Through the month of February, our athletes were raising donations for Carmichael Outreach, a local organization working tirelessly to end poverty and homelessness. To help motivate others to donate, we promised that one of our athletes would run a 50 meter sprint up Mount Pleasant for every item donated.
After everything was counted, our athletes were able to raise an outstanding 2,070 items! From frozen meat and canned goods to warm winter coats and blankets. With every item going to help someone in need in our community, our team was able to do a lot of good through this challenge.
On Saturday, February 25th, it was time for us to uphold our end of the bargain. Our team gathered at the hill at 9:30 am, warmed-up, and ran hill sprints for four hours.
And it was every bit the mental challenge I had hoped for.
This challenge, first and foremost, was about giving back to the community and helping those in need. Giving back is a huge part of who we are and what we believe in. It’s what we choose to do with our fitness.
But challenges like this also help to push our athletes out of their comfort zone. After completing a challenge like this they realize they are capable of much more than they thought they were. This new found confidence helps them not only in their fitness and athletic training, but in all aspects of their life.
And if you don’t believe me, go and run 185 fifty-meter sprints up a 30 degree incline like Matt Yarnton did. Then tell me you haven’t changed a little bit.
By 2:00 that day, the eighteen of us managed to run a total of 2,191 sprints.
We fought through muscle cramps and sore legs, and are still walking a little funny, but it was worth it.
Having the freedom and ability to train and play the way we do is a privilege. Sometimes this is easy to forget. Through challenges like this we try to remind ourselves of just how good we have it.
Sure, running over 2,100 hill sprints is tough. But nowhere near as tough as battling homelessness, living in poverty, or fighting an addiction.
This challenge would not have been possible without the commitment and support of the following Conviction Fitness athletes:
Ryan Holota, Jess Irvine, Samira Nadoroznick, Divyesh Patel, Ara Steininger, Clayton Bakke, Nick Dalrymple, Murray Musqua, Wayne Morin, Troy Gabel, Linsay Kwiatkowski, Cynthia Fiori, Adnan Khandoker, Amanda Isted, Tiff Hersak, Matt Yarnton, Evan Zolc, and Nisa Ahmed.
Another huge thank you to Loraas Disposal for donating the use of a portable toilet during our hill sprints. It was much appreciated!!!
The past two Decembers our athletes completed the “Food Bank Beast” by raising donations for the Regina Food Bank, then carrying them all the way from our gym to drop them off in person. During this past December’s event we carried over 1,100 pounds of food 20 kilometers.
Now this Saturday, February 25th, we will be taking on our first “Help Out With Hill Sprints” challenge.
Our athletes are currently raising donations of food, clothing, and small appliances to help people in our community that are struggling with addictions, poverty, health issues, and overwhelming life crisis.
As an incentive to get people to help out, one of our athletes will complete a 50 meter Hill Sprint for every item donated to our challenge.
We are hoping to raise well over 2,000 items for the Outreach Center – which is going to result in a lot of hill sprints for our 14 athletes.
We have no idea how long this challenge will take, but we’ll be there until it’s done. And while we leave beaten, battered, and bruised, we’ll keep in mind how lucky and privileged we are – not only are we able to train for and compete in sports and activities that we love, but we also have a safe place and warm food to come home to.
Not everyone is so lucky.
What we’re doing with this challenge is nothing spectacular. It’s just our small way of helping out in the community. It’s part of who we are and what we believe in. It’s what we choose to do with our fitness.
We don’t train hard, eat right, and treat our bodies with respect for our own vanity. Our goal isn’t to stand on stage in a swimsuit or take shirtless selfies. We do it to be better people, and to help make this world a better place.
As Georges Hébert, the creator of the Natural Method (one of the biggest influences of today’s Parkour), said back in the 1900’s: “Être fort pour être utile” – Be strong to be useful.
Most people wouldn’t carry a frozen turkey over 20 kilometers through -40 °C windchill. But Divyesh Patel isn’t most people.
December 17th marked Divyesh’s second go at our annual Food Bank Beast. He was an integral part in helping us reach our goal this year. Divyesh raised just shy of 100 pounds, and carried much more than that, during the 12 mile hike.
Maybe he felt pressure to perform big, as he’s the Board Chair for the Regina Food Bank. But more than likely his willingness to step up was just because that’s the type of person he is.
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Divyesh for over seven years now. Never once have I seen him give anything less than his all. It doesn’t matter what the task is, he’s going to give you everything he’s got.
Not only is he the hardest worker in the room, but his ability to make everyone around him better is something I truly admire.
Besides training with us all year long, Divyesh also played soccer, walleyball, and hockey. He completed his first Spartan Super in July and ran a strong 12.5 km lap for our team at the Deadfall 50 Relay this past October.
An all around great guy, Divyesh is one of the most fun, and motivating, people you’ll ever be around. And we couldn’t be happier to have him.
Not too often does an athlete reach the World level in their first year of competition. But that’s exactly what Cynthia Fiori did in 2016.
After running her very first Spartan Race in May, Cynthia represented her country in the Spartan World Championships in Lake Tahoe just five months later.
Cynthia started training with us this summer after having qualified for the World Championships on her own. As a former NCAA soccer player, she knew the value in training alongside a team of dedicated individuals and wanted to be ready for Tahoe.
She ran hills. Dragged cinder blocks. Walked along slack lines. Carried salt bags. Wrestled with sand bags. And trained like an animal.
After months of hard work and dedication, not only did Cynthia finish what was one of the most difficult courses in Spartan history (an estimated 20% did not finish the World Championship race), but she finished an outstanding 30th in her age group!
Qualifying for the Spartan Race World Championships is a huge accomplishment. Finishing 30th in her age group is incredible. But throw in the fact that Cynthia battles Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis and her story becomes nothing short of inspirational.
But on September 17, one athlete achieved something none of us had even attempted before – completing a 50 km Ultra Trail Marathon.
Just a couple of years ago Cody Wilkes wasn’t in great shape and wanted to make a change. He started running and eating better, and started to see some results.
He quickly fell in love with running and signed up for a few events. In 2015 he ran some local trail races and a couple of Spartan Races, in addition to playing ultimate frisbee two night a week for six straight months.
If you would have told Cody in 2014 that in less than two years he would not only complete an Ultra Marathon, but that he would finish 11th overall, he might have laughed at you. But that’s exactly what he did.
Cody wanted to make a change and dedicated himself to the process. He found something he loved and chased it.
And the best part is, Cody is nowhere near his potential. With consistent training and dedication, there’s no telling where the sport of Trail Running will take him.
Congratulations, Cody. Our first Ultra Marathon Man!
Our August Athlete of the Month may be soft spoken, but she’s a huge inspiration to her three kids, and everyone on our team.
Michelle shows up, works hard, and let’s her actions do the talking for her.
I’ve seen Michelle warm up with her youngest on her back and stop mid-workout to help another child out of a tree, all as though it was part of the plan.
While most parents, unfortunately, use their children as an excuse as to why they have “no time to workout”, Michelle is dedicated to improving herself, and makes it happen. She works out with her kids and shows them what it means to be a strong, healthy person.
Even with three children (four when you include her husband), Michelle consistently trains with us two to three times per week. She’s got every excuse in the world to skip training, but she never does.
Michelle started training with us in March in preparation for her first Spartan Race – the 2016 Montana Sprint. After having a blast in the mountains she quickly signed up for the next one. Michelle went on to run in Edmonton in June, Manitoba in July, and is heading to Red Deer this weekend for her first Super/Sprint weekend!
Michelle was also a member of our Casino Regina Charity Championship team this month. We were able to win the Charity Championship – and $10,000 for Ignite Adult Learning Corporation, in large part because of her efforts that day. Michelle ran second for our team in the four person relay and had every race basically won by the time she finished her leg. Ignite owes her a big thank-you 😉
Michelle is a very generous, hard working, selfless individual and we’re extremely lucky to have her.
Whoo Whooooo! Our July client of the month is one of a kind!
Matt Yarnton may just be the most supportive and encouraging person you’ll ever meet. When times get tough, we all count on Matt to brighten the mood and help get us through.
But there is so much more to Matt than just a wonderful smile and encouraging words.
Matt is one hell of an athlete.
Matt joined our Winter Warriors program last October as he wanted to take on a Spartan Race this year. He realized that if he wanted to succeed in reaching his goal he needed to start training right away. Not “sometime in the future” or “when the weather is nice”, but immediately.
Even though his work schedule had him out of town every second week, Matt committed and trained like an animal every chance he got. When he was away from Winter Warriors sessions, Matt was completing the training plan described in Predator.
He wanted to complete a Spartan Race and refused to let any obstacle stand in his way.
Fast forward 10 months….
After training through everything from freezing temperatures and blizzards to insane heat and thunderstorms, Matt is the definition of Spartan.
Not only has he destroyed his goal of completing a Spartan Race, but Matt is now a member of the coveted Trifecta Tribe – having completed a Spartan Race of each distance – Sprint, Super, and Beast, in one calendar year.
And sure, finishing all these races is a huge accomplishment, but there’s more to the story. Matt isn’t just finishing these races, he’s winning them.
Running your first Spartan Race is intimidating. You’ll be excited, nervous, and wondering what, exactly, you’ve gotten yourself into.
What you eat, how you dress, when you arrive and warm-up all play an important role in how enjoyable your race will be. The following tips and information will help you be as ready as possible come race day.
What to Expect
You can expect to be challenged.
You will be running through the roughest terrain they can find. Through mud, possibly water, up hills, down hills, through tall grass and trees. While these “natural obstacles” like hills and streams do not count as obstacles they will be a major factor during the race.
The obstacles you will encounter will vary. You can expect to crawl under barbed wire, climb over walls, swing across monkey bars, carry heavy things, throw a spear or two, and much more. Some will be skill based (e.g. spear throw and rope climb) while others are completely based on strength and grit (e.g. sandbag carry and bucket brigade).
Some obstacles, most of the heavy carries for example, are mandatory. This means if you want your finisher medal and t-shirt, you’re going to need to finish these obstacles. No matter how long they take.
Other obstacles, such as the monkey bars and spear throw, result in a 30 burpee penalty if you fail to complete them. You do not get to retry these obstacles.
To get a good idea of what the obstacles look like, check out our video of the 2016 Montana Beast:
You will get dirty. Very dirty. But there will be a place to, literally, hose off afterward. It’s a good idea to bring a change of clothes and plastic bag (for your soaking wet, dirty clothes) for the ride home.
Depending on who you are and which race you are doing, it will take you anywhere from 40 minutes up to nine or ten hours. You can usually look at the page for your particular race on the Spartan.com website and see what the fastest times will be. That will give you a good idea, but keep in mind, there are some reallyfast people out there. So plan accordingly.
There will be a bag check available for about $5, cash. It’s a great option for leaving your change of clothes, wallet, car keys, phone, etc.behind while you go out and have fun.
There will also be a small festival area with a variety of vendors, some food trucks, and (sometimes) a beer garden. Hanging out in the festival area after crushing your race is one of the best parts of the experience.
What to Wear
When it comes to Spartan Race and mud runs, less is definitely more – the less clothing you have on the more enjoyable your experience will be.
Make sure whatever clothes you do decide to wear are tight and breathable. Shirts are optional. Many people, myself included, run in nothing but compression shorts and socks. Several women run in their sports bras.
Avoid cotton, polyester, and anything else that will soak up and retain water.
Some people wear gloves during the race, but they quickly find out they’re useless. Wear them if you’re worried about scratching your hands a bit, but as far as grip goes, your gloves will be mud-soaked and slippery. Your best bet is to leave the gloves at home.
As far as footwear goes, obstacle racing has come a long way. There are now shoes made specifically for obstacle racing, such as the Reebok All Terrain series. A good pair of trail running shoes, such as the Salomon SpeedCross, will also work. However, if you aren’t ready to invest in shoes specifically for your race, a pair of regular running shoes will suffice.
Whichever shoes you wear will get filthy, but they’ll come clean.
One thing to keep in mind – whatever you start the race with, you must finish it with. There is nowhere to leave clothes behind, and it’s extremely frowned upon to leave your clothes out on the trails. This is one time when dressing in layers isn’t the best option.
Oh, and leave your ipod, sunglasses, and any other accessories at home.
What to Eat
Don’t try to get cute. Our race day nutrition strategy is simple – eat the same way you have been for your training.
Stick to what you know works for you. Race day is not the time to try something new. If you’ve never tried an energy gel or carbing up the night before a big run, don’t do it now. The risk of GI distress just isn’t worth it.
If you are running a longer race, a Super or Beast for example, you’ll want to bring something with you. A reasonable goal is to get in 200 – 300 calories per hour. That’s about one energy bar per hour. While there may be aid stations through the course, they usually run out of what little nutrition they have. Be smart and bring your own.
A hydration pack, allowing you to carry your own water and nutrition, is a great option.
Again, don’t try new foods on race day! Stick to energy bars/fuels/sports drinks/etc. you’re familiar with.
What to Do When You Get There
You should receive an email from Spartan Race about a week before your race day. This is an important email filled with information on things like parking and package pick-up.
Make sure you read this email carefully, as sometimes parking is up to 30 minutes away from the actual race site. When this is the case you will need to plan ahead and account for the shuttle ride to the race venue.
You’ll want to get to the race site a good hour before your start time. This will allow for ample time to register, pick up your race pack, put your timing chip and headband on, mark yourself, and warm-up.
The first thing you’ll do when you get to the race is sign your waivers, register, and receive your race pack.
Inside your race pack, you will find a number of items. The envelope will contain, among other things, your official Spartan Headband, and a yellow wristband with a blue timing chip.
I would suggest throwing your headband on right away, and then getting a friend to assist you in putting your timing chip on. You’ll want to make sure it’s tight enough that it won’t fall off, but not so snug that it bothers you during the race.
Other items in the package may include a variety of colored wristbands and/or a free drink ticket. Do what you want with the free drink ticket, but the other bands should go on your wrist immediately. Most of the time the bands aren’t necessary, but I have seen people turned away from the start gate simply because they didn’t have their red wristband or green sweatband (indicating elite or competitive athletes) on.
As one Spartan employee stated while dozens of elites were frantically running to find their sweatband before last year’s World Championships in Lake Tahoe – “If it’s in your package, PUT IT ON!”.
Running with a couple bands around your wrist is much less stressful than frantically trying to find something 30 seconds before your heat starts. If it’s in your race pack, put it on.
Once you’ve signed in at the registration desk, have your headband, timing chip, and whatever other bands on you can head to the “Marking Station” and mark yourself with your Bib Number (i.e. the number on your Spartan Head Band). Marking yourself with your bib number will make it much easier finding your photos after the race. Spartan will send you an email letting you know that your race pictures are up a few days after the race. Click the link, type in your bib number, and check out your pictures!
How to Warm-up
Now that you’ve signed your life away, are covered in permanent marker and colorful wristbands, it’s time to warm-up.
A general rule of thumb for warming up is as follows – the shorter the race, the longer the warm-up.
If you’re running a sprint and expect to do it in under an hour, you’ll want a good 20 – 40 minutes to warm up. You’ll want to head to the start line sweaty.
If you’re running a beast, on the other hand, a 10 – 20 minute warm-up may suffice. You won’t be running as hard/long and don’t want to kill yourself warming up.
But like nutrition, do what you’d normally do before a regular training session and you’ll be fine. Don’t try to get cute.
Running the Race
If it’s your first Spartan, I wouldn’t worry too much about your finishing time. Go out there and have some fun. The experience you gain will help you during your inevitable next race (nobody does just one Spartan).
The worst thing you can do is go out guns blazing and burn yourself out. Your most difficult obstacles will usually come near the end of the race when you’re beat up and exhausted. So keep that in mind.
There are no prizes for winning the first half of a race. Be smart and pace yourself.
If you’re running in an Open Heat you and your friends are able to help each other out during obstacles. Holding hands on the balance beam, supporting each other on the traverse wall, helping each other over walls are all part of the experience. You can even share burpees should one of you fail an obstacle while the other completes it.
If you signed up for Elite or Competitive, however, you’re on your own. Simply touching another competitor during an obstacle can get you disqualified. Even if you see someone struggling, do not help them.
As dangerous as the race may seem, people rarely get hurt. If they do it’s usually just a twisted ankle or something along those lines. But should you get injured, there are tons of volunteers throughout the course that can radio in for medical assistance. Don’t be surprised, though, if one of your Spartan Brethren simply picks you up and helps carry you through the rest of the race.
No one gets left behind at a Spartan.
Once you’ve crossed the finish line you will be awarded your medal, handed a cup of water and given your finisher t-shirt. Make sure you leave your timing chip with the volunteers on the way out or you’ll be charged for it.
Go stretch out, hose off, and bask in that new sense of pride and accomplishment, Spartan.
Ok great…. But how do I train for a Spartan Race?!
That’s the million dollar question. The sport of obstacle racing is so new that, well, no one really knows the best way to train for it!
We’ve had some success with our athletes using our training methods. In fact, in 2016, over 70% of all our athletes qualified for the OCR World Championships, while 80% of our Elite Spartan Racers competed in the Spartan Race World Championships. Two of our Competitive Division athletes finished ranked 3rd and 10th overall in all of Canada.
Like I said, we don’t *REALLY* know what we’re doing, but so far it’s been working pretty well.
Have you seen that lady cycling around Regina with a HUGE smile on her face?
That’s Ara Steininger.
No matter what we throw at her, she just never stops smiling. And it’s fantastic.
Ara, who started training with us this past January, is one of the most uplifting people you’ll ever meet.
She’s an extremely hard worker and dedicated to the point where she’ll do pull-ups off of scaffolding in downtown Toronto, just so she doesn’t miss out on one of our challenges.
It never ceases to amaze me how Ara rides her bike everywhere. After our workouts, when most of us are stumbling back to our cars to drive home, Ara just hops and her bike and rides the 45 minutes home like it’s a walk in the park.
After competing in the Mountain of Hope Half-Marathon Trail Race a few weeks ago, Ara is set to take on her first Spartan Races this July in Grunthal, Manitoba. She will be running both the Super (8+ miles and 25+ obstacles) and a Sprint (3+ miles and 20+ obstacles) in just two days – a difficult task for anyone.
Ara is up for the challenge, however, as she has been working extremely hard both in and outside of our workouts.
Watch out for this one, everybody. You may just see her on the podium.
By now, most of us know we should be investing time in mobility work.
Stretching, soft tissue work, and moving our joints through their full ranges of motion not only helps to prevent injury but also lead to improved performance.
It’s important, but we struggle to make time for it.
We don’t get a “runner’s high” or a “pump” from foam rolling, so we tend to put it off and “get it in when we can”. In my experience, however, “getting it in when you can” usually means never.
I say I’ll stretch when I watch TV. But I rarely watch anything.
I tell myself I’ll do some soft tissue work throughout the day. But it’s hard to remember.
I plan to spend 15 minutes at the end of a workout stretching and mobilizing. LOL.
Plan’s ‘A’ through ‘C’ clearly don’t work. So how can we make sure we get quality mobility work in on a regular basis?
When is the best time for mobility work?
You’ve got a few options.
In his latest book, Deskbound, Dr. Kelly Starrett discusses several methods, tools, and exercises to help improve mobility. He also lays out the following five times to focus on mobility work:
Upon Waking Up
First thing in the morning is a good time to get your body moving through its full ranges of motion. Deep squats, hip hinges, or extending your arms overhead would fit the bill.
Throughout the Day
Sneaking mobility work in throughout the day is another great option – as long as you commit to it. Staring at the lacrosse ball on your desk isn’t going to change anything. You need to actually use it. Set a timer, or spend a couple of minutes hitting your hot spots every time you come back from the washroom.
Warming up Before a Workout
Stretching and intense foam rolling or ball work are not ideal before a workout. Doing so will compromise your mechanics and may increase the potential for an injury. Dynamic movements such as air squats, jump rope, or push-ups, are good ways to warm-up and increase mobility pre-workout.
Cooling Down Post-Workout
Post-workout is when you can make the most change in your mobility. Your body is hot and prepped for quality work. Now is the time to stretch through end range of motion and get some foam rolling in.
When trying to wind down before bed, foam rolling and ball work can be your best friend. These kinds of mobility exercises are great ways to relax and “turn on your off-switch”.
If you can fit the above recommendations in and stick to them you’d be feeling fantastic in no time. But if they seem like too much and you just can’t do it, then what?
World famous strength coach Dan John provides another, easier to follow option.
In his Intervention video seminar, Dan John suggests sneaking mobility work right into the middle of a workout. He does this by adding corrective work between sets of your best/favorite lift in the gym.
For example, if you love to bench press (and are good at it) but currently suffer from tight quads, it makes sense for you to foam roll your quads between sets on the bench.
While maybe not ideal, the logic here is pretty straightforward.
You are more likely to do the things that are uncomfortable and boring, such as rolling your tight quads, when interspersed with things that you enjoy and are comfortable with. Instead of lying to yourself and saying, “I’ll spend ten minutes rolling after my workout,” you force yourself to do it during the workout when you’d usually just be sitting around.
Doing intervals on the track or hill repeats? The same thing can apply. Bring a ball or roller with you and hit your hot spots between sets. Just don’t go too crazy.
While less structured than the Deskbound prescription, a less than ideal mobility program you actuallyfollow is better than the perfect program you avoid.
Note: If you’re doing a circuit type program like Predator, stopping for mobility work between sets isn’t exactly an option. What I would do in this situation is sneak some mobility work in between circuits or supersets.
It’s becoming more and more evident that mobility work is a big part of the sports performance puzzle. You can’t train if you’re injured and you can’t perform to your full potential if your body doesn’t move right.
Stop waiting until an injury motivates you to focus on mobility work.
Experiment and try some of these suggestions. After spending some time seeing what you like and what you don’t, commit to something that works for you.