Life is love – how Spartan Race changed my life!

On January 2016, after accomplishing my first Spartan Race in SoCal, I said to myself: “I can carry the entire world on my shoulders now!”

And this is how everything started!

 

In November 2015, I got ‘invited’ by my fitness and lifestyle coach to participate in a Spartan Race with her team. I literally had never run longer than 1.5 km and that made me pass out at the finish line. I was a bodybuilder, that girl with huge legs and the massive amount of muscles. There was no way I could do ‘cardio’ longer than 30 minutes and that was limited to Stairmaster. “Nobody will ever make me run” was bouncing in my head. However, under the ‘pressure’ of my very smart coach, I signed up.

That was it. As a perfectionist and a fully committed to my goals athlete, I literally took the entire preparation into my hands and signed up to the local ninja gym to get my rope climb ready. All I wanted to master was rope climb. I knew in the worst case scenario I will end up doing 900 burpees during that Spartan Super run in SoCal Spartan Race in Temecula, CA. So, rope climb and burpees became my obsession for the next two months.

After I finished that race, the feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. I have never felt like that. Not even after receiving my Ph.D. title or placing top three at my bodybuilding competition. The feeling of being able to do anything, including carrying the entire world on my own shoulders, was amazing. I felt high on life and I wanted more of it.

 

The 2016 year ended up with just one Trifecta. I am saying ‘just’ because something managed to stop me from getting more.

As I was preparing myself for the third race in April, and planning to do at least three more that year, I injured my knee. I was in a brace for a few weeks and not capable of doing a single long jump for several months. The discouragement and the feeling of being a personal failure crept in and all I wanted was to give up. However, not having healthy legs didn’t mean I couldn’t practice and train upper body. Wasn’t the upper body actually more important to complete the obstacles at Spartan Race, such as monkey bars, rope climb, twister, multi-rig and so on? So, there I was, in the brace and doing literally hundreds of pull-ups every day.

That entire life experience turned out to be a great lesson to the coach and a personal trainer like me. It not only taught me to look at the injuries through a more humbling lens but more importantly, to see how mental and personal commitments are crucial in perseverance. It motivated me even more to be a role model and show that physical injuries are not the end of the athletic lifestyle. It was a beginning of the journey called ‘how to love yourself through the obstacles that life puts in our way’.

After just five months after my injury, still not being able to fully jump or run, I created the beYOUtiful Team who raced with me (or rather I raced with them) in Breckenridge, CO, in Sprint Spartan Race. My team was extremely happy overrunning their coach, and I knew that I would allow them to do that again and again at any moment. I could see how the race which was changing my life, was changing their lives, too. I could see the happiness on their faces for not only beating their own trainer but accomplishing and completing something they would never think to be possible to do.

 

The path to becoming better was about to get started. I officially became a Spartan SGX coach.

In 2017 other life-changing events happened. I run multiple races and participated in the brutal events called Hurricane Heat. I was so high on life. I never felt more powerful before.

The Hurricane Heat 12 hour in Las Vegas, March 2017 was another one totally shifting my belief system and values in my life. For the first time in my life, I was tested mentally like never before. The past traumas and abuse were nothing compared to what I went through during that night. I learned one major lesson (and many, many more minor lessons), that we can do whatever we put our minds to. There were moments of total numbness in my body, where all I could do was repeating ‘step, step, step’ to myself and keep going. The HH12HR was the biggest challenge of my life, the best life lesson and my proudest moment.

 

In May 2017 something magical happened. At that time, I didn’t know it is going to be magical until after some time. However, the number of coincidental events happening around that race, in Colorado Springs at Fort Carson, was incredible. I had no clue why just a day before my friends left me alone to drive and race two races. I had never raced alone. But I did this time. I ran both of the days and in both cases, I managed to set my own personal records for both distances. In the meantime, I met cool friends and people, among them my future boyfriend. Yeay! That’s what happened!

After the first day, we couldn’t find each other on Instagram. We both knew that we just met someone we might possibly like but who clearly didn’t want to be in touch. It happens, it was just a race and we usually meet a lot of people. However, I knew that the next day he runs again, just 15 minutes earlier than me. I knew that all is in my hands. I ran so fast, that I not only set up another PR but caught up to him almost at the end of the race. I ‘screamed’ at him why didn’t he accept my invitation on Instagram. Surprisingly, he was asking me the same.

 

Who knew that two months later we would be a couple, four months later we would move in together and a year later we will proceed into another phase of our relationship.

One year later, at the same venue, in Colorado Springs at Fort Carson, I took my life fate again into my hands and decided to propose to my boyfriend. I was waiting for him at the finish line, with the medal in my left hand and the Spartan Groove Life silicone ring in my right hand. I was totally aware of the audience around cheering me on and I was even more aware of this what I was about to do.

 

I have never heard of any woman proposing first. Oh well, I do act on things which matter to me. So, I did that time again.

Spartan Race truly changed my life. It showed me what a real feeling of accomplishment is. It brought wonderful friends into my life. It gave me motivation, courage and mental strength to deal with my injuries. It taught me life lessons in the middle of the night. And it brought my fiancé into the life of a woman who went through abuse in past relationships and didn’t truly believe there was someone out there who could love her. Who could love her for being a crazy Spartan Lady. Who could be a crazy Spartan himself.

 

I am so lucky! I am such a happy Spartan Lady!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Nutrition for a Spartan Endurance Event (HH, HH12HR and HH24HR) — before, during, after.

You just signed up for the upcoming Hurricane Heat HH12HR event and I know how excited yet scared you are. I know you can handle it physically; you are a beast!!! As a HH12HR veteran, a nutritionist, PhD in Cardio-respiratory Science, MSc in Human Biology & Anatomy and Physiology, and Spartan SGX coach I can clearly say that the nutrition part of the training is key to successfully managing, completing and recovering from the event.

 

Two to Four Weeks before the HH12HR Event

As you are training very differently from other people, i.e., carrying heavy loads for extended periods of time, doing extremely vigorous high-intensity circuits and hiking with loads for half a weekend, your body pretty much wears out. It is under constant stress and has very little time to recover. In order to perform well and allow your body to rest and rebuild itself, you must fuel it very carefully with the specific foods it requires. You may need to increase caloric intake compared to previous weeks, which should come from very high-quality macro-nutrients such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates (aka carbs).

High quality protein sources include wild caught fish (salmon, cod, sardines, herrings, mackerel), free range chicken and eggs, organic turkey, grass-fed beef, bison and lamb, as well as a reliable sources of seafood (to avoid heavy metal contamination).

You also need to consume good beneficial fats, especially for your long endurance training days: avocados, organic nuts (avoid peanuts as they may be very inflammatory and allergenic), olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil, organic nut butters, uncured sugar-free bacon, egg yolks, organic grass-fed butter, ghee butter, coconut oil, coconut butter and coconut full-fat milk.

Concerning carbs, you really want to focus on eating the starchy ones and the varieties that include a low glycemic index.  This will replenish the glycogen that you burn during your workouts: sweet potatoes, organic rice, organic quinoa, butternut squash, sprouted grains (avoid these if you are gluten-sensitive). I hope I don’t need to emphasize that huge loads of vegetables and fruits (5-10 cups a day is recommended) are going to benefit you even more, supplementing your tired body with vitamins and micro nutrients.

You want to have at least two meals (pre- and post-workout) that consist of all the macros: colorful salad, good source of protein and fat, and complex carbs. Yes, even if you work out in the evening, I want you to have that meal – you are burning calories after your workout, and your glycogen is used up during sleep.

In terms of supplementation – for me the important part was to keep my adrenals happy by supplying my body with B vitamins, selenium and magnesium. I tried to get them from food: yeast flakes, Brazil nuts, and green leafy veggies, respectively. Also, you may add glutamine and BCAAs for muscle recovery and rebuilding. A very good powerful anti-inflammatory supplement is turmeric – in either pill form or powder mixed up in warm water. Make sure that in both cases it comes with black pepper for proper absorption. Proper electrolytes are also crucial for your training and for the event itself. They can come from salt tablets, liquid version of trace minerals or electrolytes (which you can get in any whole foods store) or 1-2 tsp of Himalayan Salt added to your water one to three times a day.

I strongly recommend that you first test any carb gels, energy bars, and foods that you plan on taking for the event, during your longer runs or training sessions. You don’t want to end up having diarrhea during the event or being medically DNF’d due to GI tract issues.

 

Two Days before the HH12HR Event

During the last 4 weeks, you should already know which foods give you energy, which make you feel grumpy and inflamed, or bloated and sleepy. Make sure that, during the two days leading into the event, you completely avoid processed foods loaded with hydrogenated fats and processed sugars (this includes pizza, fries, fast food burgers, donuts, ice cream etc.). Sorry Spartans, but how you fuel your engines determines how they will perform during the event. Bad foods will definitely make your body unhappy and unready for 12 hours of extreme activity.

It is also very important to have extra starchy/complex carbs during those two days. ATTENTION: do not overload them in just one meal; eat them in an evenly distributed manner throughout the day. You don’t want to wake up on a race day with diarrhea, upset stomach, or other GI problems. Make sure you drink a lot of water and electrolytes.

 

One Day before the HH12HR Event

This day is the most important of your last 4 weeks. Whatever damage and lack of nutrition you allowed into your workout routines and lifestyle cannot be reversed by just one day of proper fueling; however, if you find yourself in a less than ideal situation, make sure you eat a very good breakfast, lunch and dinner. All meals should consist of good sources of protein, fats and carbs, as well as vegetables and fruits. Try to avoid too many fibrous vegetables 5-6 hours before the event. If you wish to eat them, put them in a smoothie for better digestion. Hydrate and drink more electrolytes than during the previous days. You may have up to 2 cups of black coffee; however, more can cause you to crash in the middle of the event. I wouldn’t suggest taking any pre-workout supplements, thermogenic pills, energy drinks or foods that you already know will make you feel bad.

My favorite breakfast consists of oats with coconut milk, shredded coconut, pecans, blueberries, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of Himalayan salt. For lunch, I eat a huge salad with green leafy veggies: spinach, kale, and sunflower seeds, beef burger and baked sweet potato with coconut oil. For dinner (the last meal before the event), I like lean ground turkey with a large sweet potato, coconut oil and banana with cashew or almond butter. Avoid too much protein, it can cause slower absorption of the carbs and fats, which you need as fuel for the event.

 

On HH12HR Event Day

There is just one rule I follow on event day and I strongly suggest you do the same: START EATING EARLY AND EAT OFTEN. Do not wait until you start feeling weak, lightheaded or begin cramping before you put some food or electrolytes in your stomach. If you do, it is already too late. Start as early as 30-45 min into the event, and keep snacking every 30-45 min. I always keep carb gels, nut butter pouches, carb chews and energy bars in different pockets and whenever it feels right, I reach for one.

My great invention during the last event was protein waffles (made from protein pancake ready mix bought at a supplement store) with some nut butter and jelly. I ate them during down times, and the rest of the time, I had other snacks to chew on. For electrolytes, you may want to take tablets every 1-2 hours, and make sure you drink lots of water with them.

You may need to test many options a long time before the competition in order to find the right foods for event day. They must be portable, easy to store, carry and grab during the very uncomfortable conditions of the event. Store them safely in multiple Ziploc bags – I had to eat some chews mixed with mud because I failed to do this…oh well, the things we will do to perform better!

 

After the HH12HR Event

You did it! You survived and I am sure you don’t want to look at carb gels or chews for the next several months. It is ok, because now all I would like you to do is eat very very well (don’t overload again, it may cause you to have a stomach ache). Post-event meals should have all sorts of veggies (the more the better, the more colorful the better), huge amounts of protein (yes, grass-fed beef or bison burger or steak is allowed), some nice quinoa salad or rice with veggies, maybe sushi. Splurge but do it intelligently and properly. You may think you’ve earned the donut, but your body will shout for help!!!

During the next two days, I personally suggest taking lots of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods: tart cherry juice, coconut water and oil, blueberries, pineapple, green leafy veggies, tomatoes, fatty fish such as salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, beets or beet juice, turmeric, ginger and bone broth. Hydrate very well, too! Add lots of magnesium and electrolytes into the diet. And go to bed – sleep is the best remedy for anything!

 

The HH12HR was the biggest challenge, the best life lesson and my proudest moment. I spent at least 5 months before the event researching and studying proper foods, testing them on myself during workouts and eventually preparing a plan that would help my body perform well, feel energized during the cruel sufferfest tasks, finish injury-free, and recover properly. I have coached Spartans and other endurance athletes for over 2 years as the owner and head Spartan SGX coach at beYOUtiful , LLC.

 

Izabela Chrobak​

Sport, Healthy Lifestyle and Motivation Coach

Founder of beYOUtiful, LLC

Spartan SGX Coach

NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist (FNS)

PhD in Cardiorespiratory Sciences

MSc in Human Biology, Anatomy and Physiology

www.beyoutiful.fit/

http://beyoutiful.fit/challengeup/

http://unlimitedyou.me

https://www.facebook.com/mdsb.fit

https://www.instagram.com/beyoutiful_spartanlady/

https://www.youtube.com/user/izabela4000