I asked my ten year old son Michael what he thought a Spartan dad was. He responded that it’s coming home from races on the weekend with barbed wire scratches across your back and bruises all over your body. While that is definitely part of being a Spartan dad, there is certainly a lot more to it than that. In the Krueger family we have a passion for health and fitness. It wasn’t always like that – there was a period of time for about 7 to 8 years where I did not exercise and ate everything from pizza to Chinese food on a daily basis. I woke up about 5 years ago 30lbs overweight and looking pretty chubby. I am now 40 years old and through clean eating, exercise and the support of my family, I dropped 30lbs and I am now in the best shape of my life.

It is not easy. We have lacrosse practice, wrestling practice, violin, saxophone, piano, chorus – my wife Gretchen coaches’ middle school soccer in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. Gretchen and I do CrossFit as well as run and work out. Then there are the races…The key that we’ve found is making time for the family. Our “selfish” activities (training, races, and competitions) are all worked around our children’s activities. It is not easy but we make the time. In the winter, I get up at 4:40am to train so I can be back home by 6:15 for Gretchen to be out the door by 6:30am to go teach while I get the kids ready for school. If the children do not have any activities in the evening, they train with us. Michael and Mya have both been doing CrossFit for the past year and love it. Gretchen and I do not always get to train together but we all go to races together.

Our front and backyard have become an obstacle training playground for both adults and kids. We have a 20’ rope climb in our front tree. Our backyard has a spear throw, pull up bar, box jump and rings from our back tree. Our children are engaged in healthy activities, root for us at races (and race themselves) and are included in our passions. It is difficult but doable.

I am incredibly lucky to be a Spartan dad because I truly have a Spartan wife and Spartan children.

Dan Krueger

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Zackery Paben, the bearded warrior behind the More Hearts Than Scars charity, knows the joy of parenthood all too well.  After suffering a horrifying injury that saw him break his radius, ulna and losing the ends of seven of his fingers, his father taught him the principle of caring by showing tough love, something Zackery is very grateful for.

“Michael Mills, one of the Spartan Adaptive Athletes, often kids me about being ‘Dad’ when we race together with the Dirtbags. He fusses at me sometimes for being over protective. However during the cargo net mountain climb from hell at this year’s Sprint in Georgia, he was happy to be on my rope. Before he does the stupid and seemingly impossible; he always checks in with me with a ‘You got me?’. After my ‘I got ya’, he goes on to do things that only the word awesome can convey.

“After I finally returned home from the hospital after my accident, my dad had me do my chores like taking out the trash. My ten year old self made excuses, citing my broken arms and amputated fingertips. He let me know that I was creative and capable enough to figure out how to do it. The first time it took me an hour, after a week it took me 5 minutes.”

Zack with his daughter Snowlilly and Spartan MC Dustin Dorough take a moment to pose.

“My 25 years of being in the father role for at risk youth has been shaped by this simple concept.  Just because you got hurt does not mean you are no longer responsibly to take out the literal and metaphorical trash.

“When our little girl was diagnosed with her heart condition, her mother and I formed More Heart Than Scars to be sure to keep her and us in the right frame of mind. Every day she sees her parents training for upcoming races or making plans to empower others to adapt to their own challenges. When she is old enough to comprehend the challenges of her heart she will have many of Spartan races to reflect upon. Most importantly she has Michael Mills, Todd Love, Amanda Sullivan and Justin Falls as up and personal examples of what it means to have more heart than scars. She also has her dad to tell her that she is creative and capable enough to figure it out… also to take out the trash”, he laughs.

“For me as a dad, I try to train my children to face a hard world with their wits and guts. It is not my job to scurry about trying to make their lives easy. Even in the midst of their challenges I remind them that, “I got you”. I am the father of two daughters, Snowlilly, 4 years old, biological and already a two-time Spartan racer. June, 19 years old, adopted and determined figure things out for herself. I am very fortunate to have had many kids over the years to claim me as their dad.”

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