The Road to Sparta: Getting Back Into Shape


Yeah… it’s been just a little while since I posted on here, so I’m going to need you to ignore that.

Anyway, the number of posts I have will change over the next few weeks because, well… I may or may not have been pushed to do a Spartan Race with my dad and cousin, and ultimately signed up for it out of my own free will.

In short, a Spartan Race is where participants go through dozens of obstacles across a certain mileage. According to Spartan’s website, it’s also “the fastest growing participant sport in the world.” I’m not interested at all in most sports, but I’ll take their word for it.

I tried to look up what types of obstacles the races have, but the only answer I got from their FAQ page was “There is fire, mud, water, barbed wire, and occasionally Hell on Earth,” followed by, “There WILL be obstacles to catch you off guard. Curve balls, so to speak. Get over it. We’re here to rip you from your comfort zone. If you need a road map for each step of the way, then maybe this race isn’t for you.”

They sound like such friendly folks. Spartan’s official video below further shows the type of sweethearts they are.

There are three different types of races: Sprint, super and beast. Sprint is three-plus miles with more than 20 obstacles; super is eight-plus miles with more than 25 obstacles; beast is 13-plus miles, which is around the same distance of a half marathon, and more than 30 obstacles. We signed up for a beast race on Nov. 1, 2015, in Dallas, TX. Why? The most logical answer I could think of is we are bored masochists.

Did I mention if you can’t complete an obstacle you have to do a set number of burpees? And just what the hell is a burpee? Let the pretty fit lady below show you.

I won’t lie to you readers. After doing the research on what I am getting myself into so I could write this post, my mind pooped a little, and by a little, I mean a lot. I can’t tell you how many times I shouted at my computer monitor asking “How the hell am I supposed to do that?”

What will make this training even more difficult is a discovery I had last week. I knew I was going to need to train hard for this race, even more so after the research, but I didn’t realize how much until I weighed myself. The weight? Around 250 pounds.

This is by far the most I have ever weighed, and likely the most out-of-shape I have ever been as well. After seeing that horrific number, I intend to keep it as the low (technically high?) point of my weight and physical state.

I believe signing up for this race and seeing my weight afterward is no coincidence. Life is telling me it’s time to get into shape.

With everything said, this post explains what I intend to do for my training. At the top of the website where it says Daily Fitness Updates is pretty much as it sounds. Every day leading up to the race, I will post what I have done for exercise, how many calories I eat and my final weight at the end of the week.

As much I’d like to go into detail on what I do each week, it’s not as practical, which is why below I listed what I am doing for both exercise and eating below.

The Exercise

Jim Gaffigan

There are five main things I am doing: Swimming, cycling on a stationary bike, lifting weights on machines, stretch exercises including the ridiculously named burpee and, of course, running.

With swimming, which is definitely one of the fastest ways to get back into shape, I will alternate between breaststroke and freestyle on every other length. I plan on reaching at least one mile with this routine and head from there. I’ll try and use a pool buoy on occasion as well.

Biking is going to act as a relaxing medium among all of the exercises, something to stretch my legs and keep them from getting sore more than anything else. I will do 80 to 90 rpm with a resistance that’s not easy, but not excruciating either.

Weight machines will involve anything from chest press to butterfly to leg extensions and more. I will alternate between weight lifting and biking every other exercise day.

For now, I’m mainly thinking of just burpees and jump roping for stretches, but not before the other exercises. It’s never done me much good beforehand. I will likely do one or the other soon after I wake up each exercise day.

Finally with running, I’m following a schedule my dad made for me. It involves easy lengths, tempo runs (where you run at a normal pace, then faster, then back to normal pace) and close the week with a long distance. It’s actually a half marathon training regime my dad made for my cousin and I. My cousin will be running a half marathon the week before the Spartan Race, but the farthest distance I plan on reaching for now is eight miles because I want to become a faster runner, something I’ve never been. I was lucky when I ran a mile in six minutes and 55 seconds mile one time.

At the least, I will either run or run and swim each exercising day. I will also have two rest days based on my dad’s schedule… which I will very much look forward to after re-reading what I’m doing.

The Diet

Much of what I will eat revolves around an app called Fooducate. It’s free on both Apple and Android devices, but it has some paid options to flesh it out the app if you want to keep track of a lot in a diet. I have the free version though, and it serves its purpose.

Fooducate logo

Fooducate does a number of things, but one of the main features is giving letters grades to food. The camera on a mobile device scans the barcode on a food item. Other alternatives to searching for a food are typing in the name of an item or manually typing in the UPC.

After scanning food, the app will rank the item with the following letters from lowest to highest: D, D+, C–, C, C+, B–, B, B+, A–, A. It’s basically a 10-point scale, with D being a 1 and an A equalling 10.

You also have to pay attention to explanations as to why a food item gets a certain rating. I remember looking at Cinnamon Toast Crunch one time and being astounded at its B-minus rating. After looking at the explanation tab, its only good factor was how each piece is made of 100 percent whole grain. Everything else, from its sugar content to to containing a “controversial additive,” was negative.

And if there’s a certain kind of food you absolutely can’t live without, Fooducate can recommend a healthier alternative, which works most of the time – other times it will recommend the most random things.

I was pretty disappointed to learn there’s not some kind of healthy pizza out there. The closest thing I could find was for a “healthy” pizza was Newman’s Own Thin & Crispy Four Cheese pizza, in case you were wondering.

Newman's Own Frozen Pizza

Outside food grades, I used Fooducate to determine how many calories I should eat each day. I found with my height at 6 feet 1 inch tall, 250-pound weight and the wish to lose 1.5 pounds each week, my daily calorie limit is recommended at 2190. I’m rounding it up to 2200 though because I’m weird and 2190 bugs the crap out of me. I may even change it to 1.75 pounds, which would change my daily limit to 2060 calories.

I will be using both the recommended daily calories and Fooducate’s grade system to determine what I eat and how much. This means looking at everything, even the amount of butter I use to make grilled cheese sandwich for example.

I will try my best to eat food with a B-minus or above as well, but the important thing is to keep everything within the calorie count. After all, plenty of studies like this one have found eating at McDonald’s for example isn’t the worst thing to do as long as you don’t intake too many calories – though I will certainly be cutting down on generally unhealthy food because it will only speed up what I’m trying to accomplish and prolong the final results.

Of course, I can’t always determine the calorie count, but sites such as Calorie King among others can at least give me some idea. I will also be eating and making a lot of soup because I hate eating healthy food, particularly greenery, and soup has this miraculous way of making almost anything green edible.

Other Notes

At the end of each week in my daily fitness updates, I will post what my weight is after each Sunday morning and brief notes about my general progress.

Hopefully by the time I’m through all of this, I will be alive (if not barely), and perhaps have a body like the Spartans from 300.

Leonidas - Robbienidas

If you have any questions or general comments, let me know in the comments section below. If you’re doing a fitness challenge or simply getting into shape yourself, then I wish you luck!

Robbie Key is the chief warden of He is also the Nintendo editor for Analog Addiction, makes occasional videos for his YouTube channel, and if you happen to stumble upon this page and are looking for new media members, check out my LinkedIn profile.


1 thought on “The Road to Sparta: Getting Back Into Shape

  1. Pingback: Down, but not out: Postponing the Spartan Race | Robbie Key

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