One Blackfeet Indian’s Spartan effort to battle reservation obes - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

One Blackfeet Indian’s Spartan effort to battle reservation obesity epidemic

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Alger Swingley is on a quest to help his fellow Blackfeet tribal members battle obesity while reconnecting with their roots. “The Blackfeet, we were a running tribe, a nomadic tribe,” he said. “Two hundred years ago, every day living on the plains of Montana was like running an obstacle course. When we live a more healthy lifestyle, we honor our tribal heritage — and we make our own lives better.”

Those beliefs have turned Swingley into an unlikely evangelist for the sport of extreme obstacle racing. At 60, Swingley will stand out among the crowd of gym-trained athletes — most of them half his age — at the starting line of next month’s Montana Spartan Beast race, held annually in Bigfork, Montana. He will be joined by a handful of fellow tribal members, some as young as 16, who are working to change habits on the Blackfeet Reservation, a mostly rural region of north-central Montana.

“It’s horrific to see the impacts of obesity and poor nutrition and lack of exercise in our communities,” Swingley said. “We are trying to set an example to help end this epidemic that is causing so much harm and hardship.”

Swingley used to live much like his fellow tribal members: “eating too much and drinking and sitting around a lot.” After witnessing a tragic auto crash in 2015, he vowed to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Since then, he has lost 45 pounds by eating better, working out five times a week and running his dogs — all while attending paramedic school full-time. His approach was largely inspired by Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena’s book “Spartan Up!” — which Swingley has read several times now.

This year is the third in which the Blackfeet Outfitters Spartan Team will participate in the Montana Beast. Swingley has also upped his personal ante, aiming to join the Spartan Trifecta Tribe by completing a Sprint, Super and Beast race this year. All to honor the heritage of his true tribe.

“The Blackfeet have historically been a very resilient and self-reliant people,” Swingley said. “I see the Spartan approach as emphasizing those same values of reaching deep inside yourself to find your strength.”

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