7 Tips to Train for an Obstacle Race

Jake Miola

Jake Miola


Obstacle races continue to be the fastest-growing segment of endurance sports. This year more than 2 million people will climb walls and monkey bars, plunge into icy water, and crawl through mud at races such as Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Spartan Race.

Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena, a former Wall Street institutional broker who once completed 12 Ironman triathlons in one year, believes obstacle racing isn’t a version of running but a new endurance sports category.

“We view it as a sport and we think that’s why this is exploding,” DeSena says. “When you look at what you’re doing—running, jumping, climbing, crawling, perhaps throwing a spear—it’s a far more natural sport than football, basketball, or baseball.”

Obstacle races require both strength and cardiovascular endurance, combining running with climbing ropes and walls, slithering under cargo nets and barbed wire, carrying sandbags and logs, leaping over fire, and crawling through claustrophobia-inducing tubes and freshly-dug tunnels.

Since many recreational athletes fall into two camps—distance-running enthusiasts and anaerobic strength training folks—they sometimes lack the overall fitness to navigate an obstacle course without walking parts of it.

Runners have no problem covering three to 15 miles, but can be slowed by the challenges. The gym rats push through the obstacles easily, but can have trouble running long distances.

Instead of training by breaking workouts into separate strength and cardio days, think of obstacle training in terms of integrated workouts. That way you’ll be prepared to fly through any obstacle course, no matter how twisted the challenges. Here’s how:

1. Warm your core.

An active warm-up such as the Core Performance Movement Prep routine is important before an obstacle race or training session since you’re using your entire body, often in ways you don’t expect. Front and side bridges, glute bridges, walking lunges, and lateral lunges not only prime you for movement, they’ll boost performance and help prevent injury.

2. Be a kid.

In an obstacle race you’ll be called upon to navigate monkey bars, balance on beams, climb walls, and traverse ropes. Chances are you can find all of those things at your local playground. This is a great excuse to play more with your kids. Don’t have kids? Borrow some nieces or nephews. No kids available? Head to the playground early in the morning before families arrive.

3. Choose your own adventure.

Safety is always the primary concern, of course. But there’s no reason you can’t run up and down that mountain of mulch available to the public at your local park. Those huge concrete culverts along your running trail waiting for installation? Why not bear-crawl through them as you will in a race? Instead of avoiding muddy trails after rain, embrace them.

4. Run off road.

Obstacle races take place off road. So why train on concrete or asphalt, which is harder on your body anyway? Even in urban areas, you usually can run on the grass along sidewalks, through parks, on gravel or packed sand, and along waterways. Challenge yourself to run as much as possible off road, leaping over sidewalks and other paved areas.

5. Run intervals.

You’re probably already doing this for your running program, but it becomes more important in obstacle racing, which combines intervals of running and obstacles. After a warm-up run, alternate between intervals of work and rest (e.g. three minutes of running at 80 percent followed by three minutes of walking or light running).

6. Run hills.

Unlike the steady, paved inclines of many road races or the run portion of most triathlons, obstacle races feature short, steep, off-road climbs. Here, too, your local park can be a perfect training ground. Sprint uphill and take twice the time to walk down. Repeat several times. Be sure to keep your stride compact to prevent hamstring pulls.

7. Mix it together.

Obstacle race training isn’t just about running, of course. Simulate the rhythms and challenges of a race by stopping every half mile to do a dozen push-ups, pull-ups, or burpees. You can perform 30 mountain climbers or bodyweight squats. Or do a combination of two or three exercises after each half mile. The key is to make it continuous, mimicking a non-stop obstacle race.

Arturo Espitia Certified Personal Trainer Everett,WA

10 Under-the-Radar Power Foods

10 under the radar power foods

10 under the radar power foods


When it comes to power foods that pack nutrition, fiber, and other health benefits into every serving, most people are familiar with salmon, spinach, berries, olive oil, kale, and steel-cut oats. These foods form a strong base for any high-performance nutrition program. But there are many other foods that can be just as valuable (and tasty), even if they’re not as high profile. Amanda Carlson-Phillips, our vice president of performance nutrition and research, offers this top 10 list of underrated and under-the-radar power foods.

1. Chia Seeds

These tiny black seeds, cultivated by the Aztecs during pre-Colombian times, are slowly working their way into American markets. Similar to flax, chia seeds are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, fiber, phosphorous, and manganese. Sprinkle them on cereal, oatmeal, or salad for some crunch.

2. Beets


Beets, an overlooked superfood

An often overlooked superfood, beets can be an inexpensive, colorful, and delicious addition to meals. Beets are a low-calorie fuel source high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties. This root vegetable, available year round, is a good source of iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, folic acid, and vitamins A and C. Canned varieties make beets a quick, inexpensive way to pack nutrients into a meal. Try the golden and ruby red varieties and even make use of the greens.

3. Farro

A nutty, chewy grain used in Italian cooking, farro is packed with fiber, protein, zinc, and magnesium. Compounds in farro have been linked to increased immunity, lower cholesterol, and balanced blood sugar levels. Mix farro into soups or use it as a healthy side dish.

4. Hemp Seeds

First cultivated in China 6,000 years ago, hemp has a creamy, nutty flavor. A serving of hemp seeds (2 tablespoons) provides 6 g of protein and 2 g of anti-inflammatory omega-3 in the form of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Hemp seeds are one of the few plant proteins that provide all the essential amino acids that our bodies can’t manufacture. Hemp seeds also contain phosphorous and magnesium, which are essential for bones and teeth, metabolism, and muscle contraction. Add hemp seeds to smoothies, salads, cereals, or oatmeal as a protein alternative.

5. Edamame


Soy Beans

These soybeans have a sweet, nutty flavor and are used in Asian cooking. Edamame is one of the few plant-based foods that contains all essential amino acids and is high in fiber, protein, potassium, and vitamins B and K. Research has linked edamame to a reduced risk of cancer and a healthier heart. Eat them as a snack or toss them in a salad.

6. Kefir

Growing quickly in popularity, kefir is a creamy, fermented milk product. With twice as much good bacteria as yogurt, kefir is excellent for digestive health and high in calcium, protein, and vitamin D and A. Eat it for dessert or use it for a smoothie base.

7. Rosemary

Common in southern European cuisines, rosemary has a crisp, piney scent and is believed to be a healing herb with antioxidant powers. It’s thought to help boost the immune system, have antibacterial properties, and aid with digestion. Studies have found that the antioxidant carnsol, found in rosemary, to be a potent anti-cancer compound. Fresh rosemary is terrific in soups, sauces, or meat dishes, and, like mint, can also be added to fresh water and teas as a refreshing alternative.

8. Quinoa




Known as the mother grain of the Incas in South American, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is the only grain that provides all nine of the essential amino acids, with more protein than rice, millet, or wheat. It’s a good source of fiber, folate, copper, phosphorus, and iron as well as the immune-building flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. This vertical grain is a great alternative for those with gluten sensitivities and can be prepared as a breakfast porridge with nuts and fruits or as a side dish.

9. Swiss Chard

An often overlooked dark green leafy vegetable, swiss chard is high in vitamins A, C, and K. While the leafy portion is always a nice green, the stalk can be white, bright yellow, or red. It tastes slightly more bitter than kale or spinach, but less bitter than collard greens. Eat it chopped up in salad or sautéed in a small amount of oil with garlic and a pinch of salt and lemon juice or vinegar.

10. Tumeric

This dark yellow spice is used in Indian and Chinese medicine to treat jaundice, colic, toothaches, bruises, chest pain, and more. It’s powerful antioxidant properties have been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers, lower cholesterol, protect against Alzheimer’s disease, and alleviate arthritis. Add it to rice and stews for a punch of flavor.

Arturo Espitia  Certified Personal Trainer Everett, WA

Beta-Alanine May Reduce Muscle Fatigue, Says Study

Beta Alanine

Beta Alanine


During strenuous activity, hydrogen ions (protons) accumulate inside muscle cells. This causes fatigue and impairs performance.

More than 80 years ago, British physiologist A.V. Hill speculated that muscle cells possess “buffers,” chemicals that counteract or soak up these excessive protons.

More recent research supports this idea, linking improved buffering capacity with better performance. Many more recent research studies have demonstrated the benefits of consuming beta-alanine during various types of exercise, including resistance training and endurance sports.

That makes beta-alanine a key part of an athlete’s nutritional regimen. A naturally-occurring amino acid, beta-alanine makes a compound in your body called carnosine, which controls the buildup of acid in your muscles caused by intense or prolonged exercise.

Because acid buildup is a major factor in causing muscles to fatigue, using beta-alanine can help delay it. By improving buffering capacity during high-intensity exercise, you’re able to maintain performance at high workloads, building more muscle, increasing strength, and improving your explosive power.

According to Amanda Carlson-Phillips, vice president of nutrition and research for Athletes’ Performance, the amount of beta-alanine needed to get the benefit of delayed muscle fatigue and more intense training is between 3 and 6.4 grams per day divided into two doses.

You get some beta-alanine in your daily diet, but typically only 15 to 20 percent of what your muscles need to control acid accumulation.

“We recommend consuming beta-alanine in divided doses throughout the day,” Carlson-Phillips says. “You can split up your doses around your training with the first coming 60 to 90 minutes before training and the second within two hours of finishing or you can divide it across your entire day.”

Great Article! Arturo Espitia Certified Personal Trainer Everett, WA

How to Avoid and Treat a Torn Meniscus

Torn Meniscus

Torn Meniscus



There are two types of cartilage in the knee that can be damaged. Articular cartilage is the smooth, semi-rigid tissue that covers the ends of bones and allows the knee joint to move freely. It can be torn away by impact during contact sports like football or hockey, or it can gradually wear thin with age, causing arthritis in the knee joint.

The other type of cartilage is meniscus cartilage and it refers to the crescent-shaped cushions between the lower part of the thigh bone and the upper part of the shin bone. Without the menisci, the bones of the upper and lower leg grind against each other, which may cause short-term pain and long-term arthritis. There are two menisci—one (lateral) on the outside of the knee joint, the other (medial) on the inside. The inside meniscus is the one most frequently injured in sports and the type of injury discussed below.

How a Torn Meniscus Happens

An athlete typically suffers a torn meniscus when they take a blow to the outside of the knee, forcing it inward and tearing the structure, or by some combination of bending or compressing the knee joint, twisting, pivoting, changing directions, or decelerating. It isn’t unusual for a torn meniscus to happen simultaneously with another traumatic injury, such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

For older athletes, the meniscus often becomes weak and frayed, making it more vulnerable to both contact and non-contact injuries. Something as simple as the up and down motion of squatting may cause a minor meniscus tear.

Degenerative changes involve frayed or jagged edges of the meniscus. A tear that occurs along the length of the meniscus is called a longitudinal tear. A tear where a portion of the meniscus becomes detached from a bone and forms a flap is called a bucket-handle tear.

Torn Meniscus by the Numbers

2-4 lbs
The increased amount of body weight force placed on the knee joints when walking.

6-8 lbs
The increased amount of body weight force placed on the knee joints when running.

5 times
The inside (medial) meniscus is five times more likely to be injured than the outside (lateral) meniscus..

The percent of meniscus tears that can be diagnosed (by a physician) with a careful injury history and physical examination.

Who’s at Risk of a Torn Meniscus

A soccer, basketball, lacrosse, tennis, or football player who plants a foot to change directions or who takes a hit from another player is vulnerable to meniscus injuries. Runners who misstep or step in a hole can sustain the same injury. Men are more likely to tear a meniscus than women, but that may be because of the number of men that participate in sports as opposed to a gender-specific cause.


  • Pain on the inside of knee joint or a dull pain throughout the joint.
  • Pain that may subside for a few days, but return with physical activity.
  • A popping sound at the time of the injury.
  • Swelling within 24-48 hours after an injury.
  • Stiffness, tightness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Inability to fully bend the knee.
  • Inability to put weight on the knee joint or buckling of the knee.
  • Locking or catching of the knee at a 45-degree angle.

Initial Treatment

  • Rest and don’t try to play through the pain (use crutches if needed).
  • Apply ice in 20-minute intervals several times a day during the first 48-72 hours after the injury.
  • Use a pillow or cushion to elevate the knee while at rest during the day and while sleeping at night.
  • Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen may relieve pain.
  • After 48-72 hours, use moist heat to increase circulation and relieve discomfort.
  • Get medical attention if the pain persists for a week or more, or if you think you have torn a meniscus.

Comeback Strategy

If a tear has occurred on the outer rim, there are enough blood vessels to allow the structure to heal. If the tear is in the central area where there isn’t a good supply of blood, the tissue may not ever heal and may need to be removed through arthroscopic surgery.

  • Recovery without surgery may take six to eight weeks.
  • Recovery with surgery may take three to four months.
  • Wear a knee brace or sleeve for protection.


Incorporate these prehab exercises into your comeback routine:

  1. Foam Roll (quads and hips)
  2. Hip Rotation  – External – Sidelying
  3. Hip Abduction – Sidelying

How to Avoid a Torn Meniscus

  • Some meniscus tears aren’t preventable and might be considered an occupational or recreational risk that accompanies a sport.
  • Be especially careful doing squats to avoid excessive compression of the meniscus.
  • Work with a certified strength and conditioning coach to ensure proper lifting techniques in the weight room.
  • Work with a knowledgeable coach to ensure proper sport-specific technique to reduce the risk of meniscus injuries.

Movement Prep

Incorporate these movement prep exercises into your dynamic warm-up routine:

  1. Glute Bridge
  2. Inverted Hamstring Stretch
  3. The World’s Greatest Stretch

Jim Brown, Ph.D. has written 14 books on health, medicine, and sports. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, New York Post, Sports Illustrated for Women and Better Homes & Gardens. He also writes for the Duke School of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic and Steadman-Hawkins Research Foundation.

Certified Personal Trainer Arturo Espitia Everett, WA

Relief for Shoulder Arthritis

Shoulder Arthritis

Shoulder Arthritis



There are two joints in the shoulder, and osteoarthritis—damage to the cartilage surface and the resulting inflammation—can develop in both of them.

First, let’s get to know the anatomy: The part of the scapula (shoulder blade) that makes up the top of the shoulder and connects with the clavicle (collarbone) is the acromion. The joint where the acromion and the clavicle come together is the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. This joint, no bigger than your thumb joint, allows you to raise your arms above your head. The AC joint contains cartilage tissue, menisci, nerves, blood vessels, and two sets of ligaments. It’s the most commonly injured joint in the shoulder. Injuries to this part of your shoulder can lead to arthritis later in life.

The glenohumeral joint, which is commonly referred to as the shoulder joint, is located where the humerus (upper arm bone) meets the scapula . It allows the arm to move in a circular rotation.

How Shoulder Arthritis Happens

AC Joint Arthritis

With AC joint arthritis, the cartilage surface between the collarbone and upper shoulder blade wears thin from repeated movements. Any activity that puts pressure on the joint, either normal or excessive, may eventually cause arthritis.

Glenohumeral Arthritis

Glenohumeral joint arthritis is caused by the destruction of the cartilage covering the bones in the glenohumeral joint. When the cartilage wears away, the bones begin to rub together. This can lead to bone spurs, bony growths that can put pressure and cause wear and tear on other bones. Friction increases and the shoulder can’t move smoothly or comfortably. As more bone spurs develop, range of motion decreases.

Shoulder Arthritis by the Numbers

The number of essential functions of a normal shoulder (fluid motion, stability, and strength).

Shoulder arthritis is the third most common joint to require surgery.

Percentage of patients with shoulder pain who have degenerative joint disease (arthritis).

Percentage of the older population that’s affected by glenohumeral joint arthritis.

The number of people in the United States who seek medical treatment for shoulder pain each year.

Who’s at Risk of Shoulder Arthritis

AC joint arthritis usually occurs in people over the age of 40 and in athletes who use their arms and shoulders for heavy lifting, reaching, or other sports-related overhead movements. Weightlifters are at the top of the list with swimmers, tennis players, and baseball players not far behind. Glenohumeral joint arthritis typically affects adults over the age of 50. Anyone who has had a serious shoulder injury is vulnerable to both kinds of shoulder arthritis.

AC Joint Arthritis Symptoms

  • Gradual onset of symptoms
  • Pain and stiffness in front of and on top of the shoulder
  • Increased pain when reaching behind the back
  • Pain when bringing the arm across the body to touch the opposite shoulder
  • Pain that radiates into the upper part of the neck and shoulder blade area
  • Joint tenderness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Possible clicking or snapping sensation as the shoulder moves

Glenohumeral Joint Arthritis Symptoms

  • Shoulder pain, stiffness
  • Pain that comes and goes but increases over a period of years
  • Pain that increases with shoulder movement
  • Pain that interferes with sleep

Initial Treatment

  • Limit the activities and movements that cause pain.
  • Ice or heat applications for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day, whichever one provides relief.
  • Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen may relieve pain.

Comeback Strategy

For mild cases of shoulder arthritis, you can return to training and competition when you can tolerate the pain. When surgery is performed to treat glenohumeral arthritis, complete recovery takes 4-6 months.

Incorporate these exercises into your comeback routine:

  1. Standing Shoulder External and Internal Rotation (two sets until fatigue)
  2. Floor Y’s and Floor T’s (2 sets of 10 repetitions for each move)

How to Prevent or Delay Shoulder Arthritis

There are things you can do that might help prevent or delay AC arthritis, but there are no guarantees. Try decreasing the weight, frequency, and duration of weightlifting. Also, incorporate the exercises below into your warm-up routine:

  1. Floor Posture Slides (2 sets, 10 repetitions)
  2. Floor Y (2 sets, 10 repetitions)
  3. Sidelying External Rotation (2 sets until fatigue)


Jim Brown, Ph.D. has written 14 books on health, medicine, and sports. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, New York Post, Sports Illustrated for Women and Better Homes & Gardens. He also writes for the Duke School of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic and Steadman-Hawkins Research Foundation.

Great Article. Arturo Espitia Certified Personal Trainer Everett, WA

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