Crucial Steps for Achieving Your Fitness Goals for Spartan Racing

Here we are at the end of February.  How have your New Year’s Resolutions panned out?  Have you been able to keep your fitness goals or have they fallen by the wayside? Only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions which means 92% fail.  If you are made a resolution to yourself that 2018 will be the year for you, then let’s set see what we can do to set you up for success.  Often times we set some pretty lofty goals with little idea how we are actually going to achieve them.  According to Tyrone Holmes in his Active.com article ‘How to set S.M.A.R.T. Goals’, “If you want long-term success, be clear about what you want to accomplish.”   It may be an intimidating idea of losing weight, running a marathon, or participating in your first Spartan Race.  You want to because it is an amazing accomplishment and you would be so proud of yourself yet you’re nervous at the challenge, and are afraid to fail.  We have to set realistic, achievable goals and we need to think through what is involved.

Do you have a plan for achieving your fitness goals?  Only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions which means 92% fail.  If you are made a resolution to yourself that 2018 will be the year for you, then let’s set see what we can do to set you up for success.  Often times we set some pretty lofty goals with little idea how we are actually going to achieve them.  We have to set realistic, achievable goals and we need to think through what is involved.

For me, I want to build upper body strength so I can perform better on my rope climbs, make it across those monkey bars, and just perform better overall on those obstacles which require more upper body strength.  I really want to cut down on those burpees.  What are your fitness goals for Spartan Racing?  For some it will be to run your very first Spartan Race. For others it will be to be able to do the rope climb  or be able to hoist yourself over one of the walls.  There is no magic pill or potion. Every goal takes effort, time and patience.  The power to achieve those goals is within you and you alone.

One of the most important steps to help ensure you keep this promise to yourself is to develop a plan with set goals. Without this plan and a set of goals it’s like jumping into your car going on a cross-country road trip without a map or GPS. If you do not know how to get where you are going, you will likely never get there. You did not want to be looking back and saying ‘What happened?’ Leaving it to chance is not a recipe for success.

Goal setting is the process of identifying something you want to achieve and establishing measurable actions with timeframes to help you achieve them. A big goal may seem out of reach.  Yet by creating your plan, you break it down into tasks; you outline a process and series of steps to follow. Having this plan and knowing your tasks, describes the path to success. It becomes the roadmap you will follow.

This process is useful for any goal you wish to achieve such as buying a house or planning a vacation.  Here are some key steps to ensure you find the set of objectives that will increase your odds of reaching your fitness goals.

Summarize Your Main Fitness Goal

Summarize your main long-term goal in a few words.  You want to run a Spartan Race whether its in your backyard nearby, across country or in another country. Write it down on several pieces of paper or sticky notes. Place these notes in areas you frequent such as your bathroom, your car, on the refrigerator, and your computer monitor. These notes will be a constant reminder of your goal. Also, tell your friends and family your goal.

Define SMART Fitness Goals

While your main goal is on sticky notes or pieces of paper, it needs to be SMART. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. All these components are necessary to keep you on a path to success.

Specific – Goals need to detail the 5-Ws – Who, What, Where, When, Why

Measurable – Ask yourself how you will know you have achieved your goal?

Attainable – Your goals should be attainable. Do not be afraid to ‘shoot for the stars’ yet do not get too extreme. They should push you out of your comfort zone but it they are too easy, they are not very motivating. You want to feel like you have accomplished something.

Relevant – Goals should be where you are at in your life at this moment. They need to be your goals, not someone else’s and you should care about them. If not, this is another way motivation wanes and you lose interest.

Time-bound – The goal needs a target date so you have a deadline. This allows you to set markers and check your progress throughout.

Follow a Detailed Plan to achieve your Fitness Goals

Let’s use running your first Spartan Race. Start by listing all the required skills for the race and what it will take to get there. Be specific with what you have or can do today. The things you need or cannot do today will become your goals to work toward. Each one of these may stand alone or have a series of steps to do in order to achieve them. Remember, we said the larger goal may need down into smaller goals.

  1. Signup for your race. Do this and you are now committed. Let’s say you want to run a June 2018 Super which is between 8 – 10-miles. You will need to increase running distance from 3-miles to 10-miles.  Here are a few questions to identify areas to improve your run.
    • What kind if running do you need to incorporate?
    • Do you already run trails or do you need to find your local mountain bike trails to add in some decent trail runs? Specific on terrain and location.
    • How many days of the week you can incorporate extra runs?
    • What days can you increase your distance? For me weekends are best as I can plan more time and distance.
  1. Increase upper body strength if this is your first obstacle course race. Bucket carries, wall climbs, monkey bars, sled drags are all a part of a Spartan Race.  These obstacles require core, back and grip strength.
    • Hire a trainer or find at home workouts?
    • Do you have the personal motivation to push yourself or need guidance on proper form and technique?
    • Is your home gym equipped sufficiently or would it require a bit of investment? Spartan WODs (Workout of the Day) are a very useful source you can get to your inbox for free. In addition, they tend to focus on body weight exercises so a heaving investment in equipment is not necessary.
  2. Expect to travel to your race destination. The Midwest is limited in the race options available so typically it is necessary to travel at between 5-6 hours for a race.  If you are on the East or West Coast there are many options available within a few hours’ drive.  This will likely mean 1-2 night’s hotel and all that goes with it.  We like to get to our destination the night before and depending on where we are headed and the races, we may even stay a second night to let our muscles recover before hopping in the car for 5-6 hours home.
    • Do start saving for your travel expenses? Hotel, flight or fuel, food?
    • Some websites, like Expedia or Trip Advisor, allow reservations without paying in advance.
    • My advice here is book a hotel as soon as you know where your race will be to ensure you have a room.
  3. Gear up for race day. The gear you will need depends on fuel needs, weather and how you plan to dress to protect yourself.
    • Do you have what think you will need for race day? This may take research.  Talk to other racers about what they recommend and read articles, to identify the gear you will need.
    • Example:
      • Do you need a good pair of trail shoes with water drains and good spacing in the lugs to release the mud?
      • Do you need some sort of pack to carry fuel and other essentials you will need during the race?

By no means is this a complete list of areas you will need to work on to achieve your goal of a Spartan Super Race. You may easily be able to run 8 – 10 miles but need to build your upper body strength.  Each person is different.  This list is to give you starter ideas things to think about to get that Spartan Race under your belt.

Now you have a list of the gaps, or things to prepare you for your race, it is time to develop your SMART goals for each. Use a template like this one from ACE Fitness or one I have used for my own goals here.

Let’s walk thru an example using the SMART Goals Worksheet

At the top of your worksheet, start by defining your date for achieving your goal. You want to ensure you have enough time to get into shape so be honest with yourself. Make is realistic and achievable.   Next complete a small summary of your overall goal.

High-level Fitness Goal

 

 

 

 

Fitness Goal Benefits

Really think about what it will mean if you do achieve your goal? Below is an example what I wrote for achieving my overall goal.

 

 

 

Fitness Goals that are Specific

Now start defining the each area of your larger SMART goal. Focus on one area at a time and truly think about what it will take for you to achieve it. You may have a series of worksheets that will help you achieve your larger goal.   Running, for example, is not something you are going to jump off the couch and just start running 8-10 miles.  Devise a plan how you will get to 8-10 miles.   Specifically what will it take?

 

 

 

Fitness Goals that are Measurable

Next think about how you will see yourself making progress. What will others notice about you, in you?  What will you notice in yourself? You may notice you are able to keep up with others where you struggled before. Your muscles are less sore. You feel like you still have energy after a long run where before you felt totally wiped out. All signs you are making progress.  Good signs of progress.

 

 

 

Fitness Goals that are Attainable

Now think about whether or not you will be able to increase the distance of your runs to 8-10 miles during the time you have set for yourself. Do you have too many other priorities pulling at you or will the changes you need to make fit into your schedule?  What challenges will you encounter?  The more you think thru the barriers and think of a plan to handle them, the less likely you are to stop, give up and miss your goal.  Its like practicing lines of a play or a speech. The more prepared you are for these possible barriers, the more successful you will be.

 

 

 

 

 

Fitness Goals that are Realistic

Now that you have thought about all the above, is your goal realistic? Life has a way of throwing curve balls.  Remember, all the above considered the barriers, the schedule, the planning, this goal is pretty realistic. Think through all possible barriers you may encounter and how you will counter them so they are no longer a barrier.

 

 

A very important step is to ensure there is a deadline in which you need to complete the goal.  Based on my plan, it seems pretty easy since you know your race date.  Adding increments over time, your body can adjust slowly and with little injury.  I try to plan to achieve my distance a month to a few weeks ahead of my race so I can have a few good runs at that distance and my body and mind are used to it.  I do not always run that distance which is why I need to prepare.

Fitness Goals need to be Time-Bound

 

 

 

Fitness Goals – Support and Celebration

Finally, how will you celebrate and who will you enlist to support you during the major goal you are about to work toward. I tell everyone about my races.  I tell family, co-workers, neighbors, even people I am only acquainted with, I talk about my races and training.

As for celebrating, I have done all the below after one race or another.  This is a huge accomplishment. Think of reasonable rewards that will demonstrate to all you have told you succeed. Buying an entire new wardrobe may not be reasonable, at least not in one shopping spree.  So have fun and celebrate!

 

 

 

 

So now, are you ready to begin?

When you have a plan thought out how you will reach your goal, it’s very exciting!  It’s motivating! It’s fun! You can see it is achievable.  When you start seeing small improvements, it’s hard not to keep going.  Keep this plan with you. Copy it and keep several copies handy.  Refer to it often especially when life does throw you a curve ball. You pick up your plan, reabsorb why this is so important and get back at it.

Remember, You Can Do More Than You Think!

How to start training for your first Spartan Race

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

So you have heard of Spartan Race, people you know have run a race, or you have seen a race whether on Facebook, TV or YouTube.  You feel compelled to do something different and really challenge yourself. The question you have is how do I start training for my first race?  If you have never really done more than an occasional yoga class, spin class or session at your local gym, you are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed where to start. Please take a few deep breathes and relax.

Take That First Step

First go ahead and sign-up for that Spartan Race. This is the most important first step.  Next, tell everyone you signed up for your first race.  This will force you to set goals and begin taking action.  Finally, get off the couch and be willing to get out of your comfort zone.  Taking that last obstacle, the Fire Jump, and crossing the finish-line is the best feeling. The adrenaline and feels can overwhelm because YOU DID IT!

I will outline several training ideas to help you start training for your first Spartan Race using minimal equipment.  Anyone can run a Spartan Race and I do mean anyone. People of all fitness levels, shapes, sizes and abilities challenge themselves to complete a race. Individual men or women, who are not runners or athletes by nature, take on the race in teams or as individuals. Even if you are not part of a team, you actually are, because the rest of us want you to succeed. We will pull, push, shove and be that extra leg to get you over that obstacle. The concern for making each other successful is strong. I love it. So what do you need to do to train for your first race?

You are most likely scared to death. I know I was when I first signed up. I had no idea where to start when it came to training for the obstacles I would encounter. My workouts consisted of HiiT Workouts 3 or 4-days a week. As for running, I ran 1-5K in my life and had some basic equipment for my HiiT training. To set your self up for success there are some key steps you can take.

Finding Time in Your Schedule

Finding time to workout is one of the biggest obstacles. Everyone has reasons they cannot fit one more thing into their already busy schedule. Trust me, if I can find the time so can you. I work full-time Monday thru Friday. My family life can be quite crazy during the school year.

First look at your schedule. Start by writing down everything you do from the time you get up until the time you go to bed for all 7-days. No matter what your is going on in your life, your schedule seems to be full all the time. You will find patterns in your schedule such as time between activities, or during, that are opportunities to add in a workout, even if it is only 20-30-minutes. Believe me, there are pockets of time you can take advantage to workout.

So where can you find pockets of time?  While waiting for your child’s dance or soccer practice to send take a jog around the block, do lunges, pushups or situps on a patch of grass nearby.  For instance, my daughter takes vocal lessons at our local university. I take advantage of the 45-60-minutes and run the university’s grounds around the baseball diamond or the bleachers nearby. I plan my run to be back 5-minutes short of her lesson ending.  In the beginning, it’s a bit of trial and error but you can find the time.

Training Plan

Next is the equipment needed for training. Rest assured it does not take fancy, expensive equipment to start training.  You need a good pair of training shoes, comfortable clothes and space. As I mentioned earlier, a grassy spot, open field or local park would suffice in addition to your home.  There are many gym options that offer $10-month memberships if you prefer but a gym is not a necessity.  I will also mention a few pieces of multi-purpose equipment I use regularly in a bit. My focus will be on training outside or at home from this point forward.

Now for the training plan. Sign-up for a Spartan Workout of the Day (WOD), or Spartan offers a “Couch to Sprint” Training plan which you can get for free from Spartan.com. It’s a great place to start as the exercises suggested focus on skills needed to complete the various obstacles. Again start slow and trust me you really, really can do this.  I had no idea where to start so I can imagine what is racing thru your mind.   Sign-up for your free Spartan Workout of the Day (WOD) or “Couch to Sprint” Training plan.

Training and Proper Technique

If you would rather do this on your own, bodyweight exercises are the best place to start. This type of exercise is great for everyone from beginner to experienced individuals. Focus on proper technique and form before deciding to add weight. Something I learned a bit late is without proper technique injuries are very common.  This inhibits progress as the gains made will fade during recovery. Bodyweight exercises mimic the activities you will encounter during a race. Pushups, lunges, squats, and burpees are all part of a Spartan Race.  Beginning with bodyweight are easy to incorporate into your routine.

Knowing proper technique for a pushup, lung or squat is critical. I cannot emphasize this enough. The links below are great resources for learning proper technique.  If you are confident in the videos and instructions you should not need a personal trainer. Nothing is worse than starting your training program getting injured early on.  I recommend finding a qualified coach to change a technique and learn the correct form for your situation if you have any health concerns.

https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/exercise-library

https://darebee.com/exercises.html

https://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/

After mastering the bodyweight exercises you are ready to up your game. By adding weight, the increased resistance will build muscle, endurance and durability. In turn you will have improved performance during a race and help prevent injury.

Adding Weight to Your Excercises

There are some basic pieces of equipment I recommend which are multi-purpose:

If you are spending money on equipment you want to feel it was a worthwhile investment.

What I like about the Hyper Vest Pro Weight Vest and the Hyper Sandbell Free Weights is they are so versatile.  During my run I add the vest to make the resistance harder and it really pushes my endurance and cardio to the next level. The first time I ran with it, I only added 5-lbs of weight to test the waters.  Boy, did my legs notice the difference.  I gradually added weight and my performance improved as I consistently ran with the vest.  When I finally ran without the vest, I had plenty of power to run up those hills. That is when I realized the importance of a weight vest.

The other piece of equipment I love is the Hyperwear Sandbell Free Weights. They challenge many muscle groups in one exercise as I work to maintain proper form. Use them in the same manner as a set of dumbbells to work core, leg, back and arm muscles. I also love the fact they will not damage floors when dropped and work great for sandbell slams.

Are You Ready?

So, are you ready take on your first Spartan Race? Sign-up for the Spartan Workout of the Day. Find those small windows of time do pushups or squats while on your next conference call. Take stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Park in the last parking space away from the stores you visit.  the Hyper Vest Pro Weight Vest and the Hyperwear Sandbell Free Weights

Remember, you are not crazy even if your family thinks you are.  You CAN do this.  You REALLY, REALLY can.  It is scary taking on something that is out of your comfort zone.

 

Remember You Can Do More Than You Think!

Why I prefer the Hyper Vest Pro for my training?

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

In 2015 when I was training for my first Spartan Race, I read all I could on obstacle course races and training.  When it came to running and the steep inclines I was trying to figure out what could take me to the next level so I did quite research on wearing a weight vest.  Everything I read suggested by adding weight to my run that I would see an improvement in leg endurance and strength.  I was on a hunt for the vest I could use not only for runs but in other parts of my workout as well.

I discovered the Hyper Vest Pro on one of the Spartan Race updates which piqued my interest.  What drew me to the Hyper Vest Pro are several factors.  First, putting it on is as simple as putting the vest like a jacket and zip it up.  There are not the various Velcro straps that require one to strap and unstrap to get the right fit.  Also, the sides have adjustable nylon pull strings so you can synch it to fit even more snug for those exercises where your lower body is higher than your upper body not allowing it to ride up. Who likes a vest falling into your face around your head while you are trying to focus on technique and it just gets in the way.

Second, the weight is adjustable with smaller incremental increases and more even placement.  As you increase weight you can do so slowly. The optional 5-lb Booster Pack comes with 45 1.78-ounce ¼” plates allow you to position the more to your midline in front or back where as other vests allow for larger weight jumps and off center placement feeling too much weight on one side. All vests come with 10-lbs to start and vary in how much additional weight can be added.  I like this feature as adding 2.5-lbs to a workout can be a lot of extra weight depending on the exercises chosen.

Third, the Hyper Vest Pro material is more pliable, breathable, quick drying and not stiff or as abrasive compared to the nylon and Velcro material of other vests.  The vest sits comfortably without chaffing.  It fits more like clothes to your body shape and type wearing well under a t-shirt or other clothing like a running jacket or other protective layers.

Now I do need to mention what some may call the downsides of this particular vest.  First, it’s a bit pricy compared to other options but its unique in design and fit.  Second, while most vests offer single plate or 2.5-lbs weight blocks to increase load, the weights themselves are small 1.78-ounce weights that fit into small pockets and there are a lot of pockets.  Taking them out to wash the vest is definitely time consuming and not quite as easy as I would like. And finally, while the material is more pliable and breathable, it does wear faster than say a 500D Nylon vest.  I have corners around the weights wearing thru but I have used my vest (picture above) 3-times a week for various types of exercises running and on the floor or for added resistance during my HIIT workouts since I have owned it which is going on 2-years.

When it comes to deciding on a vest the Hyper Vest Pro  wins in my book.  The comfort is superb; it’s versatile and has the potential to improve functional body strength and athletic performance for your next obstacle course race.

On another note, the Holidays are coming and you can get: Free Shipping on $99 or More

So funny story….

The first Spartan Race my husband and I signed up for was the Ohio Beast.  We had not raced in anything more strenuous than a Warrior Dash prior to signing up for a Spartan Race but we were looking for a new challenge. Or, I should say I was.  We are not elite athletes, we both have full-time 9-5 jobs with 4-children and all that goes with it.  Our workout schedule was sporadic at best, not anything that prepares a person to run even a Spartan Sprint.

 

When we signed up for our first race, we thought we had selected the Sprint until we received the email notification it was the Beast.  We thought briefly about switching but decided ‘What they Hey…” let’s do this.  We did not know what we were getting ourselves into in the slightest.  That was 2-years ago and I am so glad we didn’t change our minds.

 

Since then, in that same year 2015 when we did our first Spartan Race, we also accomplished our first Trifecta.  This year in 2017, we achieved our Double Trifecta.  Each races pushes me to try harder, train harder to do less burpees and be a better me.

 

Remember – You Can Do More Than You Think!

Deb

How to train for or simulate the running part of a Spartan Race if you are new to obstacle course racing

We finished our Beast, our very first Spartan Race, and my knees and ankles were so achy and sore.  Some of the other racers suggested mountain biking trails as they tend to offer up trail obstacles you will encounter during a Spartan Race. Living in South East Michigan I could not imagine finding anything with crazy hills, logs, boulders, water obstacles, etc. I started asking friends and some who enjoy mountain biking, they gave me a few suggestions of local trails they like. I also found a few apps/websites you will find helpful locating some decently challenging trails.

AllTrails.com.is a pretty nice site as you can search all over the U.S. for trails that will be near you or a destination are visiting. It provides some nice topographical maps, comments provided from other trail riders/runners and you can print maps if you like to keep one handy in your pack.  In addition there is an android/IOS apps you can download your maps to and take along the trail.

MTBProject.com (Mountain Bike Trails Project) is similar to AllTrails.com but is a part of the REI Co-Op. I like this site/app to. It provides elevation details, pictures other trail users have uploaded and maps.  There is a virtual tour option that provides a simulated view of using the trail.  It’s a little cartoony but maybe someone will come up with a Google Maps version soon where someone riding the trail will give a similar view.

Let’s say you live in Florida, Illinois or North Dakota which is quite flat in terms of elevation.  We have used what we call ‘Miracle Miles’ to work on cardio and leg strength for getting up the hilly terrain of a Spartan Race.  What is a ‘Miracle Mile’ you ask?  Find your local high school football field that is open to the public. Basically run the Home side of bleachers, zig-zagging up and down the aisles. At the end of the last aisle, hit the track over to the visitor-side and run the bleachers there in the same manner, again running the track over to the home-side bleachers.

I hope I have given you some ideas where to look for your local trails and an option if trails are not available.

Remember – You Can Do More Than You Think!

Deb

Today is a great day for a run

Love Fall!  The cooler temperatures make for a nice run.  Maybe will throw in some bucket carries too.

 

Proud Mom!

Katie’s Form
Excitement as she hit the target.
Kenzie’s Form
Technique and execution, perfect!

 

 

 

 

 

So I wanted to share this with everyone as a Mom, and a Spartan Race lover, I was excited my younger girls wanted to join me in practice today.  Both killed it with Mom’s Birthday gift which was a set of spears and a target setup.

Proud Mom!

Goals – Less Burpees and More Endurance

I struggle with the Rope Climb, Monkey Bars, Multi-Rig, Twister, Ape Hanger and Spear Throw that all require a great deal of upper body strength.  So as I mentioned in my last post, my goal is to strengthen my upper body to learn better technique to minimize my total burpee count.
I have started training at Applied Fitness Solutions.  They offer personal training in a much different format than what others offer.  Nate and Trent, actually everyone I have met at the Rochester Hills location, are great.  They listened to my goals and structured a program I hope will help me achieve a stronger upper body. 
Along with that I ran across a group while running at a local park a few weeks ago. Move-It Fitness is southeast Michigan’s trail running destination, offering everything from 5K to 50K races in Shelby Township and Rochester Hills.  This will definitely boost my running endurance, leg strength.  I have not participated in one of their races yet but almost got run over by a few that were faster than me. 

My Family is Awesome!!!!!

I know many husbands (and their children) have been told to NOT get their significant other anything related to weight-loss, fitness, etc.  I set this wives-tale straight some time ago.  I was more than blessed on this birthday with my family giving Spears with a DIY Spear Throw Target to practice my throws for my training.  I was beyond excited as this is one of the Spartan Race obstacles that is my nemesis.  I have made it once in the past 11-races and the Spear throw has the highest failure rate as well. While I should accept that many others fail, I just cannot.  I need to work on all obstacles where I need to improve.

 

Excited to practice my spear throws over the next 9 or so months until our next race.

Double Trifecta Success!

 

Our Double Trifecta is in the books! Yayyy!  The last two races were tough, Michigan Super and Sprint.  It’s not that the layout and terrain was all that tough, well those stairs were killer, it was the time we allowed ourselves in between the West Virginia Beast and the Michigan races, only 2-weeks. 

For some of you this maybe no issue however for us it was just not enough time to recover from West Virginia to the back-to-back race weekend of Michigan.  Our 2017 season is now behind us for recovery and to get stronger.  In the coming months, I will continue to train in an effort to do less burpees! 🙂

Aroo!
Deb