Monthly Archives: June 2012

Hula Hoop Fitness

By Pete Williams

A hula hoop can be a tremendous workout and it doesn’t take as much coordination as you might think. Sophia Zayfman and I recently demonstrated hula hoop fitness on ABC Action News.

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Filed under ABC 28 TV Fitness Tips, Training

Dirty Foot Adventure Run Review: Home Field Advantage

By Pete Williams

Adding to the degree of difficulty

FORT MEADE – With obstacle races appearing on the calendar most every weekend in Florida, it’s become next to impossible to stand out in a crowded field.

But the Dirty Foot Adventure Run, which debuted here Saturday at a facility best known for motocross racing, managed to add a number of creative wrinkles to the category.

Geno Stopowenko, the marketing director for Dirty Foot Adventures, vowed to put on a first-class race at his property after leasing it last fall to a one-and-done race promoter that staged a forgettable event.

Stopowenko succeeded with his race, largely by taking advantage of the topography of the property and adding to the degree of difficulty of obstacle race staples. There were the familiar wooden walls, monkey bars, rope climbs, and balance obstacles. But by making them steeper or providing fewer footholds, Dirty Foot was a more technical course than most we’ve undertaken.

The race began with a challenging half-mile slog through a muddy motocross course where athletes were pelted by dozens of face-high sprinklers. From there it was into the woods for a trail run that included muddy ditches, balance beams, and waist-high water obstacles.

The course measured roughly six miles and while there were plenty of obstacles, this was a race suited to distance runners. Unlike the popular Savage Race, which at its Clermont event in March had backups at several obstacles that unintentionally gave athletes a rest, Dirty Foot offered few respites from long stretches of running.

With the exception of the 8.5-mile Super Spartan in Miami in February, which featured 30-Burpee penalties for failed obstacles, we can’t recall feeling as physically challenged at a race of this distance.

I entered the competitive division and came out bruised, bloodied, and scraped up, a product of my reckless racing style rather than any safety shortcomings on the part of the course. Kudos to Dirty Foot’s first-aid team that quickly patched me up while dislodging the jammed finger of one of my kilt-clad Running Commando teammates in the process.

Familiar barbwire crawl

Dirty Foot is the first obstacle race we know of where the property owners have hosted the race. That gave Stopowenko plenty of time to prepare – he even hosted several obstacle racing groups, including Running Commando, to preview the course and provide input two months ago – and it allows him to leave the obstacles up permanently and add to what’s already a strong course. (A second event already is open for registration for Sept. 8).

Stopowenko followed our suggestions and even convinced Mother Nature to deliver the massive rain the course needed for many of the obstacles.

Signature challenges included a Tarzan-style rope swing over water that was impossible to clear without taking a plunge; a technical up-and-under rope obstacle through a cattle gate; a 100-yard belly crawl under wire through crushed watermelons; and a race-ending 15-foot plunge off a platform followed by a 40-yard swim to the finish line. (Life jackets and substitute challenges were available to non-swimmers).

Running Commando: largest race team (Photos by Renae Peters Blevins)

We’ll deduct a few points for long lines for registration and for a starting line that was little more than a touch pad and a guy with a bullhorn. We’d also like to see more races follow the lead of The Highlander (and our own Streak the Cove 5K and Caliente Bare Dare 5K) and go with soft, fitted Tultex T-shirts. Still, the Dirty Foot shirts – aqua Gildan numbers with no sponsor logos cluttering the back – were better than the tired concert calendar look the well-heeled Spartan Race and Tough Mudder have trotted out. (To say nothing of Mud Crusade, which did not give out T-shirts for its debut event in April.)

But we can live with a modest starting line and a non-Tultex T-shirt when a race puts money into four water stops with bottled water in the form of those new shrink-wrap plastic containers. And Dirty Foot also sprung for AltaVista Sports, the gold standard for race timing in Florida. Results were posted quickly both at the finish line and online.

Dirty Foot also provided one of the better post-race setups we’ve seen, converting the race’s last obstacle into a “party on the pond,” providing a zipline over the 40-yard water obstacle.

We’re guessing Dirty Foot may have fallen a little short of its goal of 1,500 to 2,000 athletes, but for a first-time event the numbers were about right. This race has plenty of room to grow and we’re looking forward to getting our feet dirty again.


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Obstacle Race Training at TNL Tampa

By Pete Williams

The dreaded farmer’s carry

TAMPA – We made it back to TNL Tampa for what I’ve been calling “Tough Mudder Training” ever since I showed up last summer at the CrossFit gym near Westchase.

Back then, TNL owner Eric Stratman took some traditional CrossFit workouts of the day (WODs) every other Saturday morning and interspersed 400-meter and 800-meter runs to make the workouts better simulate obstacle races such as Tough Mudder. After dealing with that torture all summer and fall, I had no problem with Tough Mudder and found such training to be one of the most effective, time-efficient workouts I’ve come across.

These days, TNL puts on such workouts every Saturday morning, though it’s closer to a traditional CrossFit WOD, with little running. This morning’s workout had just one 400-meter run, so I tweaked it for myself to more closely resemble the Tough Mudder training. Here’s what it looked like:

400m run
11 Burpees
40 pushups
400m run
40 wall ball (throwing 14 or 20lb med ball up 10-12 feet onto wall)
11 Burpees
400m run
40 tire flips
11 Burpees
400m run
40 ball slams (20 or 30lb balls)
11 Burpees
400m run
40 overhead walking lunges (25 or 45lb plate)
11 Burpees
400m run
200m farmer’s carry (45lb plates or lighter dumbbells/kettlebells)

Flipping tires is an incredible exercise for developing lower body power.

We’re especially fond of moves like the farmer’s carry, tire flips, and the walking overhead lunge. All of those develop power and endurance strength and if you can handle those you’ll have no problem making it through any obstacle race. I made it through this workout twice before time was called at roughly the one-hour mark. What an ass kicker.

Afterward, we filmed five fitness segments that will air every Sunday beginning next week, June 10, on ABC 28 here in the Tampa Bay area. (They’re always posted online shortly thereafter.) Thanks to Nichole Franklin of TNL and Sophia Zayfman for doing the heavy lifting.

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Competitor Buys Stone’s Women’s Running Empire

By Pete Williams

Runners gather for the 2009 Women’s Half Marathon in St. Petersburg

When Dawna Stone won NBC’s Martha Stewart version of The Apprentice at the end of 2005,  she was operating a fledgling magazine with the unwieldy title of Her Sports + Fitness.

Stone was one of the first to recognize women’s running as a separate, booming demographic, re-branding her magazine in 2008 as Women’s Running and in November 2009 launching a Women’s Half Marathon and 5K in St. Petersburg, home to her publication. Riding the so-called recession running boom, Stone added three more Women’s Half Marathon events and in January signed Lady Speed Stick as the national title sponsor of the four-event series.

Today Stone cashed out, selling the series and the magazine for an undisclosed sum to Competitor Group, Inc., which has added a fifth race in its hometown of San Diego. Stone will stay on as a consultant.

“This agreement will allow us to reach even more women with our message about the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle,” Stone said.

It’s a good fit. Competitor publishes magazines, including Competitor and Triathlete. It also puts on races, including the 24-event Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series, Muddy Buddy, and the TriRock triathlon series. Competitor brought a Rock ‘n’Roll Half Marathon to St. Petersburg in February, receiving numerous financial and other considerations from the city, but drew only 7,000 athletes.

Stone spotted two trends early – the growing popularity of the “13.1” half marathon format and the preference of many women for competing in women’s only events.

“Women feel comfortable running with other women,” Stone told me in 2010 when I was writing for, yes, Competitor magazine. “It’s about grabbing a bunch of girlfriends and having fun. I could train for a marathon, but something else in my life would have to slide. It’s the perfect distance to do something amazing and still have a life.”

As recently as 2007, Competitor consisted of a group of regional endurance magazines and the Muddy Buddy obstacle run series, both the creation of longtime endurance sports journalist, athlete, and historian Bob Babbitt. In January of 2008, private equity firm Falconhead Capital purchased Competitor, along with Triathlete magazine, and Elite Racing, the then-owner of the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series. The new company became known as Competitor Group, Inc.

The move, made months before the economic collapse, triggered other private equity interest in endurance sports. In September 2008, Providence Equity Partners Group purchased World Triathlon Corp., the parent company of Ironman, and for a while appeared to be creating a Competitor competitor, launching Lava magazine, expanding its IronGirl running series, and announcing plans for an obstacle run series known as Primal Challenge.

Instead, new CEO Andrew Messick has focused on WTC’s core business of long-distance triathlons, canceling Primal Challenge, and selling Lava magazine.

Competitor, meanwhile, purchased Virginia-based race registration site RaceIt last fall. The acquisition of the Women’s Running properties solidifies its position in the half-marathon space at a time when interest in Competitor’s Muddy Buddy property appears to be waning.

Ironically, Stone expressed frustration with the City of St. Petersburg for its generous concessions to Competitor for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, a package which included $30,000 in city services and $100,000 from Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater to market the event.

After winning The Apprentice, Stone worked for Stewart’s Body + Soul magazine for a year as vice president of business development for $250,000.

She was offered a chance to stay onboard, but opted to return to Florida and continue running Her Sports.



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