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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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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Basic Basics

Spartan Fitness Simplified

by Jason Jaksetic

You can get really far on just a little information. For example, you can travel 1000 miles with simple direction ‘North’. You just want to make sure that ‘North’ is the right direction for where your heading before you set off.

What fitness tips give you the most traction for fitness gains? This blog is an attempt at breaking down these basics, to give your broad directions like “North” to follow. If you keep stumbling in the direction of these 5 fitness practices you’ll eventually get where you need to be.

In the words of Thoreau, ‘Simplify, simplify.’ If you were to come to Spartan HQ we’d have you focused on these 5 things before anything else. The less time you spend worrying about what to do, the more time you can spend doing. When in doubt, focus on one of these 5 fitness components, and begin.

 

Drink More Water


The minute the animal kingdom crawled itself out of the ocean, land based life needed to establish a means to keep water levels internally. Life is water based. You need water or you will die. Since you can’t absorb water through your skin like an amphibian, you need to drink it. This is why you hydrate.

Before you worry about what to drink, make sure you are drinking enough water. If you are thirsty, drink a glass of water. Sounds simple, but most people don’t really take the time, or opt for other options. Before you drink a glass of calorically dense and sugar-laden juice drink, drink a glass of water to quench some of that thirst. Before reaching for a soda, drink two glasses of water. This is a surefire way to reduce unwanted calorie consumption.

The goal is not to consciously try and stop drinking other kinds of beverages, but to just make sure you adequately quench your thirst with zero calorie water, so that you are not supplementing your caloric intake simply out of thirst. Also, thirst sometimes triggers the sensation of hunger. Drink more, and you might find yourself eating less.

 

Eat More ‘Real’ Food

There are a lot of different diets. It can get a bit complicated.

Regardless of particular diet, there is an underlying component that most viable ones involve: eat more food, and less food products.

The fewer ingredients the better. The less processing the better. Whatever the diet (fad) that you subscribe too, try and make sure the foods that you eat are as ‘real’ as possible. Real food is produced by nature. It grows. It has a very clear name like ‘apple’. Read the label on any food, and put it back if there are any unpronounceable things inside it. If you can’t figure out what it is, most likely your body will be confused too.

This is a principle that can be applied to any meal, regardless of your diet philosophy. Reach for apple sauce instead of apple pie. Reach for an apple, instead of apple sauce. In any given situation you can practice the reduction of ingredients.

The good news is, that you can eat as much as you want when you are eating raw fruits, vegetables, and seeds. They aren’t calorically dense like processed food. Your stomach will most always fill up on broccoli before you’ve overdone your caloric allotment for the day.

Run

 

Running is the most efficient way to condition your body for the demands of obstacle racing. No matter how ripped you are, you will need to transport yourself the entire distance of the course on your feet. If you want to be competitive, you need to practice doing this fast.

Running can be done pretty much anywhere. Road, trail, beach. Just get out the door and go. Somehow in recent times we found ourselves having to spend 20 minutes putting on and calibrating our running gear. There are many cyborg-looking types trail running these days, replete with an isle of Radioshack strapped to their bodies. This is cool, but don’t let it stand in your way of quickly running out the door for a 15 to 20 minute run. Most importantly don’t let it lead you to believe that running is too complicated for you. Heading out for a run should be a zero stress experience. Just like when you were a kid, and you ran out the door and didn’t stop until you came back. Start with 10 minutes at a time and don’t worry about the distance you cover. Go five minutes out and then turn around. It can be that simple.

Don’t over-think your running. If you are on your feet and moving forward you are doing better than most. You are surely doing better than if you are on your couch. If you have 20 minutes, grab a pair of basic running shoes and go for an easy jog. Once you are spending over 2-4 hours a week pounding pavement, then start your in-depth running research.

Do Burpees

The human body, with the addition of gravity, supplies most of the requisite gear for getting stronger. The burpee is the optimal dance between your body and gravity that will maximize your fitness gains for your entire body. No equipment needed. Hell, do burpees in your underwear first thing in the morning and you can have your daily workout taken care of before you brush your teeth.

This is a burpee. Learn it. Master it. When in doubt, do burpees. Here is a complete muscular analysis of the burpee.

A complete analysis of the burpee can be found here. You can study that, or simply do a bunch, and feel the ache all over your body as you start to suck wind. That will indicate that you are doing it right. Cardio plus strength equals your fitness foundation for Spartan Race.

Start with 1 burpee a day, even. Then move on to 2, only when you can do the first one with perfect form. Really, it’s that simple. Go slow, be careful, and just keep taking steady steps day to day. Take off every 3rd, 4th, or 5th day to rest. Figure out what works for you.

Stretch

There are legions of tremendously ‘fit’ athletes who are as inflexible as iron rods. This is actually a terrible weakness, and you are as strong as your weakest link. If you are inflexible, you will most likely break, at those times when you should bend. This is a serious chink in your amour, as one injury can end a season.

Stretch numerous times during the day. Take a break from playing desk jockey every hour for 5 minutes of stretching. You don’t need to perform extreme yoga poses. Just touch your toes. Reach up and touch the ceiling. Or simply squat down with your heels flat on the ground and stand up a few times.

By scheduling yoga into your week you are guaranteed to integrate stretching into your practice. Yoga is a great way to recover from your more intense training, too.

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Family and friends look at you confused. You’ve explained what you’re doing and why you need to pack a change of clothes. They’ve seen you train and possibly even seen a couple of videos on Youtube. But they still have that glazed over expression and don’t fully understand why you’re doing a Spartan Race.
We asked competitors recently what it was about doing a Sprint, a Super, or a Beast that gave them the most satisfaction.

Dane Bustrum of San Diego, California answered, “I thought about this after Malibu and for me, the best thing about being a Spartan is watching someone else who is about to give up on an obstacle and helping them to successfully complete the obstacle without doing burpees. In Malibu it was a woman at the slippery wall who said, ‘I’m just going to walk around’. Another runner and I literally pulled her entire body weight up and over an obstacle. She was both thankful and happy. I’ve been helped and I’ve helped others and there’s just something about being a part of a defining achievement in a complete stranger’s life and then never seeing them again.”

Andrew Schweizer points out, “It’s a very welcoming experience. Finding people who will accept you and are happy to have you run with them in an event takes the trepidation out of participating in something challenging like a Spartan Race.”

Kyoul Cha. Just another day at the office

The sense of camaraderie at any Spartan Race is something very unique. Kyoul Cha, who lives in Chandler, Arizona, highlights perfectly the whole human aspect of belonging.

“Because, in suffering, we find common ground and bond no matter race, color, creed, religion, or age. You can look at the person next to you on the course and truly know the hardship that they face because you are going through it with them. And in the event of real life, when you see that Spartan Race shirt at the grocery store or Jiffy Lube, it is that badge of brotherhood because you can walk up to that person and have an immediate common interest as you compare notes and scars. So it is in the suffering of the Spartan Race where you find your humanity.

“Knowledge. That is what I gained. An entire world opened up for me that I never even thought about in the past. Being the type of person who is self-contained in his own private little world, SR showed me all of the things that can happen when you take that deep breath and let go of the safety rope of Life. I have met greater people than I knew and realized more of my potential than previously known. For  that I will always be grateful.”

The whole idea of having a purpose and something to aim for in life is a response we received time after time. After watching the videos of past events and seeing the photographs, some see where they feel they might need areas of their physical fitness or strength, and some see where they need to address and perhaps rectify what they feel isn’t quite right. Michael Meade of Los Angeles knows this only too well.

“For me my first Spartan race was about setting a goal. I signed up for Malibu 2012, eleven months ahead of time when I was in no physical shape to actually do it. It gave me a purpose for my training, something to work toward. By the time the race rolled around on my 50th birthday, I was ready. I still failed some obstacles though. This gave me new a goal to work toward: monkey bars. I made the bars for the first time at the Monterey Beast, so now I have set my sights on the rope climb. I don’ know if I will ever master the traverse wall, but damned if I’m not going to keep trying! That is why it has been good for me to run Spartan Races.”

There’s a certain parallel with Spartan Race for life in general. The notion that while the race has obstacles and parts of the course that will test you and try to break you, so there is in life. Jesus Valdez, who can often be seen helping folk at the Slippery Wall and countless other obstacles says, “I run for kids with epilepsy and encourage them that life is full of obstacles you don’t have to go through it alone. Just because you have some kind of condition it’s not an excuse to give up on your dreams.” Adam Evans of California echoes that sentiment.
“Rather than avoid difficult situations, learn to face them head on, enjoy them, and conquer them. It’s just about going for it, doing your best, and not avoiding things that make you feel uncomfortable. Spartan race gives me a tangible practice for this philosophy. Many obstacles I, or we, face in our daily lives are not as simple as climbing a rope or crawling through barb wire. Still it’s the philosophy and practice of tackling them head on to reach your goal. I feel like this mindset can help you succeed in many other aspects of life.”

Holly Scudder embraces Spartan like does her training tire

Holly Scudder of Cedar Park, Texas points out that while a clock is always ticking on the course, it’s not always all about the ranking.

“It’s as competitive as you want to make it. Whether it’s competing against others or yourself. Love the camaraderie on course and even more so off course in this type of group. Inspiration to do more and a chance to be an inspiration to someone else. When else does a weekday suit like myself get to play in the mud? And showing my son that it’s okay to play, even when you get to be ‘so’ old!”

Amy Fuchs of Erie, Pennsylvania adds, “For me, it has really added depth and purpose to my life. There has not been too much in my life (besides my son) that I have been really, truly passionate about. I have spent a lot of time pondering over how to go about having a more meaningful life: Do I need to focus more on spirituality, meditate more? Be more selfless and do more for others less fortunate than me? Work harder? Find a new career? Choose a cause and become an advocate? Donate more of my time; volunteer more? And so that’s what I did. While all of those things are well and good and important, they did not scratch the itch; none of it really cut to the core of me in such a way that left me feeling truly fulfilled. Then I discovered Spartan Race. I have found that OCR (namely Spartan, of course!) has really been the one thing that excites me deep in my soul. It has ignited that passion that I have been searching for so long for. My next race might be months away, but I literally wake up every morning with it on my mind. I’m always training for it, pushing myself to do better and be better than I was yesterday. To prove to myself that I can do great things, even if it is only in my own mind, and to satisfy that desire for depth of feeling and purpose.”

Training for a Spartan Race brings with it certain life skills as a happy side-effect of preparing to race. In order to complete the Atlas carry and Tractor Pull Becky Walker of Long Beach, California undertook rigorous arm and shoulder exercises and became much stronger in her upper body.

Logs and rocks became Becky Walker’s playthings

“I often see many abandoned and stray dogs. I’ll go to see if they’re ok and often, they’ll need a little TLC. Picking up bigger dogs now is so easy. In the past, I’d have to, hopefully, coax him or her into my car to get a good look for tags to find their families. Sometimes I even had to take them home before I could find their owners. In a worst-case scenario I’d take them to foster parents or no-kill shelter. Now I can handle the bigger dogs, and more importantly, hold onto them. The training has given me not only the strength, but also the confidence.”

Matt Trinca, of Lakewood, California, remembers how an obstacle became the focus of something he sought to beat in his own way.

“Climbing a wall! I remember coming to a set of 8′-10′ walls at my first OCR several years ago and simply walking around them because I didn’t have the strength or technique. But in Spartan Race, you can’t simply walk around an obstacle. So, what did I do? I built my own freakin’ wall in the backyard, and practiced ’til I could climb 10′ walls with ease! Now, I see walls as mere speed-bumps. Talk about a metaphor for life!”

In closing, Jonathan White sums up what seems to be a reoccurring theme that runs through all the responses we received.

“Being a Spartan represents facing your challenges head on. Not just in the race, but in your life. In 2012 when I set out to lose weight and improve my health, I set as a goal to run a Spartan race. And I did…..and now I am hooked. I’m going to be running four Spartan races in 2014.”

All these people knew at the finish line. Will you?

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Lurking in almost everyone’s house, the couch is a menace to Spartans and athletes across the globe. It beckons to us as we try to leave to go for a run, whispering seductively, “Just a little rest won’t hurt you.” As we walk out the door on the way to the gym it calls, “Why go now? Why not watch TV instead?”

Its pleas are tempting.  Comfy cushions entice us to give up on our goals in exchange for a quick nap. Is the couch really your enemy? Really?  It just sits patiently in your living room waiting to comfort you after a hard day. Maybe you are enjoying your couch right now.

Yes, its allure is undeniable, but you have the choice not to give in to it.  In that choice lies your power–your Spartan power.  For no Spartan ever gave in to the couch.  No Spartan ever chose rest over exertion.  No Spartan ever preferred luxury to indubitable self-reliance.  No Spartan ever wanted to relax rather than engage in brutal, sweaty, dirty physical exercise.

According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, physical inactivity is the biggest public health problem of the 21st century.   ”At least 60% of the world’s population fails to complete the recommended amount of physical activity required to induce health benefits,” says the World Health Organization
So, next time you think about getting comfy on the couch and taking a break from your exercise program, think about what you’re really giving up: your commitment to be the best you can be.

Why not be a Spartan and get off the couch instead?

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by Carrie Adams 

“This too shall pass.”  – King Solomon

Let’s go back to basics.  Let’s plank. 

1 – 3 minutes of plank every hour on the hour of your waking hours for 24 hours

Example:

If you wake up at 8 AM and go to sleep at 10PM and plank for two minutes every hour, you’ll end up with 28 minutes of planking on the day!

The Spartan Race WODs have become known for their difficulty but we’ve never made gyms mandatory for getting your workout in for the day.  Remember that your body and anything that surrounds you can be your gym. Use body weight, roads, natural terrain, trees…. use what you see!

Make today your “Drop Everything and Plank” day.  Find out what happened the last time we did this with the ladies of Spartan Chicked.  The photo album is HERE.

So get your plank on, Sparta. 

Want to see your training translate on the course?  Find an event HERE near you and get signed up!  We’ll see you on the battlefield!  Need more training tips?  Get signed up for our daily WODs and have them delivered straight to your inbox!  Click HERE for more details!

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by Khaled Allen

Picture credit: oddsock on Flickr

Are you fit enough to save your own life? What about those of your loved ones? Are you fit enough to survive a natural disaster?

If you workout just to get ‘in shape’, that isn’t good enough. It has no concrete value; what does ‘in shape’ even mean? It is a very vague goal, and vague goals never get you anywhere.

Here is a better set of goals, from Mark’s Daily Apple: be fit enough to survive a threat to your own life, to rescue your family if you must, and to endure any trauma you might experience.

Fitness is and always has been a means to an end. We train our bodies so that they might help us accomplish something. The Spartans trained from childhood not because they wanted to have higher levels of energy and look good in a loincloth. They had a city to defend and the honor of a culture to uphold. They put their bodies at the service of their city-state, and that is what gave them purpose in their training.

The most successful athletes have goals. Looking damn sexy is a fine goal, and it has motivated a lot of people in the past. Needing to be in shape to survive is a much better goal, and will let you push yourself to much greater heights of physical and mental prowess.

The greatest athletes in our civilization are the Olympians. They aren’t in it for the fitness. They are in it for the gold, literally. They don’t just want to be ‘in shape’. They want to be the best they can be, to perform whatever task is required of them as effectively as possible, and to leave a mark on the world. For them, it isn’t good enough to just go through their fitness routine; they need to see results.

If you want to become a truly accomplished athlete, you need something to train for, some objective to dedicate your body towards pursuing.

Fitness demands testing. That is why the truly fit – real athletes – are naturally drawn to challenge. They want to be tested. That is really the only way to know if you are fit, and to what extent.

CrossFit stakes its entire approach to fitness on measurable results. Fitness is meaningless if it cannot be measured and tested. The CrossFit definition of fitness is fairly straightforward. It is based on how efficiently you can complete a given task. Weightlifters are fit to move heavy loads. Runners are fit to cover a lot of distance quickly. How do we know? We measure it.

Being fit is important, make no mistake. The term fitness originally refers to the likelihood a given organism will reproduce and pass on its genes. You want to be fit, trust me. The desire to be fit is hardwired into your genes.

A great way to measure your real, applicable fitness is to consider whether your level of fitness is sufficient to save your life in the event it were ever threatened. The blog, The Art of Manliness, suggests 5 physical benchmarks that every man should be capable of performing should he need to save his own life. They include swimming half a mile, running at top speed for 200m, jumping over an obstacle at waist height, 15-20 pull ups, and at least 25 dips.

When fitness is necessary for survival, you have a much more useful measurement of ‘in shape’. Are  you fit enough to save your own life? Or are you just in shape to look pretty?

Most people are content to delude themselves into thinking they are fit based on cheesy infomercials and clever gym advertising. Nobody wants to admit that they’re not fit, because on a biological level, it is the equivalent of admitting you can’t survive and are not worthy to reproduce. And so our culture has come up with plenty of ways to let people avoid admitting that. You go to the gym for an hour a day and you pedal the elliptical like your overpaid personal trainer told you to, therefore you are fit. Never mind the fact that you still can’t climb your apartment building stairs without stopping to catch your breath.

Our definition of fitness has been divorced from actually demonstrating physical prowess.

Want to know for sure if you’re fit enough to save your own life? Run a Spartan Race.

The race doesn’t care if you look good in a muscle shirt. It doesn’t care if you have the latest running shoes. It doesn’t care if you can bench 300 lbs. All it cares about is whether or not you can survive and finish. Can you get the job done? That is fitness. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are trying to sell you something you probably don’t need.

That is why I love CrossFit so much. The CrossFit WODs don’t care how you get the job done, so long as you do it powerfully and efficiently. If the goal is to get weight overhead, you’ve got several different ways to do it. If the objective is to get yourself over a bar, by all means kick your legs and wriggle your way over the bar. If it gets you there faster than some muscle-head showing off his lats with strict pull ups, guess who will win the WOD? If you’re climbing for your life, guess who will survive and who will be found ‘unfit’?

Honestly, you don’t have to do either CrossFit or Spartan Races to test your fitness. You simply need to step up to a challenge that will push you out of your comfort zone. You need to put yourself in a place that is not easy and see if you can take it, and how well you can take it.

And you’re even allowed to fail. But if that happens, I expect you to train yourself to succeed next time. We have the luxury of simulating life threatening emergencies to test ourselves, and we should take advantage of that luxury so we’re ready for the real thing.

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