How to Look Good Naked the S and P Way!

So, you’ve finished with the indulgences of Christmas and New Years; You’ve made (and broken) lots of fluffy, waffle-filled New Years resolutions; You’re certainly feeling a little snug in those new ‘slim-fit’ Jeans and you’re wondering what to do about it!

Well, wonder no longer! At Strength & Performance Gym we can help. Believe it or not, there are no magic bullets that will solve your predicament; What will help, however is a little bit of good old fashioned hard work, a good clean diet and a will to succeed. These three simple things will go a long way to creating a better version of the ‘you’ that’s currently staring back at you from your bathroom mirror.

Don’t like what you see?

Well here’s a quick insight into how to look good naked the S&P way!

NB – You will not need to set foot on a treadmill to achieve these results!

At S&P we are big fans of keeping things relatively simple so that you don’t get blinded by too much science and flannel! Over the last 6 years or so we have tried and tested various methods of what is commonly referred to as ‘Metabolic Training’ where the general aim is to strip fat and keep good lean muscle in order to give that lean, mean look.

What we have found is that the best results have come through a type of hybrid total body strength routine which we combine with certain high octane exercises to create a complete system that delivers kick-ass results every time, when used in conjunction with a good, clean diet of course. To burn fat effectively the body needs to have some meat on the bones! Don’t expect to get that sleek, svelte look if you’re just ‘skinny fat’. We tend to see this a lot from people that are already slim but have fat stored in all the wrong places.

Don’t waste any more time wondering what to do about your body. Come down to our gym and see for yourself what can be achieved with a bit of elbow grease and a measured

Strong plus Lean = Sexy!

Yours in Strength

#TeamSandP

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Strength and Performance UK’s Strongest Athlete is BACK!

ATTENTION all you BADDASS S&P followers, and all other strength fanatics; 6 months after the successful launch of UKSA2011 we are back to announce a bigger and better competition so get your pen and paper/smart phones handy and prepare to write some details down.

The date is set for UKSA 2012; Saturday July 7th. The place: LifeLeisure, Reddish (Same as last time).

Entrance into the competition will be £25 per athlete. Spectators will be charged £5 each on entry. Family entrance fee (1 adult plus any children under 16) will be £10. All competitors will receive a FREE Strength & Performance UKSA 2012 T-shirt plus some other goodies on the day!

In a change to last years protocol, and by popular demand we have added a brand new category to the Under 90kg’s and Over 90kg’s. This year will see the ladies get their chance to kick some ass and take on the UKSA challenge. We expect the competition to be fierce!

We had athletes from all over the UK last time around and we are looking forward to welcoming everyone back to Stockport for some more top level action. 2011 saw Joe Lightfoot take the Under 90kg title while Liam McCrea pipped the competition to the post in the Over 90’s. Who will dominate this year?.. And who will be crowned the first Uk’s Strongest Female Athlete?

UKSA 2011 Winners Joe and Liam with TeamSandP

We must reiterate that UKSA is NOT for professional or competing Power Lifters or Strongman competitors! Sorry guys!

Also it’s worth noting that we will be weighing all athletes in on the morning of competition. Weight allowance is 0.5kg’s over for the Under 90’s and the weight limit for the Over 90’s is 130kg’s. There is no weight restriction on female athletes.

To say we are exited about this is an understatement! UKSA 2012 is going to be EPIC! We have adapted our event list to push the boundaries of strength, power, speed, endurance and mental toughness even further than before so preparation is going to be key for anyone who thinks they have what it takes to succeed.

We’ve also brought in some heavy artillery this year; Joining last years and this years sponsors Myprotein.com are top sportswear providers Canterbury who will be providing some awesome prizes. We’ve also enlisted the help of WolversonFitness – producers of top quality, S&P-endorsed strength material. We are proud to be associated with these brands and are looking forward to working with them to ensure that UKSA 2012 is a HUGE success.

Race2Recovery

We will be working closely with the guys from the Race2Recovery Charity who will be on hand to give out information on a most worthy cause and who will be collecting much needed cash on the day. You might recognise some of the guys from their recent appearance on Top Gear where two of the amputees compete for a place in the gruelling Paris-Dakar Rally. This charity is especially close to home for us as the actual Land Rover which was donated for the rally was conceived and manufactured by one of our athletes who we hope will be competing on the day.

So, enough already, let’s get down to the nitty gritty as they say! You’re all no doubt wondering what the events are this year. Well, wait no longer (All distances/approximate weights for all events are tabled below):

Event 1 – Tyre Flip and Sprint

Athletes will be required to sprint approx 10 metres to the tyre then flip it twice before sprinting a further 10 metres to a cone. They will go around the cone and sprint back to the tyre where they will flip it a further two times before sprinting through the finish line. This will test the legs and lungs early!

Event 2 – Farmers Walk

 They don’t come much simpler than this one; Athletes will pick up and carry two loaded Farmers Walk handles around a cone placed 18metres away, and return back to the start line. We’ll load ‘em up heavy and let battle commence! Fastest time wins!

Event 3 – Axle Clean and Press

 In a slight modification to the overhead press from last years’ UKSA, athletes will clean a loaded axel, complete with two wheels up to the shoulders before pressing overhead. They will then replace the axle back down on the ground. The aim is to repeat for as many repetitions as possible within a 60 second time limit. Full arm lock-out is required and athletes must straighten legs and remain steady at the end of each rep for what judges deem a reasonable period of time for each rep to count.

Event 4 – Standing Rope Pull-in

 

We had to keep this one in; A head to head battle between two warriors, this is sure to be a crowd favourite again this year! The objective is simple; Hand-over-hand-pull a loaded sled attached to a 20metre rope in to the feet in as fast a time as possible. There is little room for error over this gruelling distance. Don’t let that grip slip! Judges will be looking out for excessive movement backwards so be sure to stay put or risk disqualification.

Event 5 – The Medley 

The grand finale is going to be even tougher than last year! This is where the competition can be won and lost. It is possible to slip or gain places at the death, so being in kick-ass shape is going to be essential in order to be crowned The ‘2012 Strength & Performance UK’s Strongest Athlete’!

Athletes will first sprint 18metres before picking up a 55kg keg from behind the line. They will then sprint back to the start line and deposit the keg before sprinting back to pick up a 75kg Sandbag! On return with this bag they will finally grab a loaded sled and complete the final leg of the medley by dragging the sled backwards to the finish line. Fastest to complete the course will win. Be sure to pull the sled ALL THE WAY over the line!

This says it all!

Ok, you’ve got the low-down, now you’ve got 5 months to GET STRONG and prepare for battle!

We’ll post sign-up/payment details up on the blog and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Let the games begin!

#TeamSandP

NB – Weights for each event/category are detailed below (All weights are approximates only and may be subject to change):

Category

Event

Ladies

Under 90kg Men

Over 90kg Men

1-      Tyre Flip Approx 100kg Approx 240kg Approx 240kg
2-      Farmers Walk Approx 40kg Each Hand Approx 80kg Each Hand Approx 90kg Each Hand
3-      Axle C+P Approx 36kg (total weight) Approx 70kg (total weight) Approx 80kg (total weight)
4-      Rope Pull-in Sled +3 plates (60kg) Sled + 5 plates (100kg) Sled + 6 plates (120kg)
5-      Medley Keg – 30kg/SB-40kgSled – 4 plates (80kg) Keg-55 kg / SB-75 kgSled – 6 plates (120kg) Keg-55 kg / SB-75 kgSled – 7 plates (140kg)

 


Guest Post from our Boy Matt Wichlinski

I spoke to Matt last week and I asked him if he would like to do a guest blog post for S&P on training for athletic performance. He was last over back in May 2011 when we did the Athletic Domination seminar and since then we have stayed in touch regularly, so I thought it would be good to see what he has been upto. Matt thinks both inside and outside the box when it comes to training and is not just a man of words but he walks the walk as well.

Be prepared to be pushed both mentally and physically

When I received the article from Matt with the article entitled Bridging the Gap between the Weight Room and the Gridiron, I knew it would be good, however after reading it I was pleasantly shocked to see how much time and effort he had put into it. This article is worth gold in terms of training knowledge so hopefully just like me everyone reading this will take a lot of valuable information from it, so please spare 15 minutes to have a read through this article and watch the video below.

Football players, ruggers, and all other contact sport athletes need to be big, strong, fast, mobile, agile and be covered in a suit of muscled up body armor to protect them from the other 20 maniacs running around knocking each other over. To have a successful team, most of the players need to have these attributes. Simply having one or two studs on the team with outstanding numbers can score you a few big plays, but will never win you a championship. When training in a team environment, we can’t put our focus on what works for some guys some of the time. We need to put our focus into what works best for most people most of the time.  Also, several factors need to be considered when training in a group environment, and the strength coaches job of managing the madness is trifold. The coach needs to manage his limited time with the athletes, the available space he has to train, and of course, the personnel he has to work with. How to accomplish this is dependent upon the philosophy of the organization.

The strength coach must also realize the needs of the players. These needs are obvious in most cases for any chosen sport. But needs for the individual are less obvious due to injuries, weaknesses and imbalances. Personalizing an individuals needs usually take a back seat in group training programs, as it becomes nearly impossible to monitor 75 different programs within a single group of athletes. Through time and experience, the coach will learn what special attention certain athletes will need depending on their positional requirements and personal issues.

Strong, Powerful and Agile makes a good Athlete

Football is not a healthy man’s game and we don’t play it for fitness. We are the modern day gladiators of team sport. Outside of martial arts, in no other sport does one get celebrated for hitting another man so hard, that bodily fluids get excreted from multiple orifices while simultaneously collapsing a lung, breaking a bone, or in any other way debilitating another human being.

There are not many anatomical positions foreign to an average football player by the middle of a season. These guys get pushed, shoved, knocked down, kicked, punched, gorged, trampled, bulldozed, Russian sickled, Jimmy Supafly Snooka’d, banana hammocked and double-fish-hook-camel-clutched hundreds of times throughout the season. These guys know pain, trauma, agony and suffering, torn bones and broken ligaments. With the exception of the kicker, these guys live in pain for months on end.

Therefore, training for general fitness is not the best way to train for football. Footballers need some specialization.  I am not advocating to mimic the exact movements they make on the field in the weight room, I am just saying that there are certain attributes that football players need and don’t need.  Specifically, they need to be very strong. They do not, however, need to be able to jog a mile with poor mechanics. Jogging as no place in football. They need repetitive short bursts of speed and power, a suit of heavily muscled body armor to help protect them from injury. They need adequate flexibility to handle being contorted into unexpected awkward positions and not get traumatized. Not only do they need to deliver punishment, but they need to learn how to take it as well, learning how to avoid and absorb impact is crucial to longevity in this sport. And arguably the most importantly, the mental toughness to keep pushing forward when you’re in pain and everybody wants to quit.

Taking no Prisoners

Basic strength is the foundation for all other physical elements of your training. If you are not strong, then your potential for speed development will be limited, as well as your ability to repeatedly perform a task with any level of intensity. The barbell in my opinion is the single best tool for getting an athlete stronger in the shortest amount of time. However, there is not always a parallel carryover to weight room strength and performance on the field. The only way to increase your skill is to play your sport. Fortunately, there are other types of training you can do to ensure there is a positive transfer from the weight room to the field. To bridge the gap between weight room strength and game time performance, I like to use unconventional and odd object training. Proper barbell training is widely known to get athletes very strong, that is undeniable. But most traditional barbell exercises work the body in only a single plain of motion. You can obviously make adjustments and use a barbell for truly unlimited movement patterns. But due to spatial and safety concerns, these types of exercises and training modalities are better suited when paired with the appropriate tools. Its kind of like hammering a nail with a pair of vise grips. You can hammer it all you want, but there is a better tool for the job.

Lets look at some of the basic exercises used in traditional football training, the power clean, deadlift, bench press and squat. While these are all classic movements that will get you strong, we are concerned with getting maximal transference to the field. There seems to be a polarized belief in many coaches programs that their teams training needs to be this way or that way, and differing from the predetermined system may not be welcomed. Fortunately, more coaches are starting to see the light and are beginning to incorporate unconventional training outside of the weight room. Every tool has its pros and cons. While a barbell is the best tool for microloading, it lacks organic movement by nature. In no other time in your life will you be lifting a perfectly balanced barbell outside of  the weight room. But we have the option to utilize different tools to create a different stimulus, thus forcing the athlete to move in different planes of motion and forging a more complete athlete.

A power clean is a great exercise and I recommend it go into most football programs, but if the athlete performs it incorrectly it is not a great exercise any longer. Also, the barbell generally moves straight up and down for the most part. Some good options to supplement a barbell power clean would be sandbag lifts like cleans, shoulders and throws, where you would basically rip the bag from the ground to your chest, your shoulders or even throw it right over your head. You also have the added option to use rotational lifting with sandbags as well, which isn’t quite as effective or safe with a barbell. You would simply place the bag by your side and you have the option to lift with a traditional stance or a split stance. We also have tire flips that encourage you to move your feet as you run through the movement. With a traditional power clean, you lift the bar off the floor and explode through your hips, shift your feet out slightly as you receive the weight at your shoulders. You essentially move straight up and down. With rotational cleans and tire flipping, you add side to side and front to back movement under load, as well as up and down. I’m not saying you should take barbell training out of the program, it is great if it is being performed properly, just consider supplementing additional movements to enhance athleticism and bridge the gap. Walking sandbag or kettlebell halfmoons are a great example of a supplemental exercise that can exhibit power, mobility and agility in multiple planes and ranges of motion. I like to look at my supplemental exercises as my training’s salt and pepper, it does not replace my meat and potatoes, it just makes them a little better. If you skipped your meat and potatoes and only ate spices, you’d have a pretty shitty meal that would get you smoked on the field. Adding spice to your training keeps the athletes excited and always recruiting new muscles synergistically by incorporating new movement patterns. Also, in my opinion, single and double kettlebell snatches, cleans, swings and power jumps are easier to teach, and help the athlete perform full body explosive movements with a faster learning curve.

Deadlifts are another phenomenal exercise, probably the best, at getting people stronger and more muscular all over their entire body. The only problem with it is that the only time we lift something perfectly balanced with perfect form is when it’s on a perfectly loaded barbell and put right against our perfectly aligned shins. Well, if we have been doing any kind of deadlifting or cleaning for a while, our shins are nowhere near perfect. Certain deadlift variations either before or after the main lift is beneficial. One arm straddle deadlifts, suitcase deadlifts and one arm farmers carries all help to stabilize and strengthen the trunk muscles which are necessary for all athletes and life in general. Also, heavy stone, keg and log lifting is a great tool to get someone stronger with less than optimal body positioning. As I stated earlier, athletes get forced into awkward positions all the time while placed under pressure. If you never train outside of perfect conditions, your likelihood of injury will rise as soon as your demanded to move with force in an awkward position. You can call it unsafe or imperfect training if you want, but lifting, carrying, and throwing uneven and oddly shaped instruments will create a more balanced and safer athlete by preparing them for the rigors of the job.

Press Up Variations are very challenging, don't underestimate them!!

Bench pressing is a staple in all football programs, and the curse of getting more reps at more weight, regardless of technique and careless of safety, is a problem for most programs. While the bench press is a wonderful upper body strength builder, many athletes lack the ability or knowledge to get the most out of the exercise by creating peak tension in the body during the lift. Also, your hands are locked into one position during the entire exercise, but on the field every athletes hands are methodically fluttering like bumblebee wings while pushing, pulling, punching and grabbing every pesky offender in the area. A fantastic supplement to the bench press is any type of bodyweight pressing work performed with some type of suspension trainer or rings, preferable with a mechanically disadvantaged leverage position. What I mean by leverage disadvantage is pushing from a position as far as possible from your center of mass. Performing a pushup with straight arms is a good example. It may not exactly be a pushup, but if you can manage to push your body in a range of motion without bending your elbows, you will be increasing core tension in your body, strengthening your tendons and other connective tissue, and strengthening more overall musculature throughout the body by actively recruiting more muscles simultaneously and synergistically. A poorly performed bench press can almost isolate the chest (and arms), but nothing performed on the field will isolate your chest. You’ll be forced to use your whole body during action or get beat by your opponent. Even if you do not or can not yet perform straight arm work, just performing basic push ups with the instability of the suspension system, by having your hands move freely through space and not be fixed on a barbell, can provide you tremendous strength gains and kinetic awareness, which is beneficial for all athletes. One arm and two arm pressing and pulling such as kettlebell presses and rows, jerks and pullups from various grips and angles are essential to develop a well rounded upper body, keeping those shoulders healthy for the duration of the season.

Last exercise, but certainly not least, is the squat. Oh baby, the amazing squat, they make me so happy to see performed correctly, yet so many young athletes sacrifice form at the expense of a perceived greater max. Adding more weight to an improper movement is going to lead to problems. We all know it, but we do it anyway. Stop doing it now. OK, assuming squat technique is good, I believe that having the ability to perform a deep squat while keeping your feet flat, knees out and tracking the toes, hips back and low, back flat, chest up and shoulders back while under a heavy load will be the single best thing you can do for your athleticism, and thus, become a better football player. The amount of full body tension and mobility a heavy squat produces is unparalleled in barbell training. While its a known fact that squatting cures obesity, rickets, polio, cancer, diabetes, stupidity, AIDS, bone marrow disease, wild snake bites, hairy palms and tuberculosis, it is also believed by many professionals to have the ability to rid the planet of all weaknesses including homoinfectus vaginitis. Now that I have provided scientific jargon to conclusively prove that squatting is awesome, lets look at some variations to balance your strength and transfer that to the field. .

Is this the King Exercise?

Sandbag bearhug squats might be the best beginner exercise to load the hips and legs in the safest and quickest way possible with minimal equipment. Goblet squats are a phenomenal hip mobility and core exercise, but the amount of weight being used will be limited by the athletes ability to get it into position. That same reason makes the goblet squat great for fitness, yet less than ideal for maximal strength development, but still a very good supplemental exercise before or after heavy training. Back squats, front squats, Zercher squats and overhead squats all using bands, chains or a box, in any combination, will elicit tremendous strength, speed and athleticism. Another good substitute would be a trap bar deadlift, considering the position of the body while pulling the weight from the ground, your thighs will get a tremendous workout without placing a barbell on the back. Lunges, step ups and other single squat variations are also great for balance, stability and eliminating many unilateral strength deficits. My personal favorite supplementary squat exercise would be truck and prowler pushes, very heavy sled drags and pulls in all directions, and hill sprints. It is as natural and primal as it gets, it is just so happens to be very hard to do wrong. Its what I like to call “dummy proof exercise.”  Little has to be coached in a sled drag, just move the thing from here to there and good things happen.

Finding the balance of all attributes that equate to becoming the most dominant athlete one can be has long been studied and will continue to be tested. But, the fact of the matter is, all the best training knowledge in the world can be wasted if the athlete does not have the heart and desire to be the best they can be. No tool, device or training system can replace hard work and tenacious effort. The system is going to be reliant on the available time, space and personnel. The athlete has little control over these factors. What the athlete has total control over is their own personal goals and desire. The dedication and commitment the athlete puts forth can not be fabricated, it must come from true passion, he must have the heart of a warrior to push through obstacles and failure again and again until success is finally achieved. What determines success is up to the individual. When the athlete is mentally ready to begin the journey, and the coach provides an adequate training environment, only then can the athlete reach their full potential. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more valuable than a person with a dream, clear goals and insane work ethic to move them towards that goal. There is no perfect program for everyone, sets and reps schemes are always changing and exercise selection is always rotating, but the following workouts provide an example of the style of training I would expect from a football player.

3 sample workouts:

Day 1

1. Barbell hang power snatch – 5×2

2. Sandbag snatch throw – 5×2

3. 1 arm KB snatch – 4×5/5

4. Front squat – 4×3

5a. Sandbag/KB lunging half moon – 4×5/5

5b. Broad jump – 4×3-5

6a. Burpees – 5×5

-no rest

6b. Sled drag any direction – 5×40 meters

– rest 45 seconds

Day 2

1. Shoulder prehab – x 5-10 minutes

2. BB jerk, 2 KB jerk or handstand push ups- 5×3

3. Sandbag push throw – 5×3

4a. 1 arm KB push press – 3×6/6

4b. Weighted pull ups – 3×6

5a. any bench press variation – x6-5-4-3-2-2

5b. any row variation – 6×6-8

6. Undulating rope waves – 10×10 sec work/ 30 seconds rest

Day 3

1. Clean & Jerk – Work up to a heavy single

2. Box Squat – Work up to a heavy double, using bands or chains if possible

3a. Tire flip, heavy stone, sandbag, keg or log lift – 5×3

3b. Sprint – 5×20 meters

4a. 2 KB squat press – 5×5

4b. 2 KB swing – 5×5

5. Truck or sled push/pull – 6-10 seconds work/ 35-45 seconds rest x 10 minutes

Just like to say a big thanks to Matt for spending the time in putting this article together, hopefully everyone has taken something away from it, if you want to find out more from Matt, then stay up to date with his website The Strength Shop

Drop a comment below with your thoughts, or if you have a question for Matt then post below

Until Next Time

Lift Big & Get Strong

Sean

www.strengthandperformance.co.uk

Photos taken by Marcin Fijalkowski / www.maffoto.pl

Interview with UK’s Toughest Mudder Athlete Ben Kirkup

Thanks for doing this interview Ben, with Tough Mudder hitting the UK this year, I thought it would be good to hear from someone who has competed in a few Tough Mudder races as well as the Toughest Mudder Race, which took place just recently. You can hopefully give people an insight in what to expect. So lets get to it

1. For people who don’t know you, talk a little about who you are?

Hi, I’m Ben. I’m a 33 year old recently married construction manager living in Chorlton, Manchester. I’m no elite athlete but I enjoy challenges that test me physically and mentally and I’m constantly looking for new and unusual events to take part in. I like to play team sports, I play cricket for Didsbury and rugby for Wilmslow but will happily enter events as a solo in the hope of making a friend somewhere around the course.

2. Tough Mudder is hitting the UK this year, when did you first hear about it and where was your first event?

My wife Melissa is American and use to live in New York, so before we were married we spent a couple of years regularly crossing the pond to see each other. I also have a close friend Jon that lives in Pennsylvania and during one visit we were all together and the subject of Tough Mudder came up. At that point only a couple of events had been run but there was already a buzz about it so Jon and I picked the New England Tough Mudder in Vermont and entered it.

The event took place at the start of May last year. It was held at a ski resort in the off season so you can imagine what the course was like!! 10 miles, 28 obstacles, 13,000 ft of elevation change, freezing cold water and a small section of it was climbing up a glacier (in reality it was a massive mound of snow but it was still cold!!).

Got to get wrapped up!!

3. You have recently competed in the World’s Toughest Mudder; talk us through what it was like?

It was amazing!! The toughest, most miserable, most fun, most inspiring 24 hrs of my life. To take part in the first Toughest Mudder was an honour in itself. 140,000 took part in the qualifiers and I was one of just over 800 that made it to the Worlds. To line up with Joe Decker, the worlds fittest man and winner of two Death Races, Ray Upshaw and Joel Gat, Tough Mudder legends that have done every Tough Mudder event, serving Marines, soldiers and special forces veterans was something else. Margaret Schlachter one of the competitors started a FB page just for Toughest Mudder entrants so we could discuss the event and compare notes on equipment and tactics.  There were about 275 of us on the page by the time the event took place and so we could find each other on course we all wore a reflective armband. We called ourselves Team WTF and are unofficially the biggest team to enter a Tough Mudder, no matter what happened that day we were all there for each other to offer help and encouragement. Just to be part of that team is fantastic.

4. Do you think you have to be both mentally strong as well a physically to compete in an event like this?

Yes. They’re not a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. The courses are designed to test your all round strengths and weaknesses but never let that put you off. Toughest Mudder hit me mentally. We made the fatal mistake of stopping to dry off and warm up. By the time we’d done that our wet kit had frozen solid and the thought of going out in the gear I had left was too much. We risked it for a final lap in the morning when the sun had come up and the gear turned out to be fine. I’m now kicking myself we didn’t get out there sooner. It’s a lesson we’ve learned for next time, it was our first 24hr event so it was always an unknown. Making mistakes is fine, just as long as you don’t make them again!

5. How did you train for Tough Mudder? And did you enjoy it?

If I remember right you tortured me for about 8 weeks, and no I didn’t enjoy any of it!! Seriously though you trained me hard. We went through all the obstacles from the event and you tailored my training around that. We incorporated everything from standard strength training to crazy circuits using different pieces of equipment including barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, medicine balls, sleds, ropes, prowlers and of course bodyweight. Before every training session I was filled nervous excitement knowing I was going to need to go harder and faster than I had the previous session. I have to admit while I was doing some of the training there was a voice in the back of my head saying ‘why is he making me do this’?? Then come race day it all became clear. I was physically ready for everything, well almost everything!!

Just like in the race, team work is everything!

6. How much does team work play in these events?

Teamwork is what these events are about. You make a pledge before you start. You pledge that,

As a Tough Mudder I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge, I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time, I do not whine – kids whine, I help my fellow Mudders complete the course, I overcome all fears.

Now I have to say that when I stood on the start line in Vermont I thought this was a bit cheesy and I felt a bit silly making this pledge. But before I was halfway round I got it. If you want to go racing off the front at the start of the race so you finish first then go ahead, no ones going to stop you, but there’ll be no fanfare for you at the finish and you won’t find your name at the top of any online results page. The pledge is there to make you understand that you’re not out there on your own you’re all in it together. Doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, if you fall close to me I’m going to help you up, if you can’t make it over the wall I’ll give you a boost, if that barbed wire’s snagged your t shirt I’ll free it up for you. As hard as I train I cannot complete a Tough Mudder course on my own, fact. The Berlin Walls are too high for me to scale, I need help to get over them. Usually when I get there I’ll find a group of people in the same boat as me and we’ll work together till every ones over. Generally we’ll thank each other at the foot of the last wall and move on at our own pace. Sometimes that’s the last you’ll see of them but other times they’ll find you at the after party and share a beer with you, after all you’ve made a bond and often a friend. Even at the Toughest Mudder with a $10,000 1st prize the camaraderie was alive and well, even more so. I made more friends at that event than any other. It seems the more extreme the conditions and harder the event the deeper and stronger the bonds are.

I’ll tell you a story from the Worlds. Roxanne Meeker had qualified at Vermont like us and was signed up for the Worlds and training hard. Before the event she had some health issues and had to pull out. She is part of the WTF team and couldn’t face not being at the event so turned up with the sole intention of helping out anyone that needed it. She soon became known as ‘Momma Meeker’ and we all looked to her at some point throughout the day for either help or inspiration. Even with her health issue she was at the start line, she wanted to give the course a shot even just to do one lap; after all she had the biggest team behind her!! She got about half way through the first lap when she had to pull out suffering from hypothermia. She rode an ambulance back to her tent where she dried off, warmed up and got ready for everyone to return. She tirelessly ran around feeding people, making drinks, running to find friends and relatives of those that had pulled out and encouraging everyone still in the race to get back out there. At about the 25 ½ hour mark the guys I was with and I ran in with a guy called Matt Michaud. He was a part of the WTF team and only a few obstacles from completing his 6th lap (he was one of only 10 people to finish the race) and he was struggling. He was hypothermic and he couldn’t bend his legs but with the promise from us of a hot tub and Playboy Bunnies serving him cocktails at the finish line he made it to the end. Pretty quickly they got him into the medical tent where they started to warm him up. Fearing for his health the medical team admitted him to hospital where he would stay until he was discharged two days later. Roxanne had never met Matt before she turned up on race day but she went with him to the hospital. She stayed with Matt and his wife until he was discharged from hospital. Then she put them in her car and she drove them both 9 hours home. Then she went home herself.

Its people like her that make Tough Mudder. The story’s an extreme but the message is clear, Tough Mudders look after each other.

Team work is everything!

7. You have to be a bit crazy to enjoy these events and the training that goes with it, so what drives you?

It’s hard to say. I didn’t set out looking for these types of events they just kind of came along. I never pegged myself as one that goes out to challenge myself but I guess I must be. The events I’m looking for are definitely becoming more extreme, I guess I just want to know how far I can go. I’m not a thrill seeker or an adrenalin junkie but the events that make people question your sanity are the ones that really get my attention. The Death Race in Vermont, the Barkley Marathons, the Badwater 135 and the GoRuck Challenges, they’re all things I’d like to have a shot at. They’re challenges with a story and they’re unusual. My wife can’t stand it, she thinks I’m obsessed!! Maybe she’s right. I’d just like to point out that I don’t find these events appealing because they’re dangerous, they’re not. Not for someone like me anyway 😉

Be prepared to get a little wet!

8. How do you think Tough Mudder differs from the other races that are out there?

It differs because it’s not a race. If you think it is you’ve missed the point.

9. Do you think Tough Mudder will be a success the UK?

I pray to God it is. If it’s not I’m going to have to move to the US!! Seriously though, Tough Mudder was the brain child of an English guy Will Dean who came up with the concept for a Harvard Business school competition where it came second. His professors said it was a quirky idea but it wouldn’t attract more than a few hundred people, so with the help of another fellow Brit Guy Livingstone they put the 1st event together in May 2010 and it attracted thousands. It’s now a multimillion dollar business. It was thought up by Brits, I’m a Brit and I love it, so on that basis I’d say it’s going to be a roaring success!! There are definitely elements of it that really appeal to the American psyche that the British may find a little cheesy at first but go in with an open mind and embrace the concept and you’ll love it.

10. So what advice do you have to people who want to try an event this year?

Don’t be scared. These events aren’t designed to kill or hurt people. Yes they’re made to be challenging but no one gets a kick out of seeing people being carted off in the back of an ambulance. They’re not just for the guys either. If you want to see some ladies that love to play in the mud look no further than Margaret Schlachter (www.dirtinyourskirt.com), Amelia Boone (www.raceipsa.blogspot.com) and Katy McCabe (www.katymccabe.com), these women are unreal and all the inspiration any female should need to get involved.   Don’t feel like you’re on your own or feel that ‘people like you’ don’t do these events. Find the closest one to you and go have a look. You’ll be surprised at the kind of people that these things attract. I can almost guarantee you’ll find someone that’s ‘just like you’. Then you’ll wish you had a number pinned to your chest instead of watching from the sidelines. Also don’t feel you can’t enter these things as a solo. Yes it’s more comforting if you enter with a friend but don’t rely on it. I often turn up alone on the day and try to make a friend before kickoff. Should this blog inspire you to enter something and you get to the start line alone, have a good look around. If there’s a big guy in a Union Jack tutu and wig, come and say hello, I’ll run with you, if I can keep up!!

Always hungry for more during training!!

11. Plus what next for you, how can you top a 24hr race?

Well, I didn’t officially finish Toughest Mudder. We were still there at the end but we didn’t do enough laps to be considered finishers, and that’s keeping me awake at night!! World’s Toughest and I have some unfinished business so qualifying and finishing that are definitely on the cards. The Death Race is something I’d like a crack at, that’s a very mental and physical one held in Vermont and I love the idea of the Barkley Marathons, a 100 mile trail run that was born out of a failed prison break. This year in the UK though I’ll be doing both days of all the Tough Mudders, of course! I’m looking at the Adidas Thunder Run, that’s a 24hr race, laps of a 10k trail run. Hellrider, loops of an 8k mountain bike course and 5k trail run, as many as you can in 8hrs. There’s also a 24hr race from London to Cardiff that my wife found, for that we need a team of 12 so if anyone likes the sound of that please let me know.

Pushed to the limits!

Thanks very much for doing this interview and I hope people who read this are not a little more prepared for Tough Mudder UK. If you want to ask Ben anything else then you can contact him on Facebook or email S&P at info@strengthandperformance.co.uk

Until Next Time

Lift Big Get Strong

Sean