Category Archives: Fitness
Saturday morning was very cold and very wet – the perfect morning to stay indoors and whack the heating up, right? Wrong. I was at Pippingford Park in East Sussex battling the elements and ready to support the hordes of runners taking on the Spartan Beast – an epic 25km obstacle race.
As the climactic event on the Spartan Race calendar, this was going to be tough and it seemed as though Mother Nature herself was intent on making it even tougher for the runners. With a muddy and rain-soaked course greeting runners in the very first elite heat at 10 a.m., the non-stop rain made the trails boggy and the mud pits … boggier!
Having completed one of the shorter events, the 5km Spartan Sprint back in September, I couldn’t wait to see what the organisers had in store for the 15+ miles of challenging terrain. Oh, and did I mention that, if you fail ANY of the 25+ obstacles, there is a 30 burpee punishment?!
This race was hardest yet, but don’t just take my word for it, we have a first-hand account from a Spartan survivor, Darrell Skipper, who crossed the finish line after a gruelling four and a half hours.
Here’s what Darrell had to say about the race:
The Spartan Beast was by far the toughest physical and mental challenge of my life. I’d signed up for the 2013 Spartan Race Season Pass this year and had already completed four of the shorter Spartan Sprints (between 5–8km) and one Spartan Super (12km) over the summer, but this was on a different level.
I ran in the 10 a.m. ‘elite’ heat (I didn’t feel too elite by the end!) and we set off just in time for the first of many torrential downpours of the day. It wasn’t long into the race before we realised that this was going to be a lot different to those nice warm race days of the summer … It was raining pretty much the whole time and this resulted in people getting stuck in the mud and the freezing bogs being at chest height at times.
The obstacles ranged from fire jumps, 8ft wall climbs, rope climbs and barbed wire crawls to carrying heavy sandbags up and down steep and slippery slopes. Some very ambitious person also decided to put a 25ft rope climb at the end of the race, which apparently only about 10 per cent of finishers managed; the other 90 per cent accepting the 30 burpee punishment instead, which, for me, seemed to take a lifetime to finish!
The obstacles were actually a sweet relief, a brief respite from the horrors of the trails and the hills, oh god the hills! A lot of people struggled with the naturally formed mudslides, but luckily I had learned from previous races that the quickest way down is on your backside. As soon as the other runners see you doing this they all follow your lead – it was definitely the quickest way downhill.
I completed the race with my brother and father, who have been my Spartan training buddies for a few years now. We first signed up as motivation to lose weight and we ended up losing over 250lbs between us! After that, it just became an addiction. We love the whole ethos of the Spartan Race, the spirit and camaraderie between fellow Spartans is amazing. Lots of helping hands and lots of crazy, delirious laughter from the sheer insanity of it all.
I’d highly recommend obstacle racing for people who are looking to get in shape or to kick-start their fitness regime. Nothing motivates you better than cold, dead-eyed fear! Despite the aches, pains and countless hours of training, I’m definitely doing the whole season again next year – who’s with me?
If you are interested in joining the Spartans next year, or would like to find out more information about their races, you can subscribe here. Who knows, maybe I will see you at the start line next year…
A huge thank you to Darrell for his guest post and to Epic Action Imagery for allowing us to use their brilliant photos.
This is a guest post written by Sarah Johansson
British boxing has become less exciting for fight fans in recent years, with the retirement of both Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe and the decline of Amir Khan. However, the Olympics brought with it an upsurge of interest for the sport, and 2012 marked the first inclusion of women’s boxing in the games. Does this mean that boxing is on the up?
I’ll admit I’ve never been a fan: it’s always been too violent for me. Maybe I’m a big old wuss, but I like sports where people are nice to each other. Not only have I not liked it, I’ve dismissed it with a passion, usually citing words like ‘barbaric’, ‘primitive’ or just ‘stupid’. So imagine my horror when I was forced to sit through a Prizefighter tournament recently. I say forced, but when you’re sharing a small flat with an obsessed boxing fan, it’s pretty difficult not to absorb the sweaty aggression emitted from the screen.
Yet I was fascinated, which leads me to preconception no. 1 about boxing: it’s all about the aggression. Sure, professional boxing is scored based on the most effective punches, style, aggression and knockdowns. Amateur boxing, however, is judged by landing the most clean punches on the target area (a glorified game of tag, if you will). This, ironically, didn’t mean much to me until I had a go at Fight Night on Xbox.
Several hours and two blood blisters later, I came to the realisation that: (a) boxing requires some serious skill and technique, and (b) I was definitely capable of letting out a whole lot of aggression myself. So I’ve started to view amateur boxing in a different light: rather than focusing on the violence, I’ve come to admire the amount of dedication and discipline required, which reaches a level that few other sports could hope to equal. Lack of funding usually means having to work normal day jobs too, trying to fit in exercise and fights whenever there is time.
That was the case for Nicola Adams who worked as a builder and Corrie extra before taking home the first female Olympic gold medal in the flyweight class last year. Before 2009, funding wasn’t readily available for female boxers, and now, after the five-medal success in London, funding and opportunities are growing exponentially and universities are endorsing the sport to a much greater extent.
This is set to provide a whole new environment for a sport that is becoming more and more popular. Some of Britain’s ‘flagship’ athletes are now amateur boxers, which lights a torch for a bright future in Britain’s professional boxing game. This transition is already in motion now with Olympian Anthony Ogogo recently turning pro.
While I admit my previous dismissal of the sport probably involved very loaded words for someone who professes they couldn’t care less for it, I guess that’s what boxing does to people; it stirs and fascinates, repulses and excites. And even though I’m struggling with some conflicting emotions about boxing, you can’t deny the obvious fitness benefits. A boxer at their peak easily ranks among the fittest athletes in the world.
Boxing exercise is guaranteed to take you to the next level in your exercise regime, regardless of whether you train or compete in a different discipline. And if you want to get fit, focused and fighting, put on the gloves and try a boxing-fitness class. They provide non-contact cardiovascular workouts with boxing-style exercise, which perfectly suits those of us who want to get toned and gain physical and mental strength – but who might want to keep the violence at a safe distance.
Around the world, endurance athletes are pushing themselves further and harder than ever before. While some of these athletes choose to race in the heart of the world’s biggest cities, many journey to parts of the globe where human beings are the exception rather than the norm, places like Antarctica, Death Valley or the middle of a storm-swept Southern Ocean.
For a certain breed of competitor, there is an unbreakable drive to see exactly how much the body and mind can endure. Why do they do it? Well, that is down to the individual. But more and more people are attempting to tackle challenges that can be considered extraordinary – and at times downright dangerous.
This brand new book, publishing today, profiles 50 of the world’s toughest ultra-marathons, triathlons, bike rides and many other challenges that push human beings to their limits.
The World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges is a celebration of these extraordinary events and the athletes who take part in them. With detailed profiles of the races, first-hand accounts from competitors and stunning photography, it is the definitive guide to the hottest, coldest, highest, longest and most remote endurance events on earth.
As The Roller Derby Athlete by Ellen Parnavelas launches today, is has inspired me to find out what my roller derby name would be. According to the website Rollers and Revellers my roller derby name is Black Rose.
For those of you that have not heard of roller derby, it’s a unique fast-paced, female-dominated sport that is taking the world by storm. It originated in the USA in the 1930s, but it is the revival that began in 2001 that has inspired this new book.
Roller derby has become one of the world’s fast-growing new sports, and there are now more than 1,000 leagues worldwide.
The Roller Derby Athlete is ideal for beginners and experienced skaters, who are looking for a book that covers roller derby from a practical perspective. The book offers advice on tactics, fitness, training, injury prevention and nutrition.
With the new book, my new roller derby name, now all I need to do is dust off my old roller skates and find a local roller derby team that will have me – wish me luck!
The Roller Derby Athlete publishes today priced £16.99, order your copy direct from the Bloomsbury website or on Amazon.
To find out your Roller Derby name, visit the Roller derby name generator at the Rollers and Revellers website.
Allegedly from David Coleman, British radio and TV commentator, at one of his many Olympic coverages, when he thought he was off air.
“These are the Olympics; you die before you quit.”
The great American discus thrower, Al Oerter, winner of four successive gold medals (1956-1968). For the third of these in Tokyo, he competed despite excruciating pain from a torn rib cartilage, strapped up and iced.
In a moment of madness it seems, in the euphoria of having moved near the river, I decided to join up at my local rowing club on the Thames for a beginners’ ‘Learn to Row‘ course. At just around 5ft 4in, I probably don’t have your typical rower’s physique, but having worked on my fitness beforehand, I’m hoping that I won’t show myself up too much.
The cox who will be taking us out on the river on Sunday for our first water-based session gave us a rundown on safety and general info, which included learning about the tidal Thames which has a twice daily rise and fall. The second half of the session was spent on the ergos with an experienced squad member talking us through the terminology of the parts of the stroke, and the body positions that maximize the power of your muscles in moving the boat.
Set the challenge of rowing 1000m against the clock, we rowed with passion – if not great technique . Times were taken and at the end of our month course we’ll be doing it again to see how much we’ve improved over the course through (hopefully) better technique and fitness. I’ll keep you posted as to how I eventually do. In the meantime though, I’m going to be doing a spot of swatting with the help of The Complete Guide to Indoor Rowing (out May 2012). It’s definitely worth a gander if any of you are in the same boat (pardon the pun).
Sunday approaches and apprehension increases, but as long there’s no capsizing or anti-elitist(!) swimmers to avoid, it should be a cracking day.