image credit http://pure-well-water.blogspot.com/

by Harmony Heffron

Being depressed and having weight issues frequently go hand in hand for women.  A study by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle shows that helping women fight depression may also help them fight obesity. The lead author of this study, Gregory Simon, M.D. said, “Increased physical activity leads to improvement in depression and improvement in depression leads to increased physical activity. We see in our study that they go together, but we can’t say which causes which.”

The women studied in this experiment were divided into groups, one only focused on losing weight and the other focused on losing weight and healing depression.

After six months of treatment the two groups showed a marked difference in their response to treatment. In the group that was treated for depression, 19% more women, compared to the group solely focused on weight loss, showed a weight loss over 5%.

This study is a great reminder that, more often than not, a healthy mind lives in a healthy body. A lot of people try to be happy by losing weight or getting fit, but it may be just as effective to become happier in order to get in shape. In the end, a balanced focus on both mental and physical health can’t be beat.

Remember, when all is said and done, laughter is the best medicine.

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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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by Harmony Heffron

Blueberries recently made the news when companies were discovered putting fake ‘blueberries’ in their products.  Though you now have to be careful to avoid purchasing counterfeit blueberry products, there are plenty of reasons to add this wonder food to your diet.

Rich in antioxidants, blueberries may even prevent some types of diseases, including cancer. A study by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center reports that blueberries may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and reduce fat in the stomach area. High in vitamins A, B complex, C, and E, these berries can keep your body healthy and help your immune system to function well.

Since fresh berries are only available a few months a year, frozen blueberries are a great alternative. They make a fabulous, nutrient-rich addition to health shakes. Just throw them in the blender with everything else!

If you buy fresh berries, check the color. The more blue they are, the more antioxidants they have in them.

Check out our Food Of The Day for more help with eating.

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image credit Scientific American

by Harmony Heffron

Want a stronger heart? Compete in a triathlon!

New discoveries have been made about exactly why being an athlete is so good for your heart.

New research shows that competing in triathlons causes athletes’ hearts to adapt to be stronger and healthier.  A study published by The Radiological Society of North America reports that men who competed in triathlons had stronger ventricles as well as a stronger left atria than their less active peers. The atria and ventricles are chambers in the heart that cause blood to be sent to the lungs to be oxygenated and then circulated in the rest of the body.  Triathletes also showed resting heart beats 17% lower than the other men in the study.

Researcher Dr. Michael M Lell said, ”The hearts of the triathletes in our study are stronger and able to manage the same workload with less effort.”

Exercise makes the heart grow. This happens when the heart adapts to the increased strain put on it by the extra volume of blood it pumps when exercising. This seems straight-forward, but the heart also grows under stressful conditions like high blood pressure. Researchers are trying to figure out the exact mechanics of heart growth under the stresses of exercise.

In a new study, researchers found that exercise triggers the gene C/EBPb. They discovered that when this gene is activated by exercise, it cause the heart’s muscle cells to divide and the heart to grow.

Anthony Rosenzweig of Harvard Medical school says, ”This is yet another reason to keep on exercising. In the longer term, by understanding the pathways that benefit the heart with exercise, we may be able to exploit those for patients who aren’t able to exercise. If there were a way to modulate the same pathway in a beneficial way, it would open up new avenues for treatment.”

All of this is great new for everyone, whether you’re a healthy athlete or have heart problems and are hoping for new treatments. So Spartans, run, swim, bike and compete in The Spartan Race and watch your heart become stronger and healthier!

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Crossfit, gyms, hiking, running, weight training… everyone has their own ways and means of staying healthy. All these usual suspects of physical movement have their benefits. But one activity is sorely overlooked when it comes to being utilized for benefiting your health and happiness.

Dancing. Whether you are throwing shapes at the disco, or waltzing your partner around a ballroom, dancing is a criminally overlooked method of staying in shape.

Dancing targets 4 keys elements of physical fitness.

1) Flexibility.

Most dance classes will often have their members stretch and warm up before they begin, as will most seasoned dancers. Most forms of dance require motions that require bending and stretching, so that means that regular dancing means that you become more flexible and supple than before.  Having a wider range of motion through repeated stretching means muscles are utilized much more, both on and off the dancefloor.

2) Endurance.
Exercise, when done regularly, increases endurance. Dancing requires the individual to go through continues motions for lengths of time without stopping and through this, endurance is built. Line dancing and ballroom dancing are superb examples of continuous motion. Elevating the heart rate can increase stamina and dance is ideal for this.

During the 1930’s to the 1960’s, dance marathons were very popular. These in themselves were actually endurance events. Anyone remember that episode of Happy Days when Fonzie blew everyone away?

3) Strength.
Strength is defined as the ability of a muscle to exert a force against resistance. Consider the styles of dance such as be-bop, ballet and ballroom. Even elements of jazz have moves that require leaping and jumping in the air. A male ballet dancer will more often than not lift and hold his partner for great lengths at a time, display awesome examples of strength. When was the last time you saw an unfit ballet dancer?

4) Sense of well being.
Hundreds of reports have shown that strong social ties and socializing with friends contribute to high self-esteem and a positive outlook. Dancing, in its many forms offer opportunities for meeting people and interacting with them. Joining a dance class of any style will mean you socialize more, increasing confidence and social skills.  Because physical exertion of any kind relieves stress and tension, you can literally dance yourself happy.

Dancing is a great active recovery that will help for better coordination. As dancing is movement to a beat, but is interpreted totally by the listener, those movements are improvised actions and motions. This in itself is perfect for Spartan Races, as improvised movement  a core element of what is expected of every racer. Not every track, trail, hill or obstacle is the same. You will have to improvise motion and movement. As such, the flexibility and ability to improvise movement in order to overcome is perfectly set up by regular dancing. 

So why not check out your local community? Take on a dance class. Something you’d never done or experienced. Something alien to you that will not only open a new avenue of socializing you’ve never done, but you might find a new range of motions, flexibility and muscle groups that haven’t been tested quite as much before. Afraid of the unfamiliar? That’s not the Spartan way!

And you thought we played music at events as chewing gum for the ears!  Get to a Spartan Race and shake your funky stuff!

Check out this video of the Nicholas Brothers’ routine from the film “Stormy Weather” featuring the late, great Cab Calloway. Fayard and Harold are still heralded as two of the finest tap dancers of all time, with this scene and routine being heralded by Fred Astaire as the greatest ever filmed.
Check out the box jumps, leg strength, flexibility and endurance.

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Heidie Bratlie pauses for a moment and ponders what it was that changed her life. “It’s really not hard to be healthy, it’s all in the choices you make’, she replies.

“People let others tell them what to eat and what to do, and they don’t even realize what they are doing. But it’s easier, not to stand up for yourself. People don’t want to tell someone that they don’t want to eat the unhealthy food that is being served. Most of us were raised that way, not to be impolite. I don’t see it as impolite, I see it as my choice. There are ways to decline trashy food without being rude. I haven’t found one yet, but maybe someday”, she chuckles to herself. 

But there was a time where Heidi’s life wasn’t quite as full with smiles and jokes. The long, hard road that the resident of Vancouver, Washington began travelling started over three years earlier.

“In July 2010, I was huge. Weighing in at over 400 pounds. I signed up for a weight management class that was offered through my health insurance, but I really didn’t think it would help me. But it did! That class taught me how to eat healthy and how to avoid emotional eating. It’s a good thing too, because I was going to need it!”

Six months later, Heidi had lost over 100lbs. Sadly, the milestone celebration was marred by what was supposed to be a routine carpel tunnel surgery on her husband Jimmy. It wasn’t routine and he became sicker and sicker. On April 19th 2011, he died from Amyliodosis, a condition whereby a starch-like protein is deposited in the liver, kidneys, spleen, or other tissues.

“That was and still continues to be, the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with emotionally. I still don’t feel normal, but working out and eating healthy – keeps me feeling alive. Since he passed away I have gone on to lose 229lbs so far. Nothing will stop me. I’ve changed my life, and I can’t imagine life without a food journal and working out.”

“The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They did test after test. I do taxes for a living and this was my busiest time of the year, I worked about 60-80 hours a week during this time. I was still working my normal tax season hours and he kept getting sicker. We had no idea that he was going to die. I missed all that time I could’ve had with him.”

“Anyway, I would work my 12-13 hours then I would come home and I would go ride my recumbent bike for 20-30 minutes. One day in early April, he was so horribly sick and I came home and I went and rode my bike. He was so sick, I came back in the room and apologized for riding my bike and not spending that time with him. We still didn’t know he was going to die, but I felt bad for being gone at work all day and then taking more time away to exercise because he was so sick.”

It was what Heidi’s late husband then said that would become the most telling words in the time they would have left together.

“When I apologized, he said to me, ‘for what? Being healthy?’” 

“He was right, I was just trying to be healthy, but I still felt guilty. Then about a week later on April 18th he finally let me take him to the hospital. Within two hours they had him hooked up to everything under the sun and they had intubated him. The next morning, the doctors told me there was nothing left they could do and that I would have to take him off of the life support. That’s when I found out he was going to die. That was the hardest thing ever.”

But those words stuck with me – “For what? Being healthy?” –  I’ll never forget those words. The guilt was horrible, I had forced myself to ride my bike for about 3 weeks after he died. But then I realized that I had nothing to apologize for. Yes, I wish I could get those precious minutes back, but I will never again apologize for being healthy.  And I will NEVER give up being healthy. Anybody that can’t understand that, doesn’t have a place in my life.

This focused energy and single-minded purpose in Heidi’s life is now the catalyst for striving for all her better tomorrows. Recalling how she started, it was a simple choice that she felt she should make.

“I’m always up for a new workout, so when I heard about Train Dirty doing free workouts to prepare for the Spartan Race in the summer of 2013, I was in! I wasn’t going to do the race, but the workouts were free and there’s no better price!  I went to all but one of the training sessions. Even though I missed that one, I went and re-did the previous week’s workout. It was then that the leaders of my team made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I signed up for the Spartan Race in Washougal, WA. I had no idea what I was signing up for. I had never heard of the Spartan Race, but like I said, I’m always up for a new workout. 

Aware that others may read her words, Heidi quickly offers words of advice to those beginning a hard journey of becoming healthier.

“There are so many things I have learned along the way, especially in the beginning, that I would love to tell them. Take one day at a time, every day make a conscious decision to live healthier. Skip the diet, just eat healthy and remember that our body is not a garbage can.”

“There is no such thing as “blowing” your diet. If you choose to eat something unhealthy, it’s just a choice. After that your next choice can be healthy. If you choose to skip a workout one day, you can choose to work out the next, you have not “blown” anything. Everything is a choice. There is no such thing as the stereotypical “diet”. Everyone is on a diet. If it consists of fast food and candy, that’s still a diet. It’s just one that you might want to reconsider.”

Looking back at when she ran her first Spartan Race, she knows that turning her life around has reaped more than she has sown.

“I had no idea what I was signing up for. I had never heard of the Spartan Race, but like I said, I’m always up for a new workout. The Spartan Race in Washougal was tons of fun and very challenging. This year my goal was to finish, I did that. Now I have my sights on next year. If everything goes as planned, I should be at my goal weight, or very close, and I want to have even more fun, only faster than this year! The Spartan Race made me realize exactly how far I’ve come and also how far I to go. I work hard every day, and by next year, I will conquer!

Heidi knows what it means to ‘know at the finish line’. Fighting on through it all. Now it’s your turn.

 

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by Jess Murden

Some people say it’s a texture thing; other people say it’s the green coloring that deters them.  I say, get over it and start stocking up on avocado.  This weird-looking fruit actually provides some of the most essential nutrients that our body needs on a daily basis.

Avocados are native to Mexico, with the first evidence of avocado use dating back to 10,000 BC in a cave near Puebla, Mexico (reference to the Paleo Diet connection).  They tend to have a pear shape and are therefore sometimes referred to as an alligator pear.  The avocado is considered a fruit because it is a large berry that contains a large seed.  Avocados mature on trees but ripen off of the tree.

The average avocado tree produces roughly 500 avocados annually.  Thank the lucky caveman drawings for this because CrossFitters and Paleo Diet advocates alone eat enough avocados to keep the market on the up swing.  So let’s side track to the nutritional benefits.  Avocados are of the good fat family; meaning they are the kind of fat that a person should include in their diet.  Roughly 75% of an avocado’s calories come from fat (monosaturated fat, however; the kind of fat that has positive affects on health, such as lowering cholesterol).  They are also sodium and cholesterol free.

Avocados naturally contain the following vitamins:

Vitamin K – known as a clotting vitamin; it helps the body’s blood clot.

 

Vitamin E – acts as an antioxidant; it is also necessary for the formation of red blood cells.

 

Vitamin C – used in the growth and repair of tissues; it is also an antioxidant.

Vitamin B6 – helps the immune system produce antibodies; it also helps maintain normal nerve function.

Potassium – essential for the proper function of cells, tissues and organs; it is necessary for building muscle.

Avocado Fun Facts:

The word ‘avocado’ comes from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, meaning testicle, a reference to the shape of the fruit.

Avocados were known by the Aztecs as the fertility fruit.

San Diego County is the avocado capital of the U.S.

Avocados contain more potassium than bananas

Avocados have the highest protein content of any fruit.

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Grab an eggplant if you are looking for a beefy vegetable that is low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat, while being high in fiber, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.

Curried Eggplants with Salsa
by Rose-Marie Jarry

30 minutes
2 servings
223 calories per serving
Gluten free, Vegan

Ingredients:

1 eggplant
2 tomatoes
2 scallions
1/2 lemon, juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons of coconut flour
1 tablespoon of curry paste
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 teaspoon of curry powder
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400F.
Slice the eggplant into thin pieces. Sprinkle sea salt on them and set aside.
In a small bowl mix the coconut flour with the salt and pepper. Mix the curry paste with the coconut oil. Warm up a pan and melt the mix of oil and curry together.
Dip each slice of eggplant in water, and then right away in coconut flour on each side.
Cook them in the warm pan for 2 minutes on each side.
Place on a cookie sheet and cook in the oven for 10 minutes.
Dice the tomatoes with the scallions and cilantro.
Add the remaining spices and mix everything together.
When the eggplants are well roasted, place some salsa on them and serve right away.

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