The Spudton Death Marches

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  • By Marc "Spud" Bartley
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The Spudton Death Marches

Remember that time Spud did a bodybuilding show and got a little bit insane with the cardio? Well we do and boy was it a rough patch. But, lots of good came out of it like these gruesome cardio workouts. Read on to see if you have what it takes to match Spud on his cardio death marches.

There are many self challenges that I have put on myself over the years but after my jump into the bodybuilding world in 2008 on my rehab tour after my squatting accident in 2007 had to be the worst cardio training I have ever done.


Most cardio is either short and intense or long and steady state. Most everyone has an opinion on both. Normal people with two hours a day of cardio would pick the low intensity steady state work and that is just fine. I like challenges that test my will power more then anything. My ability to continue when most pack it up or take the easy way out. 


I exhausted the stepmill, stair stepper and bike out at the gym. Anytime you mess with your food, you become an insane obsessive compulsive. All you think about is food and you are mad all the time even at the most trivial things. Mostly you revert back to be a baby only without the diapers, breast feeding and constant poop/pee stasis of your life.


Once I reached the breaking point inside the gym, I did not go back inside for 2 or 3 months unless it was raining.  I dragged the various types of sleds-prowlers and regular sled. I did mostly belt pulling where you get a loose belt and hook it to your sled strap attachment. You keep it loose so it rides on the hips and not the abdominals. This takes pressure off of your back.


The beginning was simple like 7 or 8 laps around the gym with 3 plates (135 lbs + the sled). I would go forward until my back cramped and then I would walk backwards for a lap to take the pressure off. Or I would get the prowler out which is a pushing sled and do 5 laps. Now, when I talk about laps, around my gym is 1/3 of a mile.


After some time doing this, my body adjusted quickly to an average 10 lap day with the sled and 5 lap day with the prowler or I would have to do an hour in the morning and then do regular cardio for an hour in the evening.  Between the food and the cardio I went totally insane and the voices in my headed fought daily on everything but usually it was about quitting constantly and how ridiculous it was that “we” were doing this. The only way to fight it off was to make up ridiculous challenges and that’s what “we” did.


The first crappy event was a mix of both 5 laps belt dragging and 3 laps upper body sled and 3 laps prowler. This was not as bad as I thought it would be. I like doing the hardest first so the prowler was up. When I was done the time was only an hour thirty so I had to go inside and lay in the recumbent bike for 30 minutes to finish.


After a week or two, 10 laps with the prowler popped in my head. It took a couple of weeks to set it up usually it was Sundays when this fun stuff went down.  The first lap my calves cramped and I thought it would be over then. But way up there in my brain was some dude who kept pulling me through. He was the leader. I don’t know if you have ever seen Multiplicty with Micheal Keaton but in that movie he is a busy contractor who can’t keep up with all the things in his life. He runs into this Doctor who can clone him. At first it is great, he gets everything done so he makes more copies of himself. The only problem is each copy gets worse and worse and his worse traits come out in each one.  This is essentially my “we”, only there was just one of me and they all came to the surface and fought for top dog rights except for this one dude who was always in the distance pulling “we” along to reach the goal.


Back to the 10 laps. It sucked, and my legs fought me hard on the first three laps. Then I was warm and the next 5 weren’t bad. The last two took 40-50 minutes as I could barely push it 10-15 yards at a time. My lungs did not hurt. My legs and hips would not respond and I could not get the trash out to keep them functioning.  The “ten” took 2 hours fifteen minutes to finish. I always tell people I hallucinate often during and after and this was no exception as stars and fireflies were floating all around for about 30 minutes.


I had been doing almost ten to twelve laps on a regular basis for some time. A couple of weeks after the 10 lap prowler I was sledding and I had another outstanding idea. Why not do 20 laps with the regular sled. I thought, it can’t take more then 2 hours to do that. It took a couple of weeks but the leader of the pack passed the order down that the following Sunday was 20 lap day. In my book written with diet coach Shelby Starnes called, “The Fat Loss Diaries”, I chronicled this event and many other on my 109lb weight loss trip through purgatory.


Sunday and it was a humid SC morning at 7am with the temp in the 80s making it feel like a 100 already. A gym member that I train from time to time, Chuck and his wife were out there too.  I was already ten laps in when they started dragging as well and it was not going well. The first five were okay but the next five were hell and awful and took much longer then the first five. I thought several times there was not any way it was going to happen. But with Chuck and Holly out there pulling I found some adrenalin and punched out five more laps easy.  I was moving at a great clip then but for some reason I could not see either one of them, so I thought that they copped out after only 2 or 3 laps. Later I found out they did five or 6 laps, I just was not going as fast as I was imagining I was. Anyhow, the last five laps came into view. The first 2-3 were okay but slow and the last two seemed much like the Prowler 10. Very painful and I felt like I was walking through the desert passing all the dead animals who had given up along the way. Pretty much the lone dude was dragging me on as the carcasses of all my other personalities died along that road. 


Oh, I forgot to mention, I always did my cardio on an empty stomach so for 2 hours 45 minutes I did 20 laps with no food. I reached the end and somehow managed to put up my sled, weights and belt. I say down in the rocking chair in the gym and didn’t move. I ate very slowly and just sat there. Dale, one of my training partners asked me if I was okay as I dazed off into space. I said yes I think and told him it would be an hour before I could do anything This turned out to be very true and the surreal movie of that Sunday morning at the gym played out. It was like a movie where they show things happening quickly but time was going by fast. After that we moved a lot of equipment out of the gym which is another story by itself.



So, these are my worst but favorite cardio instances. I swore I would never do it again but I always like the challenges. I would have to have some type of end goal like the bodybuilding show probably to do this again.  So far, no one at the gym has broken these two records. Maybe if somebody does break them, I will come out of retirement and give it a roll. Right now, I am into dragging a 300 lbs. chain around the building with a Spud Inc Upper Body Strap. So far 9 minutes 19 seconds is my best and was tops for about 6 months until a local officer and training partner beat it by 21 seconds (8:58) I did ask for it though by throwing down the gauntlet. Payback is hell when you set the standard.


Here are the exercises and weights I used and each lap is 1/3 mile so you will have to do the conversions:



Challenge One: Prowler/Belt Drag/Upper Body Drags

1.) Prowler with 45lb per arm for 3 lap

2.) Belt Drag with 90lb for 5 laps

3.) Upper body drag with sled and upper body strap with 45lbs Essentially, this is any upper body exercise you can think of like chest flyes, overhead tricep extension, rear delt raise (whatever you can think of really)



Challenge Two

  • Prowler Push for 10 laps with 45lb on each arm


Challenge Three

  • Belt Drag for 20 laps with 90lbs. (Drag mostly forward with some backwards to break it up and give your low back and hams/glutes a rest)


Challenge Four

  • Chain Drag if you have access to a 300lb chain. You could use a sled and load up 300lb. Get a upper body strap and slip your hands through the loops then grab the strap so most of the pressure is on the wrist and forearms. Drag for best time on one lap or for distance for 3 laps consisting of a forward drag, backward drag and sideways drag.    


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