Welcome to the Strength & Speed articles section. If you would like a specific topic to be covered send us a message and we will be sure to add it to the list of articles to be published. For articles on a specific topic, click on the "Categories" to the right. For all articles, continue to scroll down and click on "View Older Entries".
All articles are written by S&S owner Evan Perperis unless otherwise noted.
Interested in writing articles for Strength & Speed? Use the "Contact Us" page to get in touch.
Use referral # 240887 for 15% off your first order from Hammer Nutrition.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on October 24, 2018 at 8:00 PM|
I’m an Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) athlete whose specialty is Ultra-OCR (events that are 5+ hours in length). Ultra-OCR usually involves running a five mile loop with around 20 obstacles for a given amount of time (usually 6, 8, 12 or 24 hour). The obstacles are sometimes easy like crawling under wire and other times really hard like something you might see on ninja warrior. While I’ve had a lot of success in Ultra-OCR including a top ten finish at the 24 hour long World’s Toughest Mudder in 2016 with 90 miles, three top 10 finishes at the CBS Televised 8 hour Toughest Mudder series and a 2nd place Team finish at 2017’s World’s Toughest Mudder, I really like to push limits with my own challenges.
In 2016, I went from permanent OCR facility to permanent OCR facility across the United States for a full week and ran almost a marathon on each one. Called OCR America, the event raised $3,500+ for the charity Folds of Honor (scholarship money for children whose parents were wounded or killed in military service). By the end of the week I ran 161 miles (averaging 23 miles a day), completed 1000+ obstacles and climbed 31000+ feet of elevation.
In 2017, I took on another challenge I created called Ultra-OCR Grand Slam, where I tried to do well in every OCR in the world. I ended up finishing 1st or 2nd at every 24 hour OCR in the USA (2nd Terrain Race 24, 1st Dirt Runner Midwest Mayhem, 1st* Shale Hell 24 and 2nd Team World’s Toughest Mudder). I even flew to Australia and finished 10th at True Grit Enduro 24.
In 2018, I knew I had to go big so I created a charity event called Endure The Gauntlet. The plan was to multi-lap the hardest OCR series in the US, on their hardest course (Tulsa), in one of the hottest months (August) for not just the longest amount of time but double that of the longest race. The 48 hour event would also raise money for the charity Folds of Honor. I finished this event just recently at the end of August after pushing myself to the absolute limit both physically and mentally covering 91 miles and destroying my hands.
While my body was devastated the day after I almost looked normal walking around thanks to OOFOS. Previously I have worn the OOFOS sandal post-event, but the OOFOS shoe takes things to the next level. With feet that were swollen, bruised and had tender spots in all sorts of weird places the soft upper felt great on my foot. The sandals would have worked too, but the shoe was even better. This soft top combined with the patented OOFOAM foot-bed make this the perfect post-event recovery option.
I can’t thank OOFOS enough for their support and how their product has changed my training and performance. During periods of heavy training I wear them to speed recovery so I can train again harder. Pre-event I wear them to maximize the effects of my taper. Post-event they are speeding my recovery so I’m ready to race again sooner.
You don’t have to go for a 48 hour ultra-endurance event to get their benefit. Anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet or just wants a comfortable pair of shoes will love OOFOS. Despite being the only endurance athlete in my family, my entire family now owns a pair. Do yourself and your feet a favor and say thank you by picking up a pair of OOFOS recovery shoes.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on August 15, 2018 at 8:15 PM|
Many of our articles have started publishing through other websites. Here is a recent one off of SOFLETE "Is Quiting Genetic or Can We Control Our Destiny?" Enjoy.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on May 12, 2018 at 11:05 AM|
Chances are if you are reading this you are part of some fitness focused Facebook group that likes to do monthly challenges. Events like see who can run the most miles in a month or do a certain type of daily exercises every day for a month provide a goal for fitness enthusiasts. Although I think a larger periodized training plan will bring you better results (reference previous article 30 Day Challenges Bring 30 Day Results), I also understand that many people are simply looking to stay active and enjoy these monthly challenges as goals. If you fall into the latter, then I do think 30 day challenges might be a good option for you.
However, I think there is a better way to do these 30 day challenges than simply who logs the most miles in a month. If you are part of these groups or helping run these challenges I advise switching it to a 21 day challenge instead. This allows athletes to push hard and build fitness for three weeks and then allows for a down/deload/recovery week before starting the next month’s challenge.
Three weeks of building and one week of recovery will lead to better fitness in the long run and will help avoid overuse injuries as overzealous athletes try to reach the top of the leaderboard every month. Back to back 30 day challenges means the people in the group are never taking recovery weeks. These recovery weeks help consolidate fitness improvement, allow for minor injuries to heal and provide a much needed mental break. If you see no other reason to shorten the challenge, consider how closely your body’s ability to perform is tied to your mental strength. A down week will allow you to attack the beginning of the next challenge with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.
Be sure you challenge yourself to create growth, but let’s do it in a manner that incorporates required recovery to maximize our fitness improvement. Train hard, stay consistent, take a recovery week each month and enjoy the journey!
|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 20, 2018 at 10:45 PM|
Strength & Speed Develpoment Team Athlete Nathan Thiel takes you through instruction on how to build your own rig holds including a ball and nunchaku.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 7, 2018 at 10:40 AM|
Strength & Speed Develpoment Team Athlete Nathan Thiel takes you through instruction on how to build your own spear and target for practice at races like Spartan Race or Dirt Runner.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 28, 2018 at 7:35 AM|
As someone who has never setup, produced or run a large-scale race, it is easy to show up to an event and harshly judge the way things are done. Complaining about long lines or less than knowledgeable volunteers is easy when you are not the one that has to organize everything. Therefore, when I judge a race I try to use some common sense mixed with my opinion on how they handle problems.
In 2014, I had a history of bad luck with timing chips. At Warrior Dash World Championship my chip broke so I was listed as “Unnamed Participant” on the official site. At Obstacle Course Racing World Championship I lost my chip and bib number somewhere on the course. At World’s Toughest Mudder my timing chip started registering my laps as over 3 hours despite their actual time being about half that. Luckily, it still correctly counted my laps. At The Battlegrounds I had another chip error and my finishing time was an hour slower than it should have been. This resulted in my placing going from 3rd to around 260th.
With that being my first year of OCR, I could have easily lost hope in the quality of OCR events. It would have been easy to whine and complain about all these events, instead I look at how each of them handled the problem. In all cases, after a quick email or talk to the race director they corrected the error without any drama. At The Battlegrounds they even went above and beyond sending me a gift certificate to the winery located on site. It is actions like that, which help me judge an event.
I expect everything to run relatively smoothly and as long as there are no major problems, I realize the race organizers are doing their job the best they can. When you are trying to get volunteers to stand in the sun all day, you do not get to choose who shows up. It is really anyone that is kind enough to donate his or her time. Frankly, I am just thankful volunteers come to races that enable me to race hard and then go home to spend time with my family.
Next time you think about writing a scathing review of a race, take a moment to really think through what they did wrong. If it was something that happened to you personally (broken timing chip, misunderstanding on the course, volunteer providing poor instructions, etc.), did you tell the race director or someone of authority? If you did and he told you “sucks for you”, then by all means give an honest assessment online. However, if he did what he could within reason to fix your problem, than to me that shows better treatment of athletes than a smoothly run event.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 1, 2018 at 9:40 AM|
The trend in the obstacle course racing (OCR) community almost looks like a competition to see who can cram the most races into their year. If your only goal is to have fun and enjoy racing, then continue to do that. However, if your performance goals are more important than your experience at races, you may want to reconsider your schedule. Ideally, racing falls in between period of building and tapering, that is preceded by a long off season of just training. By “building and tapering”, I mean you keep applying high levels of stress to your body to create fitness adaptation, then you reduce the stress prior to your race allowing for peak performance. Instead of signing up for a race every weekend, follow these simple rules when planning your race schedule if you are looking to maximize performance.
1) Allow for base building: Your OCR schedule should not mark the start of your training, but rather create an event that allows for backwards planning. Two to four months prior to your first race should be the beginning of your serious training (plans can be found in “Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite OCR”;). This allows you to follow a training plan that involves weeks of building along with the occasional recovery week. If you want to see real improvements in fitness, you need to build a strong aerobic base with high volume running. What is high volume? That depends on your current level of fitness, fitness history and overall goal. It may be 20 miles a week, 50 miles a week or 80 miles a week.
2) Allow for taper prior to a race: While it is cool to see posts from the top athletes the week before the Obstacle Course Racing World Championship (OCRWC) called last chance workouts, it is not the best technique to perform at your best. Doing a super hard work out the final week before a race is not tapering. If you go too hard or too close to your race, you will be standing on the start line sore. Even if you may not be physically sore, your muscles may still be weak from you maxing out two days ago. Whether you notice it or not, you are limiting your ability to peak because your muscles will still be recovering from that workout. You can still do a lactate threshold (long interval) or VO2max (short interval) workout the week before a race but it should be towards the beginning of the week and it should be a lower volume than you usually do.
3) Allow for recovery before your next race: If you race every weekend, you will constantly be recovering from races or tapering for a race, which will not allow you to build or taper to your next event. If you are racing the longer OCRs like Toughest Mudders or Spartan Ultra-Beast and not allowing your body to recover, you are not optimizing your gains and may result in injury. Depending on your fitness level, a race like a Spartan Super may also require extended recovery. The shorter races like Conquer the Gauntlet will allow for more frequent racing and the shortest races with the easiest obstacles like Warrior Dash will allow for the most racing.
4) Set appropriate goals for double race weekends: If you are planning on racing twice in one weekend by doing two races in one day or one race Saturday followed by another race Sunday, you need to set priorities. Your goal should either be to perform at your best in the first race and accept risk with the second race or perform mediocre at both races. If you are truly maxing out your effort in your first race, you will not be able to perform as well in your second race. You may be thinking, “Athletes like Ryan Atkins and Jonathan Albon, were able to excel doubling down on a weekend at OCRWC.” They did well because they are in better shape than their competitors are, so a drop in their performance is less noticeable if everyone’s performance is suffering. Hence, the ability to do things like place high on both days.
5) Pick two to three races a year as your most important race: While everyone wants to do well at every race they participate in, you should pick a couple that are your most important, sometimes called an A race. This will allow you to conduct a true fitness build and a proper taper to peak for your event. Everything else is a B race, one with a short taper or a C race, one with no taper or almost no taper.
So what should an “ideal” race schedule look like? Ideally, you have 2-4 months of building of fitness prior to your first race. Then after you start racing your races should be spaced out every 3-4 weeks. This allows for a 2-3 week build in fitness and a 1-2 week taper for each race. This does not always line up so well in a perfect world, but the concept should be there regarding building and tapering. If you are looking to just finish, race a lot and have a lot of fun, then keep signing up for races every weekend but if you are in it to win it, take a hard look at your calendar.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on February 17, 2018 at 9:35 AM|
When my friends, peers and acquaintances see that I am sponsored by Hammer Nutrition I frequently get a flood of questions. Occasionally, they see my water bottle, shirt or sticker that lists Hammer as “Endurance Fuels” and they say something like “I only run 5ks though, these products cannot possibly help me.”
This line of thinking is both faulty and inaccurate. As I trained for my first attempt at qualifying for the Boston Marathon, I noticed something strange happening. Despite almost no speed training, I was getting faster by the week. In addition to getting a personal record (PR) my marathon by around 15 minutes, I also got a PR in my 5k and 10k within a month of my Boston Qualifying Race. This high volume approach to short distance success is nothing new, but runners who are trying to improve often miss this concept.
When explaining this to the average runner, I ask them “How far do you think a professional 5k or 10k runner runs in a week? Do you think it is 20 miles like most recreational 5k runners?” Looking at an elite 5k or 10k runner, their training plans will have volume a lot closer to an advanced marathon training plans available in running magazines or books. The reason is because high volume works at building aerobic strength and running economy. Both of these enable for short fast races. Adding in high volumes with some VO2max and lactate threshold work, has allowed me to PR for 5k almost every year.
Although I usually prepare for marathons in this way, I rarely use this approach for shorter races. This year, I decided to focus on Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). Most of the OCR races are short, around 5 miles, minus a couple of really long ones that occur later in the year that are ultra-distance in length.
After four months of high volume training that was fueled by supplements from Hammer Nutrition, I have started getting great results in OCR. Over the course of 2015I walked away with 10 podium finishes. My best results came in late July when I had four podium finishes in three weeks including a 2nd place overall at 24 hours of Shale Hell, an ultra-distance OCR in Vermont. This resulted in me being on the top 20 leaderboard in the world for OCR, reaching as high as the 9th spot. I show these results to athletes that race short distances to convey the message that just because you do not do long races, does not mean you should not do some long distance training to build your aerobic base. With high volume training, nutrition becomes very important and that is where Hammer comes into the equation.
Using Hammer Nutrition products I have found that they are the perfect counterpart to this type of training. Morning runs are fueled by a bottle of Heed to ensure I have energy throughout the entire workout and to prevent a loss of electrolytes. Post-run I refuel with Recoverite to ensure my muscles are full of glycogen for my evening training session run and protein to help rebuild. In the afternoon, I typically conduct strength training and follow that session up with some more Recoverite mixed with a scoop of Whey. Prior to bed, I take REM Caps and a scoop of Whey to maximize my deep sleep and boost growth hormone. The following day the cycle repeats itself, but I allow for 1-2 rest days per week.
For those that are reading this and think endurance supplements are not valuable to the short course racer, you are wrong. The products created by Hammer Nutrition are useful for any athlete that is serious in achieving results. Whether you run 5ks, lift weights, run ultras or are an OCR athlete, Hammer provides one of the key variables in the equation for success.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on January 14, 2018 at 10:50 AM|
Over Christmas I asked Santa for sandbags that I can use for my own training and for training clients. Santa was kind enough to bring me two models Brute Force Training bags, The Athlete and The Strongman bags. That being said, I paid for these bags and Santa was kind enough to wrap them for me then give them back. Now let’s get down to the good and bad of these bags
Price: I am not going to lie these things are expensive, at least on my budget they are. Right now as I am writing this review you can get the same to bags as I bought for $130 and $160 on the Brute Force web site. This seems expensive for an empty bag with handles and a couple of empty fill bags inside. However, when you compare this price to other sandbag type training tools on the market targeted towards Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) enthusiasts the price may be cheaper, depending on size. Also, with the Brute Force bag you control the weight inside. So as you get stronger you can make your bag heavier while other bags on the market will make you pay for another $130+ bag.
Durability/warranty: Each bag is made 100% in the U.S.A., which as a vet I find kind of cool. The bag itself is made from a similar material that military duffle bags are of. Which if you have seen of the abuse those bags get put through that should be an indicator of how tough these bags are. In case you do damage your bag Brute Force will repair the bag if it falls under their warranty, which covers “normal wear and tear, zipper issues, manufacturing defects and generally anything else (… ) within reason”. When you receive your bag included is a care sheet that outlines what you should and should not due with the bag in order to keep the bag in as good of shape as possible. Basically don’t drag it across rough jagged surfaces and don’t set it on fire (apparently someone did that).
Versatility: About the only thing I can’t do with these bags is max out on a lift, but I also didn’t buy the biggest bag. Furthermore, single rep max lifts are usually not the point of sandbag training. For most of us using sandbag training it is to get ready for a specific obstacle in an OCR race or to use the dynamic load as a different way of training as opposed to the static nature of barbells and dumbbells. I have yet to go truly heavy with my bags, but even with only 45lbs in the bag lifts like cleans and even curls take on a whole new aspect of core training. If you are unfamiliar with sandbags, basically think of the weight as a pendulum you now have to control and absorb as opposed to a barbell that provides a more rigid and controllable object.
One major difference between a Brute Force sandbag and others in the OCR world are the handles. And to be quite honest, the handles are one of the main reasons I went with these bags over others. Brute Force attaches not one, not two, but nine handles to their sandbags (unless you opt for the bag with none, but that’s your choice). Each set of handles is positioned to be able to give you a different grip for different lifts and exercises, which makes them a much more versatile tool in anyone’s workout regimen. As a certified personal trainer I feel that the handles make the bag much more beginner friendly. More handles lead to more exploration as to how to best use them. If you have a bag with only two straps coming off of the ends, it can be more difficult to find the best ways to use it. Also with all of those handles included on the standard bag you are saving money. Other bags will make you pay around $30 for an extra attachment that you have to configure yourself.
Lastly on the topic of versatility we have the load itself. As I talked about earlier you can put as little or as much weight in each bag as you want (each bag is rated for a certain range of weight). Which is a nice way of saying you have to go out, and put the sand in the bags yourself. If you want to buy the sand it is roughly $4 for a 50lbs bag of play sand. So for my 2 sandbags I used 4 of the included fill bags and 150lbs of sand for a whole $12. With those three bags I have four fill bags with 25, 35, 45 and a 55lbs respectively, this is where the true value of Brute Force bags comes in. I can load all of those bags up in my one Strongman bag and go get a killer workout, OR I can now use four different weights with my clients across a range of abilities and strengths. The fill bags take about 15 seconds to switch out.
In closing I am a HUGE fan of these sandbags. While yes the upfront cost is steep, the value of Brute Force Sandbags over other sandbags in the OCR market is astounding. Whether it is the ability to make the weight personalized, or the usefulness of the different handles Brute Force Sandbags are definitely my choice for sandbag training for OCR. Check out all of their gear at www.bruteforcetraining.com I don’t have a promo code to give you because this was not a sponsored review, I’m just a fan of their product.
(all images from Brute Force website and social media channels)
Jared Has a B.S. in Fitness & Wellness and is a Certified Personal Trainer. Jared was a college athlete competing in both soccer and track. Since beginning OCR in 2014 Jared has competed in numerous races, he qualified for OCR World Championships in 2016. Jared finished in the top 50 in the 30-34 age group on the OCRWC short course, he also completed the 15k standard course completing each obstacle and keeping his band. Jared is a member of Team Strength and Speed as well as the owner of JRen Fitness
|Posted by Strength & Speed on December 16, 2017 at 5:05 PM|
Exercise induced muscle cramps are often multifactorial and one intervention may not always immediately solve the problem. Unfortunately, there is no strong research behind the definitive cause and most of the recommendations come from expert opinion and/or athlete anecdotes. The theories regarding cramping are related to poor hydration/electrolyte imbalances and nervous impulse “misfire” that prevents a muscle from relaxing. In the past athletes would use pickle juice or mustard to alleviate cramps and noticed improvements almost immediately. This was credited to the sodium content but newer research indicates that this would not be an adequate amount of time for sodium absorption. Exogenous electrolyte consumption can take upwards of one hour for absorption if provided under optimal conditions. New discoveries suggest that certain flavors (like those present in pickles and mustard) trigger a neurological impulse that negates the misfire which allows for the muscle to relax. When it comes to preventing and treating cramps, the best approach is to incorporate all interventions.
1.) Warm up effectively
2.) Pace yourself and do not push beyond thresholds experimented with during training for too long
3.) Stretch thoroughly and remain limber days prior to a race
4.) If you do cramp, stretch immediately and pursue myofascial release techniques
1.) Maintain hydration for days leading up to the event
a. Do not wait until the night before the race to achieve optimal hydration
b. If dehydrated 2-3 days prior to an event, do not chug down water in high volumes. Increase water consumption by 8-16 ounces three times per day (with or without meals). Tapering will also serve to prevent normal fluid losses from reduced volume of training.
c. Urine should be relatively clear with a very slight yellow coloration. Once this has been achieved prior to the race, hydrate to match losses and maintain hydration status.
2.) Hydrate before, during, and after racing
a. Before: 16 ounces 2 hours before and then 8 ounces <30 minutes before
b. During: Enough fluid to prevent >2% weight loss during exercise
c. After: 16-24 ounces for every pound lost during exercise
d. Volumes may be subject to change depending on race length, temperature/humidity, and altitude
3.) Marginally increase electrolyte consumption days leading into the race and have an electrolyte rich meal the morning before a race
a. Example: oatmeal with peanut butter, banana, and a pinch of salt
b. If this is not possible, consume a sports beverage one hour prior to start of competition
i. Gatorade (or other equivalent product), Hammer Endurolytes, or Nuun electrolyte tablet
4.) Consider carrying a single serve packet of mustard or dill relish on the course for emergency cramping. These condiment packs can be found at most restaurants and grocery stores.
Luc is a registered dietitian with his M.S. in Nutrition and certifications in personal training and wellness coaching. Luc hones his professional skills through counseling athletes/fitness enthusiasts and through his career as a clinical dietitian at East Carolina University. As a member of the Strength & Speed Development Team, his main hobby is competitive obstacle course racing with notable appearances at Obstacle Racing World Championships (2014-16) and a 50 mile completion at World’s Toughest Mudder 2013. Luc can be followed through his Facebook (www.facebook.com/lrlabonte) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/lrlabonte_ms_rd_ld/) accounts.