Wondering What Type of Race You Should Run?

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.

what type of race should I run

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

30 Min. Treadmill Chipper for Spartan Obstacle Course Race Training

Soartan Black Friday SaleBefore 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! spartan-super-austin-barb-wire-jen 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 my  running, OCR and Spartan training plans.   Mountain Climbers on Treadmill  (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 demands   conquering 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! Treadmill Burden Run  (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. 30 Minute Spartan Training Chipper for Treadmill will keep your training on task in inclement weather, during travel or incovenient hours. 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:

  1. Warm Up Run: Set treadmill on 0% incline and jog at a slower, comfortable pace to warm up.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. High Intensity Hill Run: Set incline to 5% or higher and run and a pace equal to 85 to 90% of max.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9.  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.

This 30 Minute Treadmill Chipper for Obstacle Course Training  is a workout that mixes up running with strength exercises to get you ready for your next Spartan, Tough Mudder or Warrior Dash.

Spartan Race Holiday SaleDon’t forget about all the holiday shopping deals on gear and races at Spartan.com

What percentage training do you do on a treadmill? Have you ever done anything other than run on a treadmill?  Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer

How Exercise Boosts Brain Power + Week of Smart Workouts

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?

Find out the best form of exercise for a brain boost. Yes, some workouts can make you not on stronger, but smarter!

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! mouse-lifting-weight

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!

Exercise is not only great for your health, but can make you smarter! Find out what type and intensity of workout will give you the best brain boost!

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:

  1. 20 Minute Kickboxing Workout to Kick Monday in the Face
  2. You Got Mad “Ups” Body Weight Workout
  3. Boom! Med Ball Workout
  4. Trail Run Tabata
  5. Fun Faster 800m-Lover Workout
  6. Sayonara Sprint Partner Run Workout 
  7. Soccer Strong Workout – – also great for OCR Training

What is your favorite “type” of exercise to do? Do you mix it up, or single sport? Ever feel smarter after jogging (haha)?  Please share in the comments — XOXO, Jennifer

6 Tips for a Fun and Safe Trail Run

jennifer running on trail

Love to run, but growing weary of the city clatter and chaos on your route or, worse yet, being stuck inside going nowhere on a treadmill?  Well, let me remind you of an “all natural” alternative to these running woes – trail running!  Trail running has become a popular diversion from the everyday road run, is a great way to add new challenges that kick up your road running game, and is a legit sport in its own right. Because the terrain on trails is more rugged than pavement (think gravel, rocks, mud, sand, tree roots), secondary muscles are called into duty to help achieve balance and maximize agility. Due to this extra action, trail running can burn up to 10 percent more calories than running on the street, according Health Magazine. Before you the trail, check out my Six Trail Running Tips to prevent any unfortunate fails!

6 Tips for a Safe & Fun Trail Run

  • Focus on the run, not your pace. No trail is the same; the ups, downs and obstacles vary tremendously. That’s why you can’t measure success on a trail run in hours, minutes and seconds. By leaving your ego at home and forgetting about PRs, you can concentrate on your running form and biomechanical feedback, the inherent joy of running and the sheer beauty of the great outdoors.
  • Keep your feet functional. You’ll probably want to wear shoes that have a bit more stability and cushioning to protect your feet and ankles in rough patches. Also, slightly wider soles with substantial tread will help on muddy, wet and other slippery terrain. Also make sure that you have a little extra room in the toe box so that you don’t end up with bruised or blackened nails from extended downhills. Thin, quick-drying socks help prevent blisters if you sweat profusely or have to run through water. I am loving the Altra Running Superior 2.0  right now — they get a good grip on gnarly, rugged terrain, yet feel light and agile enough to fly fast through any obstacles in my way.
  • Gear up or go home. You don’t need to bring EVERYTHING with you on a trail run, but sometimes additional gear is nice to have (if not life-saving) during an off-road run. For example a cell phone for emergency calls, a GPS watch to track locations and, of course, your own ration of water and snacks. Other useful items to have are sunglasses to protect your eyes from not the sun and also inadvertent run-ins with tree branches, bug spray and knee-high socks to keep away chiggers and other pests, and a headlamp and/or knuckle lights if you are running through dusk into the night.
  • Put Safety Fist. It’s always best to run with a buddy, but at a minimum let a loved one know your route and estimated return time. It’s a worst-case scenario, but research any native wildlife dangers (snakes, bobcats, bears, etc.) that may be lurking and educate yourself on the best way to handle an emergency situation. You’ll want to hear all of the cues that Mother Nature is communicated, so don’t wear headphones. And, again, bring that GPS watch and phone in case you wander off course.
  • Maintain a mind-body connection. Trail running requires the use of multiple senses – sight, sound, feel and so on. While it’s easy to let your mind wander during a road run you’ve been on a hundred times, you need to remain focused on the task at hand in trail running to avoid dangerous situations. In rough terrain, the first instinct is to keep eyes focused downward at the feet – but this doesn’t provide timely feedback about what lies ahead! So, instead, keep your gaze straight ahead, analyze upcoming obstacles, and adjust your form accordingly.  Also, always keep a mental notes of mile markers or other visual landmarks passed (a trail of crumbs, so to speak), so that you can find your way back on an out-and-back course.
  • Don’t Forget to Fuel Up: You’ll likely want to bring your own water, sports drink and snacks give the more spartan running conditions — I’ve yet to see an emergency convenience store pop up like a desert oasis in the middle of a long trail run! There are so many options in hydration gear, it really just depends on the length of your race and personal preference for carrying (eg. hand-held vs. vest, belt or backpack . Also, stash some on-the-go snacks to provide on-going energy –eat before you deplete! Store-bought gus, gels and chews are fine, but I also like to make my own trail run fuel so I can tailor exactly to my needs. These are a few of my favorite trail run recipes:

Chocolate & Cherry Energy Cups - TheFitFork.com

Chocolate Cherry Trail Mix “Cakes”

Hazelnut Pecan Protein Fudge

 

 

 

Hazelnut Pecan Protein Fudge

 

 

 

What is your must have piece of gear or snack for a trail run? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer 

 

 

Spartan Burpee How-To & Penalty + Race Registration Giveaway

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.

How to Make Burpees More Fun - 5 VariationsBut, 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).

Plus, there are a million variations as I rounded up last year on my post on How to Make Burpees More Fun – Did I Really Just Say That?

 

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.

spartan burpee

Before my last Spartan Sprint, I breezed through the burpee details in the Standard Obstacle Specific Instructions:

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 nowhere hands 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.

And found this after searching the Spartan Race site for “burpees,” I found this article called THE PENALTY AND THE PAIN: BUCK FURPEES. It describes burpees with the hands overhead. This should be in the Standard Obstacle Specific Instructions, please – thank you very much.

  1. Chest to deck.  When you drop to the ground, you must execute a full push up with your chest touching the ground.
  2. Press out of the push-up jumping your legs underneath your body so that you are in a squatted position.
  3. 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.

Spartan after way too many 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:

spartan fotI 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.

How to Make a Spartan Spear in Less Than 10 Mintues and Under 10 DollarsAnd, don’t forget your spear throwing practice – I’ve got the tutorial on How to Make Your Own Spartan Spear in 10 minutes, for $10.

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Huge Spartan Holiday Savings + Free Registration Giveaway

Spartan Beast Dallas Sand Bag CarryI’m going to keep this post short and sweet! Even though Cyber Monday is officially over in a couple hours, you can still sign up, gear up and save up for 2016 Spartan Races. Here’s the deal, from now until midnight on 12/2/2105 use these discount codes:

Spartan Holiday Sale
Sign Up and Save up to $40 off all races.*  $20 off Sprint, $30 off Super, $40 off Beast – if you’re planning a Trifecta, you’ve just saved $90!! Use Code: CYBER

Gear Up and Save 30% off all gear.* You’ll want to show off that Spartan style, oh YES you will! Use Code: CYBER

*Valid for Continental US Only, excludes Hawaii. Cannot be retroactively applied or combined with any other offers including GovX. Not valid for Kid’s Race, Spectator tickets or Elite Heat. Excludes Electronics. Expires 12/2/15 11:59 pm ET.

Celebrating with friends at the end of Spartan Race.Okay, and here’s the best part — I’m also giving away a free Spartan Race entry good for any open heat (non-confirmed start time) in any Spartan Race in the continental US. AROO!

To enter, just follow the Rafflecopter app instructions — while the discount code Expires 12/2/15 11:59 pm ET my giveaway will be open another week! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

How I Busted my Running Rut (not BUTT) at Spartan !

Get 10% off a Reebok Spartan Race! Use Code: FINISH10. Sign Up Today!


How I Busted My Running Rut at Spartan - Jennifer Fisher - TheFitFork.comI 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 Race selfie -- Jennifer Fisher TheFitFork.com

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.

comparisonOooh, 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.

Jennifer Fisher Spartan Race Austin

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!

Celebrating with friends at the end of Spartan Race.

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!

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!

spartan memoriaSo, 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!

Core Power WorkoutAlso, I’m reposting this Obstacle Course workout I put together for Core Power High Protein Shakes a while back!

Get 10% off a Reebok Spartan Race! Use Code: FINISH10. Sign Up Today!

So, what are your experiences with obstacle course races or breaking out of a fitness rut?  Please share in the comments!!!!