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The number one thing that gets people in the gym is to get in better shape. The running joke amongst trainers is that everyone says the same thing. “I want to tone up”. Then we al tear our hair out because we don’t know what you mean and have to kind of guess what that phrase means for you.

My long standing definition of “tone up” is simple. What I perceive people are saying is that they want less body fat and more visible shape to their body. Not in a muscles bulging, veins popping kind of way, but in an athletic and lean kind of way. I’m quite happy that the vogue shape is no longer an over muscled meat head build like was expected in the 80s when the heroes were Arnold and Sly, but a far more athletic look like you’d expect to see at an Olympic Games.

The problem is that most gym centric plans are centered around lifting weights. Well, it’s not a “problem” but it does cause a few other issues. Let’s look at some harsh realities.

Most people eat too much of the wrong foods. Sadly, the only thing the food pyramid has done for our health is to give the world diabetes and make everyone obese. One of the biggest drawbacks on most gym training plans is that they are exactly that – a gym based training plan. It’s great if you’ve got a solid plan for what you do in the gym, but even if you’re a workout maniac your time in the gym will likely only account for five or six total hours for the week. Well, what about the other 162? If you don’t have a plan that takes care of your health for those 162 hours what chance do you have for success when your total time spent focused on training is less than four percent of the week?

One of the problems that comes with eating too much is that most food that people eat is incredibly energy dense. If you were planning to go run a marathon or do some heavy labour that would be fine, however in most cases you are going to need to move a bit to burn off some of that excess energy. Because you know what excess energy is in the body? It’s fat. And while lifting weights can help to build some muscle underneath all that fat the big problem is that even though you might be working hard you’re still just standing still. To get lean you need to move!

Over the last twenty years I’ve learnt a lot about people. Mostly I’ve learnt that the majority of people won’t really work hard unless there is a reason. So let me give you a reason – sign up for a Spartan Race. Here’s why it will help you get in the best shape of your life:

With an actual deadline to get in shape you will put far more pressure on yourself to do the right thing both in and out of the gym.

Spartan stands for – Stamina, Power, Athleticism, Readiness, Tenacity, Attitude, and Nutrition. Note the last one as it makes up far more than fifty percent of your likelihood of successfully getting in bikini shape.

Because you need to cover multiple types of training you will be more likely to enjoy training and actually get in shape. A Spartan Race requires you to be fit, fast and strong. You’re going to run, learn how to handle your body weight better for exercises like rope climbing and getting over walls, crawl under barbed wire and maybe even swim a little. To help that you’re going to lift some heavy weights with big multi joint exercises like the squat and deadlift. All of this means that not only will you add strength, but you’ll also burn a lot of that fat for energy that you’ve got stored on you. And women, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but because you have a slower metabolisms than men, thanks to carrying slightly less muscle, you need more movement, not less. Good thing for you we’re going to be doing all that running.

Athleticism isn’t gained by standing still and lifting weights. There’s a lot of people who have a lot to gain financially by making you believe that all the training you need in life is to lift weights, but that’s simply not true. Just like the Spartans were superior in battle to the part-time fighters they faced who were blacksmiths and painters, real athletes are not built by standing around doing the soft options, but by getting outside and working. The mental toughness and tenacity gained from hard outdoor sessions can’t be matched indoors. And while a treadmill run can work you out, a trail run for the same period of time can leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated. If the purpose of training is to make you better, then surely you should finish sessions feeling energized rather than beaten down? And a good outdoor session will do just that for you.

However, like with all training there are good and bad ways to go about it. The first thing that you should do is find a group that has a qualified Spartan coach, like you’ll find at Read Performance Training. Not only that but all of our coaches know what it is like to enter events like these as well as much bigger events like half and full Ironman races. With experienced coaches in your corner, helping you train for Spartan Race with kettlebells and the right kind of running you’ll be in the best shape of your life.

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