mailed around the globe, the Chicked movement has embraced socks as a personal, feminine, yet practical, statement. Bright colored tall socks, striped knee highs to protect your shins during mud crawls, dramatic thigh-highs to pair with your shorts and every incarnation in between, were gifted from chick to chick. My personal favorite, all the tall socks that proclaimed loud and proud, statements of Spartan Strong Women: “Bad Ass,” “Burpees Suck,” “Lift Strong” and “Girl Power.” 

While the gifts were a wonderful surprise (almost all the Chicks will tell you that they were waiting anxiously by their mailbox for their Spartan Santa gift to arrive!), the thing that differentiated our Chicked Holiday Gift Swap from any other Secret Santa I’ve ever participated in, was the expressions of community. Every package reached its recipient with hand-drawn cards, lengthy letters sharing holiday well-wishes, motivational notes for the year ahead and a lot of support from one Chick to another, regardless of age or distance. One package even included a small token addressed to the Chick’s child, from one mother to another, because the time had been taken to learn something about the recipient and acknowledge her as a person – not “just” an obstacle racer.

As the year draws to a close, I count myself extremely lucky to be grouped in among the Spartan Chicks. Although I know they are a spectacularly determined, driven group of women, sweating their butts off to show their stuff on the race course, every year this gift swap reminds me that they are so much more than that; the women of Sparta are group of ladies, ready to welcome you with open arms and support you through whatever life throws at you. Come tall, muddy walls, a difficult personal situation, a training plateau or a bad day at work, Spartan Chicks are there – worldwide – to keep your head up and your feet moving forward.

A big Thank You! To all the Chicks who continue to inspire one another and were willing to share some Holiday cheer with their fellow ladies. Our gift swap went off without a hitch, and I cannot wait to see how much Spartan love we can flood the Postal Service within 2013! AROO!

[Editor's Note: Aja Varney is a Spartan Chick many times over.  You can follow her adventures on her blog, What a Beautiful Wreck.  Varney was recently featured as a writer in the new Obstacle Racing magazine.  Her story about how Spartan Races changed her life begins on page 38.]

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by Aja Varney, Guest Blogger

It isn’t the size of the gift that matters, but the size of the heart that gives it. ~Eileen Elias Freeman

When Carrie Adams, and the other founding members of the Spartan Chicks, created a FaceBook group (sorry guys, it’s for ladies only!), it was for the purposes of connecting women across the country who were all interested in Obstacle Course Racing. It was intended to give them a safe space to discuss training issues, racing tactics, share concerns, while supporting and motivating each other. In a short period of time, this group has grown from a tiny group of 100 ladies, to an 8000+ crowd of Chicks. More importantly, the group has identified itself as a real community of united women, running with each other at races, keeping tabs on each other via email, connecting via phone for workouts – a community of Chicks, always ready to chat and lend a hand at a moment’s notice, and show Obstacle Racing that women are a force to be reckoned with.  The Chicked logo seen all over the race course on the tank tops and other “Spartan Chicked” gear.

In that vein, we’re launching our Second Annual Spartan Chicked Holiday Gift Swap! It is open to women across the globe (yes, no matter where you do your Chicking, you can participate!) to sign up. You will be provided with the name and address of one other Chick, with whom you’ll get to share some Holiday Season cheer. Gifts range from simple cards and baked goods, to fun and functional fitness gear, to handmade scarves, blankets or ornaments. The only limit is your creativity! We’re not looking for you to spend billions, but help continue to unite our community of awesome ladies, by connecting with one specific Chick around the holidays.  To date, we have women from all over the globe from London to Australia, Malibu to Manhattan!

To join in on the fun, fill out this form with your information. In a few days, you will be contacted with the name and address of your Giftee. From there, take matters into your own hands; friend your Giftee on FaceBook, check out what she’s been posting about in the Chicks group, get to know her and let your creative juices flow!

Submissions will be accepted until MIDNIGHT (EST), DECEMBER 7th.

Aja Varney

For your privacy, your name and address will only be shared with the one Chick who will be sending you a gift. If you do have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me: aja.varney@gmail.com (Even just to say Hi!)

[Editor's Note: Aja Varney is a Spartan Chick many times over.  You can follow her adventures on her blog, What a Beautiful Wreck, where this post was originally published.

The Chicked Movement began in 2011 at the Vermont Beast, the brain child of Spartan staffer Carrie Adams, with about a dozen women wanting to run together  (Adams included) for support, and has grown drastically since the humble beginnings.  With over 130,000 women passing across a Spartan finish line and a closed network numbering over 8,300 at press time, it shows no sign of slowing down.  The Chicked movement is even featured in the soon-to-be released book Ultimate Obstacle Race Training by Brett Stewart.  Are you a Spartan Chick who wants to join the movement?  Click HERE. ]

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