Renegade, Spartan, Warrior Runs: Fitness is Getting Muddy

A newer type of fitness event is on the rise. Spicing up the typical road race by taking it off-road, adding obstacles and mud, “mud runs” are fast becoming the new challenge.

What’s the attraction? People are looking for a different kind of physical and mental challenge. Triathlons have increased in popularity in the past few years as individuals realize there’s more to life than the road. “Mud runs” go beyond the swim, bike, and run of triathlons and offer all-terrain runs with some outlandish obstacles and, dare I say, an atmosphere of FUN. In these events, participants need to have more than just cardiovascular endurance. They need strength, power, and agility to be able to crawl, climb, jump, and traverse through the various obstacles. It reminds me of some events I participated in while in college (Mud Bowl football, and the fraternity Greek Games). They were a blast.  Renegade Playground Challenge calls it, “Recess. Unsupervised”

Now while the shorter distances allow anyone an opportunity to participate, there are events for only the toughest (and probably craziest) individuals. The Spartan Death Race (at describes itself as “… designed to present you with the totally unexpected, and the totally insane! This endurance race is comprised of mud runs, obstacle racing, trail racing, physical challenges and mental challenges all in a +48 hour adventure race. 90% of you will not complete this endurance race. Please only consider this adventure style race if you have lived a full life to date.”

LOL, OK, that might be a little extreme. I know the 5k is much more my style than something that could be a Survivor episode.

So, choose your own level and have fun while getting fit. Look into events in your area, get a group of friends together, sign up, and train for (in the words of Monty Python) something completely different.

Good luck, Mark

PS: If you’ve already tried one, tell us which one and what your experience was in the comments below.

Here are some event organizations:


10/16/2011 at 11:05 AM Leave a comment

Long Lean Muscles for Women

If you haven’t said it, I’m certain you’ve at least heard it, “I want long lean muscles.” or “This workout program will give you long lean muscles.” What is the scoop on making muscles longer and leaner? Can you?

Well, let’s start with the easy one, leaner. I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind about this. Leaner is decreasing the subcutaneous fat (the fat between the muscle and the skin). Getting leaner is a combination of the right diet and exercise and is something that everyone can achieve.

What about making muscles longer? Muscles span a distance from one bone to another. The muscle attaches to the bone by tendons. Because the distance from bone to bone stays the same, the length of the muscles cannot get longer without having the tendon get shorter and that doesn’t happen. The muscle length is genetically determined. From one person to next you may see differences in muscle/tendon lengths, but you’re stuck with what you were born with.

So what can you control? Beyond how lean you are, you can choose the level of development of the muscle or how big (thick) the muscle is. Female bodybuilders’ muscles only differ from yours by size and that’s determined by the intensity and volume of their workout as well as how long they’ve been training. And muscle size doesn’t sneak up on you. You won’t wake up one morning and say, “Darn! I’m huge!” You can train exactly as bodybuilders do (or other athletes)and simply change your program to a maintenance one once you reach your desired level of development. The whole idea of getting “long and lean” or “toned” is losing fat and gaining a little muscle.

So don’t get sucked into the idea that one workout makes you bulky and another makes you long and lean. You need to have the proper diet and you need to exercise with enough intensity to stimulate muscle growth and increase your resting metabolism.

09/27/2011 at 1:33 PM Leave a comment

Create a Personal Diet Menu

One of the most difficult parts of watching your diet is trying to plan on and eat the appropriate foods each day. Too few choices that you like (or too many) makes it a real chore to stay on track. One way of getting a handle on your diet is to create your own personal diet menu.

Diets must take calories into account, so let’s start there. Either have a fitness or nutrition professional calculate your daily caloric needs or you can go to a website like and use their calorie calculator. Take the resulting caloric amount and divide it into your daily meals (for best results you should plan on eating every 2-3 hours). So let’s say we have 3 main meals and 3 snacks per day. If my caloric needs for weight loss equal 2300 calories per day. I may allot myself  520 calories/main meal and 246 calories per snack.

So let’s start mapping out our menu. We have the possible categories of Breakfast, Mid-morning Snack, Lunch, Mid-afternoon Snack, Dinner, After-dinner Snack (or you could simply group all snacks together). On a separate list, start writing in all of the foods that you like. Make this an ongoing list so you can update the menu. How do these foods fit into your caloric allotment. For lunch, maybe I like a Subway 6″ Veggie Delight sandwich (230 calories), a cup of skim milk (91 calories), a medium banana (105 calories), and 15 almonds (90 calories) = 516 calories. There’s one lunch combo. Can you come up with 5-6 variations? The more you come up with, the less likely you are to get tired of the food choices. Can you do this for each meal and snack?

Have some fun with this. You can actually create a menu like the one shown to give it a more light-hearted feel. I hope you will give this a try and let me know how it works for you.

Best wishes, Mark

Note: You can also use the menu to create your shopping list for the week.

09/08/2011 at 5:49 PM 1 comment

Green Exercise: Include the Great Outdoors

According to Wikipedia “Green exercise refers to physical exercise undertaken in relatively natural environments.” I think back to Venice Beach

 days of yore. Beach gymnastics, weightlifting and bodybuilding in the sun were the norm. Even the idea of it makes me want to go exercise outside.

The fact is research shows that in as little as five minutes of exercising in an outdoor, natural setting can enhance your mood, self-esteem, and reduce stress/anxiety. Pretty cool, huh? What’s the implication for us? Well, anything that makes exercise more enjoyable is a good thing, so, look for those opportunities that allow you to take it outside even if it’s just a lunchtime walk.

Health clubs should also take this information and offer classes and small group training out in the fresh air. Yoga classes, boot camps,  speed, agility, quickness trainings are examples of minimal equipment, easy to take outside kinds of activities.

Just for the record, I’m not suggesting you abandon your gym routine. We need to maintain a well-designed, balanced, strength program. But, when you can add in the great outdoors, do it. You’ll feel better for it.

07/28/2011 at 6:23 AM Leave a comment

Fat Burning Zone Myth; Going Slower Burns More Fat

I was teaching a boot camp the other day and, while encouraging a participant to work at a higher intensity, was hit with the question that never seems to quit. “But don’t I burn more fat going slower?” Well, why wouldn’t people believe that? It’s listed right there on most of the cardio machines: Fat Burning Zone (below cardio training zone). But, that’s misleading.

Let’s get to the heart of this, shall we? What the real deal is, is that you are NOT burning more fat. You’re burning a higher % of calories from fat. But, as you can see from the table below, when you look at two different intensity levels (55% and 85% of max heart rate), while a higher % of calories burned comes from fat at the lower intensity (58% vs 42%) you aren’t burning as many calories at a lower intensity level (209.8 vs 457.1). Ultimately you don’t burn as many fat calories (121.1 vs 191.3).

So, while going a slower, easier pace sounded good, it just doesn’t give the same benefits as a more intense program. For bigger losses, you need to go for bigger effort. Higher intensities will give greater fat loss results.

%Heart Rate Total Calories Fat Calories Carbohydrate Calories
55% 209.8 121.1 88.7
85% 457.1 191.3 265.8

Table from Len Kravitz, PhD article “Fat Facts”

05/31/2011 at 6:10 AM Leave a comment

Worksite Wellness: Businesses Need to Take Responsibility

 The costs of health care in our country has never been higher. According to the Wellness Council of America “The annual premium in 2008 for an employer-sponsored health plan covering a family of four averaged $12,500—about as much as an entire years pay for a person working at minimum wage and, if predictions hold, a family of four in the next seven to nine years will spend around $64,000 annually on healthcare.

Nearly 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. Obesity and related chronic diseases cost employers up to $93 billion per year in health insurance claims. The cost of obesity, including medical expenditures and absenteeism, for a company with 1,000 employees is estimated to be $277,000 per year. – CDC

More than the healthcare costs are the losses in productivity. Again, according to the CDC “… indirect costs of poor health including absenteeism, disability, or reduced work output may be several times higher than direct medical costs.”  Another loss in productivity occurs with what is called presenteeism, or being sick but still coming in to work.

So, when I say that businesses need to take responsibility, I’m not talking about an altruistic “it’s just the right thing to do” kind of thing (although, wouldn’t that be nice?). I’m talking about taking responsibility for the loss in profits due to a less healthy workforce. (Recent studies indicate that almost 50% of corporate profits now go for health care costs.)

Worksite wellness programs, and they come in all shapes and sizes for any business, can:

• Increase productivity
• Decrease absenteeism and presenteeism
• Lower health care costs
• Improve employee health status
• Decrease injuries, disability and workers compensation costs
• Improve employee energy levels
• Improve morale
• Enhance creativity and ability to concentrate
• Decrease stress levels
• Reduce employee turnover
• Increase recruitment potential
to name a few.

What kind of program’s right for your business? It depends on a lot of factors. It may be subsidizing employees’ health club membership or creating your own in-house program. Consult with your local health/wellness providers to see what options are open to. Your local health club may already have programs in place. Or, email me if you’d like my help.

Employers and employees, I’d love to hear your thoughts/concerns on this topic. Please ask questions leave comments below.

Best wishes, Mark Nutting, email: m a  r k @ m a r k n u t t i n g . c o m

P.S. One resource for more information is “Making The Case For Workplace Wellness”.

04/30/2011 at 6:02 PM 1 comment

Home-Made Calories: What’s in Your Recipes?

One of the stumbling blocks for those watching their calories is home-made food.  Oddly, my grandmother’s recipe for blackberry cobbler didn’t come with a nutritional label. So how do I figure that into my day’s calories?

Well, I think the cobbler might be too embarrassing, so I’m going to go with a recipe from one of my favorite recipe magazines and online sites, They already list the nutritional information per serving, but let’s take a look at how they arrived at those numbers.

While there are many databases that you can use, I’ll be using the USDA National Nutrient Database to look up the calories.

Bulgur Salad

Bulgur Salad with Edamame and Cherry Tomatoes
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

1 cup uncooked bulgur – 151 calories
1 cup boiling water – 0 cal
1 cup frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans) – 189 cal
1 pound yellow and red cherry tomatoes, halved (1lb = 453g) – 80 cal
1 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley – 22 cal
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint – 5.3 cal
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill – 0.5 cal
1 cup chopped green onions – 19 cal
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice – 13.5 cal
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil – 477 cal
1 teaspoon kosher salt – 0 cal
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – 3.5 cal

1. Combine bulgur and 1 cup boiling water in a large bowl. Cover and let stand 1 hour or until bulgur is tender.

2. Cook edamame in boiling water 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain. Add edamame, tomatoes, and remaining ingredients to bulgur; toss well. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

In adding up all of the calories in the above ingredients the total = 960.8 calories. That is for the whole amount. There are 6 servings in the recipe, so we divide by 6 which = 160.13 calories/serving.

So in order to calculate the nutritional information of home recipes, you find the value for each item(you can do this for protein, carbohydrates, and fat as well), add them all together and then divide by the servings per recipe. Once you do it for your favorites, you can then just plug that information in to your diet plan.

Let me know if you have any questions. Now I need to figure out that cobbler. 😉

Best wishes, Mark

03/28/2011 at 9:05 AM Leave a comment

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