Written by Holly Joy Berkey

Prior to be embarking on my own personal journey of self-discovery, I recall enviously watching runners as they seemed to effortlessly float through my neighborhood.  They seemed so majestic, and made running look so easy!  But the thought of strapping on a pair of old tennis shoes and fumbling my way, huffing and puffing, along the pavement provided me with a completely different mental picture.  There was no way I could ever be as awesome as the seemingly mythical creatures that paraded past my home.  No possible way.

Have you ever felt this way?  Or perhaps, do you currently feel this way?  It’s easy to feel intimidated when you see seasoned runners gliding along with barely a drop of sweat glistening on their lean bodies.  You may think, “Where do I even begin?  I want to try, but don’t know where to start.”  Sound familiar?  Well I can happily say that just because you aren’t there right now, doesn’t mean you can’t be there someday.  And to supplement that, it also doesn’t mean that you HAVE to attain that ideal to be a successful runner either.  I’d like to share a few pointers that may help encourage you onward in your running journey, and I hope you are able to find the confidence, motivation, and strength as you take your early steps into the running world.

First things first, please remember that you are perfectly fine just as you are!  Now granted that’s no excuse not to incorporate some sort of physical activity into your daily life.  My hope is that you love yourself enough to take wonderful care of your body, and running is one really fantastic way to do this.  And yes, while there are beautiful, lean runners who will speed by you effortlessly just when you feel about ready to collapse on the pavement, there are also so many normal, everyday people out running who struggle, just like you, as they are also working toward gaining their legs as newborn runners. 

There’s no specific mold that you need to fit to be a runner.  Runners come in all different shapes and sizes, and no matter how fast or slow you may run, you’re no less of a runner just because you may not look like an elite athlete.  That’s really one of the greatest things about running, because although you may have to fit a specific body type to become a runway model (which, who does anyways right?!?), you don’t have to be confined to any look or shape to be a runner!  It’s simple, all you have to do is run.

There is an unspoken connection felt between runners that is so encouraging.  Whether you run before the sun rises, or as the final hurrah to a busy day, as long as you are out in the world running at the same moment we are, we feel as though you are family. There’s no judgment to pass, and no rules to abide by.  Discovering this fact will help build your confidence as a runner, and you’ll come to the realization that the only person you need to worry about judging you, is you!  Have confidence in yourself, and you can do amazing things, so don’t be your own roadblock!

Once you’ve gained your confidence, it’s time to prepare yourself to get out and run, which means you need some gear!  And here comes the overwhelming onslaught of running clothes, running shoes, running accessories, running supplements… you name it, there’s hundreds of different brightly colored products, beckoning you to buy their brand.  It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin!  I recall purchasing my very first pair of running shoes; I wore a sundress and sandals to a generic sports store, and selected a pair of shoes that were cheap yet cute without bothering to try them on.  I assumed that all shoes were created equal, and boy did I learn my lesson!

There are a few things that are very important to the success of a comfortable run, and the number one item is wearing correct shoes!  Many people do not realize that each runner has a unique style of running, and there are specific shoes created for each type.  For example, some of us run on our toes, some on our heels, some people’s feet roll in when running, and some roll out.  How can you find out how you run?  I highly recommend heading to a local running store for help in selecting your perfect pair of running kicks.  These stores are specialized for runners, and the staff will be educated to help fit you to the best shoe.  And please don’t go cheap on your running shoes just for the sake of saving a buck!  Buying a quality pair that fits your specific running style will not only provide a more comfortable, enjoyable run, but will aid in avoiding injury, which can be much more costly than a $100 pair of shoes!

When it comes to a lot of running gear, your selection of clothing, supplements, and accessories will mostly come down to personal preference.  Many items these days are brightly colored, with fun, funky patterns, and a pizzazz that shouts, “Look at me!  I’m awesome because I run!”  The diversity of available gear will give you the ability to display your own personality style, so have fun with it!  I can personally attest to the positive boost a great new outfit gives me, I’m eager to get out and run in my colorful new gear, so treat yourself once in a while!  Just because you’re sweating doesn’t mean you have to look drab doing it!  On a budget?  Some running clothes can be costly, but places like Old Navy and Target offer great options at a fraction of the cost.  And ladies, you’ll want to find running clothes that are not only sweat wicking (No cotton! It will stifle you and weigh you down!), but that also provides the support that you need to enjoy your run without discomfort or distractions.

Finally, if you find yourself lacking in the motivation department, grab a friend that will accompany you!  Having a friend to hold you accountable will keep you on task, will help the time go by quickly, and will help give you motivation to continue on.  You can get healthy together and nurture your friendship through regular running sessions.  Don’t have a friend who is willing to join in on your running adventures?  Running groups have become very popular, so you’re likely to find one in your area that will welcome you with open arms!  Don’t be shy, the more the merrier is the mentality of a running group!

Ultimately, running is what you make of it, so be sure to approach it with an open mind, a willing heart, and above all, don’t forget to have fun!  Running should be something that you love, not something you dread.  Now get out there, get running, and good luck!

Holly Joy Berkey

www.muddymommy.com

Sign up for your next Spartan Race right here!

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5 Ways you are a Spartan Chick – even if you’ve never raced

By  Heather Kokesch Del Castillo

1. You overcome obstacles every day. Whether you’ve set a new PR on your back squat, made a tough decision at work, or were faced with the challenge of having to be two places at once, Spartan Chicks overcome daily obstacles with the drive and courage that makes us strong in both body and spirit.

2. You think “I could never do that!” You, yes you, are a Spartan Chick! The Spartan Chicked community is backed by strong women not only physically, but also strong in will, heart, and willingness to lift up others. One woman in our Spartan Chicked community even defined the meaning of being a Spartan woman as “Doing things you never thought you could!” Even if you’ve never done an obstacle course race, you can work up to it with the encouragement of our empowering women’s community. There are plenty of Chicks who have yet to lose their sparkle and compete in their first Spartan Race.

3. You enjoy connecting with other women on all things female.  Camaraderie:  a feeling of good friendship among the people in a group. Among this group you can ask anything. Which shoes and calf sleeves are best for an OCR? What should I do if my partner doesn’t want to run a Spartan Race with me? How should I eat in preparation for a big race? You name it, and the Spartan Chicked group has discussed it. From racing, relationships, injuries and recoveries, to weight loss goals and accomplishments including some great before and after pictures and beyond, Chicks are here to showcase and share their powerful, smart, and capable attributes.

4. You’re driven by accomplishing goals. You are strong, competitive, fearless, and always looking for new ways to challenge yourself.  If in your workouts you are inspired by a variety of movements, a Spartan race will keep you guessing at every turn and ultimately test your limits. Exercise while setting the example that women are a force to be reckoned with as you pass men on the course; that is after all what it means to truly be “Chicked” – Spartan Chicks dedicated to passing dudes on the course, racing the planet, and promoting radness at every opportunity!

5. Life has handed you some serious personal challenges and you’ve lived to tell your story. Have you suffered through various health issues or injuries, survived beyond the end of a relationship, or witnessed a family member struggle with life’s ups and downs? Guaranteed you are not alone, the Spartan Chicked community has thousands of strong women who have endured all of life’s challenges, and in some cases many times over. These women share their stories daily and use their wisdom to guide others who’ve found themselves in the midst of a challenge. Whether you need some guidance or support, or have your own advice to share, you are welcome here.  When I’ve asked the group to define a Spartan woman, this response made me especially happy, “It’s simple. You say, ‘I think I can.’ Spartan chicks say, ‘You will.’ Then you do. Now you are part of the growing inspiration.” Join us and share your story too!

You can join the Chicked community by joining our Facebook group of more than 10,000 women. To register for a Spartan Race you can go to the website and challenge yourself to a race near you, or travel to one of many awesome destinations to race with other amazing Spartan Chicks.  I hope to see you on the course! Go Spartan Chicks!

 

Heather Kokesch Del Castillo – Spartan Chick, CrossFitter, Educator, and future Health Coach studying at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

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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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Spartan Chicked Challenge 1.1 -1.4

At Spartan Race, we like to see our female obstacle racers out front. Ladies, try this 4-week challenge, and see if it helps you drop your race time, not to mention leave much of the male field in your dust. These workouts all feature bodyweight exercises that address the specific needs and physiology of female obstacle racers.

The Bowler Squat
The Reverse Bear Crawl
The Jumping Pull-up

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Challenge: Spartan Chicked 1.2

Part 2 of a 4-week Challenge

At Spartan Race, we like to see our female obstacle racers out front. Ladies, try this 2nd installment of a 4-week challenge. These workouts all feature bodyweight exercises that address the specific needs and physiology of female obstacle racers.

This week, .

 

Chicked 1.2

20 minute run
3 x 25’ reverse bear crawl*

then:

30-second plank
10 crunches
30-second plank
15 bicycles
30-second plank
5 laying leg raises

x 3

Stretch

WTF is a reverse bear crawl?

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by Briana Meikle

I did my first obstacle course in August of 2012. It was an easy one as OCR’s go. I was terrified and then hooked. A year later, I have run nearly 20 races including six Spartans. I still have two Beasts left this year, Sun Peaks this month and Carolina in November, which, if I am successful, will give me Double Trifecta for 2013!

I think I fall in a category that many women do. I am not a competitive athlete. I am not overweight. I don’t have an amazing story of overcoming the odds or running elite heats or losing 100 pounds. I am an average woman of average fitness and average weight. I work sometimes 80+ hours a week so getting to CrossFit times a week is an accomplishment and usually accomplished at the expense of the laundry or the dishes. I am not a natural athlete, but I can complete all of the obstacles, most of the time. I am slow, but not slow enough to earn any applause for the perseverance to finish. I am just awesomely average.

One of the things I love about OCR’s and Spartan Races in particular, is that ANYONE can do it. My boyfriend is a competitive, military athlete. And we leave the start line together every time. And he is always waiting for me at the finish line, and has been waiting for more than an hour. What other sport can two people of such different skill levels participate in the same event?

I applaud the ladies who have made a commitment to lose weight, get fit, get healthy because that is a huge accomplishment. And I hope you hear it all the time! I am in awe of those amazingly committed and gifted athlete chicks that prance over the men’s 8ft wall like it was a mere hurdle. You inspire me and even though I know you hear it all the time, I am happy to tell you again, WOW!

But for the rest of us, the average girls… In case someone hasn’t told you lately… Good for you! You just accomplished something amazing! You were brave enough to get out of your desk, get off your treadmill and swim, jump, climb, run, slop, roll and smile your way through 5km, 14km, 22km… You attempted every obstacle and did every one of your burpees (even if they weren’t pretty and took a long time). You accepted help and lent a muddy hand. You encouraged the struggling Spartans and stepped out of the way of the fast ones.

Just by being a Spartan Chick you have made average AWESOME.

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Margaret Schlachter, of Dirt in Your Skirt has been racing with Spartan since the beginning. She took on our first race in Vermont, was in the original Spartan Chicked network, and has since traveled the country racing with Spartan. The Vermont native, now living in Utah, talks about what makes her the woman she is today and how Spartan helped her find a new kind of happiness.

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by Colleen Gilleran

I weigh 320 lbs. I am by no means the definition of a healthy or a fit person. I am a cubicle rat, book worm, socially awkward, kitty rescue working, Rock Star Boot Camp attending, dedicated woman out to change my life…one step at a time and this is my story of my Arizona Sprint experience in February of 2013.

In July 2012, my beginning weight was approximately 387 pounds, I almost quit boot camp from embarrassment. Instead, I buckled down for a wild ride. August 2012, I register for the Arizona Spartan Sprint! What the what!?!?! Naysayers…they crawled out of the darkest corners of places I had never been before. Who did I think I was registering for a Spartan race? How could I possibly make it half way, let alone finish? Wasn’t I embarrassed for myself? What have I gotten myself into…obviously I enjoyed setting myself up for failure, public failure at that! I then begin to train harder, eat smarter, get closer to the people I train with and connect with the women on the Spartan Chicked Facebook page. I asked questions like they were going out of style. I got answers, I got support, I got excited!

Race day was upon me. I was a bundle of nervous energy that didn’t know whether to throw up, have a breakdown or get the race started! There were 6 of us that would be doing it together, a small little pack of slow movers that were intent on not quitting, putting one foot in front of the other. A little more than a mile in, one girl injured her knee, but wanted to keep going. We kept going, slower, but going. Every obstacle was attempted and every obstacle debt was paid, whether it was success or burpees. We banded together to get up severe inclines and down the declines. Spartan strangers offered hands of help, cheers of motivation and words of encouragement when we would pause to let them pass.

I cannot speak of each person’s journey, as each one is individual, but for me I was surprised at how well I could complete some obstacles, despite looking different than the majority of the Spartans that day. I realized that I may not have been fast, but I was strong. I had a strong base of support, I had a strong will, and I had a strong heart. When I found myself facing the slippery wall after more than 5 hours on the course, I dug deep to get over that wall, even if it took 4 attempts, and the help of many people I do not know and never got a chance to thank. I had to finish…we had to finish…even if it was taking much longer than I had originally planned.

I jumped the fire. I wiggled through the Gladiators. I stopped to pick up and help another broken teammate across the finish line. I got my medal. I stopped to breathe…I…got…my…medal. It wasn’t until later, when I got to my car, that I cried. An emotional dam had opened and would not be closed until every last drop of everything was out. At first, the more I thought, the more I struggled. I struggled with the knowledge that I know I could have done better, gone faster, finished stronger and the satisfaction of knowing that in the end, I chose to leave no team member behind and that given the same choice again, I would not change that answer. I came to learn that sometimes the race isn’t about how fast you can go, sometimes it is about learning about who you are deep inside. On the day I lost my Sparkle at my first Spartan Race, I may have been bloodied and bruised, but my light shone brighter than it had ever shone before!

Going forward, it may take me a bit to get my Trifecta, but be Spartan sure that I will do just that! In the meantime, I will be whittling down my waistline, volunteering at Spartan races where I can and working to inspire more people who think they can’t, who think they aren’t ready, who think they aren’t fit enough to get off the couch and start putting one foot in front of the other!

[Editor's note: What motivates you to get off the couch and hit the course?  Have a story you want to share?  Email carrie@spartanrace.com with the details and a few photos and you might end up on our blog!  In the meantime, get signed up for an event today!  Click HERE.]

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by Sarah Marbach

At my heaviest, and lowest point of my life, I was 440 pounds. The most exercise I got daily was walking to and from classes in college, and carrying my very large body up and down stairs. I couldn’t fit into things that were made for average sized people. Desks, chairs, airplanes, seatbelts, my twin sized bed, smaller cars, and restaurant booths all posed problems for me. I stopped being a participant in life and was simply existing. I went to class, I came home and ate. I went to work, I came home and ate. I was 21 years old and was told that I would be lucky to make it to 30 at the rate I was going. Things needed to change, and they needed to change quickly.

My mom had gastric bypass and she was desperate for me to at least look at the options available to me. Every time she presented me with the option of surgery, I checked out mentally. The last time she mentioned it, I finally caved and agreed to go to the seminar. After the seminar I had a burst of energy. I knew this was going to be the tool that I would need to save my life. From June-December of 2009 I worked my tail off. I cut back on the amount of calories I was consuming and upped my activity level. I started taking water aerobics and walking around the track with my friends. Before I was wheeled into the operating room I weighed in at 330 pounds (110 less than my first weigh in at the seminar).

After surgery, I continued to work out and modify my eating habits. I no longer ate because I was bored, I ate because I was hungry. I began scheduling things around my favorite exercise classes. I slowly moved from water aerobics to more challenging classes like spinning and kick boxing. I found a love of Zumba and began working with a personal trainer. I began doing harder and harder work outs and loved every minute of it. Still eager to try more, I began running and signed up for a bunch of races. I completed many 5ks, a few 10ks and a half marathon. I soon found myself at a normal weight and size, and began to feel great about myself and my achievements. I have now held my weight steady at 190 pounds for more than two years and am enjoying the maintenance phase of my journey.  All told, I lost 265 pounds.

I heard of the Spartan Race and was eager to take on the challenge, but as always, was a little intimidated. When I heard the Biggest Loser sponsored a team and that it was a scaled down version of the spartan, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it.

June 1st came quicker than I expected, but I was ready to lace up my sneakers and give the spartan a go. I showed up at 7:30 and waited nervously in the Biggest Loser area, already watching all the Spartans getting ready for their start time. As more people showed up, I convinced myself that I was ready to dominate the course and give it my all. With a few last minute race guidelines from the awesome team captains Jackie, Jen, and Dan… And a special shout out for my weight loss, and we were at the starting line.

We began with a mountain to climb, and I decided that I would move as fast as my legs would carry me. I jogged up the mountain like I’ve done it before, my dad always says “act like you’ve been there” and pushed forward. About half way up one of the volunteers shouted “keep jogging!” I knew I had to press forward. All along the course, the volunteers and the captains were excellent cheerleaders. Just when I felt like I had nothing left inside, a yellow Biggest Loser shirt would shout words of encouragement. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time out of their racing schedule to help the rookies complete the race.

The obstacles were all challenging in their own way, but I was eager and willing to try every single one presented and take my penalty burpees (even though they werent required). I focused on what I was able to complete, and didn’t beat myself up about the burpees I made myself do because I couldn’t do an obstacle. I climbed up walls ranging in height from 6′ to 8′, ran through tires, carried a “pancake” up a mountain and back down the other side, dragged a concrete block up a mountain and back down again, dragged a huge tire, climbed a wall made out of ropes, climbed a slanted wall and slid down the other side, crawled through mud and under barbed wire.

Though I completed many obstacles, I did take 30 burpees for the rock wall, the pegs, the rope climb, the spear throw (I missed the bale of hay), and the monkey bars. But, like with anything, if you don’t do something the first time there is always another chance to get it right. I will continue to train my tush off and I will take on the spartan next year and will try to cross some burpees off my list, because who likes doing burpees? No one!

Besides the awesome captains and volunteers from the Biggest Loser, and all my super cool team mates and new friends, the Spartans that were racing and their volunteers were more than supportive as well. Many a Spartan helped push my tush over walls, and shouted words of encouragement along the way. At one point there was a break in the course where Dan informed me that I could either cut through or take on the mountain… I said “forget cutting through, go big or go home!” and trudged my way up the mountain. As I made my way up the mountain I heard a voice behind me say “you don’t know how much you just inspired me!” Just knowing that I was able to inspire a fellow racer because I wasn’t going to take the easy way out is an amazing feeling. That’s really been a theme in my life, and the Spartan Race was no exception.

Taking the easy way out was the way old Sarah lived her life, but the me I am today wants more challenges because they build character and strength. Nothing worth having comes easy. I am proud of myself for finishing, for taking on a challenge that I was terrified of, for completing the whole thing even though short cuts were offered, and for trying every obstacle presented. The whole experience was amazing, incredible, and just positive. If you have a chance to sign up for this event, do it. You will surprise yourself and have the time of your life, plus some interesting bruises to show off at work on Monday…

Interested in learning more about the Biggest Loser off-road challenge? Click HERE.

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by Corinne Kohlen, Spartan Pro Team

Jamie Gold

Chiropractor, Former Military Intelligence, Neuroscientist, Pharmacist, Computer Scientist, Microbiologist, Doctor of Dental Surgery, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Aerospace Engineer, Judge, Nurse, Doctor in Organizational Leadership, Environmental Scientist, Immunologist, Dietitian, Doctor of Education, MBA – what do these professions have in common?

Impressive – yes, skilled – yes, requiring high levels of focus and dedication – yes, admirable -yes, held by members of our Spartan Chicked community – YES!

In case it wasn’t obvious Spartan Woman are smart woman! Many not only hold advanced degrees and play important roles in society but balance motherhood and training on a daily basis. Some are working on second and third degrees and adding credentials behind their names including JD, RN, PhD, MD, MBA, DC, BA, MA, EdD. The list goes on and on. In addition to University degrees many Spartan woman have found success founding their own businesses, authoring books, designing homes, cooking, and developing new technology.

This is look at just a few of our Spartan Smarties:
Jamie Gold – Certified Kitchen Designer, Author (http://www.jgkitchens.com/) MA Communication management.
Here is Jamie in her own words: ” I love being able to share my passion with clients, readers and seminar attendees alike. I also love the flexibility of keeping my own schedule, letting me start and end most work days with a physical outlet. I have learned that breaking the desk chair to dining chair to couch with exercise is essential for my health and sanity!”
Jamie is looking forward to running her first Spartan Sprint in January. “I’ve never been “athletic” but got in shape in my late 40s/early 50s and am now regularly active.” Her blog post: shows her journey of loosing 100 pounds:

http://www.jgkitchens.com/food-for-thought-9-whats-in-your-refrigerator-determines-whats-in-your-medicine-cabinet/

Becky Mang – Senior Mechanical Engineer – AMEC – the international engineering and project management company.

Becky Mang

Becky enjoys working in a field where everyday brings unique challenges and obstacles. In her own words: “Every day I learn something new (which I love) and on really good days I’m able to teach someone else something new! Being a female in a male dominated field has been difficult at times, but it has made me stronger and more confident. I enjoy mentoring the next generation of female (and male) engineers, helping them meet their career goals. One of the most interesting things I have seen is the inside of an underground salt mine almost 1,000 meters below surface.”

Becky just completed her first Spartan Race at the Montana Spartan Sprint and is hooked! She has already signed up for the Calgary Sprint and the Red Deer Super this year. Next time your at a Spartan Race look for some of these ladies, admire their athleticism, and know that they are not only strong but smart! AROO!!

Want to join the ranks of the Spartan Chicks?  Join our network HERE.  No boys allowed!

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