Disabled Veterans Hand-Cycle Cross Country for a Cause

Signing up for a grueling 4,000-mile bike ride is impressive no matter how fit you are. The Sea to Shining Sea Bike Ride is even more inspiring — the cross-country ride will feature 30 veterans who were disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan hand-cycling alongside many able-bodied athletes.

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This is the first ever Sea to Shining Sea Bike Ride, which is sponsored by State Farm and hosted by World T.E.A.M. Sports. The ride will begin at the Golden Gate Bridge this Saturday, and end 63 days later in Virginia Beach on July 24. Root and Sprout had a chance to interview three of the riders — Christopher Frost, Nicolette Maroulis and Seth Arseneau. We were blown away by their stories and responses, and we’re pretty sure you will be too.

If you find yourself so moved, you can ride along, volunteer or just take part in some of the fun activities along the route.

Root and Sprout: Why are you doing the Sea to Shining Sea Bike Ride?

Frost: [After my doctor released me to do weight bearing exercise on a post-surgery ankle, but not being cleared for running], I asked him if cycling was okay and he said it was. Then on Veteran’s Day I got an email from someone in my cycling club asking if I was interested in taking part in the Sea to Shining Sea ride. After nearly four months in a wheelchair, I was highly motivated to do it.

Maroulis: This was such an amazing opportunity; I couldn’t imagine not participating in it! I think it gives me an opportunity to push myself both physically and mentally.

Arseneau: I have always wanted to ride across the country. The S2SS ride is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I can’t pass up. World T.E.A.M. Sports does an incredible job with their events, and there is no doubt in my mind that this ride will be an experience that I will always remember.

RS: How long have you trained?

Frost: I’ve been training since January.

Maroulis: I’d like to think I’ve been in training my entire life. I’ve always been a very active person. Since my injuries, I’ve learned more about the scientific side of how my body works. Through studying kinesiology I’ve learned how to train more effectively. I have just received my first hand cycle a couple of weeks ago so I haven’t trained much for this particular ride.

Arseneau: I’ve been riding hand cycles for eight years. However, I have been focused on training for this ride for about six months.

RS: Can you tell us about your training? How do you stay motivated?

Frost: When I began training, my area was going through its roughest winter in a century so it was good that I have a Kurt Kinetic indoor trainer. My January goal was to ride 30 miles on four days each week, both as physical therapy for my ankle and to get my legs used to pedaling. As the weather improved, my cycling club, Blue Suit Pacers, organized team training rides.

Maroulis: My typical week consists of going to Tillman Physical Therapy four days a week, rowing with the Austin Paralympics Row team two to four hours a week, Cross Fit Cedar Park three to four times a week, as well as the additional exercise I get from lifting weights at the local gym and with Strongman Training. I also ride my hand cycle every chance I get. I stay motivated by reflecting on the times that I was unable to walk and trying to surpass the limitations placed on me.

Arseneau: For me, one of the most important aspects of training is diversity. Riding hand cycles can be extremely taxing on the body, so I’ve found that cross-training helps me to keep from getting burned out. As long as I’m not over-training, I am able to keep myself motivated.

RS: What aspect of this challenge do you expect to be most difficult physically?

Frost: The physical difficulty for me will be divided between climbing — I suck at climbing and on a recumbent it is a special hell — and adapting my body to the day to day grind that a trip of this magnitude conveys. I expect that the hardest days will be in the first few weeks as on a trip like this my fitness will level up during the trip.

Maroulis: Subluxation of the shoulder joint after repetitive movement will be one of my biggest challenges. I will be paying close attention to my water and food intake. Pacing myself for the sixty-three days will be challenging overall. Mentally, I am looking forward to the challenge. All I have to worry about is taking it one day at a time. I won’t have to worry about doctors’ appointments, the physical therapist or bills. I can focus on each rotation of the pedal, knowing my concentration will be on the weather, my food intake and those dreaded hills!

Arseneau: One of my main concerns for this ride is my immune system. Individually, even the toughest days on the ride are doable. However, many consecutive days on the road will certainly take a toll on the body. As long as I can keep my body healthy, I will be able to finish each day. I am not afraid to suffer or to push myself to the limit. I feel that my body will reach its breaking point before my mind does.

RS: What are you most excited about?

Frost: I am crazy excited about getting to see friends and family at the start of the ride in San Francisco [having grown up in the South Bay]. I also am looking forward to Lake Tahoe; Moab, Utah; Colorado Springs; Dayton, Ohio; and passing close to my fiancée in Alexandria, Virginia, during the final week of the ride.

Maroulis: The finish! Knowing that I pushed my body to its limits and accomplished my goals. I’m looking forward to seeing new parts of the country and collecting great stories along the way.

Arseneau: My best friend will be waiting for me at the finish. That thought will be what pulls me through the most difficult times.

RS: What did your friends and family say?

Frost: After their initial “What you talking about, Willis?” reaction, they all were very excited and supportive.

Maroulis: “What? Are you crazy!?” Although there was a lot of concern from family and friends, I think overall I’ve won their support. For those that are still holding out I am sure they will come around as I ride in to the finish.

Arseneau: They weren’t too surprised. They are all well aware of the fact that cycling is in my blood. I am hoping to see a few of them out there on the route.

RS: What’s next?

Frost: I get married a month after this ride finishes and we are honeymooning in Yosemite. I’ve always wanted to climb Half Dome!

Maroulis: I’m always looking to push limits and searching for the next opportunity. Whaddaya got? If you want to see what I am doing next or have an opportunity for me please visit me at NicoletteMaroulis.com!

Arseneau: I’m hoping that this ride will help me to find a few answers. In the past, I’ve had an underlying desire to make myself suffer while on the bike. I’d like to finish this ride and know that, in the future, I can continue to push myself without having to suffer. After the ride, I don’t foresee a need to take myself to the limit. Instead, I would like to accomplish things that will be more beneficial to others. Hopefully, the end of this journey will mark the start of a new one.

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Fit Parents are Natural Cross-Trainers

The arrival of a screaming baby does not mean triathlon training is over. Parents with infants or young children who continue to stay in shape make cross-training concessions.

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The best part? Adapting your fitness habits to consistently include your kids will someday deliver a teenage workout partner capable of smoking you in a 5K.

Here are ideas for your next Fitness Assignment Activities:

  • Consider This Book. “The Family Fitness Fun Book” is a recent 2005 release to inspire family fitness during your kids’ most formative, needy years, which just happen to be when your fitness habits are most at risk.
  • Now Plan It. Organize family bike rides, hikes and swim adventures. Find family-friendly routes — the track or a car-free trail are terrific for new bike riders or a jog stroller. A quality baby backpack is a great investment.
  • Invite Them. Whether you’re embarking on a walk, jog, hour of yoga, at-home weightlifting session or popping in a fitness DVD, regularly invite your kids to join you. They learn fast, and they want to be with you. Consider family time or one-on-one special time with your kids as a chance to schedule fitness together.
  • Buy the Treadmill. Parents need at-home cardio to fold in fitness. Hauling kids to the gym can be impossible some days, especially during cold/flu season. Besides, they’ll actually witness you working out instead of sitting in a sterile room packed with runny noses.
  • The Subtle Invitation. Whether you’re jumping on the treadmill, the resistance bench or the yoga mat, have kid-friendly fitness gear scattered around (hula hoop, light weights, ab roller, resistance bands, a second yoga mat).
  • Rely On Friends. Sneak in fitness while friends step up to supervise. Go to the pool with a friend and slice away 30 laps while she watches your kids. Switch.
  • Get Bodybuilding Supplements from BodySteroids.com. This is one of the best places to locate healthy supplements for your workout.
  • Bird or Owl Training. On the days you must have solo sweat time, work out early with the birds or pump iron late with the owls. Hopefully your kids are typical, diurnal sleepers and you have small windows of time to yourself. Remember, putting your kids on a strict sleep schedule is about your fitness sanity, too.

Finally, you’re going to need acceptance. Let’s face it, between the infant to early tween years, your fit habits — and your attitude — will need to change. You can resent baby intrusion or view family fitness accommodations as a fantastic parenting opportunity benefiting both you and your children.

Sometimes your best plans will kid-factor explode. So what? You’ll also have those unforgettable, glorious moments when everyone is challenged and happy.

Do Your Fitness Assignment: Adapt one of your favorite pre-kid workouts to include your kids. Call it a family cross-training session and keep it positive, no matter how many kid fit-interruptions (dirty diaper, stubbed toe, dropped sippy).

Running 56 Miles to Save the Rhinos

Root And Sprout recently had a chance to catch up with one of the runners, 42-year-old London-based Kenneth Donaldson from Team “Save the Rhino.”

runningRoot And Sprout: How did you get involved with this cause and this race?
Kenneth Donaldson: I have to blame this on my wife, Cathy Dean, who became Director of Save the Rhino International in 2001. She promptly signed up to run the London Marathon — the charity is famous for running in rhino costume — and then was so impressed that all her co-workers were running the Marathon des Sables (150 miles across the Sahara) in 2002 that she signed both of us up for the 2003 MdS. At that point, I hadn’t done any running since school, so it was a bit of a shock, to say the least! Since then, running and rhinos have taken over my life — in a good way.

RS: Why is this cause important to you?
KD: I’m lucky enough to have visited rhino conservation programs in the field with Cathy. But even without that, I feel it’s really important that people support conservation causes. According to Al Gore, 97 percent of charitable giving goes to humanitarian causes (disaster relief, medical research, children, hospices, etc.). Of the remaining three percent, half goes towards pet charities. That leaves just one and a half percent for the conservation of our planet and all the other creatures we share it with. Rhinos act as a flagship species — save them, and you save the ecosystem in which they live and all the biodiversity in that area. With whole species of wildlife dying out at a rate of 1 percent per year, the need is extreme and urgent.

RS: How have you been preparing for this 56-mile race?
KD: I’ve been pretty fit for a few years, and I started building up to this last November. I wear a weighted rucksack (up to 26 pounds) to get me used to bearing the weight of the rhino costume, and I’ve been running 16 to 20 miles each session, on consecutive days to build up endurance. Over Easter weekend I clocked nearly 80 miles, which was good training. I’ve also been training on very light breakfasts, to get my muscles used to running on empty.

RS: Have you ever run with a costume on? If so, what was it like?
KD: Yes, I did the Marathon des Sables in 2003, as part of a team of seven, taking it in turns to wear one of the rhino costumes, and the same in 2006 for the Atacama Crossing in Chile. Running in rhino is difficult: there’s poor ventilation and it gets very hot and sweaty inside, so keeping hydrated is difficult; the head bobs around a lot in front of you, meaning that you tend to end up running with your arms held stiffly in front of you to try to brace it; and there’s poor visibility — you can only see the road about 15 to 20 feet in front of you, so uneven surfaces are a nightmare. On the other hand, the crowd support is amazing, so you get an enormous lift.

RS: What inspired you to do this?
KD: Apart from the Marathon des Sables, the Comrades Marathon is the big race that ultra runners want to complete — and get the medal. I’ve become pretty competitive over the years, and the idea of charging past a few people on the way to the finish line is very appealing. And we have the opportunity to go and visit Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Wildlife Park afterward — the place where all rhino conservation began 100 years ago — to see how the funds we have raised will be spent. It’s a special place where one man managed single-handedly to save a whole species from certain extinction. Truly inspirational.

RS: What will be the most challenging part of this race?
KD: I have to say that, after all the training, the most challenging bit might be getting to South Africa. Seven of the 10 runners are booked to fly out on British Airways, and we’ve just found out that the next wave of strikes will affect our flight. And that’s without the volcano. After all this, we just need to get to the start line — then we’ll be fine. At least, that’s what I tell myself!

RS: What do you hope the outcome will be for you personally and for the cause?
KD: For me, the team and the rhino costume, I want all of us to get to the finish line within 11 hours so that we get our bronze medals. Failing that, then within the 12-hour cut-off. And overall, we hope to raise £20,000 (over $30,000) for Save the Rhino — that would make a really significant impact on their work.

RS: What would you say to others who are considering running a major event like this and aren’t sure they can do it?
KD: Four things.
One: Start with a marathon — if you can do under four hours, you’re in with a chance for the Comrades.
Two: Put in the training — there’s no point in skimping.
Three: Do it for charity — that way, you’ve got the extra incentive and the motivation will keep you going in the bad bits.
And Four: Run for a charity that has experience of the Comrades, like Save the Rhino — you’ll need all the help and advice you can get.

J.R. Celski Reveals His Must-Do Olympic Training Moves

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If you’ve ever seen the size of a speed skater’s thighs, you know there has to be more than just daily workouts on the ice to get that way. U.S. speed skating Olympian, J.R. Celski, said it takes a great balance in nutrition, training on and off the ice, and mental discipline. And with many calling him the “next Apolo Ohno,” he ought to know. While he was of course gunning for a gold this past Saturday, February 13, Celski was able to bring home a bronze medal for the U.S. in Men’s 1500m Short Track.

Before Celski headed up to Vancouver for the Olympic Games, That’s Fit had a chance to catch up with the 20-year-old Washington state native, who shared some of his training tips, weekly regimens and strength-building techniques.

Root And Sprout: How did you get into speed skating?
J.R. Celski: I started inline skating when I was three years old, but there is only so far you can go with that sport — there is no inline skating in the Olympics. So, after watching Apolo Ohno in the 2002 Olympics when I was 12, I was inspired and intrigued by speed skating, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

RS: Who is your biggest competition in Vancouver?
J.R.: There are six or seven guys who are going to be tough on the Korean, Canadian and U.S. teams. My goal is to go for the gold — that’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid. I am going to go out there, take it all in and leave everything I have on the ice.

RS: With obvious strength like yours, what is your typical weekly training regimen?
J.R.: I train six days a week for six to eight hours a day. It’s intense. Three or four hours is spent on the ice and the rest of the time is spent running, biking, weight training, doing coordination drills and stretching. The sauna is also a great recovery place for me.

RS: What’s your number one secret for nutrition?
J.R.: A leafy green drink that I have after workouts. It contains barley greens, spinach and peas. It sounds weird, but it’s actually pretty good! Plus it has a lot of protein, which I need.

RS: What’s your one must-do move off the ice to build strength?
J.R.: Core work is essential. Speed skaters rely a lot on abdominal strength — all athletes do really, but most people don’t focus enough on this. My favorite move is the plank. I also do a lot of Russian twists, leg weights, stair work and up-down drills.

RS: What does it feel like to be a part of the Olympic Games?
J.R.: It’s amazing. I’m excited to be representing my hometown, my family and the USA. I have a lot of people following me and the support is just incredible. Every time I step on the ice, I feel at home — I’m always smiling out there. I hope to inspire others around the world to be better and live their dreams too.

Personal Training With Jackie: Power Circuit Training

jackie-warner-240kgs2310I know you shouldn’t judge a DVD by its cover, but let me be honest — I’m far more likely to opt for a workout DVD that features a picture of someone in amazing shape than one that has some who looks more like … well, like me. That being said, “Personal Training With Jackie: Power Circuit Training” is a DVD I would definitely pick off the shelf — girlfriend is ripped!

The instructor, Jackie Warner, is a celebrity personal trainer who charges up to $400 an hour for her workouts, making this DVD seem like a total steal. It has five sections to choose from: 40-Minute Total Body Circuit, 15-Minute Total Body Circuit, 15-Minute Abs Only Circuit, 15-Minute Upper Body Circuit and 15-Minute Lower Body Circuit. All these options makes it easy to fit in the workout you want each day.

Each workout consists of short circuits — you do three moves for one minute each, followed by the “Power Burn,” which is one minute filled with the three previous moves. It makes the workout move along quickly, and also helps make even the really difficult moves manageable.

Level of Difficulty

Intermediate to advanced.

Next Day Soreness

Pretty major. I definitely worked muscles that haven’t been used all that much lately. No, scratch that — I worked them hard.

Who’s It For?

This is a straightforward workout — there’s nothing dance-based or trendy; just tough, solid moves. If you enjoy boot camp-style workouts and a fast pace, this is a great option for you.

Likes

I liked just about everything about this DVD. You use your own hand weights, so you can go lighter or heavier depending on your fitness level. I loved the option to customize the workout — I can see this being especially beneficial to people on a training plan (like me), because you can run (or bike, or whatever), and then come in and do just the Upper Body segment, or Abs, or whatever you like. Jackie provides a good mix of encouragement and pushiness. She’s no Mary Sunshine, but she’s not as scary as Jillian Michaels.

Dislikes

She could have showed some more modifications to make this more accessible for newbies, but otherwise, I can’t come up with anything I didn’t like about the video. However, there was the “Non-Cooker’s 5-Day Meal Plan” that came with the DVD, and I wasn’t a huge fan — it had some great advice, but I have a hard time following any diet plan that considers decaf green tea mixed with herbal tea a treat.

Bottom Line

This is the kind of DVD that will get you results. There are so many different moves and so many options, but all of them really work your body. The fast pace means you get a lot done without wasting a whole morning. And, seriously, when you see what phenomenal shape Jackie is in, you can’t help but be motivated.