It might take a couple months, a year or even half a lifetime, but eventually most folks who start running on a regular basis decide to take it one step further by signing up for a full-fledged race. Even for those who don’t consider themselves “competitive,” running in an organized race is a great way stay motivated, test current fitness levels, breaking a sweat and bask in personal post-race glory alongside hundreds, if not thousands, other runners on a like-minded mission.
But, if you’ve never touched toe to the start line of a race, the sheer variety of endurance events and unfamiliarity of the “scene” can make it overwhelming and even intimidating to click the “register me” button. The best advice is to seek suggestions from seasoned veterans, poke around to find out what local races friends and family have found to be newbie-friendly. Even then, the “type of race,” should suit your own unique personality and running preferences. Read on to get the high-level low down on some popular “types” of races: Continue reading →
Note: After you “get a grip” make sure you pop all the way down on this post to find out about 2017 Season Passes for Spartan Race (hurry, they are rumored to sell out soon) an also to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a free Spartan Race registration.
If you’re not training grip, you’re likely sabotaging any chance getting through a Spartan Race burpee free. Reflect back to your last race and count up the number of obstacles that require a strong and lasting grip. These grip-intensive obstacles include the rig, the monkey bars, the bucket carry, the rope climb, the Tyrolean traverse, Tarzan swing, wall jumps, and, lemme see, nearly everything . . . including shaking hands on the podium!
By adding grip-training exercises to your workout a few times per week, you can achieve lower-arm and grip gains which will increase your strength to handle more weight and more reps — or, basically hold on longer! The muscle guys in the gym swear by grip training maximize strength and size, but don’t worry girls – I work out my grip often and don’t have Popeye-sized forearms, pretty sure you have to be genetically predisposed or questionable supplement enhanced for that to happen.
There are three types of grip including. support grip (hanging and holding), crush grip (clenching and squeezing) and pinch grip (pinching). Training these different grips oven overlaps one another, but here are some basic categories of grip-strength exercises:
Hanging – Try to hang from any surface with shoulders fully extended, in the “deadhang” position until failure. Grab onto a variety of surfaces (safety first) including traditional pull-up bars, fat bars, the ends of towels or functional straps (like GripSling … use code thefitfork20 to save 20%) ropes, tree limbs, rafters, vertical pipes — each provides a different challenge to the grip.
Lifting – Grip is always involved in lifting, unless you are doing legs on a machine. The fatter the bar used in your lifts, the more difficult it will be on your grip. That’s why those chubby monkey bars at Spartan Race are harder than the garden variety playground version. A wider diameter bar redistributes stress from the joints and onto the muscles as the weight is transferred to a larger area of the hand. If your gym has a fat bar, try it. Or, purchase special grips to slide on (check out Fat Gripz), or simply wrap a strap or towel around the bar.
Carrying – Practice carrying objects of different sizes and poundage, your body will have to adjust accommodate the varying loads. Of course, the whole body is involved in toting stuff around, a strong grip can help you hold more and go further. Carries to practice include farmer carry with plates, dumbbells, kettlebells or any other luggable item with a handle. For greater grip gains, try threading a towel through the handle and carry grasping onto the ends of the towel. Also, practice carrying non-handled, heavy objects such as sandbags, pancakes, loaded buckets from the base.
Pinching – Improve your pinch grip, and hopefully maintain contact with the Z Wall or Horizontal Climb obstacles, by mastering exercises that require maintaining contact with an item placed between thumb and fingers while leaving palm open. Classic pinch grip exercises include the one hand pinch plate, two hand pinch plate and pinch plate curls.
Example: Pinch Plates
Example: Plate Curls
Crushing – Maximize your crush grip strength by squeezing grippers, tennis balls or beer cans. I also think the mobility balls from ACUmobility work pretty well for gripping — save 20% with code AcumobFitFork Look at that grimace below, I’m having my crush grip strength measured.
So, ready to give grip training a try? Work in any of the methods I’ve described above, or try this “Get a Grip Workout” I like to do every week. Use the appropriate poundage for your strength and frame, and progress slowly – these exercises are way harder than they sound, and honestly, the first few sessions you may think nearly impossible (or at least I did). For those who’ve crushed the workout, I’ve added challenge modifications – have fun!
Also, before I slip away for my Spartan training, I wanted to tell y’all to HURRY and get your Spartan Race 2017 Season PassesASAP, they are very likely to sell out quick. Thankfully, there are three Season Pass options – Trifecta Pass, Open Pass and Elite Pass – so one should suit your level of crazy. I opted to get my husband and I each the Trifecta Season Pass – it’s good for three races in any division (elite, competitive and open) and comes with additional perks. It can be used for Beast, Super and Sprint – but the fine print actually says you do any three distances of your choosing, even if all the same. The Open and Elite Passes are more expensive, but your get #ALLTHESPARTANALLTHETIME
So, head over and get your Spartan Race Season Pass today – it also makes a great holiday gift for the obstacle course fan in your life. Meanwhile, enter my giveaway for a code for FREE entry into a Spartan Race of your choice (U.S. Open Division only). But, don’t let entering stop you from getting the Season Pass – if you win, you can use it to encourage a significant other, one of your children or a buddy to try his or her first race!
Disclaimer: Giveaway and promotion of Season Pass sponsored by Spartan Race, however all opinions, comments and enthusiasm are my own. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Before we jump into the workout, let’s chat about other important stuff this season – like shopping! There is a Black Friday sale and all sorts of Daily Deals going on at the Spartan Race Shop. I just got my hubby this 2016 Trifecta Shirt (I hope he’s not reading this). Also, most Spartan Races are 25% off with the code HOLIDAY(through 11/27) and then after that the code FINISHER will always get you 10% off. Who wants to Race Spartan With Me?! Aroo!Typically, I’d say a legit Spartan or obstacle course racer prefers the challenges of exercising outdoors, rather that indoors. In the wild (even if it’s just your backyard), you can react to the obstacles and hurdles Mother Nature throws down in the path, and these are always changing! Unfortunately, the problems of a super-scheduled, modern-day life can prevent Tarzan swinging over rivers and slithering on your stomach through misty mores. That is, unless your place of employment or car pool pick-ups don’t care if you show up for service wallpapered in stickers and swamp mud. That’s when a treadmill becomes a necessary evil in your training battle plan. Of course, die hard obstacle course racers will train in the elements, whatever they may be – rain, sleet, ice and snow. It makes sense to add these uncomfortable weather days in every now and then, to acclimate for potential race day conditions. However, there is no reason to put yourself in harm’s way, Get nailed by lightning or run over by a bus that didn’t see you in a downpour and you’ll not be chanting “Aroo” come race day.
No need to suffer needlessly to prove your toughness, although some might say the treadmill is more pain-invoking than any trail – haha!In the winter, wind and dark of night, I need a little more “comfort” and convenience and the treadmill keeps me on task with myrunning, OCR and Spartan training plans. (Above) Mountain Climbers on the treadmill (belt will just move w/o turning on)
So, for safety, convenience and comfort, I will frequently knock out obstacle course training on a treadmill Today, I’m sharing a full-body workout (a 30 Minute Treadmill Chipper) that will challenge your limits and make you more unstoppable and unbreakable and undeniably more race ready than yesterday. Exercises like Burden Runs and Mountain climbers on a treadmill get you ready for the demandsconquering an obstacle course race – like bucket carries, sandbag hoists, rock climbing, bear crawling and more. Do you accept the challenge? Good, I thought you would! (Above) Burden Run on the treadmill, switch carry sides as needed.
So stop looking at the treadmill as the weenie way to get in your workout. A good treadmill can give you so many workout options that will challenge your stamina, raw strength and relentless grit. Disclaimer: Please note that the treadmill is being used in a manner not “prescribed” by most manufacturers, so you will use extra caution, right?!
Description of 30 Minute Treadmill Chipper exercises:
Warm Up Run: Set treadmill on 0% incline and jog at a slower, comfortable pace to warm up.
Incline Push-Ups: Turn treadmill belt off and hold onto handles, facing console. Form a straight line with your body and bend at elbows to perform a pushup, bringing chest towards console and engaging triceps. Pause, and then push back up.
Reverse Mountain Climbers: Turn treadmill belt and get into plank position, facing away from the machine. Feet will be on sides of treadmill base and hands on floor. To start, move feet to belt and drive one knee into chest while other extends backward. This will safely push the belt at your pace Alternate legs back and forth.
Handle Bar Rows: Turn off belt and get into reverse plank position holding onto handle bars, looking upward and with feet and end of belt. Pull body upward, toward handles, using arms and chest. Pause and then slowly lower down and repeat.
High Intensity Hill Run: Set incline to 5% or higher and run and a pace equal to 85 to 90% of max.
Overhead Balance Walk: Slow treadmill to 1 mph and hold medicine ball (try 25# women or 35# men) overhead with straight, locked out arms. Start at front of belt and raise one leg to high knee and hold while belt moves you backward, when reaching end of belt, step down and walk to front of belt and repeat on other leg.
Side Shuffles: Set treadmill at 2 – 5 mph and stand sideways on the belt with knees slightly bent. Quickly bring outer foot to meet leading foot (the one closest to console) and then hop the leading foot out forward again, repeat.
Walking Lunges: Set treadmill to about 3 mph at a 3% to 5% incline and step forward with right leg, lowering body until knee bent at 90 degrees and brushing over belt. Keep hips stacked over knee, not behind it or ahead of it. Rise up, bringing back foot forward, alternating legs for the duration.
Burden Run: Set treadmill to slower jogging pace (try 10 to 13 mph) and place medicine ball ( try ball 25# women or 35# men) on right shoulder reaching up and over with right arm to secure. Run or walk fast for 800 meters, moving ball from shoulder to shoulder, as needed.
Exercise is a smart choice for maintaining physical health and it also plays a role in promoting overall happiness and well-being. But, can exercise make a person more intelligent? Probably so say sports scientists from Finland who recently published some surprising findings on how the type and intensity of exercise may have a bearing on brain power?
The study compared pitted moderate-paced running, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight lifting against each other to observe how these various forms physical exercise can increase hippocampal neurogenesis (e.g. the creation of new brain cells) in an already mature brain. The test subjects – rats! The running rodents were left to run on their cage wheels (a moderate jog, some up to several miles a day) with free will while the HIIT group was given a daily 15 minute regimen of repeated strenuous effort sprinting with jog recovery. And, the weight-lifting rodents climbed walls with little weights attached to their tails as a sedentary control group lounged around and watched. I laugh just thinking about this!
Whether mouse or man, it appears that the winning exercise for long-term brain health may simply be moderate running or “jogging” and, by my semi-educated extrapolation, other similar “aerobic and sustained” activities like biking, swimming and brisk walking. It seems wheel-jogging rodents had the most vigorous rates of new brain cell growth, significantly higher than the sedentary, lay-around rats. The hightailing HIIT group had some brain cell growth, but not as much as the aerobic joggers, with researchers hypothesizing that physical stress impedes neurogenesis. Interestingly, the resistance-trained rats were no different brain-wise at the end of the study – which keeps the status-quo on “muscle head” jokes!
Seriously though, all forms of exercise are beneficial for the body. Just like variety in diet is important for optimal health, so is mixing up the way you move. While jogging or easy running may boost brain cells, lifting weights strengthens muscles, bones and tendons, helping to improve every day work capacity. And, both resistance training and HIIT up the body’s metabolism, one of the keys to keeping a lean silhouette.
I think trail running and obstacle course races like Spartan are a great way to add “extra” to simply running – a well-rounded athlete is a smart athlete, too!
Below are some of my favorite running, HIIT and other workouts — pick your favorites and get strong, get smart!
Here are a week of workouts to get stronger and smarter:
Burpees. People love to hate them, although I personally don’t think they’re all that bad. Except maybe I don’t love them so much the middle of an obstacle race when my arms and legs are already wobbly, stickers are piercing my palms and I’m coming face to face with cow patties.
But, in a pristine situation, burpees have been a pretty good fitness friend to me, they are a simple, no-equipment needed way to get a full-body workout plus a little cardio (okay, mabye a lot of cardio).
But in the Spartan Race, they don’t want to see the variations. And that’s good, because who has any bounce left for fancy stuff?! In fact, I’ve been revisiting the rules on Spartan Race burpees (30 burpees required as a punishment for failing an obstacle) because, at my last race, I (gasp) received a 3-minute penalty added to my finish line time. Now, if you’re running in the open, you don’t have anyone judging your burpees, it’s honor system. But, the elite heat is suffering under the scrutiny of video cameras and clipboard bearing field officials.
Obstacles may have a “Burpee Zone or Burpee Area”. Athletes are required to complete their penalty burpees within the designated zone or area, as burpees are monitored by Course Officials and/ or video cameras. Course officials will review video to ensure proper form is used and the athlete has completed the burpee penalty. . . .Camera review can change the outcome of the race, and results are not final until camera review and field officials have approved the results and assessed penalties
Penalty for Obstacle Failure: – 30 Burpees (chest must hit the ground, feet must leave the ground)
So, I do remember a few times when I though “hmmm, this manual says nowherehands must be thrown in the air when feet leave the ground.” But, at one burpee zone, I decided to omit the overhead hand throw to conserve energy. This omission caused a field official to reprimand me . . . who argues in a situation like this, so I just started back to throwing hands overhead and doing the hokey-pokey from hell.
If I’d had anything left to give, I’da busted out “Put Your Hands Up, Put Your Mother Effin’ Hands Up” covered by a gazillion different rappers.
So, when the initial finish line results and final results were exactly 3 minutes apart, I knew something was up. It was too late to challenge, I was already home . . . plus, I want to be completely legit, flawless and clean, if I messed up, then I deserved the penalty. I know I did ENOUGH burpees, I can count. I just wish I would have known EXACTLY what was expected so this would have never happened in the first place. When you know better, you do better. I did burpees as described in the obstacle manual (which is Chest to Ground – Feet Leave Ground). Search the web, so much controversy on the topic, even on the Spartan Race site (see the Great Burpee Debate)!
I should have watched this video which shows the hands going in the air, although he doesn’t mention this step as every other is noted.
Chest to deck. When you drop to the ground, you must execute a full push up with your chest touching the ground.
Press out of the push-up jumping your legs underneath your body so that you are in a squatted position.
Stand up, extending the hips, and jump off the ground with hands overhead.
Then after more searching around, I found additional information that elite racers may be penalized 30 seconds per incorrect burpee, up to 10. Then disqualification. It’s subjective still, in my opinion, and you have obviously are on someone’s radar if they are scrutinizing your burpees.
The face of a 120 burpee race. Damn.
So, my takeaway for the next race. Don’t fail an obstacle, don’t get stuck with burpees. And, if that’s not possible, do a bonus burpee on top of the 30 reps just to show trustworthy toughness! Aroo!
No sour grapes with Spartan Race in ANY WAY whatsoever. In fact, I love them for challenging me so significantly at this stage of my life. However, I just wanted to clarify some of this burpee stuff and keep any of you from suffering the wrath of not knowing.
Other timely Spartan Race stuff you need to know:
I also wanted to remind you about Spartan Race founder and best-selling author, Joe DeSena’s new book, Spartan Fit. It’s the go-to tome of training for newbies and veterans alike or just help on how to get super fit in 31 days, without a gym or weights. You also learn how to build your fitness from one race to the next, get nutrition advice and will be motivated by stories of inspiring Spartans. Pre-order now, it ships August 30, 2016.
Register for a Spartan Race, from Sprint, Super or Beast to one of the more team-worky endurance events like Hurricane Heat or Agog and save 10% at checkout with the code SPARTANBLOGGER.
Enter my giveaway for a FREE SPARTAN REGISTRATION. Winner will receive one-time use code good for any Open Heat (non-confirmed start time) in any Spartan Race in the Continental US. Just follow the Rafflecopter instructions below.
This post and giveaway were sponsored by Spartan Race, all opinions, advice and enthusiasm are all my own.
So, I ran the Spartan Beast Dallas this past Saturday. It was muddy – really, really muddy thanks to record Texas flooding. This is only the second obstacle course I’ve raced and the first as an elite — I knew to expect the unexpected, but damn – it was a crazy from just trying to get into the parking lot . . . . . . . and then trying to get out, let alone the course.
The race was delayed while they rerouted the trail due to raging rivers. I got hungry. Then I got muddy – really, really muddy. I was hoping to dominate the running, but the ankle-deep mud made lifting each footstep up out of the muck difficult for me . . .and everyone. On this course, I think my favorite obstacles were the barbed wire crawl (the mud made for good slithering) and the monkey bars (because swinging around like a chimpanzee is just plain fun).
The bucket carry and sand bag carry were both hard obstacles given the incline of the hills and the slippery footing. I made a ton of mistakes but am excited to run another and see improvements in my strategy – and I’m happy to report that I came in as the 14th Elite and 2nd Master Elite at the Spartan Beast Dallas . . . and I’m not too badly banged up. The worst of it was a thigh rope burn and a goose egg on my head where I slid right into a tree limb!
So, enough about running and hurdling over stuff – onto the food! This easy dinner recipe for Crunchy Baked Ancho Honey Salmon is deliciously flavorful and surprisingly satiating even served atop a salad thanks to protein and heart-healthy fats. I love southwestern and spicy-sweet flavors and this fish recipe was inspired by a savory-sweet Ancho Honey Granola I made a few months ago – I originally served the granola on top of an heirloom tomato salad, but the leftovers are perfect for making a crunch topping. If you want to make the whole batch of granola (keep it in the freezer for long-lasting yumminess and recipe inspiration), check out the recipe post – otherwise, I have pared down the ingredients for just enough to make a topping for 4 salmon fillets.
Add coconut oil to large skillet and bring to medium-high heat.
Add pepita seeds, slivered almonds and chili powder to skillet and stir for 1 – 2 minutes or until beginning to toast. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of the honey and stir to combine.
Mix oats, chia seeds, dried cilantro and sea salt to skillet, stirring well to coat with honey mixture. Continue to stir over medium heat for approximately 5 – 6 minutes longer, taking care that honey doesn’t start to burn.
Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes on paper towels.
Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.
Place salmon filets, skin side down, on foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle tops of salmon filets with evenly with remaining honey; lightly rub in with fingers.
Top each filet evenly with oat mixture, patting down with fingers. Bake in pre-heated oven for 12 to 14 minutes, or until salmon cooked through and flaking.
I have been in a running rut for about a year and a half. With more than 25 years of running behind me, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt stale and unmotivated about running – but it’s definitely the longest lull in my love for the sport. I’ve implemented many of the rut-busting running tips that experts recommend – heck, I pretty much am an expert, for what it’s worth. I’ve reduced my mileage and taken rest and recovery seriously, varied my race distances and cut back on racing, adjusted my goals and added variety to my routine with other fitness activities like CrossFit and yoga. But, nope, still not having that warm fuzzy about running –especially racing.
Pre-Spartan Selfie — Feeling Positive!
I decided to enter the Spartan race when it rolled into Austin a couple weekends ago to “try something new.” I really had no expectations. Primarily, because I had never done an obstacle race before and didn’t know what to expect. And, also because I knew there would be no benchmark for comparison that my overly self-competitive mind could obsess over. I couldn’t “lose,” be let down or feel like a failure, because this race (I convinced myself) was just a fleeting novelty that I wasn’t really that invested in.
Oooh, comparison is the thief of joy, there is so much truth to that statement and I have robbed myself of many positive race experiences because I have tried to measure up with many things – my past abilities, other’s talents, and such.
So, I just went out to Spartan and soaked up the big AROO at the start. Took off and just did my thing. For the first time in a long time I enjoyed the challenge and burn of the course and that feeling that I might not live to see the finish line but down deep know I will. I took the challenges one by one and made it – I didn’t stop to think how well someone else may or may not being doing it compared to how I was performing. I just tore through the course like I was on a fast and fun mission.
I jumped through the fire obstacle and into the pond and was grinning ear-to-ear about the experience. I knew I was near the front of my heat, but didn’t know or care what my finish time was – it wouldn’t have meant anything compared to my PRs in the marathon or a 5k. I couldn’t compare! I took my finishers medal (the one’s I usually scoff at a marathon) and slung on the bling everyone gets with pride. Actually, in this pic I have it off because I had just entered a post-race pull-up contest and didn’t want to be weighed down – lol!
That’s right, I kicked these challenges right in the butt and busted out of my running rut in the process. Of course, I’m dying to run another obstacle race ASAP – but also feel like I have a renewed mood to race on the road again and have my eye of the tiger back. Whahoo!
Oooh, geeze — now you know how old I am!
The next day when I checked the results, it did knock my socks off a little that I was 2nd Overall in the women – I totally didn’t see that coming. In some ways I wish I didn’t even know that. I’ll take it gladly, but it didn’t make me any happier or more joyful about finishing the race. And maybe that’s the biggest lesson learned coming out of this rut – just enjoy each experience for what it is and not worry so much about the past or future. Aroo!
So, have you ever run a Spartan race? From now until May 27, 2015, they are having a special promotion where you can save up to $40 dollars on a race. That’s a nice chunk of change to save – I’m going to spend my savings on arm sleeves to keep the elbow scrapes away and extra Q-tips for cleaning out my ears – lol!