Tag Archives: Pete Williams

SportsBusiness Journal Examines Obstacle Racing

By Pete Williams

Over the years I’ve written frequently for Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, which is a must-read for those who work in the business of sports.

I had not written for SBJ in several years but earlier this month they asked me to write a story taking a look at the booming growth in obstacle racing. The story is not available online, but you can take a look at a PDF of the piece, which appears in this week’s issue.

Front page/start of SportsBusiness Journal story

Inside magazine/remainder of SportsBusiness Journal story

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Filed under Races, Running

Taking it on the Chin

By Pete Williams

DUNEDIN – One of the many great things about stand-up paddleboarding is that you’re far less likely to get injured falling off a board than a bicycle. After all, water hurts a lot less than asphalt.

Of course, falling off a paddleboard can be very dangerous if you strike any part of your body on the board, especially your head. When you feel yourself going down, it’s important to push the board away from you and land totally in the water.

In my nearly two years of stand-up paddleboarding, I’ve managed to master the Buzz Lightyear “falling with style” technique. But while paddling yesterday at Honeymoon Island, I took it on the chin.

Not sure exactly how it happened. It probably wasn’t the best idea to launch into choppy surf in an area notorious for its rocky bottom that feels like walking on cobblestones. Taking a race board, with its lesser stability, also wasn’t one of my better decisions.

Remember: fall away from the board

I didn’t even fall off the board while standing.  When dealing with choppy seas – and we do get them here on the West Coast of Florida – the idea is to walk the board out beyond the break. But since the footing was so rocky, I jumped on in the prone position, with the paddle lying parallel on the board.

As I got to my knees, a wave flipped the board and I caught either the board or the handle of the paddle on the chin. Unlike the standing position, I couldn’t propel away from the board. Still, it didn’t feel that bad and I jumped back on only to see blood dripping onto the board.

I paddled back quickly to shore – thinking of how I participated in the “Shark Bite Challenge” SUP race in calmer waters near the same spot in April – grabbed an ice pack from the cooler, along with a towel, and walked to the lifeguard stand. They cleaned the cut and estimated I’d need three stitches.

Actually, five. The folks at the walk-in clinic asked if I’d had a tetanus shot recently and I proudly announced that I had, having gotten one two months ago after scraping myself up at an obstacle adventure race.

Not the greatest war story, to be sure. But another reminder that while stand-up paddleboarding can be a safe sport, it’s also one that requires proper safety precautions, including a personal flotation device in the event such a fall renders you unconscious.

As well as learning to fall gracefully.


Filed under SUP

Ten Toughest Endurance Challenges

By Pete Williams

An Ironman 70.3 race is among the toughest challenges (you may actually do)

The folks at Livestrong.com asked me to make a list of the “toughest endurance challenges (you can actually do).” So no double Ironman races, 100-mile runs, or marathon swims.

I doubt if anyone has done all 10 since you’d have to be into distance running, adventure racing, triathlon, stand-up paddleboarding, and open-water swimming. Plus several of the events only have been around for several years. But I’m guessing someone will knock out all ten at some point.

If you live in Florida, you’re in good position to tackle the list since 6 of the 10 events come to the Sunshine State.

Here’s the LIST. How many have you done?

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Mark Verstegen on Glutes

By Pete Williams

U.S. soccer standout Abby Wambach, who has trained at Mark Verstegen’s Athletes’ Performance, featured in ESPN’s “Body” issue

I’ve had the great fortune to help Mark Verstegen write five Core Performance books. Mark, perhaps more than anyone, popularized core training, the notion that we should be training our hips, torso, and shoulders for functional movement rather than looking at our bodies as a collection of parts the way bodybuilders and fitness models do.

Mark spends a lot of time getting everyone from elite athletes to everyday people competing in the Game of Life to fire their gluteus maximus muscles, these marvelous muscles of locomotion that we abuse all day by sitting on them.

Why is this such a big deal? By sitting on our glutes all day, which we do in our technology-based society, our glutes shut down, our hips become tighter, and we become vulnerable to back problems and a host of other injuries and ailments.

Mark suggests firing your glutes all day long. Squeeze your left cheek and then your right as you’re walking along or, yes, just sitting around. This will go a long way toward countering the effects of sitting on your ass all day, though obviously it takes a little more than that. The Core Performance program is a great place to start.

For an article in ESPN the Magazine’s terrific new “Body” issue, writer David Fleming approached Mark at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February and asked Mark what’s the most important part of an athlete’s body.

Mark’s response is both informative and amusing and he sums it up by saying “it’s all about the ass.”

You can read that story HERE.

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Tough Mudder Training Attracting the Masses

By Pete Williams

Taking on “Wall Ball”

TAMPA – When we started Tough Mudder training at The Next Level (TNL) Training Center  a year ago, we were among a small group of 15 to 20 gathering for sessions that lasted up to 75 minutes.

Those of us who made it to last December’s race at Little Everglades Ranch in Pasco County found the actual 12-mile Tough Mudder easier than some of the workouts TNL head guy Eric Stratman devised.

Word of how effective the training is has gotten out and today 61 people showed up for the weekly Saturday morning torture fest. Because of the numbers, Stratman has put us into teams of 6-8 people the last few workouts. That doesn’t make things easier, but it does control the traffic flow. Unlike Tough Mudder, there will be no waiting in line for obstacles.

Today was pretty straightforward. Each team had six people, one for each of six stations:


Wall-Ball (Squat and toss a 14-pound medicine ball beyond a tape mark on the wall – 12 feet up)



200-meter sprint

Rest stop

Rinse and repeat as many times as possible in 20 minutes.

The key was the 200-meter sprinter. However long s/he spent sprinting was how long the rest of us spent at our respective stations. When s/he finished, we rotated, with everyone keeping track of our collective team totals of push-ups, sit-ups, wall-ball throws, and pull-ups.

It was only 20 minutes, a typical CrossFit WOD (Workout of the Day).

I like CrossFit, but my one complaint is that it’s not the greatest preparation for obstacle racing since there’s little running involved. That’s what makes Stratman’s program on Saturdays so effective. For the obstacle race training, he generally inserts a 400-meter or 800-meter run in between each typical WOD drill. That simulates obstacle racing, where you run a quarter-mile or so between obstacles.

Today’s top finishers

Today he added a 2-mile run to the end of the WOD. Some of the group bailed rather than run a mile up Racetrack Road at 10:30 a.m. in 87-degree heat.

But the rest of us made the run, which probably was closer to 2.5 miles.

My team logged a collective 1,633 reps between pushups, pullups, situps, and wall ball, or roughly 400 per station or 20 per minute. One of my female teammates and I were first in the run.

Clearly this obstacle race training is paying off.

Stratman continues to offer free Tough Mudder training at TNL Tampa on Saturday mornings, though not the next two Saturdays as his crew is competing in a CrossFit competition and staging a beach workout. They’ll be back at TNL Tampa, which is on the border of Westchase and Oldsmar, on July 28.


Filed under Training

Endurance Strength Training on ABC Action News

By Pete Williams

Strength and endurance need not be mutually exclusive. If you’re someone who has gotten into obstacle racing, you understand the importance of being able to demonstrate strength over both time and distance.

In this recent segment for ABC Action News here in the Tampa Bay area, I teamed with trainers Sophia Zayfman and Nichole Franklin Falzon to show several moves that build strength endurance. We shot this at TNL Tampa, where I train regularly for obstacle races such as Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Savage Race.


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Filed under ABC 28 TV Fitness Tips

The Father’s Day Workout

By Pete Williams

Pushing through Lake Maury

ALL OVER VIRGINIA – This has only a little to do with endurance sports and nothing to do with Florida. But I spent Father’s Day in Virginia and figured I’d eat, drink, train, – and now write – however I pleased.

I woke up in Newport News, where my cousin and her family live adjacent to the Mariners’ Museum Park, which is 550-acres of manicured trails and woods along Lake Maury. The 5-mile Noland Trail goes up and down hills, along the lake, and is quiet enough that I turned a corner at one point and came face to face with a doe, who remarkably didn’t move.

The trail includes 20 bridges and I decided in the spirit of obstacle race training, to find one obstacle per bridge – bench, picnic table, tree stump – and drop and do a set of 10 pushups and 10 dips. The 5-mile run, with 20 stops, took about 50 minutes.

My cousin and her husband have lived in this section of Newport News for 25 years and in that time it’s become an unlikely college town with the transformation of Christopher Newport from community college to major university. If you’re ever in the area, check out the Mariners’ Museum Park. I only wish I had brought a paddleboard as Lake Maury looked perfect for SUP.

Enjoying Spicy Rivanna at Burnley Vineyards

Next it was on to Richmond and Bill’s Barbecue for my “death row meal,” what I would choose for my last meal on Earth. This is not health food by any means, but training hard entitles you to at least one major cheat meal a week – especially on Father’s Day. Here’s mine:

2 minced pork barbecue sandwiches

1 large fries

1 large limeade (basically 32 ounces of sugar)

1 piece of chocolate pie

The Richmond Flying Squirrels Double-A baseball team was playing across the street and we might have stopped if The Diamond still was home to Triple-A Richmond Braves (RIP), who played there when we lived in Richmond in the late 1970s.

Instead we proceeded on course to Charlottesville, stopping in nearby Barboursville at Burnley Vineyards, our favorite winery. Virginia wine is very underrated. Thomas Jefferson started the U.S. wine industry in Virginia and the Commonwealth probably still would be the leader in U.S. wine production had the vines not been trampled during the Revolutionary War and again in the Civil War. By the time Virginia got caught up midway through the 20th Century, California had taken a commanding lead.

“Good wine,” Jefferson once said, “is a necessity of life for me.”

With a case of Burnley wine in the van, it was on to Jefferson’s University of Virginia, where the plan was to have the second workout of the day at the UVA Aquatic Center, where our sons would have swam laps around me. We arrived in time to see swim coach Mark Bernardino instructing swim campers on the pool deck, but got the open pool schedule mixed up and didn’t get to swim. That will have to wait until tomorrow.

Instead, we wrapped up the day with a picnic on The Lawn as a late June sunset fell over the Rotunda – a perfect end to a perfect Father’s Day.

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