Following on from our article on Spartan Races, we secured an interview with a mom who has taken part in these races and had a shedload of fun as well as getting fitter than she could imagine. Below is the actual interview unedited and all in Julianne’s words.
We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
What made you get started?
I had never been interested in going to the gym. Before Lydia was born, I was a keen runner and I sometimes worked out with weights. I considered myself reasonably fit but I had never pushed myself to the limits. I was a gentle jogger and that was it.
At twenty-six years old, I had never been overweight and considered myself slim. Sadly, after the birth that all went to pot. I gained three stone and felt like a horrid lump. I suffered from post-natal depression, which was unexpected as I am a positive person and had never had a problem with my mental state before.
To any mom experiencing post-natal depression, you do get through it but you need help and support. Don’t wait until it becomes so bad that you don’t want to get out of bed or pick up your baby. My Doctor and close friend helped me to battle it out until I turned the corner. I would not have coped without that support even though I consider myself a strong person.
Thankfully, I got through that and then started running. Not that you could call it running, it was a bit of a shuffle and waddle carrying all that extra weight and I didn’t enjoy it but I knew it was the only way to shift the weight.
I think because I was overweight, I got quite a few running injuries. My left knee was problematic and I developed plantar fasciitis, which was the most painful experience you can imagine. I had problems walking let alone running. With the help of a good physiotherapist and regular massage, I eventually got back to running.
It took twelve months to lose most of the weight and I was back running regularly. I had a bit of a quandary because I had given up work to be with Lydia. I thought I would love a life of leisure and time with my baby. I did love it in a way but I was becoming bored of doing nothing. My single friends weren’t interested in talking about babies and my mom friends talked about nothing but babies. So, it felt like I was stuck in the middle.
I was struggling to get back to the level of fitness that I had before Lydia came along and I had no idea why. I was running 4-5 days a week and had built up to six miles or more but something was missing. I felt as if I had no real purpose other than being Simon’s wife and Lydia’s mom. I know that sounds stupid for someone so young, but it bothered me.
I considered joining a gym or going to classes but I have a low boredom threshold. I had no urge to do dance stuff, kickboxing or spin classes. I never enjoyed these everyday classes, as I find them lacking the challenge that I like. Besides, I was limited on time, as we cannot afford a nanny so I ran when Simon came home from work. I learned to make great slow cooker meals so I could free up time to do some exercise.
Anyhow, one day when out with coffee with my friend Martha, I overhead a conversation on the table behind us. A girl was talking about her Spartan race, about how awesome it had been. I found myself listening in and then quickly looked up ‘Spartan racing’ on my mobile. Little did I know how my life was going to change.
At one point, I turned round to ask the girl a bit more detail. I was surprised to find that she was actually a woman about my age with a baby in her arms. She looked mega fit and slim but she also looked lean in a way that implied strength. She told me her name was Corinne and her baby was just a little older than Lydia.
We had quite a chat as her friend had competed in the same race and both were keen to talk about it. Corinne suggested meeting up for coffee the next week so we sorted out a date and that was that. I went home and searched the Internet for hours, watching videos and reading avidly.
Most of the videos seemed to feature men and I wondered how many women took part in these races. I admit, at this point, I thought it sounded crazy. How was I going to have the time to train hard enough to get the fitness and strength I would need? I remember thinking that Spartan racing might be too challenging for me but I would go and meet Corinne for coffee anyway. I made no mention of this to Simon as I was certain he would think I was nuts!
A week later, I met Corrine and we became instant friends. She told me that she had lost four stone in weight from after she had her son who was now two. She had become interested in Spartan training without any plan to take part in a race. However, when her husband saw how much weight she lost and how fit she was becoming, he encouraged her to work towards an actual race. He daughter was now nine months old and she had gone back into training a month after her birth.
I went home, told Simon about my meeting, and showed him a few websites. I was surprised at his response as he told me to go for it! Over the course of a week, he spoke to his boss and arranged for him to start earlier and so finish earlier. That allowed me to get out of the house and start training.
What did your training involve?
At first I ran and built up my fitness, just for half an hour or so an evening. Then I added push-ups and lunges into my sprint work and tried to pull myself up on the kiddies bars in the park. I was pathetic. I couldn’t even do one pull up! I did Yoga at home to keep me supple and build core strength.
After a couple of months, I joined a Spartan training group and started the first proper step of this journey.
The first week of training, I went home and cried. I honestly thought I was fit but after an hour session, my muscles were so sore that I almost decided not to go back. The trainer was tough and made few allowances. After a few days, I felt better and Simon talked me into attending the second week. It was still hard but at least I knew what to expect.
After a month, I had dropped a stone and a dress size. I felt incredible although I knew there was still a long way to go. I could do 25 proper push-ups by then, hold a plank position for two minutes and do five pull-ups on the bars.
How easy was it to do the training?
I would like to say it was easy, but I would be lying. I am lucky that I have a supportive husband and my mom helped occasionally, although she admitted she thought I was crazy. The resistance training was hard because I had never done any core work like that before. Holding your own body weight in the air or on the floor seems impossible until one day you can suddenly do it! I did strength building Yoga at home a couple of times a week, which helped to build on the class training.
I only missed one or two weeks over the first six months and my fitness level at that point was the best it had ever been. The strength training improved my running. I am much faster and lighter on my feet now.
Shortly, after the six-month period, my trainer suggested that I work towards a Spartan race. At first, I said no but then changed my mind after thinking about it for a week or two. It felt good to have something to aim for. I had made a few friends in the group and we set about motivating each other to achieve this first goal.
What was your first Spartan race like?
Eight months after starting training, I did my first 5k Spartan sprint race. It was awesome. Because I had trained hard, I completed it easily. I zoomed past men who clearly had not trained properly because they were struggling with their fitness and that gave me a real confidence boost. I am so proud of that first medal.
I was so nervous on the start line that I thought I would throw up! My legs were shaking and I literally struggled to eat breakfast before the race. But once I got running, my nerves fell away and I genuinely enjoyed the experience.
I did a couple more of these and found them easy so I started training towards a Spartan Super, which is around 8 miles with 25+ obstacles. I can run 10+ miles effortlessly so I figured that I could succeed at this.
Fourteen months into my training, I completed a Spartan Super. It was incredible and I felt like Lara Croft. It was tiring but I was physically prepared for it, so I got round without too much effort and no injuries or accidents. It was a massive adrenaline buzz and was even better as four of my Spartan friends ran round it with me.
What difficulties did you encounter?
I felt guilty a lot. Leaving Lydia with Simon whilst I spent hours training made me feel like a bad mom. Simon assured me that he did not mind and enjoyed the one-to-one time with his daughter. I often felt selfish as I headed out of the door and sometimes I felt so bad leaving them, even for an hour or two. It took a lot of focus and commitment and I don’t think I was fully prepared for that.
I received some grief from two of my girlfriends who were not supportive and accused me of being a bad mom. They really got on my back about it and that made it hard. In the end, I realised that I could not convince them to see it any other way and we parted company. My best friend was great and reminded me of what a great role model I was becoming to my daughter. She will be proud of me when she is old enough to understand what I am doing. I have also made some brilliant new friends who share my passion for Spartan and who help to make it easier for me to keep going.
Keeping motivated can sometimes be challenging. At a level of fitness, it can be easy to think you can miss a week or two. I often did not feel like doing the exercises or going to training sessions. I counteracted that by making myself accountable to my new Spartan friends and that kept me going.
What has been the best thing?
My body shape is incredible. I have no fat on me and am the lightest I have ever been. My body fat percentage hovers at between 15-17%. When I started, my body fat was 26% bordering on obese. I can buy lovely clothes that look great on me and I was able to give all of my fat clothes away.
I am stronger than I have ever been and I am lighter on my feet. I feel like I have a spring in my step and walking or running is a pleasure now.
Mentally, I have gained in confidence and determination. I am more assertive and speak up more in a crowd. I was always a little shy before, as I felt I had nothing to say but it is amazing how many people are fascinated when I tell them what I do and what I have achieved.
Would you do anything differently?
No, except perhaps I would worry less about what other people think. I might have got started on Spartan training earlier but I would not change a thing on this exciting journey.
What would you say to any mom thinking of doing this?
Just do it! You will not believe the difference it will make to your life. You will never look back. Don’t be afraid of the training because you go at your own pace and don’t be worried about the guys looking down on you either. Yes, there are chauvinists in this sport who think women should not be doing this, but most guys show us a lot of respect for having the guts to step out of our comfort zone.
I have found most guys to be supportive and encouraging, like a big brother. It is a sport that brings out a lot of camaraderie, mostly because it IS challenging and there is a kind of kinship between Spartans.
What is next for you?
I am now considering a Spartan Beast for next year, which is 12+ miles with around 30 obstacles to negotiate. I may even try for a Spartan Trifecta, which is a challenge to complete a Spartan Sprint, Super and Beast in one calendar year. As long as I stay injury free and continue to get the support from home, I see no reason why I cannot achieve it.
Read the article on Spartan Races HERE
To find out more about Spartan Races, visit Spartan Race Warriors website HERE