Warriors and Spartans—The New Look of Fitness

October 2013 View more

N2013_10_01_003FITNEIf the idea of running through mud, navigating your way through barbed wire and electrical fences, jumping through fire and over ice cold ponds excites you, keep reading. In the last few years there has been a proliferation of obstacle races all over the country and these races are drawing record numbers of attendees. If you’re ready to test your endurance, speed, and strength, there’s no shortage of opportunities to participate. Warning: These events are not for wimps.

Obstacle races are now all over the world. The idea is to develop obstacle courses which challenge competitors both physically and mentally. There is no shortage of creativity with the obstacles and these events. Some of the obstacles include, climbing over walls, carrying heavy objects, traversing bodies of water, crawling under barbed wire and jumping through fire. Some liken the courses to military training. Races do vary in both distance and difficulty.
Though each obstacle race touts itself as the best, toughest or most fun, only the few and the proud can really explain what happens in these races and why anyone would want to do them. Many, but not all races, are partnered with a charitable organization. Two of the most popular are the Wounded Warrior Project and Homes for Our Troops.

Kyle Nixon did his first Tough Mudder in 2011. “The hardest part was the water obstacles. I did the event in November so it was about 35 degrees.” At eight miles, medics wanted to treat his hypothermia, but he turned them away. “I didn’t want any help, I wanted to finish and I did. As tough as it was, I felt like I conquered the world when I finished. I’ll always be up for another Tough Mudder,” said Nixon.

The Tough Mudder requires participants to be in good shape. The challenge includes a 10-to-12-mile run with a myriad of unusually challenging obstacles including ice baths, fire, live electrical wires, tunnel crawls, barbed wire. Despite the crazy obstacles, this race is more popular than ever. This year, Tough Mudder registered more than 500,000 participants for 35 events, bringing in $70 million in revenue.

Another variation of Tough Mudder, is Muddy Buddy. Terri Hayes, owner of Artistic Creations in Naperville started doing the Muddy Buddy event with her brother a few years ago. “I saw a segment on the news about Muddy Buddy and it sounded like a great challenge.

I called my brother who is an ex-marine and he said to sign us up! I like the fact that the event benefits the Wounded Warrior Project,” said Hayes.

For Hayes, the biggest challenge was her petite frame. “Walking through chest high mud was brutal. I’m only 5’2” and I had to go 1/8 of a mile without getting stuck or falling over. It’s such a mental game. The best part is that you can conquer many fears through this event. I felt pretty beat up when I finished, but I’ll do it again.”

The Warrior Dash is the largest obstacle race series in the world. The inaugural Warrior Dash took place on July 18, 2009 in Joliet at CPX Sports with more than 2,000 participants.

“The Warrior Dash was something different and I liked the idea of getting dirty and having obstacles to take my mind off of the running part,” said Jennifer Caponi of Naperville.
Warrior Dash offers varying levels of difficulty allowing greater participation for all levels.
Wil Anderson of Naperville completed his first 3.5 mile Warrior Dash in August. “Yeah, it was challenging, but fun. I was worried it might be tough. But I made my way up the 30 foot rope wall, through some barbed wire and managed to finish feeling pretty good. At the end, I donated my shoes for recycling.”

In 2012, Warrior Dash experienced their largest season with more than 700,000 participants from all over the world. 2013 is projected to attract more than one million participants.
With all the fun and competition, be warned, as these events grow in popularity, so do the knockoffs. So have fun, but be careful out there.