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“Challenge” Review: Tough Mudder Miami

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Tough Mudder has been taking lots of heat and deservedly so for changing the date of the Boston event.  Even more criticism has come their way by scheduling the New England Mudder on the same weekend as the Spartan Sprint at Amesbury.  Add their high prices paired with bully behavior and many Spahtens have written off Tough Mudder for 2013 and beyond.  In my opinion, that could be a mistake.

Here’s what you see and experience at a Tough Mudder:

  • Money spent on the festival area and the course
  • A lengthy 10-12 mile course that is pure fun other than electrocution
  • Take a break from burpee penalties
  • Mandatory assistance to/from fellow mudders
  • Excellent spectator access to obstacles at many parts of the course
  • A large variety of obstacles, with new and unique additions built for 2013 (see pics)
  • Humerous and motivational signage throughout the course
  • The best pre-race starting line pep talk
  • Very well supported courses with water, bananas, oranges, energy gel chews (6 stations in Miami, only 2 had just water)
  • Protein bars, bananas, beer, and water at the finish line
  • Schwag bag with tech shirt, protein bars and energy gels courtesy of CLIFF
  • Foil blankets (race temps were in the 50s, which is freezing for South Florida)

The Miami event took place on March 3rd & 4th at the Homestead Miami Speedway.  One week’s time made a huge difference in weather.  It was cold, cloudy and windy, the exact opposite of the Spartan super a week earlier.  Despite that, TM made good use of the venue both inside and outside the racetrack.  Athletes ran on the racetrack, pit stop areas, burm top, and the surrounding fields.  The festival area, start and finish were located inside the track.  Although there were no trails, the 11+ miles were extremely fun and loaded with approximately 25 obstacles that were a refreshing change to my recent Spartan runs.

My only negative issue was the two obstacles that provided electric shocks.  The crawling “Electric Eel” zapped me 6-10 times and the “Electroshock Therapy” took out my buddy.  The shocks appeared to be much stronger and more  frequent than my last TM.

I too was disappointed that the 5/11 Boston event was moved to another date.  I negotiated pre-approval with my wife and I was ready to book travel pending the venue announcement.  I’m not a competitive runner, so the TM suits me well.  You get a solid distance to thoroughly enjoy conversation-paced jogging with your crew and fellow mudders.  The TM is a great event to share with friends, teammates, and comrades over a few hours.  My advice:  Do a TM when it makes financial sense and never regret the decision.  You will have a fantastic time with your mates.  I look forward to seeing many of you at the Ruckus!

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At home training program

Not everyone can make it to Harvard for Monday night training. Not everyone can make it to the local Crossfit box 4 times a week. Many folks can’t even get to the gym.

We hear you. We’re still going to make you a better human. A better athlete. A better racer, competitor, fitter, stronger and faster. And you can do it at home, with no big equipment lists.

We’ll provide the tools, and the education, and the details – you just provide yourself with some time in the day, and the desire to be better. 


Before we get into it – a huge thanks to Robert Gagnon, of Robert Gagnon Fitness Systems and Xtreme Fitness NH for programming this and filming all the movements – he’s worked very hard to put this together, and it wouldn’t have happened without him!

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This works very simply:

  • Step 1 – pick the kind of workout you want to do from the Workout Templates.
  • Step 2 – print your worksheet out and put on your Spahten shirt. Find and fill out the worksheets below.
  • Step 3 – pick your movements, add them to your worksheet (videos may start PAUSED) and watch the videos to learn the correct form – Movements Explained.
  • Step 4 – Workout, get sweaty, burn calories, be stronger, faster, fitter.
  • Step 5 – Repeat. Frequently.

We’ve included some benchmark Crossfit workouts (WODs) that don’t need any gear – more will come. If you need help scaling these, just shout.

You will also need a timer, a free online timer can be found here – and if you need help on using it, here you go.

Super circuit long worksheet
Super circuit short worksheet
Tabata couplets worksheet 
10 to 1 worksheet
AMRAP worksheet

If you need help, have questions, or want to give Rob big props for the work - hop into the Spahten Elite Fitness group on Facebook.

Robert put together a fantastic video walk through on how this program works, and how you can effectively use it to build your own training program – recommended watching if you want to make this as effective as possible

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Miami Spartan Super 2/23/2013

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Read the team reviews!

The second Spartan Super of 2013 arrived in North Miami this weekend. 80+ degree temps, high humidity, ample sunshine, and a powerful  UV index were in abundance.  This event holds unique importance to me because it marks the one year anniversary of my introduction to obstacle course running.  I didn’t participate in Miami Spartan 2012, but some friends did.  Their pictures ignited an obstacle race Google search and I quickly went from beginner to enthusiast.  Now, a year later, I was eager to meet a handful of robust fellow enthusiasts representing the NE Spahtens who made the journey seeking tropical spartan glory.

Oleta River State Park requires a 5-10 minute shuttle from a separate parking location just like Amesbury. The shuttle bus actually drove under a cargo net bridge created by the stacks of two by two cargo containers. Athletes were rolling over the top of the net as shuttles passed through underneath.  The festival area seemed tight and chaotic at times, but any tent/service I needed was utilized in a timely manner. Free samples of coconut water, protein bars/drinks, etc. we’re notably absent or were hidden.

The 8.3 mile course highlighted the South Florida inshore ecosystem of bays, estuaries, mangroves, seagrapes, pine, bamboo, and limestone. Several miles of mountain bike trails meandered through the forest. Here’s the list of obstacles in order thanks to a spectator map:

  • Under over under over walls
  • Water crossing via bay
  • Over under through walls
  • Monkey Bars
  • Water crossing with buoy line
  • 7 foot walls
  • 6 foot walls
  • Rolling mud (trenches)
  • Tractor Pull
  • Sandbag carry
  • Cargo net bridge
  • Atlas lift (lift large chuck of concrete, walk, 5 burpees, lift and return)
  • 8 foot walls
  • Tire flip (three over and three back)
  • Hercules hoist
  • Bucket hoist (repel down embankment, fill three homer buckets, spill H2O, climb back up)
  • Rope climb
  • Traverse wall
  • Mud crawl under barbed-wire
  • Slippery wall
  • Gladiator pit

Spectators had excellent access to the final five obstacles as well as a walking trail to view others.  I was pleased to complete all of the obstacles with zero penalty burpees.  I did complete 30 “team” burpees for the two locals I ran with.  I also learned a valuable lesson:  Don’t make Spartan races any harder than necessary.  For example, I chose the one XL tire because I was impatient.  The body strain nearly left me with a soprano voice and sent me to the OR to repair soft tissue tears.

I found it difficult to  partition my time among several local factions, the traveling Spahtens, and my family.  I look forward to seeing new and familiar Spahtens as we travel around the globe seeking new challenges.  Thank you to Keith (solid man), Nele (Naila-friendly beast), Corrine (sweet soul), Tom (proud dad), Ellen (cat who swallowed canary smile), Betty (saw her for a second), and Yvette (self-proclaimed bag crasher).  I’ll see you at the Ruckus!

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Superhero Scramble Race Review #Miami January 12, 2013

The Superhero Scramble set up camp at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, FL, which I consider to be the Amesbury of Miami.  It has become the venue of choice for the 3-6 mile obstacle course events.  There’s onsite parking ($10) just off the entrance, which provides a very short walk to the festival area with car access if you need it.  The various lakes, open fields, and extensive mountain bike trails provide the necessary terrain for quality runs.

Registration and bag check ($5) appeared smooth for those who used them.  I took advantage of offsite packet pickup, which always speeds up race day.

The festival area included sponsor tents, merchandise, a live band, and access to the final handful of obstacles.  I did not take advantage of the bevy of local food trucks, but was impressed with their menus.  Grass-fed beef & bison burgers and other gourmet fare were available.  The large shade tents provided for spectators were both smart and effective.

The Superhero Scramble did not disappoint those who came to see costumes.  They were ample.  My kids liked Gumby most and everyone from the Hall of Justice was represented.  There were also a few villains and many teams in non-hero themed matching outfits.

The race kicked off a midst a green smoke grenade.  Here were the obstacles I conquered:

  • Barbed wire crawl
  • Pile of tires to traverse
  • Water crossing via tunnel
  • Leap of Faith jump into lake
  • Water crossing via wire balance
  • Rock climbing walls 10′ or 5′
  • Net climb up a trail hill
  • Pair of 8′ walls
  • Over under through walls
  • 5 gallon bucket of water carry
  • Rope climb with thick rope and generous knots between a pair of double stacked shipping containers
  • US Marines section with 10 burpees, low crawl, baby crawl & 15 reps of ammo box press
  • Cargo net suspended by a pair of double stacked shipping containers
  • “Hell Freezes Over” small fire jump immediately followed by a low crawl through freezing water
  • Steep angled wall climb with knotted and unknotted rope (your choice)
  • Water slide into green slime with questionable viscosity
  • Mud crawl under very low barbed wire
  • Run into a US Marine holding kickboxing pad

I had a wonderful time running with an unofficial team of veteran runners and first timers.  The Superhero Scramble course was not outside the box, but was loads of fun.  I strongly recommend you add the Superhero Scramble to calendar in 2013.  They look like they are gaining traction in the OCR world.  Go experience the scramble for yourself June 8th in Amesbury.

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Bodybuilding, Racing & Its Nutrition

The last two Spartan Races I’ve ran, some people have watched me walk in with a giant bag filled with compartments, trays, drink holders, and enough food to feed a small army lunch. My 6-Pack-Bag has helped me through numerous occasions when it calls for more than the average lunch box. Normally I’m prepping food Sunday night for the next couple days, burning through precisely measured meals in no time. On a normal day I’m on schedule from the second I wake up, to the second I go to sleep. Race days are no exception for me. If anything, it’s more important to come prepared.

Diet this, and diet that. Nutrition is a key to success when it comes down to it, especially during race and bodybuilding season. When you’re diet is on the right track you see and feel the results. Each athlete has a way to obtain certain results. I know from personal experience that staying on the right track can give huge strength gains, increase endurance, and help stay cut. My weeks take a lot of focus. Just for maintaining what I have calls for at least 170g of protein alone. When training season comes along to build calls for double that. There are plenty of tricks to make sure you don’t cause damage through out the day. If you’re someone who is looking to gain muscle, striving for 1.5g of protein per pound of body weight is a good place to start. Going catabolic is our biggest enemy. There are certain points in our day when we hit this point. The second you wake up is one of them. Immediately put some protein in your system and put a stop to the process. Over training is another problem that will cause you to go into this stage. Having meals every 3 hours will not only keep your metabolism going, but also keep you from entering catabolism.

I’ve come to realize that my routine never changes. All the hard work I put in to bodybuilding pays off during my obstacle course races. You only get better over time. Lucky for you, I have two people in my life that do both just like myself. Both of these women have helped me to put this naughty baby to bed, and show you it is possible for people like us to compete in both realms. You just have to be willing to put in the extra work.

Tabitha Sierra is a WBFF Pro, a certified personal trainer, and health coach. I know from her coaching me, that this woman knows her stuff. She’s nothing but dedicated to what she does. Recently Tabitha entered in to the Men’s Health Urbanathlon, where she placed 23rd out of 44 in her age group. I asked her about the changes she goes through from competition prep to race prep and no shock to me; her response was exactly what I hoped for. “I really don’t change much. I enjoy racing but I only do it during off-season. I make sure not to over train and to eat enough not to jeopardize my muscle…” Now with every race we run sadly there does come a risk at jeopardizing muscle size. The longer the run the more catabolic we’ll get. She later goes on to stress the importance of taking BCAAs. For those of you who don’t know, these BCAAs, or Branch Chain Amino Acids, help preserve lean muscle while preventing catabolism. It’s a tool that is essential and should be a part of everyone’s arsenal. With each challenge comes certain levels of difficulty, so Tabitha shared her feelings on the level of difficulty for people to do both body build and race.

She said, “it’s not difficult if the timing is right. I think that you can do both but to excel at one, you have to ultimately decide which you want to pursue. Racing is great fun and a good way to stay healthy in the off season, but physique competitions are my focus”

Now, Erin Holly, a woman I’ve met through my first bodybuilding competition, was kind enough to give me her input also. From the second I had the pleasure of meeting her, we had 2 things in common – Spartan Racing & Bodybuilding. Erin has done 20 plus races in the past couple of years and recently broke into the Obstacle Course Runs like the rest of us. We had the pleasure of running together at the most recent Tri-State Super Spartan, now not to brag or anything, she killed it. She took 15th female out of 970+ and 155th out of 3,500+ that competed that day. When it comes to Bodybuilding, in her last three NPC shows she took 6th, 6th, and 3rd! When Erin is getting ready to hit the Figure stage, it’s all about dropping body fat and building up muscle. “…From dropping fat and putting on muscle, it has actually helped my racing.” She said. The most difficult thing when it comes down to dropping body fat is the diet. Erin’s coach helps to make sure that her nutrition is dialed in and on point while she’s preparing for competition and taking on these races.

Erin gave me one last bit of information that I couldn’t agree more with. “Anyone who wants to run obstacle races, I strongly suggest weight training. When I do these races, everyone’s pushing crossfit and telling me why conventional weight lifting isn’t practical. Then I beat all these people…don’t be afraid to lift people! You’ll only get stronger.”

Both of these women had a lot to say. Their nutrition is key to doing both running and bodybuilding. Doing it right gives them the ability to do both and do it well. They’ve both given me an understanding of why we do what we do. They’re proud. They’re strong. Most of all they’re passionate about what they do. It’s possible to succeed in both no questions about it, but really making an impact on one takes some focus.

“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” – Gail Devers

WOD: Strength Training

I know we all love to run, but Strength will come in handy when we’re pushing through obstacles we encounter so get started on building some up!

Warm up: 20 Wide Grip Chin ups, 20 Wide Push Ups, 20 Single Leg Squats.

3 Sets of 6-12 repetitions.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns

Seated Shoulder Press

Dumbbell or Hammer Strength Chest Press

Lying Tricep Extension

Standing barbell Curl

Front Squats

30 minute Step Mill

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Prepping for Spartan

2012, it’s been a year composed of challenges, motivation, and obstacles. For several months a flyer sat in the window of my hometown gym. On this flyer, there was a date, June 2nd, followed by Tri-State Spartan Sprint. Never in a million years could I have envisioned myself crawling under barbed wire, jumping walls of fire, or blasting through gladiators. With each decision to take on a new challenge comes the prep work necessary to conquer the unknown. It just so happens training every day at the intensity of contest preparation was all I needed.

On top of one new obstacle, I was well in to preparing for my first bodybuilding competition three months away. The days were long and the nights were longer. 6am Cardio, one workout in the middle of the day, and posing at night. I had absolutely no intention of throwing a Spartan Race into the mix until a friend approached me about building a team to race. I’m not someone to say no. Turning down a challenge with the mentality I have just isn’t me. Team Evolution quickly came together and the race was set in stone two months away.

Each day I trained, there were two reasons to push myself to the breaking point. I would wake up knowing I was running my first race and that i was 12 weeks out from my first bodybuilding competition. This gave new meaning to the word determination. Eight meals a day, lifting heavy, sleeping eight hours a night, no drinking, no going out, and no distractions. I was determined to give hell to both of these obstacles. Each run was important and each lift was a necessity. 6 days a week, 3 hours a day and an hour on Sunday. A grand total of 28 hours and 30 minutes spent in the gym a week, give or take. I was in the best shape of my life and could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Not going to lie, I was going into this race completely blind. What obstacles were ahead, what the terrain looked like, who would be my competition and how was i going to hold up against it all? The three members of Team Evolution ran at 7am. My adrenaline was flowing. My body was pumped. As I stood at the starting line and listened to the sound of Spartans in the air, in came a team of Hurricane Heaters. I ran down the line as the smoke grenades went off slapping hands and hugging each person in front of me. They gave me hope, and lit the fire under me. Then there was just the mountain and myself.

It was only until 8:23 am June 2, that I realized how important all of the preparation I was doing had paid off. Each pull up, each push up, all the burpees, all the heavy lifting, and high intensity work outs made each obstacle leave a feeling of satisfaction afterwards. I pushed myself harder than I ever dreamed to be able to complete the course. No matter how difficult the path was, knowing I could do it meant anyone on the course had what it took to do what I’m doing. The Sand bag carry at the last mile was never ending. My legs were destroyed but my mind over came that. Seeing someone struggling as I pushed up the hill just led me to motivate them, “Keep Pushing, you can do it.” I said this not only for her but for myself as well. It made me push so much harder to get to the end.

Crossing the finish line bloody, tired, and muddy left the most incredible feeling of accomplishment. From that moment on, I knew there were more races in my future. My training was on point. Knowing there was no obstacle that could stand in my way from that point on meant what I did was right. There is no reason anyone should not be able to accomplish any obstacle. Determination will create an unbreakable desire to achieve your dream.

“I’ve never known anybody to achieve anything without overcoming adversity.”
—Lou Holtz

WOD 1: 3 Sets, 8 exercises. 2 body parts. 2 minute rest between sets. rep range 8-12.

  1.  Incline Bench Press (Hammer Strength or Free Weight)
  2. Flat Bench Dumbbell Press
  3. Decline Dumbbell Press
  4. Incline Dumbbell Flies
  5. Cable Flies
  6. Super Set – TRX Pushups & Dips (Weighted will be harder)
  7. Rope Tricep Extension
  8. Single Arm Tricep Pull Down Extension

Finish with 30 minutes of Cardio: 2 minute warm up, 30 second sprint, 30 second slow pace. Repeat till the 28 minute mark and finish with a 2 minute cool down. Mileage is not important.

Let Your Fire Burn Bright – Stay Motivated. Determined. & Inspired.