In 1996 the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report that concluded, people of all ages can gain significant health benefits by participating in 30 minutes or more of physical activity on most (preferable all) days of the week (1). In 2007, the guidelines were updated to include vigorous activity as well so that Americans can meet minimum guidelines by performing moderate physical activity for 30 minutes for 5 days a week or vigorous exercise for 20 minutes for 3 days per week (2).   Another health promotion guideline is to walk 10,000 steps per day for the prevention of chronic disease and weight control (3). Keep in mind these are minimums for health promotion not necessarily to place you in the top 10 of a Spartan Race. It is a good place to start for the 3+ billion people who are inactive globally.

Thirty minutes of physical activity is equal to an energy expenditure of about 150 kcals. Walking 10,000 steps is approximately the equivalent of 5 miles or about 500kcals.  Walking 5 miles at a moderate pace will take about 80 minutes.  Preliminary research from the Spartan Institute of Burpee Science (SIBS) indicates that a 150lb person will burn about 1.2 kcals per Burpee.

SIBS recommends that for overall good health, people of all ages can gain significant health benefits through the performance of 100-160 Burpees per day. In order to meet 10,000 steps per day standard, 240 -420 Burpees  will need to be performed. The Burpees can be accumulated throughout the day in three to six, 10-15 minute sessions.  The limiting factor for most individuals attempting to achieve this goal will be lack of muscular endurance and the inability to perform the 100+ push-ups associated with the Burpees.  Another potential limiting factor is poor mobility in the hips and spine. Insufficient flexibility can lead to inefficient movement and higher energy expenditures than those reported by SIBS. But as muscular endurance and flexibility improves with time, meeting the minimum standard can be achievable by all.

1)      Department of Health and Human Services. (1996).Physical Activity and Health: A Report from the Surgeon General. Atlanta:DHHS

2)      Haskell WL, Lee IM, Pate RR, Powell KE, Blair SN, Franklin BA, Macera CA, Heath GW, Thompson PD, Bauman A. (2007).  Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Aug;39(8):1423-34.

3)      Tudor-Locke C, Bassett DR Jr.(2004). How many steps/day are enough? Preliminary pedometer indices for public health. Sports Med. 2004;34(1):1-8.

 

 

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Have a Cold? Do Burpees!  

by Dr Jeff Godin, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., and Director of Spartan Coaching

We have previously discussed the value of the Burpee as it relates to physical fitness (read this blog). The Burpee may also be your best defense against infections.

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and glands that carry fluid from tissues back to the blood stream. The lymphatic system plays an important function in re-circulating immune cells back into the blood stream and tissue where they protect the body from foreign invaders. The lymphatic system is often called the second circulatory system and is equally as important. However, unlike blood, lymphatic vessels and the lymphatic fluid contained within them do not have a pump to help circulate the fluid.

The lymphatic system relies on the effects of gravity, breathing, and skeletal muscle contraction to help keep the fluid moving throughout the system. Without the movement of the fluid the immune system is compromised. The Burpee takes advantage of all three of these methods and may be a sure fire solution to facilitate the movement of fluid throughout the system.

The Burpee utilizes the muscles of the upper and lower body. The muscles in the extremities contract and relax in a cyclical fashion, massaging the lymph vessels and facilitating the movement of lymph fluid. The high metabolic demand of the Burpee stimulates deep breathing. The constant changes in pressure in the thoracic cavity versus the abdominal cavity during deep breathing stimulates the flow of lymph though the system. Also, although not tested, it is reasonable to believe that the rapid changes in posture from the vertical position, to the horizontal prone position, and then back to the vertical position also facilitates the movement of fluid through the lymphatic system. The constant
change in body position changes the hydrostatic pressure within the lymphatic system. Fluid movement undoubtedly occurs with changes in hydrostatic pressure. Have you ever stood up fast and felt “light-
headed”? That is the result in a drop in hydrostatic pressure in the circulatory system; the blood has “dropped” into the lower extremities. Conversely, if you hang upside down for a second, the blood accumulates in the thorax and head. Essentially lying down and jumping up has the same effect, there is rapid movement of blood and lymphatic fluid through their respective vessels.

A recent paper by Lisa Hodge published in the International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine suggests that manual Lymphatic Pump Techniques enhance immunity and may protect against pneumonia. The Burpee acts in similar fashion, accelerating the pumping action and increasing movement of lymph through the system. The Burpee reigns as the exercise champ!

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Want Better Sleep? Here’s 2 Easy ways to get it.
by Joe DiStefano, co-founder of Spartan Coaches

Sleep is everything when it comes to mental focus and physical preparedness. In fact, living with the mindset “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” may get you there quite a bit faster! According to one study that studied over 10,000 participants, there was noted a two fold increase in death from all causes in participants sleeping 5 hours per night or less compared to those sleeping 7-8 [1]. This may be correlated to the fact that sleep deprivation increases insulin sensitivity which increases risk for weight gain, diabetes and heart disease – some of our most prevalent modern day killers. Furthermore, even just subtle degrees of sleep deprivation overtime can be correlated with immune suppression, cognitive decline, and mental health problems, increasing the instance of seemingly unrelated problems ranging from the common cold, to car accidents and depression.

Again. The mindset “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” may get you there quite a bit faster!

Thankfully, to ensure the best possible night sleep there are a two really easy things we can do that are going to have an immediate impact on your sleep quality and exercise recovery. First, avoid all caffeine after 3pm. Yes, yes even you “Mr. Caffeine-Does-Not-Effect-My-Sleep” because it does. Caffeine is a stimulant that stays in your system for over 6 hours! Regardless if you aren’t feeling jittery or full of energy, caffeine is still going to activate the sympathetic nervous system, also known as our “Flight or Fight” response [3]. Being in “Flight or Fight” is associated with increased glucose mobilization, increased blood pressure, and increased vigilance and alertness. All things you do not want if the goal is to sleep restfully.

Being unconscious and sleeping restfully are two different things.

Number two is to avoid using laptops, iPads, and cell phones for at least an hour or two (or three) before bedtime.[2] This may come as a surprise, because nearly all of us are guilty of it, but the intense blue light many of today’s most popular gadgets shine directly into your eyeballs confuses the brain, suppresses melatonin production, and disrupts the circadian rhythm we developed over hundreds of thousands of years of rising and falling with the sun.

A 2013 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, concluded that male drivers exposed to bright light and given 200mg of caffeine at 1:00am showed reduced instances of lane drifting and improved reaction time at 6am! Even when compared to the same subject under placebo conditions, or given just one or the other [4].

Avoiding both of these things will allow you to immeidately improve any symptoms you may be feeling related to poor sleep, whether you are aware your sleep is to blame or not. You’ll be amazed how much these easy things slow down your thoughts, allow you to forget about work, money, family, or relationships, and allow you to get what may be your best night’s sleep of the year.

References:

Ferrie JE; Shipley MJ; Cappuccio FP; Brunner E; Miller MA; Kumari M; Marmot MG. A prospective study of change in sleep duration; associations with mortality in the whitehall II cohort. SLEEP 2007;30(12):1659-1666.

Figueiro MG, Wood B, Plitnick B, Rea MS. The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2011;32(2):158-63. PubMed PMID: 21552190.

Nehlig, A; Daval, JL; Debry, G. “Caffeine and the central nervous system: Mechanisms of action, biochemical, metabolic, and psychostimulant effects”. Brain Res Rev. May-August 1992. 17 (2): 139-70. – See more at:http://www.jyi.org/issue/caffeine-understanding-the-worlds-most-popular-psychoactive-drug/#sthash.NBe3CYAg.dpuf

Hartley SL, Barbot F, Machou M, Lejaille M, Moreau B, Vaugier I, Lofaso F, Quera-Salva MA. Combined caffeine and bright light reduces dangerous driving in sleep-deprived healthy volunteers: A Pilot Cross-Over Randomised Controlled Trial. Neurophysiol Clin. 2013 Jun;43(3):161-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2013.04.001. Epub 2013 Apr 26. PubMed PMID: 23856172.

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The Top 5 Benefits of Alternative Locomotion:  Part 5 – Be a Kid

by Joe Di Stefano co-founder of Spartan Coaching

Need some catching up?  Here’s Part IPart IIPart III, and Part IV

GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE

At a recent Spartan SGX Coaching workshop, following one of Dr Jeff Godin’s lectures on analyzing the specific demands of Spartan Race’s most troublesome obstacles, a seminar attendee named Jackie, said something that struck a chord. Her point was one that Dr. J and I have heard before but for some reason this time,  I really pondered it.
Jackie, chuckling, said, “you wouldn’t believe how easy these obstacles would be for my five year old!”

Wild. Isn’t it?

But how could that be?

How could a human being who has been capable of standing upright for fewer months than I have remaining on my car loan, actually be better on two feet than most of us?  Without getting into the nitty gritty bio-mechanical or structural differences between children and adults, let’s give the real reason.

We are born fearless.

We are born tough.

We are born strong.

And most importantly,….We are born to live for the moment.

Through conditioning from upbringing and social pressures, we learn to embrace fear, that pain should be avoided at all costs, and that pessimism is ultimately the most secure path to longevity, health, and dare I say,happiness. Our instinctual mindset when faced with an obstacle should not, by nature, be focused on what might happen if I try, but about how exciting an attempt would be. Ask a five year old child why she felt compelled to try and jump over that ten foot wide puddle there was no way she could leap, decode your answer to discover it was for none other than a slight chance of victory and the inevitable emotional high no matter the result. If we are all the same humans we once were, why don’t I see suits on Wall Street skying over bums and wet pavement?

Because that’s not socially acceptable, TRUE. However, the fact that we contain and limit our adventurous side habitually, destroys our body from the inside out.

Just watch a young child get up onto a full size chair. They brace the chair  with their hands and then at the hip flex, abduct, and internally rotate all and climb up effortlessly. As we get older, we do fewer and fewer activities that require 1/10 of that amount of hip functionality so the body gives it up. Don’t use it, you lose it!

At the grocery store, how often do you see someone over the age of 25 having a good time or even wearing a smile? Or how many people in that group ever ride the cart like a skateboard?

We have to be coached and instructed how to conquer even the most basic obstacles is not because we have gotten older, but as a result of losing our emotional connection to being human. The biggest difference between Jackie’s child and most of us is that her child lives for the moment. Most of us today are all stuck somewhere in the future or the past. We often times bury our human priority list to focus on more socially acceptable or financially rewarding priorities.

Get that back and life becomes your Spartan Race.

WORKOUT:

Stand up for 30 seconds every 15-20 minutes. Close your eyes and this will be surprisingly meditative in helping you regain presence and very beneficial to your productivity.

Do one thing today that you wouldn’t normally do. This might be jumping a puddle, riding the cart at the grocery store for a few feet, skipping to the coffee line, whatever! (Post your funny one’s to the comments section!)

Grab a friend, do this workout in public and try to be a kid again. Live for the moment, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable:

At a jogging track, skip at varying intensities for 5 minutes with opposite arm and leg moving in a coordinated rhythm. Try jumping for height, jumping for distance, “double time” by doing quick, low to the ground skips, etc. Then, complete one full, 400m lap:

Bear Crawl for 15 “One-thousandths”
Burpees 5x
Reverse Bear Crawl for  15 “One-thousandths”
Burpees 5x

Cool down / recovery: Skip at varying intensities for 5 minutes

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The Top 5 Benefits of Alternative Locomotion:  Part 4 –  Distracted Cardio

by Joe Di Stefano co-founder of Spartan Coaching

Need some catching up?  Here’s Part I, Part II, and Part III.

What percentage of the American public is either thinking about getting in shape or is actively on the wagon right now? My guess is that it’s got to be over 75%…So why is it so hard? ….And what percentage of this hypothetical 75% do you supposed has been on the wagon before? ….

If you’ve been to one of our SGX seminars you know the real reasons why the failure rate is so high but let’s just look at this on a more superficial level….Most of the time, it didn’t work last time because losing weight or getting in shape for most is synonymous with major suck.  

“Major suck” means giving up all the foods you love and then dealing with the drug addict-caliber withdrawals from doing so, while you spend hours on stationary cardio equipment watching TV doctors who tell you that your unfitness is just more than likely genetic and so you might as drink wine every night to try and avoid heart disease.

So of course because of a variety of social and internal pressures, many throw their hat into the game, maybe even hire a trainer to show how serious they are. Whatever the case may be, ultimately many do the equivalent of showing up at the base of Mount Everest holding the flag they want to plant at the summit, wearing flip flops. They show up, they are serious, they are gung-ho…but ultimately most know from the start they are not going to succeed and act accordingly until they finally fall off the wagon.

So what if the major suck is optional?

Rather than stationary cardio machines and TV, both of which flood your mind with negativity and consume your precious (and in many cases very limited, will power) why not do something that’s going to work more muscles more synergistically, at higher intensities, that will build coordination, and that requires your full focus and attention. Something that you can also do for half as long to get twice the benefit and leave the gym with a clear, optimistic, and present mind?

Sounds good to me.

Distracted Cardio WOD #1:

Warm up:

Bird Dog x 100 reps total. then:

Power Skip x 50’

Reverse Skip x 50’

x 3, then:

Crab Walk x 25’

Reverse Crab Walk x 25’

x 3

Main Set:

4 rounds of:

Frog Hops x 50’

Bridges x 50 reps with 2 second hold per rep.

then, 4 rounds of:

Bear Crawl x 50-100’

Elephant Walk x 50-100’ (Butt in the air bear crawl)

Jumping Jack. x 60 seconds

Finish with 

Power Skip x 50’

Reverse Skip x 50’

x 3.

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Animal Movement Exercise Glossary

by Joe Di Stefano co-founder of Spartan Coaching

Bear Crawl: Begin in a baby’s crawl position, lift the knees 1-2″ and maintain this posture as you walk in a coordinated left arm / right leg and vice versa sequence for 30-60ft

Bird Dog: Beginning in a baby crawl or “quadruped” position with the knees on the floor. Lift the opposing arm and leg, point and stretch to opposing sides of the room. Hold, then return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side and continue alternating for desired number of repetitions. For a more advanced progression, balance a water bottle on your lower back, if it falls off you know you were moving too much from your spine and not enough from your butt!

Dead Bug: Lying on your back with your arms and legs stretched straight up and down, simultaneously attempt to bring your right elbow and left knee together. Return to start position and repeat on the opposing side.

Elephant Walk: (aka “a not-so-strict bear crawl”) -From Bear Crawl position, allow your butt to lift into the air as high as is comfortable. Walk in the same coordinated, opposite arm and leg pattern as the Bear Crawl.

Lateral Ape: Beginning in a bear crawl position, “push” yourself backwards until your feet are flat on the floor and you are in a deep squat and “hands free” position. Now reach both arms to one side and shift as much of your weight into them as possible. Maintain this pressure as you “hop” your legs to that side. Continue in a fluid pattern and repeat on the opposing direction.

 

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3 Eggs a Day: 70% of the time, it works every time.

by Joe DiStefano  of  Spartan Coaches

 

Eggs have been perhaps the most debated food of our time. In fact, I distinctly remember the lecture labeling them as the number one food my father was to stop eating after having a heart attack, along with their partner in crime, red meat.

The influence of the Paleo Diet revolution has really shifted many of us towards going more Pro-egg, so I am hoping to provide perhaps the necessary capstone insight to clear the air…at least for some of us.

Research out of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut explains that 70% of the population are “hypo-responders” to dietary cholesterol. In other words, 70% of us Spartans could eat all the cholesterol we want and see little to no change in blood cholesterol levels or heart disease risk. AROO!!!

However, there is a possibility you are in the other 30%. My sincerest apologies, you are a hyper-responders and do show increases in blood cholesterol as a result of your dietary intake. Just tread carefully, and get regular blood work done. I would not wish an entirely egg-free diet upon anybody.

So what about the three eggs a day part? Another published study, also out of UCONN’s Department of Nutritional Sciences, found that men eating three eggs per day for 12 weeks showed a 30% increase in HDL (the good) cholesterol levels. At the same time, these subjects also experienced decreased waist circumference and a nearly 40% drop in triglycerides. In fact, 15 out of the 18 subjects who were classified as having metabolic syndrome at the start of the study, no longer met that criteria by the end of it.

Let me leave you by saying  30% may be a minority, but is by no means a small percentage of a population. This blog is by no means a permission slip to go tell all your friends, family, colleagues, and clients that eggs have finally been solidified as the miracle health food we all suspected they were. Do your homework.

References:

Mutungi G, Ratliff J, Puglisi M, Torres-Gonzalez M, Vaishnav U, Leite JO, Quann E, Volek JS, Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol from eggs increases plasma HDL cholesterol in overweight men consuming a carbohydrate-restricted diet. J Nutr. 2008 Feb;138(2):272-6. PubMed PMID: 18203890.

Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006 Jan;9(1):8-12. Review. PubMed PMID: 16340654.

 

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Flexibility:  A Core Fitness Component in Obstacle Racing

by Jason Jaksetic

 

The bamboo which bends in stronger than the oak which resists.

—Japanese Proverb

 

The 49ers are going to the Super Bowl and their flexibility may be the reason why.

Athletes at Spartan HQ weren’t surprised by the revelations found in a recent Wall Street Journal article (this one), that tells of the off-the-radar stretching program of the San Francisco 49ers, a regiment that possibly has enabled their two year charge into NFL dominance.

The piece joked about 300 lbs linemen being more mum about their stretching routines than their squat and bench press records out of machismo.   But the author also hinted that the truth for this reticence might have to do with keeping a competitive advantage.

It seems the flexible, the limber, and the loose have a competitive advantage in football.

I’m not an expert of football, but I know this makes sense from the obstacle racing perspective.  And it also holds true for other endurance sports like running and cycling as well.

 

Obstacle Racing is not a linear sport, and in this aspect, it has much in common with football.  There are complex movements happening when you scale an 8-foot wall or navigate an endless uphill barbed wire crawl.

Did you see Tiki Barber, former New York Giant great at our NY Times Square event?

 

Obstacle racing is a sport engineered for those who can get from point A to point B fast.  There is irregular terrain, walls, mud pits, agility obstacles, and myriad other ways to send your body flying in every possible direction.  This is not road running or cycling where efficiency dictates one (or a few) optimal motions repeated over and over.  In obstacle racing you are racing on some of the most gnarly trails going – often something that just has the semblance of a trail.

To be successful in obstacle racing you want to have a good range of motion for agility.  You also want to avoid injury.  Both agility gains and injury reductions are related to flexibility, and flexibility is related to stretching.

 

Why You Must Stretch

At Spartan HQ, daily training might incorporate Bikram Yoga at Bikram Yoga Pittsfield.  Liz Cotter, head Bikram Yogi there, recounts how she used to train many of the 49ers when she lived in San Francisco.

“They were just so huge.  Extremely muscular. And this was a problem.”  she said, “Range of motion was an obstacle for them.”

Stretching before a workout is more controversial then stretching after. Many studies (here is one, and another) caution about decreased performance.

An ideal warm-up would include some dynamic stretching first to warm the body up, says Dr. Jeff Godin of Spartan Coaching.

“The majority of stretching should be done after exercise, when the muscles are warm and limber.”  Dr Godin say, “That is when people will see the most improvement. Or to conduct stretching entirely separate from other exercise like in a yoga class.”

Don’t know how to stretch?  Don’t worry.  We recently recorded these two short videos to help you out.

In these two videos Jenny Wilson, a Bikram yogi, demonstrates the stretching routines we use in training for Spartan Races.  If you are new to stretching, start slow!  Incorporate it bit by bit into your training routine and into your life in general.


Warming up – Pre Workout Stretching Routine

Cooling Down – Post Workout Stretching Routine

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Pacing the Long Run

by Jeff Godin, Ph.D., CSCS, creator of www.spartancoaches.com

For many people the thought of the long run seems daunting.  I am not sure why, it is one of my favorite workouts.  The pace is pretty relaxed, conversational, and I usually get to look around and enjoy the scenery instead of focusing on effort. Most people actually run their long runs to fast. To achieve the maximal benefits, the pace should be slow, a lot slower than most would think.

I have discussed the lactate threshold before. The lactate threshold is a measure of exercise intensity. The long run should be conducted at a pace where there is no lactate accumulation, the muscles are 100% relying on aerobic metabolism, and utilizing fat as the primary source of fuel.  It is ideal to have your lactate threshold measured and utilized to calculate training intensities.  However, this may not be feasible or practical for everyone. The next best method is to run based off of your target heart rate.

The first step is to estimate or actually measure your maximal heart rate. To estimate your maximal heart rate use the formula 220 – age. Maximal heart rate declines, on average, about one beat per year. Unfortunately this formula can be off by as much as 12 bpm for some individuals. For example my predicted maximum is 175 bpm, but when I am in the middle of some serious hill training it gets as high as 190 bpm.  Therefor my actual is closer to 190 than it is 175. To actually measure your maximal heart rate, try a graded exercise test. This can be done on a treadmill or on a large hill. You will need a heart rate monitor.  If you are on treadmill, warm-up for 10 minutes then increase your running speed up to a comfortably hard pace (not quite out of breath, could carry on a conversation but would rather not). Increase the grade on the treadmill every 3 minutes until you cannot continue. Outside on a hill, run up the hill at a moderate pace, then repeat the hill at a slightly faster pace. Continue until you can’t run the hill any faster. In both cases, note the highest heart rate achieved during the test.  NOTE: Before engaging in maximal exercise it is always best to check with your physician first to make sure that it is safe for you .

Now that you have either your estimated maximal heart rate or measured  maximal heart rate you will calculate your target heart rate for your long runs. Long runs should be run at an intensity that corresponds to about 65-70% of your maximal heart rate.  For me, that corresponds to a long run training heart rate of 123-133 bpm.

Don’t be fooled by the intensity of the workout, it is about putting in the miles and getting in time on your feet. You have other workouts during the week that will include work at higher intensities.  Enjoy the long run for what it is:  a long distance, moderate effort.

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by Carrie Adams

Our Top Ten Blog Posts of 2012 span a variety of topics.  Yesterday, we introduced you to #10, a blog by our own Chris Davis who left Atlanta and came to Spartan HQ in Pittsfield, VT to live, work, and train with our staff and founder Joe Desena.  He lost over 400 pounds and completed the Spartan Beast, and earned his Trifecta Tribe status.  No small feat!  In today’s recap of post #9 we revisit something that has made Spartan obstacles famous (errr, maybe infamous is a better word.)

In a word: Burpee.

Missing a Spartan Obstacle doesn’t mean that you just mosey on your merry way, it means that you owe 30 burpees before you are to continue.  Here, our very own Dr. Jeff goes over the Muscular Analysis of the burpee.   If you don’t know Dr. Jeff, you should.  He’s greatly responsible for the success of the Chris Davis Project and is also leading the charge on the Spartan Coaching program.  He also routinely participates in the Spartan Death Race, because, well, that’s what happens when you work for Spartan Race.

From the drop to the ground through each phase of the movement, the body positions are described in detail to ensure that from the elite athlete to the newcomer, everyone can see the proper form associated with the burpee.

Read more HERE.

Interested in coaching the Spartan Way?  Click HERE to learn more.  Finally ready to get signed up?  Click HERE. 

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