Monthly Archives: August 2015

Asheville Super Spartan Race Recap – 2015

If you know me (or have been following me), you know the back story.  If this is your first time reading my blog, let me fill you in on how I got involved with this race.  I had my second child on March 18, 2015.  That was almost exactly 17 months after having my first.  I stayed in great shape during both pregnancies, however, I found it more difficult the second go round to lose baby weight and get motivated.  My lifestyle had changed, my body certainly had gone through a traumatic transformation and I was so tired that I really was having a hard time getting excited about exercise.  My husband suggested that I sign up for a race – the Asheville Super Spartan race that is.  I had my doubts (along with so many others), but being the competitive person that I am, I decided to take the plunge.

IMG_4704If you are not familiar with the Spartan race series, there is essentially a race every weekend of varying levels of length and difficulty.  The “Super” race series is classified as a race in which the mileage ranges from 8-10 miles and includes 20 or more “obstacles”.  You can compete in the “Open” or “Elite” sections.  My husband and I opted for the elite section. There are some serious differences between the two, see below:

  • Elite heats run first thing in the morning – first thing means less foot traffic (both good and bad).  Low foot traffic means obstacles have less mud on them, making them less slippery.  Less foot traffic also means trails are less packed down (making it difficult to run on some of the freshly chopped trails).
  • Elite heats are more expensive – Not by much though.
  • Elite athletes are required to complete all obstacles unassisted (OR receive a penalty/disqualification) – Yea, that 8 foot wall, you have to clear it yourself (or do 30 burpees).  In the open section, you can have help.  This makes a big difference.
  • Elite can earn prize money – Depending on the race type, whether it is televised and various other factors, 1st, 2nd and 3rd place can receive a cash prize.  Hence, the requirement to complete all obstacles on your own.
  • Elite athletes typically know the rules, are not afraid to call out people who are not following the rules and do not want people to get in their way – believe me, I saw this in every instance while I was on the course.

IMG_6724Knowing all of this, I trained hard for this event (see prior posts).  Ultimately, I also lost my baby weight through the preparation, and reached a point that I felt confident in my decision to pick the elite heat.  I had never done a Spartan Race, but I studied obstacles, watched the races on television and decided to really take this thing seriously (we don’t do mediocre).  It’s a part of my  personality that I wish I could turn off sometimes.


Photo credit – Instagram @superspartan_lv1

We made a couples weekend out of the trip.  We don’t go away much, so we decided to head to Asheville on a Friday night and stay Saturday (after the race).  The course location was right off the interstate on our way in Friday evening.  I made my husband veer off course to get a glimpse of the location.  In my preparation, I like to be able to visualize where I will be competing.  We used to do walk throughs the day before a track meet.  You ran a lap, stretched, felt things out.  I guess that’s what I’m used to.  We couldn’t get in, but we did get an amazing sunset picture and view of the quarry that we would be hiking up the next morning (see pictures above).

IMG_6728I’m not going to lie, I had trouble sleeping Friday night.  I was anxious and our hotel was loud.  My husband launched at 7:30AM and my heat went off at 7:45AM.  The gates to the facility opened at 6AM. We got there around 6:15, and the parking lot was already packed.  Spartans were ready to go!  We checked in, at which point we had an opportunity to check out the course map (see above).  I will go over the race obstacles below.  Here are the exact details about our race – 8.5 miles, 1,800 foot elevation gain, 28 obstacles.  That is a lot of obstacles for a Super. This works in my favor.  I can run, but I can’t go out and run a road race and finish in the top of my age group.  I can run, pick up something heavy, run, pick up something heavy, over and over.    I would like to think, this is a more “functional” race.

IMG_6741My biggest piece of pre-race advice – warm up appropriately.  See that wall above?  To get to the starting line you have to jump over it.  Prior to this race, I had never jumped over a wall in my life.  I was intimidated.  This wall must be somewhere around 5-6 feet tall.  If you can’t jump over this wall by yourself, don’t sign up for the elite heat.  The walls only get higher.  ALOT higher.  This is an open section (see the ladies to left helping each other?).  I actually looked for a way to get around the wall from the get go because I was afraid of failing before it even started.  Thankfully, I made it over. However, I watched several women struggle.

IMG_6744Once you clear the wall, you are in the chute to start.  Lots of instructions, warming up, and pumping up.  They have a DJ/MC, race director and flares going.  It’s intense.  If you are not amped up at this point, you are more relaxed than most people I know.  For some reason, I anticipated a lot more running before we hit the first obstacle.  Boy was I wrong.  After what seemed like a dead sprint start, we hit the first obstacle within the first 400 meters:

  1.  Moats –  in other words, trenches. Jump in the deep trench, get out.  Do it three times.  Within the first two minutes, I was soaking wet.  Welcome to Spartan Asheville!
  • Tip – the trenches are deeper in the middle, stick to the edges where the water is not as deep and you can move in and out faster.

2.  Hay Wall – Exactly as the name implies, jump over bales of hay.  Two times.  This simulates a wall jump.  I did not warm up my upper body for this.  I’m pretty sure something popped out of place for a second.  I used the ropes that hold the hay together to heave myself over.

After the hay wall, we went straight into a creek.  We spent at least a half a mile wading through rocks and water as deep as my thighs.  It was cold.  We had to literally climb in and out of the banks of the creek.  I am not exaggerating.  I was shocked at how steep the grade was.  I was reaching for any branch, rock or other piece of debris that could aid me in getting up and down.

3.  Wall Jumps – After that long chuck of being in the water, I made up ground over a decent run before heading up a hill and straight into three ridiculously tall walls.  I think my heart dropped for a second.  This was one obstacle that I had not tried yet.  The first, and shortest wall, must have been 7 feet.  I had watched videos on the best way to clear.

  • The first step is to jump up off the wall and grab the top.  My first try?  Missed it.  I think I even said out loud, “well, that didn’t work.”.  Second try, I snagged it.
  • Tip – If you can hook one leg over you can likely get your arm (and the rest of your body over.  This is not a fluid (muscle up movement) for me.  I grabbed the top.  Straightened my arms.  Walked my feet up the wall, knees bent, as far as I could with my arms straight.  When my feet got high enough, I flung my left leg over.  Proceeded by my left arm.  Followed by the rest of my body.  Careful on the way down.

I continued this process over the next two walls, which got progressively higher.  I made ground on several people here.  I actually ran into guys from the elite heat here.  ALOT of people did burpees on this obstacle.  Perfect time for me to introduce the penalty for not completing an obstacle.

FullSizeRender-56The “Burpee Zone”.  If you fail an obstacle, you have to complete 30.  No cheating.  They video the elite heat.  They yell at you to count out loud.  A Spartan burpee is chest on the ground, both feet off the ground when you come up.  I don’t know what is more miserable – the burpees or watching people pass you as you complete your penalty.

4. Multi – Rig – I wish I had a picture of this.  You can google it.  Think of a playground for adults, similar to the monkey bars in this picture below.  The rig that we had to clear was a PVC pipe that you had to slide across, followed by several ropes that you had to swing across and some gymnastics rings.  After wading in water and mud, my hands were soaked and I dropped almost immediately.  Burpees for me!  Burpee count at this point = 30.  I did not see many people clear this obstacle.

photo 4-16

5.  Bucket Brigade – After 30 burpees, I was tired.  I surprised myself at how quickly I recovered.  After a short run, we hit our first heavy carry obstacle.  The bucket brigade.  I was over confident in this event.  I trained hard for this.  Remember our homemade bucket?

FullSizeRender-39I was upset how short the carry was.  I was surprised how hard this was for some people.  I didn’t stop once.  I didn’t set my bucket down once. I actually recovered through this event.  I was disappointed that this event was not longer.

6.  Atlas Carry with Burpees – Not far from the bucket brigade, we hit the atlas carry with burpees.  Exactly as the name implies.  Pick up a big stone, walk with it about 25 feet, set it down, do 5 burpees, walk back with it.  Heavy, but manageable.  Do those heavy squats ladies!   Best part about this obstacle was the turnaround.  You could check out how close your competition was behind you!

7.  Hercules Hoist – We got a decent downhill run after the two heavy carry obstacles.  Great recovery for the next obstacle.  Hercules Hoist is a weighted pulley system that requires athletes to pull a rope that raises a very heavy weight off the ground.  You also have to lower it slow.  I was caught off guard by the weight.  I also hadn’t ever attempted this obstacle.  At first pull, I had the sunken feeling that I might fail (that’s how heavy it was).  Once I got in a  groove it got easier.  I could have used the help here, but I made it through.

Tip – Leverage one foot on the gate, while keeping one foot on the ground (that’s the rule).  Reach as high on the rope as you can before using your lower body and core to sit down.  You don’t have to make this all about your upper body.  Repeat the process until you get to the top.

8.  Z Walls aKa Traverse Walls – Yep, nothing easy about this.  I failed.  I watched videos about how to do this.  Keep your body close to the wall.  Feet turned out in opposite directions the entire time.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  Keep three points at all times.  I lost focus.  I failed.  My husband failed.  30 burpees for me.  Burpee count = 60.  I lost ground here.  Several seasoned Spartans made it through without penalty.


Look at amazing @dawnveras (Instagram)

9.  Labeled as classified on the map (and honestly I can’t remember) – I guess I did it.  I didn’t do burpees.

10.  Tire Flip – I could do this all day. Flip a tire over two times and back.  It was not heavy.  I was surprised how light it was.  Why couldn’t we flip it 100 meters?

At this point we were in the clearing of where the start/finish line was.  We had a crowd watching us complete obstacles 10-12.  Commentary and cheering was readily available.

11.  Spear Throw – Throw a spear into a bail of hay.  See picture below.  I didn’t practice this.  Sponsored elite athletes fail this all the time.  I failed.  I missed to the left of the bail.  I was dead on distance and height.  Talk about an ego blow.  At obstacle twelve, my burpee count was already 90!


12.  Log Hop – This obstacle was situated right beside the burpee zone for the spear throw.  I watched people fail left and right as I did my burpees.  I have to admit I was terrified.  I did not even want to think about how hard it would be to do another set of 30 burpees almost immediately.  I watched a short girl (like myself) take one route and fail because the distance between the pegs was too hard for her to reach.  Lesson learned.  I didn’t take her route.

IMG_6738I took the route right in front of the two volunteers on the left.  They cheered me on as I went.  Thank you SmartCore Fitness!  I completed this, and I know it was because of some distinct exercises that we do there.  I finally was separating myself from some of the additional women that I started with.


Tip – Don’t ever try to get both feet on one of those stumps.  It is too hard.

13.  Sled Pull – Once we cleared obstacle 12, we were back in the woods. Over/under creek beds and tough terrain.  We cleared the brush and hit a road clearing to the rock quarry.  It was steep.  I must have made it 3/4 of the way up before I started running 10 steps, walking 10 steps.  When we reached the clearing (see picture below), we were required to pull a heavy sled towards us before dragging it back to start.



14.  A-Frame Cargo Net – As the name implies – two steel beams form an A-Frame.  A cargo net is draped over the frame.  Climb up one side and down the other.  This is no joke.  It’s not hard, but it is at least 30 feet in the air.  If you fall, you are likely going to get hurt.  Don’t rush.  Pay attention.

15.  Barb Wire Crawl – Down and dirty.  Ours was uphill.  Probably 50-100 meters.  I attempted to roll a good portion in between sliding sideways.  I got dizzy.  Pick something to focus on to prevent that.  I learned that post-race.  This is the only time in the race that an event favors a short person.  I could crawl through certain parts on all fours.

16.  Hurdles – Suspended beams about five feet off the ground.  First attempt, I tried to go over it like the wall.  Fail.  Restart.  I have no tips here, just figure out a way to roll over it.  There were two of them.

17.  A-Frame Wall/Ladder Climb – (“Spartan Stairway?”) Hopefully, I can find a picture.  This was the top of the mountain.  I walked, yes WALKED to the top of the mountain.  It was faster and more efficient for me to walk.  Walk backwards!  If you turn around, you will hit your hamstrings and give your quads a break.  Seriously.  I didn’t do it.  I wish I would have.  I passed a lot of people just because I didn’t stop.  Just don’t look up and keep going.  Heavy step ups and lunges are an important piece training for the terrain of any Spartan Race.  I haven’t even talked about the obstacle.

  • Before climbing a ladder made of 2×4’s that spans almost 30 feet in the air, scale a wall that is approximately 5 feet tall.  This seemed easy compared to the walls that we encountered early on in the race.

18.  Sandbag Carry – Again, another heavy carry event that I prepared for (see below).  This event crept up on me.  The bags were not necessarily super heavy, but they terrain was steep.  So steep, I slipped and actually dropped my bag. There was literally only one person (a guy) within visual site of me at this point.  We were on our own.  Grit it out.  Don’t set it down.  Just keep going.


19 .  Log Carry – It was downhill from here literally.  What goes up, must come down.  We hit a steep downhill run before running into another heavy carry event.   Yes!  Pick up a log and walk.  I threw the log over my shoulders like a squat bar.  This evened out the weight on my shoulders and made it easier for me move.  I didn’t stop.  Again, just keep going.

20.  Inverted Wall – Again, run downhill.  Steep.  I need to practice running downhill better.  I actually got passed by a girl on the downhill.  I was afraid of falling.  I had made friends with her earlier in the race when she fell on the trail in front of me.  As she ran by she said, “Come on girl, we still have plenty of guys to beat!”  Love that.

  • Knowing I was in the home stretch, I cruised through this.  Inverted means, the wall is leaning towards you when you come up on it.  There are 2x4s to grab on to that assist you in going over.  Slide down the other side. It’s quick.

21.  Monkey Bars – I know what I need to work on for my next Spartan.  Yet another “rig” system that I just couldn’t get through.  The large gaps in the bars, coupled with my wet hands, made it unbelievably difficult for me to get through this.  I fell.  I failed.  Burpee count = 120.  I got passed by two girls as I worked through my penalty.  Two rigs failed.  I now know my weakness.



22.  Vertical Cargo – Cargo net is suspended from a rope hung between two trees.  What makes this harder is that it is not tight.  It collapses as you put weight on it.

  • Tip – Go up one direct lie of the net.  Don’t reach all over trying to move sideways.  Start with one line and keep your hands and feet in that line the entire way.  It will tighten itself for you and make it easier for you to go up.

23.  Don’t Remember.  Don’t Care.  It was undisclosed on the Race map. I was too excited about seeing the “Mile 7” marker that I am not really sure what was happening (other than I was about to be done).

24.  Rope Climb – The event that I was most nervous about failing.  It was in a location that literally everyone could see.  When I came out of the woods (into the clearing), all of the last five obstacles were visible.  My husband spotted me and was literally yelling at the top of his lungs “Go Jen!!! Jen! Come on Jen!” over and over.  Elites have to use the unknotted rope.  I picked one that didn’t look wet.  It was wet.  I had practiced a technique that was more leg based, and it worked.  This was the most physically exhausting obstacle of the entire course for me.


When I got two thirds of the way up, I thought about quitting.  I rested.  I paused for a second.  My husband saw it.  He yelled.  I looked up.  I thought about my five month old.  I heaved.  I hit the bell.  I was so tired, I rope burned my inner thighs from being so out of control sliding down.  I walked out of the muddy water and could barely lift my feet.

25.  Rolling Mud with Dunk Wall – Thank goodness the rest of the race was relatively low intensity and didn’t require a lot of running.  Dunk wall = swim under one of those walls that you had jumped over earlier in the race.  Yes, your entire body (including your head) will be under water in mud.  Consider it a rinse before the infamous fire jump picture that every Spartan gets.

26.  Slip Wall – The wall is tilted away from you.  It is soaked with water/mud.  There is a little rope.  Use it to walk yourself up and over.  Be careful.  I can only imagine that this gets harder as the day goes on. 

27.  Barb Wire Crawl 2 – Roll, crawl, do what you need to do to get through it.

28.  Fire Jump – The infamous picture and obstacle that every Spartan finisher must clear to say they finished.  Wouldn’t you hate to do burpees because you couldn’t complete this?


I ran through the finish line with next to nobody around me.  I was done.  There were times it went by faster and times is went by slower than I expected.  I remember more and more about the details every hour and that’s because my husband and I have participated in something so empowering we can’t stop talking about it.  He does these types of events on a regular basis, but I haven’t really ever gotten into them.  That said, I couldn’t imagine a more fun way for us to do something together.

IMG_6731We hung out.  We cheered on others. We took pictures.  We had beers.  We really made the most out of our weekend away.  That said, this is just the intro to the race.  I look forward to sharing with you details on gear that I would recommend going forward, pre and post race eats, the rest of our trip to Asheville and of course the exercises that got me to the place that I finished on Saturday!  

IMG_6726Official results for both my husband and I in the elite section:

  • Jen – 2nd Age Group, 13th Overall – 2:04:03 (120 burpees – If I can clear those rigs, I can definitely improve my time)
  • Jeff – 9th Age Group, 25th Overall – 1:40:42 (60 burpees)

Friday Favorites

It has been a few weeks since I posted a list of some of my favorite things (both fitness and non-fitness related).  It’s Friday, so I figured I would kick off the weekend with a fun, light hearted post that embraces everything going on in my life right now.

Flywheel, #FlyFam, Fun

IMG_6658Master Instructor and VP of Flywheel, Aleah Stander, was visiting the Flywheel Charlotte studio this week.  As part of her visit, the Flywheel instructors were asked to get together for a round robin and training session.  We worked out together and taught back and forth to each other.  We shared ideas on how to make our classes better and what the future holds for our incredible studio.  When I was working full time, it was almost impossible for me to find time during the middle of the day to make it to an event like this.  I am so happy that I was available and ready to go on Thursday.  Flywheel Charlotte is the home to an amazingly talented group of instructors that are always willing to listen, learn and make people feel good when they walk out the door.  Training with this group just reinforced how much I value the studio and the group of people that I work with.

IMG_6656Juice Bar- Providence Plaza

IMG_6653When I worked full time, I oftentimes found myself wandering over to Green Brothers Juice Company during those long afternoon hours.  Since there is limited parking at that location, and I really don’t have the time to drive there and back, I have been missing fresh smoothies and juices.  That said, I was very excited when I saw that “Juice Bar” opened just a few feet away from Flywheel.  What a perfect (and easy) location for me to get my fix (at least on the days of the week that I am working out at the studio).

IMG_6655Prior to working out during the training that I mentioned above, I taught a double Flywheel class.  My wheel classes were over at 12:30 PM.  I was on the bike for training from 1-3 PM.  I was worried about getting something that would fill me up but not make me feel sick when I got back on the bike to ride.  I settled on the Cocoa Banana smoothie.  Yes, smoothie.  The smoothie would be a little more filling than the juice.  Cocoa Banana – cocoa powder, banana, peanut butter, spinach, and coconut milk.  Really delicious.  Honestly, I was hoping it would taste a little bit more chocolatey, but that would have added unnecessary sugar.  I would highly recommend.

IMG_6654I actually felt great getting back on the bike!  The Juice Bar doesn’t just have juices and smoothies, they have a wide variety of fresh foods and prepackaged snacks.  I have to admit that as I waited for my smoothie to be made, I probably picked up and put down everything on the shelves and in the cooler.  I couldn’t make up my mind.   Fresh spring rolls, quinoa salad, protein bars, Bruks bars.  It’s like going to the grocery store hungry.  I had to control myself.  I am very excited about this new hot spot, and I look forward to checking out other items on the menu (see website here).

Discovery Place – Uptown Charlotte

IMG_6629I have been hesitant to take both girls out by myself to places that I know are crowded with kids until I had gotten comfortable with a method of keeping up with both of them.  The infant doesn’t move, but the toddler is all over the place.  I also want to be able to participate with my toddler while she is engaging in activities.  I ventured out to Discovery Place (located in Uptown Charlotte) on my own this week.  I picked this week because a decent number of kids are back in school.  I figured it would be a little less crowded.  My toddler also starts preschool again in two weeks.  My time is running out with her during the mornings.

IMG_6633It actually went a lot better than I thought it would.  Our tolerance for play is about one and a half hours.  At that point, someone gets hungry, tired or has a flat out temper tantrum over sharing.  The good thing is that there is enough to do that if one thing gets old, I can offer an alternative task as a distraction, over and over and over again.  The “science” room is most intriguing to both of my girls at this point.  There is a toddler area that my youngest even found fun (see picture above).  The same “science” room includes a water play area that any child under the age of 5 could spend a lot of time in.

IMG_6631The particular day that we went, they had a special guitar exhibit.  I found this intriguing because my sister plays the guitar and performs on a regular basis.  My oldest took the stage in the mock set up and grabbed her guitar.  She did not shy from the spotlight.  I really just loved watching how much fun she had attempting to figure out the purpose of each interactive exhibit.  Now that I know I can keep up with them both, I will start taking them more (on my own).

Bulu Box

FullSizeRender-46Love Birch Box?  Want to try health, nutrition and weight loss products in a sample format before spending a fortune?  Let me introduce Bulu Box.  The box is as empowering as some of the things that come in it.  When my first package came, I was so excited to see what my products would be for the month.  Let’s face it.  Health products can be expensive.  For me to spend a serious amount of money buying something new, I need to be convinced that it works.

IMG_6649Each month, Bulu Box subscribers receive 4-5 vitamin, supplement and healthy snack samples to try.  If you like one of the items in the box, you can buy it in full-size in the Bulu Box shop.  There is a rewards program that you can participate in to earn credits towards discounts on the purchase of any full-size product.  The box also includes coupons and additional information on each product.  I was happy to find that I had not seen and even heard of any of the items in my first box.

  • Movit Energy Gummies – Comparable to Gu Energy Chomps, this product is an energy infused gummie expected to be taken 20 minutes prior to activity per 60 minute duration.  Sounds perfect for a pre-ride snack prior to teaching a Flywheel double.  I snacked on a few of the treats just before my first class started.  I typically take a Gu pack prior to teaching my double.  I have to say it was sort refreshing having something to actually chew, rather than just swallow blandly.  I drank a decent amount of water with the product, and I actually felt really good for both rides.  I would consider trying this as a pre-race fuel (as something to chew) while continuing to use a Gu pack in the actual race (it’s easier to eat on the run).


  • RUNA Tea – One tea contains as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and twice the antioxidants of green tea.  The purpose is to replace calorie filled energy drinks with a natural option.  I am not really a tea drinker and I don’t drink energy drinks, so I will have to find an appropriate time to use this product.  I love my coffee.  The antioxidants are appealing.
  • Simple Being Simple Diet – This was the diet product in my box.  I am not on a diet right now, so I will not be using this.  Essentially, the tablet uses a blend of four ingredients to promote fat burning, appetite suppression, and boost metabolism.
  • Fusion Jerky – Okay, this is my jam.  Chicken jerky?  Lemon Pepper?  This stuff was incredible.  I opened this almost as fast as I opened the box.  I am over the awful and unnatural flavors that vendors like Jack’s Links makes.  This stuff is incredible. We will be buying more.  The package in the Bulu Box was actually almost full size.  Three servings.  I dig that.


  • Earth’s Care Anti-Itch Cream – This cream should be used to relieve pain and itching associated with skin irritations due to poison ivy, sunburn, and minor cuts and scrapes.  Another thing that I could use.  I managed to get a small case of poison ivy on my shin while I was out of town.  The healing has been incredibly itchy.  I slathered this on right away.  It worked.  I haven’t been itching as much.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Overall, I was very happy with the box.  Three out of the five products were relative to me.  At least two of the products I would buy in a larger size.  I also enjoy learning more about what products are out there.  Interested in checking one out?  See the website. I also have an exclusive code for all of my readers.  If you purchase a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription, you can get 50% off.  Just type in the code SWEATPINK.  You are welcome.

Happy Friday, y’all!

It’s Saratoga Season! + Training For A Race On Vacation

Since my husband was a child, he has anticipated the summer horse racing circuit at Saratoga Race Track.  He grew up approximately a half hour away from the track.  Some things never change.  His parents still reside in the house that he grew up in.  He still acts like a kid the night before Christmas as we board the airplane to make the trek.  I started going to the track with him in 2010.  Five years later, our days at the track have changed.  Our definition of fun has changed.  While our priorities may have shifted some, the base foundation that brought us together has not – we still appreciate quality time with family, good food and exercise to balance it all out.  Time away is good (for everyone).

IMG_6429Our trip this year was yet again different than any other.  One, we add another member to our growing family (little Morgan Riley); two, we were training for a race less than two weeks out from our return date; and three, we made plans for only our second over night stay away from the girls (since our second daughter was born).  Go figure, the four of us boarded the plane and found ourselves sitting in the back row – yep, beside the bathroom.  Suffice it to say, they made the most out of the airport and the airplane.  They actually behaved better than we could have planned.

FullSizeRender-41IMG_6436American Airlines (former US Airways) family travelers, I have a big tip for you.  Get the airline credit card.  Hide it if you have to, but understand a few things.  It is worth looking into.  For a $99 annual fee, you get two $99 companion passes, one free checked bag (for each person traveling with you as well) and Zone 2 boarding.  Not good at math?  Let me explain.

Cost of Flight With Credit Card

  • Annual fee of Credit Card                                                 $99
  • Cost of One Round Trip Ticket (hypothetically)           $500
  • Cost of One Companion Round Trip Ticket                   $99
  • Cost of One Companion Round Trip Ticket                   $99

Total Cost With Credit Card (excluding taxes)             $797

Cost of Flight Without Credit Card

  • Cost of 3 Checked Bags ($25/person for 1st Bag)        $75
  • Cost of One Round Trip Ticket (hypothetically)          $500
  • Cost of One Round Trip Ticket (hypothetically)          $500
  • Cost of One Round Trip Ticket (hypothetically)          $500

Total Cost Without Credit Card (excluding taxes)     $1,575

Even if you don’t use the credit card the rest of the year, in just one trip, we managed to save almost $800.  If you can control your spending, it seems like an easy decision to me.  Also, don’t forget to sign your children up for a frequent flyer card.  It is never too early to start earning miles.  You can transfer your child’s miles to yourself.

IMG_6438Blah, blah, blah, enough about the little details.  More about the trip!  I’m not going to lie, I was a little concerned about staying in the shape that I am in while being gone for almost ten days.   There is no Flywheel.  We don’t go to a gym.  There is a lot of good Italian food, drinks and (gasp) hard ice cream – homemade.  Every night.  It is easy to lose control.

IMG_6476photo 1-108photo 4-72photo 2-109IMG_6450To keep up with all of the food that we would be eating, we definitely had to keep up with the exercise.  In any form or fashion.  The pavement and a heavy set of dumbbells easily became my best friend.

photo 5-34My husband and I took turns some days.  Other days, we were able to push each other through some tough cardio strength workouts.  If it weren’t for each other, we would have had a hard time getting motivated.  How exactly did we manage?  We squeezed in a workout (even if it was short) at any point that we could get away.  IMG_6462I managed to put together a quick driveway circuit using my handy dumbbells the first full day that we were there.  Afraid you won’t be organized enough to get it done?  Write it down before you start.  See my scrap paper below.


The run was down the street to the stop sign and back.  Approximately a quarter mile.  The workout took just over forty five minutes.  Repeat four times.

IMG_6460Nothing beats the weather in New York in August.  I have been struggling to push through workouts in North Carolina where the high is close to 100 and humidity levels are soaring.  We were waking up some mornings with temperatures in the 50’s.  No humidity.  I’ll take it.  It actually kind of felt like fall!

IMG_6442Aside from this driveway workout, I was able to squeeze in three solid five mile runs.  One in Connecticut while visiting my sister in law.  Wow, was I in over my head.  There are no “flats” in western Connecticut.  It’s either straight up or down.  Needless to say, I went out to hard.  I felt this run.  Thank goodness she followed along beside me on her new road bike.  Not only did she prevent me from getting lost, but she encouraged me to keep going!

IMG_6530Self admittedly, I had to walk a few hundred feet at the end.  I just couldn’t get my legs to move up the final (never ending) hill.  That said, I was impressed that my pace still averaged out to be around 8:45 (even with my walk).  IMG_6529One driveway workout and three nice steady runs were topped off with one solid cardio bootcamp at a local park.  My husband and I were able to complete the bootcamp together by putting together an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) circuit.  The gist – grab a pair of heavy dumbbells (I used the 20’s pictured above) and do as many rounds of the rotation as possible until you hit sixty minutes.  Finish the round that you started when you hit sixty minutes.

  • Steps Ups (on picnic table bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand) x 20 total (10 each leg)
  • Dips (off picnic table bench) x 20
  • Push Ups (any variation) x 20
  • Pull Ups (on playground monkey bars) x 10
  • Weighted Squats x 20
  • Bicep Curls x 20 total (10 each side)
  • Shoulder Press x 20
  • 400m Farmer Carry
  • 800m Hill Run Interval

IMG_6536I had started my fifth round when I hit sixty minutes.  As such, I completed the entire circuit through the fifth round in an hour and seven minutes.  3.4 miles.  Legit.  Those pull ups?  Hard.  Good thing I packed my band to help.  Y’all these are cheap, easy to travel with and light weight.

IMG_6539 IMG_6540When I needed help, it was there.  If you can’t quite do them on your own, these work so well.  Trust me.  After my second daughter was born, I could only do one pull up.  Grunting the entire way.  I can now do ten.  In a row.  You just have to build a foundation.

IMG_6506We were there a total of eight full days.  Five of those days, I got in a solid workout.  What about the other days?  I took one entire day off.  The other two days were easy thirty minute light runs and body weight workouts.  Like I said above, it is important to take some time off.

IMG_6465Only a small part of our day was about working out, the rest of the time was all about family and horses.  My sister in law that lives in Miami planned her trip around our visit.  I love seeing her almost as much as the girls do.  Her vibe is always so positive.  Plus, she makes my picture taking seem amateur.  I always know she will get the best shot!

FullSizeRender-44The entire family headed to the track for a morning of activities.  Races don’t go off until 1PM.  If you get to the track early enough (before 10 AM), you can watch the horses warm up while enjoying breakfast and sitting in some of the boxes that line the finish line.  These boxes are virtually impossible to get a spot in if you aren’t willing to pay a hefty price.

FullSizeRender-43IMG_6482IMG_6504They close the track around 10 AM before reopening the gates prior to the first race starting.  During the gap, we headed to downtown Saratoga to take the girls on the infamous carousel.

IMG_6507IMG_6516IMG_6515IMG_6514Last year was a complete disaster for my oldest.  This year was entirely different story.  She could not stop smiling (and neither could I).  Our youngest even got on the ride as well.  It truly was so much fun watching the two of them together.  One ride was enough for me.  I am the only one that gets dizzy going around so many times?

IMG_6517We walked back to the track to try to let the girls watch one race before we headed home.  They both fell asleep on the walk over.  They must have been exhausted from all of the hoopla after our oldest got her leg stuck in a chair at a local sandwich shop.  Kids do the most ridiculous things.  Somehow she managed to get her knee wedged in between the notches in the chair back.  The entire restaurant was offering suggestions on how to get it out as she screamed loudly.  It is the most scared that I have been for her in her life.  My adrenaline surged.  No wonder they were so tired, right?

IMG_6523Our youngest did happen to wake up for about ten minutes.  Just enough time to catch the race.  She checked that off her “to do” list for the week. My oldest just continued to sleep.  The entire way home.

IMG_6468This trip was so much fun.  So much better than last year.  In fact, so much better that my husband and I actually drove to the track one day and spent a night in downtown Saratoga.  You would never believe how hard it is to get reservations in this town during track season.  Lucky for me, we found a quaint bed and breakfast within walking distance to downtown and the track.  No need to drink and drive.

IMG_6558 IMG_6556I had never stayed in a bed and breakfast.  I also hadn’t ever been to Saratoga to stay for the night.  I was looking forward to a little one on one time with my husband.  The B&B was titled, “Circular Manor”.  The crowd was older, but we didn’t mind.  We checked in early on Thursday morning, before heading to the track.  Free parking and even better we could get into our room that early.

IMG_6543My first time to the track not pregnant in over two years was incredible.  We were losers.  We didn’t win much money, but we did have a good time.  The last race went off at 6 PM.  We strategically planned our walk to dinner such that we would hit all of the post race hot spots for a drink.

IMG_6544 IMG_6545

We needed this night.  We relived the glory days and reminded each other of how silly we can be (especially when we have a few too many drinks).  Luckily, we got a spot at the bar at 15 Church for one of the best meals that I have had in a LONG time.

IMG_6546Call ahead.  This place is small. It’s hard to get a table.  It’s new.  It’s SO good.  Cocktails are creative and the food is incredible.  I opted for the tuna.  Perfect for a hot day at the track.


We will definitely be back (if we can get in).  We also plan to stay at the bed and breakfast again. The service was incredible.  The owners actually live in the house.  They go out of their way to make sure that their guests are happy.  They even set up a breakfast table on the porch, so we could enjoy the beautiful morning.

IMG_6551 IMG_6555 IMG_6553It was like staying in someone else’s house.  No TV.  A friendly dog resting on the porch.  Cute furniture and accessories.  There is typically a three night minimum during track season.  They made an exception for us due to someone else wanting to do the same thing.  They will do their best to accommodate if you ask.

FullSizeRender-42I have to say, for a nine day trip, the time went by fast.  It seems like the days went by so quick.  Maybe it’s because we have kids now?  Or maybe it is because the kids are becoming so independent that we can get away some now.  Either way, we can’t wait to go back.  We are looking forward to building this family tradition every year.  We proved this year that with a little motivation, we can keep up with our workouts, have fun and eat well (without being on our usual routine).



Bootcamp, Bootcamp, Bootcamp

Now that I have started leading a bootcamp one day a week (soon to be two) at SmartCore Fitness, I have really tried to wrap my hands around the term “bootcamp” and all of the competition in our beloved fitness fueled city.  It seems like every where I look there are “bootcamps”.  How does one distinguish between which one is best for them?  I have taken some time to explore several options in Charlotte.  I still have a lot to go.  However, I thought I would start with several options (Part 1) and do a second post several months from now showing even more options (Part 2).  Let’s start with the “Free” options and build to the more expensive.

Females in Action (FiA) and F3 

10487361_10103563946524453_7774651761354712784_nCost – Free

Advertised Actual Workout Time – 45 or 60 minutes

Actual Workout Time – By the time you warm up and stretch, 35-40 minutes for a 45 minute workout, 50-55 minutes for a 60 minute workout.  These girls try to keep things moving.  They are limited on time.

Class Time Options – Early.  Sorry.  Most workouts start at 5:15 AM or 5:30 AM during the week.  There are some 6:00 AM workouts.  Weekend workouts typically begin between 6-7 AM.

Locations – Several.  Check the website for workout times and locations. OR


Instructor Qualifications – None.  This is a peer led workout group.  While leaders are required to attend a “Q” school prior to leading their first workout, the disclosure for participating in this group is that the person running the workout is not certified to train.

Other Info – FiA is an all female workout group.  F3 is all men.  Most of the individuals participating and leading these workouts are working out early because they have a lot on their plate.  While I have built some solid friendships through my workouts with FiA, there isn’t time for a lot of chit chat.  The ladies want to work.  The website will indicate which workouts are “bootcamps” and which are running workouts.  The website also lists higher intensity workouts.

My Opinion – For a free, non certified workout, using the outdoor elements, this is a great group to work out with early in the morning (especially if you are female who is looking for a running partner when it is dark out).  I try to incorporate these workouts into my routine a few times a month.

Stax Bootcamp with Randy Moss and Emily Breeze Ross Watson


Cost – Free

Advertised Actual Workout Time – 60 minutes

Actual Workout Time – With a variety of fitness levels and breaks – approximately 45 minutes.

Class Time Options – Wednesday, 6:30 PM

Location – Stax Crossfit


Instructor Qualifications – I am a huge fan of “Breeze”.  She is incredibly tough.  Her credentials range from yoga and mobility certifications to Crossfit and personal training.  She has definitely acquired quite the following.  Clearly Randy Moss has an incredible athletic background.  While Breeze is ultimately demoing the exercises and really driving the workout, Moss and her work well together to split things up.

Other Info – At least for now, expect heat.  Bring a towel and water.  The majority of the workout is outdoors.  While it is advertised as being held at Stax, you will likely spend most of your time outside.  Many of the exercises are geared towards running and Crossfit – think sprints, burpees, squats, pushups, and power.  You need to arrive early to sign a waiver.  Don’t be surprised if there are 50-100 people.  Space is not limited.

My Opinion – I attended a closed “preview” of the bootcamp.  It will open to the public in the next few weeks.  There is no behind the scenes payoff here.  Randy Moss and Breeze Ross are offering this bootcamp as a way to give back to the community.  That said, expect large crowds. Ultimately, it’s SUPER hard for me to work out at night, making it difficult for me to scrounge up the energy to work out with so many other people.  The class reminds me a lot of old school down and dirty athletic conditioning workouts at the Dowd YMCA.  Lots of young, good looking people.  While I will try to drop in at least once a month, I would recommend this workout to those who enjoy getting a good sweat in the evening hours.

Dowd YMCA Athletic Conditioning

photo 4-13

Cost – Free with paid membership

Advertised Actual Workout Time – 60 minutes

Actual Workout Time – 55 minutes

Class Time Options – Varies throughout the week and day.  Check out the website.

Location – Almost all Greater YMCA’s in Charlotte offer the class, however, I am specifically referencing the Dowd YMCA.

Instructor Qualifications – All Dowd YMCA instructors are required to be Group Exercise certified.  Most also have additional certifications.

Other Info – You won’t really go outside in this class.  Classes can also get pretty full (depending on the instructor and time of day).  Like anything, people have their favorites.  You can really make these workouts as hard or as easy as you want to.  Like I said above, there are usually a lot of young, good looking people there.  Don’t let this intimidate you.  Space is not limited.  You could be working out with up to 100 people.

My Opinion – Have I mentioned before that my husband used to teach athletic conditioning at the Dowd YMCA?  Did I also mention that we met through his class?  I will always hold a special place in my heart for the Dowd Y.  If you are already paying to be a member of the Y and you can handle plyometric exercises and running, you should check one of these classes out.  The instructor typically breaks the class up into groups – essentially making it easier to keep everything moving while offering a variety to the participants.  Since it is held in the gym, there is enough equipment on hand to mix cardio with some strength training using weights.

MADabolic (OK they don’t advertise themselves as a bootcamp, but in case you were wondering)


Cost – One session – $22.  You can decrease that cost by buying a package.

Advertised Actual Workout Time – 50 minutes

Actual Workout Time – 30 minutes (10 minutes exercises explanation, 10 minutes warm up)

Class Time Options – Varies depending on the location.  At the South End location, most days, classes start as early as 5:30 AM. The last class is offered at 6:30 or 7:30 PM.


Locations – Asheville, NC, Burlington, NC, Charlotte, NC, Mt. Pleasant, SC, Charlottesville, VA, Greenville, SC, Huntersville, NC, Raleigh, NC.

Instructor Qualifications – Not disclosed.  I scrounged the website for information on qualifications for instructors and couldn’t find it.  I assume they go through a “MADabolic” training.  It may be worth asking?

Other Info – MADabolic has their own methodology for getting the best results out of the people that train with them.  The people who go to MADabolic swear by it.  It is not only their workout but their lifestyle.  The gym promotes ways for individuals to spend time with each other both at the gym and around town at social functions.  You will need to buy or rent gloves (if you are boxing on the day that you go).  Space is limited to make sure that there isn’t too many people at the workout.  You need to make sure that you sign up online (sometimes one week in advance).

My Opinion – I’m going to go ahead and say it.  I hate boxing.  If I only get 30 minutes of actual workout time, I don’t want to be spending part of it boxing.  Sorry, I’m never going to like it.  I just like to run and ride a bike.  That said, if you can’t get your cardio in on the pavement, many of the MAD workouts would be ideal for those looking to get their heart rate up in other ways (while still building strength).  Think boxing, rowing, box jumps, etc. I like the idea of the workout, and I like the team (and many of the people that go there).  It’s worth a try!

SmartCore Fitness


Cost – $46.50 per session

Advertised Actual Workout Time – 60 minutes

Actual Workout Time – 60-75 minutes (no breaks!)

Class Time Options – Saturday 8:30 AM (Steve), 10:00 AM (Jen- that’s me!), Tuesday 6:00 PM (Jen)

Locations – 831 Baxter Street, Suite 201, Charlotte, NC


Instructor Qualifications – Certified Personal Trainers to say the least.  You know my background. Founder, Denise Duffy, and trainer, Steve Justice, have a long list themselves.  Check out the website.

Other Info – Class is super limited, allowing the trainers to demonstrate modifications for each and every exercise that they are asking participants to complete.  The exercises and cardio will sneak up on you.  You can’t muscle through some of the core strengthening balance exercises.  These are the exercises that will make every day tasks easier (without you even knowing it).  For example, my Spartan Race Training.  My pull ups.  My bucket carries.  Etc.

My Opinion – Okay, I’m biased, but I have every reason to be.  It’s expensive, yes, but after visiting several other boot camps, I can absolutely state why.  Maybe it should be described as a personal training bootcamp.  Everyone starts together, but not many people end together.  Everyone starts with the intention of doing each and every exercise as stated, but sometimes our athletic background or certain limitations make modifications necessary.  Since we are limited in class size, we get you through the same intense cardio strength workout at your pace based on your ability.  If you need to go faster than everyone else, we let you go faster.  We show you what’s next.  If you need to move slower (and take a little longer than the person next to you), we let you do that.  If something just doesn’t feel right on a given day, we find a way to still work the muscle group that we intend to hit, but we change it.  Like MADabolic, we have our own methodology that is used to get the most out of each designed circuit.  There is no rest, because you are going at your own speed, while being pushed by others around you.  On a regular basis, I train such a wide variety of people (several of which can’t run, but still want to get cardio in – off a bike).

IMG_6377A word on bootcamp.  I actually looked up the definition.  Thank you Merriam Webster.

“Full Definition of BOOT CAMP

: a navy or marine corps camp for basic training
: a disciplinary facility or program in which young offenders are forced to participate in a rigidly structured routine”

I think the term is being used loosely.  I don’t think all bootcamps are the same.  I also don’t think all bootcamps follow a “structured routine”.  That said, you have to find the one that works best for you (both financially and athletically).  Over the next several months, I plan to check out several other options (both bootcamp and not) and offer the same sort of info!   In the end, it’s really just important that we all find a workout (any workout) that makes us feel better about ourselves and keeps us healthy!