Category Archives: Blog

Humble Pie

Written by guest blogger Aaron Werner

Humble transitive verb\ˈhəm-bəl
1: to make (someone) humble (see 1humble) in spirit or manner
2: to destroy the power, independence, or prestige of

This morning I had a righteous dose of humbling. While browsing through a local race directory I came across a race series called “King of The Hill” that was put on by Gut Check Fitness, self described as “San Diego’s #1 boot camp” and run by Joe Decker (go ahead and google him – pretty amazing story). I had never heard of Joe, Gut Check Fitness, or this King of the Hill series of races before seeing it in the directory – but running 7 miles up and down Mt Woodson with physical challenges along the way sounded like a fun time so I signed up.

Now, I know what you are thinking: a 7 mile trail run up and back a steep hill with burpees, pushups, leapfrog jumps and other challenges does NOT sound like fun!! Well to me and the 50 other people who showed up this morning it does. There is just something about pushing through physical and mental adversity that excites me.

Anyway, the run started on a quick downhill that immediately turned into an uphill. It was not STRAIGHT up, but with my lungs burning in the cold January morning air it sure felt like it. I’ve been doing some hill runs around 7-8 miles so I thought I would have a pretty good day…..I was humbled. I didn’t feel comfortable till mile 1.5 when it flattened out and we were required to do 10 burpees, which is not a lot but after running uphill for over a mile my legs were already tight. Consequently my shoulders and arms were incredibly sore from playing Just Dance on the Wii we got for Christmas and which didn’t help any. For the next 1.5 miles up the seemingly steeper trail I employed a routine of running, walking, and eating slices of Humble Pie all the while realizing my fitness has dropped over the Christmas holiday. I picked racers ahead of me and fought to catch them, especially the old guy in white spandex shorts. Cycling, triathlon, running, it doesn’t matter, white spandex is never acceptable (however racing behind someone who is wearing white spandex is great motivation to go faster).

The view atop Mt Woodson is beautiful, and today was exceptionally clear. I took a quick drink of water, appreciated the view as I touched the turn-around rock and headed downhill. For as challenging as going up was, going down was insane! I was 99% out-of-control as my legs turned at an incredible rate. It felt like at any moment I was going to miss the turn and run myself right off the mountain. Thankfully I kept upright thanks to my Brooks PureGrit shoes. I’ve never appreciated them so much!

Mentally the challenge was reaching the top. We were told several times that there were NO challenges on the way down. This meant that as soon as I turned around my mind relaxed and just held on for the ride. I should have known better. A “King of the Hill” race put on by company called “Gut Check Fitness” that is owned by “The World’s Fittest Man” per Guinness World Records should have clued me in that there would be challenges all the way to the finish. Remember that quick downhill at the beginning of the race. Well it was steep, and now that was an uphill with the finish at the top. We didn’t just have to run up that hill to finish…..no, we had to do Leapfrog Jumps up that hill. One last slice of Humble Pie.

I finished with a time around 1:24ish. I’m not sure exactly because I didn’t look at the clock and forgot to stop my watch till after getting a drink. It was fun, tough, and humbling. There are 3 more races in this series, all progressively more difficult. I’d like to do them, but I’ll put in some work before then, and before the SoCal Super Spartan in a few weeks!

I was impressed by the finish food, beer with koozie and quality of finisher medal. Excellent race origination and experience. I even appreciated the chance to eat some humble pie.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the dude in the white spandex passed me just before the finish.

Check out more stories from Aaron here.

The Benefits of Group Fitness

Written by Joe Decker

You know what is awesome? Working out. Do you know what is even better? Meeting new people that share the same love of fitness. Simply put, group fitness is a huge trend, and for good reason.

I’ve been involved in fitness for over 25 years and have belonged to groups ranging from power lifting to running clubs, but I’ve also been that solitary figure in the gym and on the road. I do feel this has given me a pretty good understanding of the appeal and the dynamics of both; however, I strongly encourage group fitness. Whether you have joined a workout group or have gotten your own group of friends together for a workout, here are three reasons more is merrier in helping you earn your fitness gains.

Motivation
Unless you’re that rare person that can jump out of bed at 5 a.m. and hit the ground running, odds are that getting and staying motivated are difficult for you. You are not alone. The majority of the people I’ve worked with over the years have had the same problem. Here lies one of the greatest benefits about working out in a group setting. Many people who attend a class will show up exhausted from the ups and downs of everyday life, but once they join the group, they become re-energized. With a friendly fitness instructor there to light a fire under you rear, it can’t get any better.
Not only are you more motivated to get up and out to exercise, but the motivation of your instructor and you fellow group members WILL keep you going.  Another plus? If you work out with people who are faster, stronger or fitter than you, they will push you to go faster, be stronger and go further, ultimately increasing your fitness level. There’s an old saying that goes, “The lead dog sets the pace for the rest of the pack.” Think about it.

Accountability
Remember when you were in high school and your mom would wake you up in the morning to get you up, moving and ensure you were on your way to school? She was holding you accountable. If you were anything like me, you probably wouldn’t have graduated without her wake-up calls (thanks Mom). ! A workout group can do the same thing for your exercise routine. I’ve had countless clients over the years at Gut Check Fitness say, “I wouldn’t be there in the morning if I didn’t know that Nicole, Meg, Mike, etc. were going to give me a hard time for not showing up.”

The fear of group teasing gets them out of bed. Hey, it works!
Plus, there’s the friendly instructor, again, that keeps track of your tardiness. I take a daily roll at my classes then each week I look to see who’s been playing Harry Houdini. If I haven’t seen someone for a week or two, I’ll generally send them a friendly reminder with the threat of numerous burpees.

Group Camaraderie
Human beings are social creatures. Yes, a few are hermits and recluses, but the majority of us love to be around other people. We love to laugh, joke and have fun. I feel this is one of the greatest products of a group workout setting. Nothing brings people closer quite like misery and physical suffering. If you’ve ever done a boot camp or similar class, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
Many people sign up to get more fit and along the way become friends through this mutual ritual. Many become lifelong best friends. My classes not only work hard together, but they play hard together. We regularly have happy hours, wine tastings, and sports days where we do races and events together. We sincerely enjoy one another’s company. It’s truly one of the best ways to meet people like you and develop a common bond while getting into the best shape possible.
Joining a workout group can keep you motivated, hold you accountable and help you develop a sense of group camaraderie.

Finally, in a world where we’ve become so dependent on email and texting, working out with a group offers that human interaction that is slowly disappearing. We can do just about everything today virtually without ever talking to a person. That is outside of a group fitness setting. With group fitness, you have to get involved. You can try to escape to the back of the pack, but a good instructor will integrate you into the group whether you like or not. That’s why it’s called group dynamics, and that’s why technology will never replace the good ‘ol fashioned group workout. Get out of your cubicle, your car or your house and go meet other people that have a common interest just like you. You never know, you might just meet some real friends instead of the virtual ones you find online.

The Importance of Training

Written by Joe Decker

How many times have you watched a sporting event on TV like a football game, tennis match, or even the Olympics –and been in awe of the athletes that are competing? If you’re like me, probably many. Occasionally you’ll hear people say, “Oh they’re just born that way.” Granted, many are born with a innate talent that the average person might not have; however, don’t be fooled. Their obviously talent doesn’t take away from the fact that they not only dedicate their life to their sport but also train their butts off to be the best that they can be. They HAD to train and plan to get where they are at.

While you might never be a professional athlete making millions of dollars or winning race after race, it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t train to the very best of your ability. Having personally competed in some of the world’s toughest events like the Raid Gauloises, the Badwater 135, the Death Race, Guinness World Records and more, I’ve learned the irreplaceable importance of putting together a thorough training program to help be best prepared. This is probably one of the biggest benefits our clients at Gut Check Fitness take away from their experience with us. They then utilize this first hand information to get them ready for Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, King of the Hill trail races and similar events.

Where do I begin? You’ve probably already signed up for an event with family, friends or coworkers. You’re all excited but have no idea what you’re doing; you’re scared, you’re nervous, you’re not sure where to start., you’re looking for an exit. Fear not. The first thing you have to do is get a plan. There’s an old saying I live by: “Fail to plan and you plan to fail.” Planning ahead is a must. You can get this information from a qualified fitness or race coach, which I recommend, or take your chances and research online. Regardless put a daily, weekly and monthly plan together. This will help keep you on track and hold you accountable. Also it allows you to monitor your progress, or lack of, periodically along the way.

How do I train? This is another question I’ve gotten asked many times over the years. “How do I run longer? “How do I lift more weight?” I always reply, “You run longer or you lift more weight.” Granted it’s a little more complicated than this but you get the point. There’s a fitness principle called “specificity,” meaning, if I want to work on my 40 yd. dash time then this is what I work on –not my marathon time.  You must concentrate your efforts where you want to see progress and based on the event you’re participating in. To be prepared for particular events, you must train accordingly – and with races like Spartan and Tough Mudders, you must specifically incorporate hills, walls, monkey bars, low-crawls and more.

Bottom line if you want to reach your true fitness potential, do your absolute best, and reach your goals –while hopefully avoiding injury along the way, you MUST train and you MUST plan. At Gut Check Fitness we’ve trained thousands of people over the years for the more popular obstacle-course races, long-distance trail races to even 12 – 36 hour overnight events. Give us a shout-out, stop by a class, or sign up for an event – take the first step in training and planning for your upcoming event.

Why Workout With a Group?

It seems like almost everyone is getting involved in group exercise today. On any given day in a warehouse, in a park or at the gym you can find people exercising together. There’s everything from Running Clubs, Active X, Roller Striders to Boot Camp classes. So why exactly are so many people jumping the ‘lone wolf’ ship to work out with others in a group setting? What is the big attraction?

I’ve been involved in fitness for 25 years now and have belonged to power lifting and running clubs but have also been that solitary figure in the gym and on the road. I do feel this has given me a pretty good understanding of the appeal and the dynamics of both. Years ago I started my own outdoor fitness company, Gut Check Fitness, which recently got voted “A-List Best Boot Camp” San Diego and Competitor Magazine’s, “Hardest Workout.” This is where my passion lies.

So again, why join a group?
There are three key reasons why so many people decide to join us at Gut Check for group fitness.

Motivation. Unless you’re that rare person that can jump out of bed at 5 am and hit the ground running, odds are getting and staying motivated are difficult for you. You are not alone. The majority of the people I’ve worked with over the years have had the same problem. That’s one of the great things about the group setting. Many people that attend a class will show up exhausted from life in general but once they join the group people they find themselves getting reenergized. Plus there’s the friendly fitness instructor there to light a fire under you rear. Aside from just getting motivated to get out of bed and exercise, there’s the motivation to really improve your current fitness level. If you work out with people faster, stronger or more fit, guess what, odds are you’re going to get into better shape. There’s an old saying that goes, “the lead dog sets the pace for the rest of the pack.” Think about it.

Accountability. Remember when you were a kid going to high school and mom would wake you up in the morning to go to school, she was holding you accountable. If you were anything like me, I wouldn’t have graduated without her wake up calls. Thanks mom! A workout group can do the same thing for your exercise routine. I’ve had countless clients over the years at Gut Check Fitness say, “I wouldn’t be there in the morning if I didn’t know that Kim, Ron, Nancy, etc were going to give me a hard time for not showing up.” Through the fear of group teasing they get out of bed. Hey, it works! Plus, there’s the friendly instructor again that keeps track of your tardiness. I take a daily roll at my classes then each week I look to see who’s been playing Harry Houdini. If I haven’t seen them for a week or two I’ll generally send them a friendly reminder with the threat of numerous burpees. This usually does the trick.

Group Camaraderie. Human beings are social creatures. Yes, a few are hermits and recluses but the majority of us love to be around other people. We love to laugh, joke and have fun. I feel this is one of the greatest products of a group workout setting. Nothing brings people closer quite like misery and physical suffering. If you’ve ever done a boot camp or similar class you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Many people sign up to get more fit and along the way become friends through this mutual ritual. Many become lifelong best of friends. My classes not only work hard together but they play hard together. We regularly have happy hours, wine tastings, and sports days do races and events together and sincerely enjoy one another’s company. It’s truly one of the best ways to meet people like you and develop a common bond while getting into the best shape possible.

As I stated above, joining a workout group can help keep you motivated, hold you accountable and help you develop a sense of group camaraderie but there’s one more aspect I’d like to briefly mention and that’s actual hands on human interaction. It seems we’ve become so dependent on email and texting today that the skill of human interaction is slowly disappearing. We can do just about everything virtually today without ever talking to a person. That is outside of a group fitness setting. Here you have to get involved. Oh you can try to escape to the back of the pack but a good instructor will integrate you into the group whether you like or not. That’s why it’s called group dynamics and that’s why technology will never replace the good ole fashioned group workout setting. Get out of your cubicle, your car or your house and go meet other people that have a common interest just like you. You never know, you might just meet some real friends instead of the one’s you find online.

Blood, Sweat & Fear…

I stand atop Rabbit Peak Mountain, one of Southern California’s most technical and challenging hiking trails. In less than 5 months from now, this 22 mile round trip, beast of a trail will be the championship event in the King of the Hill trail running series. An event, not for the faint-hearted, that will see upwards of 8000’ of elevation gain for about 300 participants, 25% of which will compete with 30 – 50lbs of sand and water weight on their backs, and this considered by some is the “easy” part… welcome to the new evolution of endurance racing!

Over 10 years ago, the endurance industry exploded. Marathons and triathlons became the fastest growing sports throughout the world. Millions of people registered for events, and millions competed year in and year out. Ironman triathlons had become the “standard” in pushing one’s physical limits, and why shouldn’t it have been, I mean to Swim 2 miles, Bike 100 miles, and Run 26 miles all in one event can give anyone a good beat down. These 2 sports categories continue to grow to this day but in today’s give me more while doing less society, younger people are finding new ways to challenge themselves physically, without the hassle and time demanding needs of marathons and triathlons. Enter endurance racing’s new sibling, Obstacle Course Racing, an adventure style race designed to test ones endurance and strength mixing running with climbing, jumping, and fighting through mud and water. The last 2 years have seen the rise of Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Muddy Buddy, each of which pushes the envelope in regards to physical and mental challenges that each participant must complete to finish the race.

Enter the King of the Hill trail running series, a 2nd year series that has started making waves in the endurance industry not as an Obstacle Course Race, and not as a trail race, but as a hybrid of the two. The King of the Hill series was created by the Guinness Book of World Records “World’s Fittest Man”, Joe Decker. Decker, who has competed in many of the world toughest events, and even holds the title of 2-time champion of the Death Race (considered by some, the toughest event in the world), created the series as a testament and a challenge to the training he provides his clients through his Gut Check Boot Camp classes. Based in San Diego, Decker knew that San Diego County provided many of Southern California’s most beautiful and challenging trails, he also knew these trails wouldn’t support vehicles to drive up and drop off obstacles, such as walls and hay bales. So Joe decided to take the trail running concept and mix it with fitness challenges, which include Burpees, Pushups, Jump Squats, and Mountain Climbers to name a few plus everything you can do with a 50lb sandbag. In 2011, the King of the Hill series saw an average of 125 participants, of all skill levels compete in 3 events, all of different lengths and difficulties. The goal, simple… run to the top of the mountain, touch the flag, and run back down, but along the way you will have to complete 4-6 fitness challenges of 25-50 reps at each station, not an easy task when you have already run 1-2 miles uphill.

Decker, has raised the bar in 2012, making the challenges more difficult, the distances much longer, and the trails more technical. The Challenges… the King of the Hill will once again and always offer the “normal” race of running with fitness challenges up to the top and back, but now offers the “Bad Ass” division. A division that will see participants compete in each race and each fitness challenge with a 30 – 50 lb bag of sand on their back, plus any water they carry. The Distances… participants will be treated with a variety of distances from 6-22 miles, with the last 2 of the series being 12 and 22 respectively. The Technical… the King of the Hill series has added Rabbit Peak Mountain to the mix of trail races. A trail, in which participants must climb over rocks, battle the vegetation, and race in over 8000’ of elevation gain. Mandatory gear will include a pair of pliers (for the jumping cholla), snake bite kit, first aid kit and a death waiver. Does this sound like it’s for you? If so now it’s time to step up the training.

Question: How do I train for these types of events? Since most of these events involve cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance and strength, flexibility and a whole lot of intestinal fortitude this means you’re going to have to train all these components to get ready for the challenge. Here’s a sample weekly workout outline that can certainly get you on the right path.

Monday & Thursday – Strength training
We know that there will be quite a bit of bodyweight calisthenics including burpees, push-ups, starbursts, mountain climbers, sit-ups and more. In addition you’ll most likely encounter sandbag exercises with 30 – 50lbs. These could include shoulder presses, squats, walking lunges, weighted sit-ups, etc. A good way to begin would be to list these exercises in a column on a piece of paper one after the other. Next decide how many reps you can do of each. Beginners might start with 3 circuits of 10 reps each and advanced athletes might even consider doing a descending pyramid of 50-40-30-20-10. That will surely leave a mark but certainly get you ready. All you’d need to purchase is a $2 bag of sand from Lowe’s.

Tuesday & Friday – Speed or hill/stair training
In all of these events you’re going to find some pretty good hills and would imagine you’d like to run fast. So to do this you have to train for it. For example Tuesday is speed day. You can head to a track or a park with a loop that you know. Start out with a warm up loop then get after it. Couple options are to train by distance like run 400m, 800m, 1200m and finish with 1600m. Or you can run 4 x 400 one week, then 4 x 800 couple weeks later. Really depends on your current ability level and how hard you’re willing to push. Then Friday would be hills or stairs training. Find something either in your area, jog over to it and try to get as many repeats as you can in 30-45 min. You might even want to add another repeat or a little more time each week. In order to run hills effectively you’ve gotta run them in training.

Wednesday & Sat. or Sun.
Time for longer easier runs to get you ready for distances you are going to be running. Here’s an option, whatever distance you run on Wednesday, say 5 miles, then double that distance on Sat/Sun to 10 miles. Of course if this is tom much you are always free to modify to your needs. The key to these days are to enjoy yourself, have fun and always be sure to listen to your body. It’ll tell you if you need to back off.

With today’s world of sports changing, and more and more unique events popping up, yesterday’s Ironman is today’s Spartan race. The King of the Hill series is quickly becoming a leader in “hybrid” endurance racing, and to be a leader in today’s world you need a little bit of attitude… I see plenty in these events, with even more to come.

The “World’s Fittest Man” Insane Tests of Mental and Physical Endurance

It’s amazing today to see all the crazy and insane events that are out there for people like me to pay big money to enter only to have ourselves tortured, beaten and battered. What a crazy wonderful world we live in. I have competed in many of them around the word and plan to continue to until the day I exit this place. People often ask, “Why do you continue to do this nonsense and put yourself at risk?” I reply, “I cannot imagine life without it. This is the stuff that keeps me young mentally, that keeps me excited to live. I love being able to put this wonderful human body of mine out there only to see how far it will go before the tires fall off. And trust me, it truly keep on ticking!” Have fun finding your own crazy, fun events to challenge yourself.

Tough Guy UK – The phenomena of Tough Guy© has now evolved into cult status with mythical legends to a worldwide audience and competitors from every continent coming here to try to beat this ordeal and enjoy the unique spirit of friendship and amiability. It is set in over 150 acres of fertile land where spring waters will wash away your miseries and replace them with smiles of achievement.

Each year a new theme is built into Tough Guy this ensures that it remains the world’s safest most dangerous taste of mental physical pain endurance toughest events. Tough Guy will always be a physically challenging, mentally demanding, fear inducing, visual spectacular. After you have taken part you will understand why thousands keep coming back, year after year to experience some of the most demanding yet rewarding challenges of their life!

I love this event. It’s absolutely insane but so much fun. Nothing like swimming in frigid waters, running through fire and then crossing an electric field while still wet. This is not for the faint of heart.

raidRaid Gauloises – The Raid Gauloises is a Sports-Adventure-Nature concept that calls upon nothing more than man, his resourcefulness, intelligence, experience and energy, excluding all outside intervention and use of motorized vehicles. This is absolute self-sufficiency, total immersion in a natural environment in search of others, of oneself, and of another kind of life far from the usual everyday existence in our highly mechanized societies.
This is an epic adventure race. The year I did it we raced 520 miles across the Himalayas from Janapur, India to Lhasa, Tibet. The views and scenery were absolutely awe inspiring.
http://www.raid-gauloises.com/

barkley100buckleBarkley 100 Trail Race – The Barkley is considered one of the toughest 100 mile races in the world. It has 52,900 feet of climb (and 52,900 feet of descent), more than any other 100 mile race, more than the 33,000 ft. of climb at Hardrock, and more than the 45,000 ft. at Nolan’s 14.

Since the race began in 1986, only 8 runners out of about 700 have finished within the 60 hour cutoff. Mark Williams of the UK finished first in 1995 in 59:28. In 2001, after several failed attempts, Blake Wood, 42, NM, and David Horton, 50, VA, finished together in 58:21, only to be disqualified for inadvertently leaving the course to follow a parallel route for about 200 yards. This route (on the south side of the stream instead of the north side) has slightly better footing and had been the normal route until 2000.

This is a true purist’s Ultra Marathon. There are no aid stations, no fans, hardly any trail and tons of elevation, briars and insane weather. I made 2 loops in 2008 and will hopefully be going back for another try in 2010. http://www.mattmahoney.net/barkley

cal strongest manCalifornia’s Strongest Man Competition – I really enjoy Strong Man competitions for their true test of human strength. It’s you against massive tires, huge atlas stones, monster trucks, and other large implements of torture. The nice thing is that many events offer weight classes for us smaller guys and yes, even girls. There are many incredible female competitors out there that are many times beating the boys today. Watch out guys!
http://www.youtube.com/user/GutCheckFitness#p/c/7CA8B8167FE6E59D/3/svnCTSMKUyE

death raceThe Death Race – A friend sent me this link and had to check out. It looked so insane that I even decided to sign up for it next year on my 40th birthday. At least like the name states there’s no beating around the bush.
Very challenging race. Course has been determined. 24 hours to finish with cut offs. The cut offs will not be in effect until Noon on race day. You must make the cut offs or you’ll be eliminated from the race. Expect to cry, scream, barbed wire, wood chopping, mud, water, ponds, waterfalls, etc. $2000 in prize money. Remember – 24 hours to finish.
http://www.youmaydie.com/

I know this kinda stuff might not be for everyone but if you are looking for something new, different or just plain crazy, give it a try. As scary as they seem or pretend to be I’ve actually never heard of anyone actually dying during one of these events. Just many times you wish you would. Have fun and never stop playing like a kid.