LeaderBoard Training – Coached by the Pros (Part 2)

LeaderBoard-Athletes-at-Chicago-Super

A plateau isn’t just a really tall, flat piece of land. It’s also where you, as an athlete, can find yourself if you get too comfortable in your training. Without the proper guidance, your body can become accustomed to the pace, distance, workouts, weight, and so on. Luckily, as I’ve found, LeaderBoard excels at preventing plateaus so that its athletes can continue their climb to the top.

If you’re unsure what LeaderBoard is, there’s an entire first article to explain just that!

ONE OF THE FAMILY

A common theme among LeaderBoard athletes is a sense of family. It may be a little cliche, but it’s true. Ean Caskey, a member of LB since the beginning, was surprised of the familial vibe. “Once you suffer alongside someone for months on end and share your highs and lows, you feel a certain connection and pride to be part of the team,” he said. The programming, along with Slack messaging, really keeps communication open. Not only can you see how fellow athletes are doing by checking out the WOD (Workout of the Day), but there’s always discussion on the workout itself. Everyone is there to support each other, which isn’t a common theme among training programs. Got a PR? Post it in Slack and just watch as everyone gives you a congratulations and various emojis.

Naturally, the LeaderBoard family has members all over the country. So, although you may have had communication with several members, maybe you never met them. But when several members are going to be at the same race, usually dinner plans are made. Everyone gets together to hang out and share their race day stories, or whatever else may come to the table.

LeaderBoard-athletes-meet-for-dinner

 PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT

Remember that whole plateauing thing? Well, that can happen without you even realizing it. Sometimes, you just don’t think to add that one part to your workout that keeps your body guessing. Sure they can be tough. But, LeaderBoard athletes like Eric Aanerud, find that the parts he hates are actually his favorite. He explained that they are “the parts I would skip if they weren’t in there. It makes me feel like I have to do it. So I do. You get to the point where you stop asking questions and just do the work.”

I remember quite a few times thinking about how difficult a workout was, but realizing I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Not only is there a sense of accomplishment with the physical training, but it hones your mental strength as well. Jeff Shoaf, who has completed 27 races since 2014, appreciates this part of the training. “They help train your brain to keep going and not quit just because it gets hard or mentally boring,” Shoaf said.

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Forrest Bouge on his way to first place at Savage, Ohio

THE LATEST BENCHMARK RESULTS

Outside of running a race (which I’ll get to), the Benchmarks are a great way to measure progress. Since article number one, I was able to retest all five Benchmarks: the mile, carry, rig, 5k and personal trail BM. Though I expected to beat a few of my previous numbers, I hadn’t expected to PR all five. But that’s exactly what happened.

I didn’t destroy the old numbers, per se, but any improvement in 4-8 weeks is positive. First, let’s start with the rig benchmark, since I had been on the rig specialization leading up to the test. The first part of the test is a grip-alternating chin up, with the second part being a straight dead hang (without dismounting from the first part). Before, I had done eight reps of part one and 40 seconds of dead hang, which counted as two reps. That totaled 10 reps. This time around, I hammered out 10 reps of part one, but only 20 seconds of dead hang, or one rep. Overall, an improvement of one total rep.

On the bucket carry, the test consists of timed carries for the bucket, double sandbag and dumbbell, or farmer’s carry. I was fairly concerned that my total carry distance would go down, since I hadn’t been specializing in it. I was able to squeeze out an extra 15 meters combined. Again, not a large increase. But, considering it was not my specialization and definitely my weakest obstacle category, it was great to see that number go up.

Eric-Aanerud-Boise-SandbagEric Aanerud at the Boise Sprint

We all know in the sport of OCR, running is pretty much the most important part. So, I was really curious to see how those tests turned out. My previous 5k time, done on 4/22, was 23:50. Just about 2 months later, on 6/21, I ran 23:37. That’s only 22 seconds from my lifetime PR, and certainly a non-race PR. As for the mile, on 5/23 I ran a 6:26. Five weeks later, on 6/27, got that down to a 6:19, a lifetime PR.

The trail loop time trial that I discussed in the first article would be another test. The other Benchmarks I had only done one time previously. This was my third out on the trail loop. As of the last article, my time was 59:09, an improvement of 3:43 (previous 1:02:52). This time around, another time reduction, totalling 57:36. My GPS lost signal briefly, so the splits are inaccurate, but the overall time is correct. That means in just under 3 months (March 25 vs June 24), I’ve dropped over 5 minutes off my time!

EVERYBODY GETS A PR

Right, I get it. You’re thinking, “Well, Adam, anytime someone starts a new program, they see the greatest results early on.” And you’re right. Or are you? I looked at some of LeaderBoard’s longest trained athletes, those that have been there since early on. They surely must have leveled out their Benchmark numbers.

Caskey, who is in his fourth year of OCR, hit a PR in the rig during the most recent test, and both the carry and mile this past May. Shoaf also had bests in his mile and carry at the most recent testing. Aanerud almost had a clean sweep recently, PR-ing in all but his rig (due to an injured hand).

Kirk-DeWindt-wins-Chicago-SuperKirk DeWindt fire-jumping to victory in Chicago

Kirk DeWindt, who joined LeaderBoard July 2016, shortly after his first OCR, has also found recent success. He hit a PR in both the 5k and carry during the last round of testing. It’s worth noting that DeWindt was a collegiate All-American in the mile during his college years, so it may be a bit harder to get a personal best there. Forrest Bouge ran his first OCR two years ago and was in the first group of LeaderBoard athletes. He’s hit a PR in all his Benchmark in the past 6 weeks.

OFF TO THE RACES

Now, that part that really matters to some people. How does training with LeaderBoard improve your racing? Shoaf, who had mentioned the benefit of mental toughness, has seen an increase in his ability to race through fatigue. It’s paid off in races as recently as the AT&T Stadium Sprint. Last year, he finished a respectable top 38% in his age group, top 32% of men and top 29% overall. This year, however, he rocketed up to the top 21% in both his age group and gender, plus top 18% overall.

Bouge has improved from a top 15 finisher to a top 10 finisher, with two podium finishes so far in 2017. Caskey was a top 10 finisher prior to starting LeaderBoard. So, with LB training, he’s now consistently challenging the podium spots. “The last three races I’ve been in 2nd for a large portion of the race,” he said. “ Last year that would have made me nervous and think to myself that I was going too hard. Now I feel like I belong there, and confident that my training will keep me moving forward.”

In 2016, Aanerud ran his first season as an Elite Spartan. His placement ranged anywhere from 15th to the mid-60s, and a 77th place finish at Spartan World’s. This year, his worst finish is 25th, with the majority being between 6th and 15th. Most recently, he finished 8th in Boise. DeWindt has also found success since joining LeaderBoard. He won back to back races, his first wins, at Spartan Race Chicago in June, and finishes top ten in most races he competes in.

 

Ean-Caskey-Chicago-RigEan Caskey making quick work of the rig in Chicago

I don’t get the opportunity to run a lot of races, so my main comparison is between Savage Maryland in the fall of 2016 and Savage Pennsylvania a few weeks ago. Though my overall placement wasn’t quite as good, I put that blame on my own inexperience and not my training. At the 2016 MD race, there were a total of 188 racers in the competitive heat. In 2017, the PA race had 256 racers. Unfortunately, in PA, I waited too long to get in the starting corral, and started the race towards the back. This resulted in more cattle jams and even a five-minute wait in line before a first attempt at an obstacle. That obstacle, however, was Kiss My Walls, which took three attempts in Maryland, but only two in PA.

At both races, I was able to finish the SavagePro wave completing all obstacles. To me, the difference was the new obstacles for 2017. The 2016 race had one rig. Savage PA had two rigs, plus an obstacle called Twirly Bird, which is essentially another, more difficult rig. The upper body demand was much higher at the PA race. Though I obviously can’t say for sure, it would’ve been very difficult for me to finish 100% obstacle completion had the Maryland race been as tough. This year, I even had enough energy to run the course again, in an open heat, a few hours later with some friends. Something I know I wouldn’t have been up for last fall.

BLUE MOUNTAIN CHALLENGE

Palmerton gets its own category for a couple of reasons. First off, it fully reinforced the family aspect of LeaderBoard. A group of members got together Friday night, before the Super. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it. At the Super, I had the chance to meet almost all of the LB athletes that came out to compete, which was around 15. Saturday night, the group got together again and this time I knew I couldn’t miss out. After hanging out for a couple hours to chat about races, honeymoons, training and much more, it felt like Thanksgiving dinner with the family (minus the OCR talk). We all even had a chance to catch up with our fearless leader, Brakken.

Sunday I was running the Sprint and ran into several LB members after my race, including Brakken. Everyone asked how I did, talked about the course, and congratulated me on my result. Speaking of, I went into the race hoping to qualify for the age group bracket of OCR World Championships. Even though I know I most likely won’t make it to the race, to say I qualified would be an accomplishment. To do this, I needed to finish top 20 in my age group in the Competitive heat(s). I researched last year’s top 20 times and set the goal of 2 hours. Well, I blew that out of the water. My final time was just under 1:37, good enough for 28th overall and 3rd in my age group. The 1st and 2nd in my age group were 1st and 3rd overall, so any better than 3rd would’ve been tough.

Tiffany-Palmer-and-Brakken-Kraker-at-Palmerton

Tiffany Palmer and Brakken Kraker at Palmerton

The rest of the LeaderBoard crew had equally impressive performances. Several Saturday racers finished in the top 35, which is especially difficult at a US Championship Series race. Two of LB’s female athletes finished top 25 (Tiffany Palmer 15th, Katie Huber 23rd). Many of those who didn’t run the Elite wave finished as some of the top racers in their age group for the Competitive wave. This was also impressive as the athletes registered for Competitive was larger than usual for Saturday’s race. On Sunday, Palmer and Huber returned for the Sprint, finishing 4th and 7th, respectively. Had Lindsay Webster, Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning not stuck around from Saturday, LB may have had themselves a 1st and 4th podium showing.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Since the first article, a few things have changed at LeaderBoard. There is now a Standard and Pro program. The Standard is essentially everything I’ve experienced at half the cost of what it was. The normal cost now provides Pro, which includes a higher level of personalization. What does that mean? Closer contact with your LeaderBoard coaches, including 6 “Pro Chats” per year plus all the communication that comes with Slack. This personalization will help with individual athlete’s goals, such as a faster 5k time or getting better at hill running.

With this, however, Robert Killian is no longer one of the two Pro coaches at LeaderBoard. But, as unfortunate as it is to lose a great athlete like Killian, current coaches Brakken Kraker and Zac Allen have proven that they are more than capable of getting the best out of their athletes.

Does LeaderBoard require a certain level of commitment? Of course. Any training program does. Some days I had to do part of the workout during my lunch break and finish the rest later at home. But, tailor it to your schedule. If you can only fit in a certain amount of time, fit it. The more you can follow the program, however, the better your results will be.

Remember, everyone can start out with a seven-day free trial. LeaderBoard also added a pretty sweet referral system. If you are referred to the program, you receive $30 off your first month. Once on the program, if you refer someone, you receive $15 off your next month. Head to www.leaderboardfit.com to sign up!

Brakken-Kraker-at-Lambeau-Stadium-Sprint
Photo Credit: Spartan Race, Savage Race, LeaderBoard, David Martineau, Tiffany Palmer

LeaderBoard Training – Coached by the Pros (Part 1)

LeaderBoard-Logo

What if I told you there’s a top secret organization of podium finishers across the nation? And that the recent Spartan Super at Fort Carson, had its podium swept by this group? Well, part of that is true. There is a group of athletes training together and hitting podiums left and right. The fib was that it’s not a secret at all!

If you’ve read the Train Like a Pro series, you know Robert Killian is a coach over at a training website called LeaderBoard. If you haven’t read the series, what are you waiting for? Anyway, the great people at LeaderBoard were generous enough to let me get the real-deal experience for myself. In addition to Robert, LeaderBoard has his fellow Spartan Pro Team member, Brakken Kraker, as their other coach. Over the last month, I’ve been working directly with Brakken.

LeaderBoard-Peak-Podium-Sweep

THE PEOPLE

Though Brakken and Robert may be the faces that bring in athletes, there are other members of the team you’ll work with. Taylor McClenny, LeaderBoard’s Founder, ensures that the program maintains course towards its long-term mission. Zac Allen takes on the role of Assistant Coach. He, along with your head coach (Brakken or Robert), are your main points of contact for the program. He’s there to answer any questions you have, keep your race schedule up-to-date, and ensure you’re getting the best training experience possible. Behind the scenes, Lindsey Watts is the Head of Software Development. She takes care of website development and ensures that the fitness programming is always improving.

Taylor and Zac were old MMA training partners, who reconnected after Zac finished filming NBC’s Spartan Race: The Ultimate Team Challenge. After discussing the sport of Obstacle Course Racing and the culture it brings, they knew it was the best entry point for LeaderBoard. The next step was finding a pro Head Coach. The list was short and, after meeting with Brakken, he was clearly the right fit. They officially launched the June 6, 2016 with 15 total athletes. Robert joined the team later that August. Today, LeaderBoard trains 65 athletes and growing.

Robert-Killian-Sandbag-Carry-Seattle-2017

HOW IT WORKS

LeaderBoard gives athletes a place to work directly with coaches, and other athletes, to better their own fitness. Taylor saw the need for their type of program. “I found it odd that programming, to date, is largely a one-way system,” he said. “It’s rare that these same systems are used as a two-way communication, where the coaches use feedback from their athletes to improve the programming and overall experience. That’s our goal.” I really think this is part of why LeaderBoard has been so successful. They’re able to adjust your program on the fly and provide the right feedback for each athlete.

The program is set up so that athletes can train up to 7 days per week, if needed. After the first few days of training, you’ll have a one-on-one session with your coach. Though it was scheduled for about 20 minutes, my chat with Brakken lasted closer to an hour. I was quickly able to see the amount of detail the coaches get to know about each person. They make it a priority to know the athlete, their PRs (Personal Records), training history and what programming works best for them.

Each day, you’ll log in at www.leaderboardfit.com, check that day’s workout(s), perform the workout, then log your results. The rest is done for you; the workouts, the distances, the paces, everything. As you log each result, your coaches will update future workouts to reflect the best possible training program for you. There have been times when my prescribed distance, or pace for a run has been altered just based on a workout I did that week. Your coaches can also change workouts based on upcoming races, depending on how important that race is to you. The schedule is set up so that you can race pretty much any weekend. But, if there’s a race that you really want to PR, the coaches will make a few tweaks so that you’re fresh come race day.

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COMMUNICATION

One of the areas LeaderBoard excels in is communication. In addition to the one-on-one every athlete has with their coach, they also get an invite into a group chat on a messaging program called Slack. This has been one of my favorite parts of LeaderBoard. There are several areas in Slack that I have at my disposal. The first is a group chat with all athletes and coaches on LeaderBoard. The second is a group chat just for Brakken’s athletes, with the third being a private chat set up between myself and my two coaches (Zac and Brakken). Slack allows athletes to discuss that day’s workout, ask questions about workouts, gear, races, etc., get together at common races, and even share lodging for races that are far from home.

Brakken’s athletes also have a Facebook Live event with him every two weeks. He broadcasts from whatever his location happens to be that week, discusses recent races, workouts and benchmarks. We’ll get into benchmarks later!

LeaderBoard-Dashboard

THE WORKOUTS

Each week consists of two full quality workouts, a semi-quality workout, a couple recovery days and a full rest day. Just a heads up, there’s a lot of running! I know this may seem obvious, being an OCR program, but not all of them account for it. One of the first things Brakken and I discussed was how much running I had been doing to that point. We then decided that I should try to run about four days a week, adding in a fifth if I felt good. The rest would be low or non-impact days.

Because I don’t have a lot of soft trails nearby, a few of my longer runs and interval runs were on pavement or a treadmill. About three weeks in, I could feel a slight onset of shin splints. I’ve had issues with them in the past and wanted to avoid them creeping in at all costs. I hopped on Slack, sent a message to Brakken and Zac, and we quickly figured out a plan of attack. They had me back off a day of running, and do what I could to run on soft terrain. The fourth day, when I would normally run, would be a non-impact cardio activity instead. I did this for the next two weeks, as I had a (small) race coming up. Sure enough, it worked. My legs felt fine and I had a great race.

The quality workouts are designed to push you to your limits, but not be too difficult for you to complete. If you can’t complete it, you won’t improve. Some of the quality runs have included Fartlek, 60/60 intervals, progressive tempo,  and 5/5 hard/easy intervals, among others. Not all quality workouts are just runs, either. Many include tasks that would simulate something you might see in a race, such as carries, bear walks, burpees or pull ups. On recovery and easy run days, you’ll also have a supplemental workout, which is usually based on your specialization during that time. After you log your workout, your coaches will review it and update your program as needed. Sometimes they’ll even send you an email will feedback about a given workout you logged.

LeaderBoard-Female-podium-finish

BENCHMARKS AND SPECIALIZATIONS

This is really LeaderBoard’s bread and butter and why I think their athletes see great results. The Benchmarks are specific physical tests that you’ll retake throughout your training. There’s a 5k BM, a Carry BM and a Rig BM. The Carry and Rig are tested each month and generally help you decide your specialization. The specialization pretty much determines what type of supplemental workouts you’ll be doing for the next four weeks. If you just can’t decide, there’s a “Coach’s Suggestion” to help you out!

For the first four weeks, I selected the Carry Specialization, as I didn’t have past BM tests to help me choose. This meant that many of my supplemental workouts involved either a bucket, sandbag or farmer’s carry, sometimes with an exercise circuit thrown in. After the four weeks were up, and it was time to do the Carry BM, I could tell how much I would’ve struggled if I didn’t have those four weeks under my belt. Those who picked the Carry Specialization achieved 15% more improvement on their latest Carry BM than the average. What’s even more impressive is that they also achieved 81% more improvement on their Rig BM than the average.

Next round, I’ll be training with the Rig Specialization. Athletes who had just done this specialization achieved a whopping 114% more improvement on the Rig BM than the average.  

LeaderBoard-Podium-Finishes-in-March

RESULTS

I am now the fastest racer alive! Okay, maybe not, but it’s only been a month. There’s only so much I can tell you about my improvement so far, and don’t worry, I’m getting to that. As for athletes who have been using the program for a while, there’s a great deal of standing on podiums going on. At this year’s Spartan Race it Atlanta, GA, LeaderBoard had an athlete win both the Saturday and Sunday race, two who took first and second in Masters both days, plus another that finished fourth. That’s not including the other athletes who finished top 20. Another athlete went from top 90% in his age group to top 10% basically just by having an off-season of LeaderBoard training. As I mentioned before, LB athletes also swept the men’s podium of this past weekend’s Spartan Super at Fort Carson.

As far as my results go, I can sit here and tell you how much faster and stronger I feel (which I do), but you’d have to take me at my word. I appreciate it that some of you probably do, but others may want proof. Luckily, I brought some. First off, I ran my 5k BM about 30-seconds slower than my PR, which I hit in a race at the end of last year. Why is that proof? Over the winter, I was lucky to run twice a week. Some weeks I didn’t run at all. I used it to take some time off from running and build strength. To be this close early in the season means I should have myself a new PR pretty soon.

Not enough proof? Well, when I first spoke with the team at LeaderBoard about taking this little journey, we added in another Benchmark test just for me. There’s a great trail surrounding a nearby ski resort that totals 5.1 miles and about 775 feet of total ascent. A couple weeks before beginning the program, I ran it. A few days ago, I ran it again. Below is the total time, plus splits for each mile. Total ascent during each mile is in parenthesis to account for the variation in splits. The numbers from 7 weeks ago are on the left, with the latest numbers on the right.

Total Time – 1:02:52 vs. 59:09

Mile 1 (256 ft) – 11:32 vs. 11:41

Mile 2 (244 ft) – 13:49 vs. 12:54

Mile 3 (84 ft) – 11:14 vs. 10:42

Mile 4 (89 ft) – 12:23 vs. 11:21

Mile 5 (77 ft) – 12:25 vs. 11:05

There’s still much work and testing to be done, but I’ve learned so much already this past month. I’m very excited to see what the upcoming weeks have in store. Next month, I’ll be posting another update. There will be another month of specialization and another round of Benchmarks. I’ll also be competing in a Savage Race, which I’ll compare to my experience running one last October, before training under LeaderBoard.

For more information and to book a free 7-day trial, visit www.leaderboardfit.com.

Photo Credit: LeaderBoard, Spartan Race

Shadey’s Rugged Run 2017 Review – Lancaster, PA

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-2017

For the past several years, a class of senior sport management students at Lancaster Bible College has put on an obstacle race. This race not only ensures you need a clean change of clothes, but gives back to the community. This year’s class was no different. The proceeds from this weekend’s event were split between the school’s athletic department and the Penn State Hershey Children’s Miracle Network. As a part of the latter, each wave was introduced to a brave little girl named Madeline. Hearing her story and the obstacles she’s overcome in the just over two years of her life, helped put into perspective the real reason everyone was there to race.

As for the name, it’s not called Shadey because there are lots of trees providing shade, or because they’re dishonest (quite the opposite). It would have to be spelled shady, anyway, for those keeping score at home. Shadey is short for Ebenshade. J. Martin Ebenshade and his wife were local farmers who eventually donated their land, which is where the school is currently located. So, sticking to the school’s roots, the course navigates through the old and current farm land, and is named Shadey’s Rugged Run.

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-Festival-Area-2017

Parking for the event was $10 per car, which is pretty standard across obstacle races. What isn’t always standard, however, was that spectators were totally FREE. Registration included the race, a tech shirt (100% polyester), a drawstring bag, and a handful of coupons for local retailers. Additionally, several vendors offering free samples were set up in the small festival area. This included organic tea, milk, nearby OCR training, a bounce house for children and even ice cream. A local Greek food truck was also there for anyone who wanted to grab a meal. Registration was simple and quick, with little to no line throughout the day.

The event had an optional dry bag check. Luckily, the parking area was close. So, as long as you could protect your car keys from the mud and water, this may not have been needed. During online registration, racers had an option to rent a shower for $5.00. If declined, but you changed your mind on race day, you could still purchase it the day of the race for a slightly higher $7.00. Everyone had access to a fire hose that allowed for quick clean off, and both a men’s and women’s changing tent.

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-Post-Race-Shot

The day began with a timed competitive wave at 8:00 a.m., with non-timed waves running every 20 minutes from there. This helped prevent bottle-necking at obstacles. Speaking of obstacles, there were 17 total obstacles and just over 3 miles of terrain. Like many other well-designed courses, the first few obstacles were well spread out, which also helps with obstacle congestion. Of the 17 obstacles, over a third of them were in the last mile or so.

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-Mystery-Obstacle-2017

The course map had been available on the event’s website (www.shadeysruggedrun.com) weeks in advance of the race and was almost completely accurate. The only two minor differences were the tire carry (listed as a log carry) and the location of the mystery obstacle. The mystery obstacle turned out to be a rope traverse over water. Competitors had to grab a rope above them, stand on another below them, and make their way across. Though some of the low ropes lost a little tension at times, this obstacle proved to be a terrific addition to the course.

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-Leap-of-Faith-2017

Some obstacles were designed to create a bit of a challenge. This includes the previously mentioned tire carry, plus a steep hill climb, cargo net and a tire wall. Others were designed to get you plain old dirty or wet, like a dumpster dive into water, mud pit crawl, and giant mud holes. There was even a giant downhill tarp slide slicked with water and soap (added slip for extra speed) to give the course an extra element of fun. “Leap of Faith,” a fan favorite, consists of climbing up onto one of two platforms and plunging into a pool of water.

Shadey's-Rugged-Run-Fire-Jump-and-Finish-2017

Overall, the course had been extremely well marked, with a string of ropes on each side running almost the entirety of the race. This should not be understated, as most of the time, events benefit from well-marked trails. As this race took you through fields and farms, marking can be difficult There was a little confusion in the competitive wave with course direction, which is not uncommon at races. Unfortunately, one racer made a slight wrong turn and most of those behind followed. In this case, that wrong turn would have been somewhat difficult to prevent. The only negative would be on some of the volunteers, who did not seem to know the correct direction racers should have been going.

Luckily, this issue was quickly fixed by the crew and the following waves seemed to run smoothly. Additionally, the staff and volunteers were extremely apologetic and offered all those affected to jump in any upcoming wave to run the course again. This is an excellent quality to see in an event. Issues are going to happen, that’s racing. But it’s how an event, and its crew, responds to those issues that determine how well-run it is.

Shadey’s Rugged Run is a great race for the OCR newcomer, or a veteran looking for a weekend race. The competitive wave provides an option for anyone that wants to test their skills against other racers, while the open heats are a great introduction into the world of obstacle racing and mud runs.

Photo Credit: Shadey’s Rugged Run and the author

Train Like a Pro: David Magida

David-Magida-at-Elevate-Fitness

You may recognize David Magida as the 2016 host of the Spartan Race U.S. Championship series on NBC Sports or even as the current host of Spartan’s live-streaming coverage. However, before he picked up the microphone, he was lacing up his shoes as one of the top competitors in Obstacle Course Racing. Magida, a former member of the Spartan Pro Team, has over 20 podium finishes to his name.

David-Magida-Awards-Ceremony-Spartan-World-Championships

Despite his larger frame, Magida has been a distance runner for most of his life. In high school, he was a conference champion in cross country and, after being recruited, ran for a brief time in college. After taking some time off from running due to injury, he briefly played DI-AA football at Bucknell University as a wide receiver.

Magida took nearly 5 years off before returning to running during grad school, while training for marathons. After finding success in several Spartan races and completing the first ever Ultra Beast, Magida committed to OCR training. “It was amazing and I loved it. I just fell in love with the sport,” he recalled. “I love that you can be both strong and fast. My size was not a huge disadvantage the way it was with road running.”

David-Magida-on-Savage-Nut-Cracker

One of his fondest memories of racing goes back to a victory at Spartan’s New Jersey Super. Magida had trailed the majority of the race due to lower back issues. The rest of his body wasn’t giving up, though. “I was so frustrated that day because my legs and lungs felt fine, but my back was limiting my ability to climb. I was in agony. I could not get the legs to go, and I could not put it together,” Magida remembers.

After chasing the leader the majority of the race, Magida went all-in on the downhills, clocking around a 4:30/mile average pace on the rugged descents. “It’s this really brutal course with just these big, clunky rocks all over the ground,” he explained. “So, my feet after the race were just ruined. They were blistered and bruised and felt broken. I couldn’t train for a week.”  Magida’s grit paid off in the end, though, as he seized the lead in the final half-mile. Despite getting out-climbed every ascent before that, his mental focus kept him in the lead on the final climb, allowing him to run a downhill sprint to a first place finish. After trailing for essentially the entire race, Magida won by a mere 11 seconds. “I think the thing that made this particular race special was that nothing was going my way,” Magida said. “Physically I didn’t have it. But if you search inside yourself, you’ll be amazed to find what kind of strength you possess. I learned something about myself that day. It’s the beauty of pushing your body to your limits. You learn what you’re made of.”

David-Magida-Stadium-Sprint-CBP-Monkey-Bars

Eventually, he decided to step away from racing to open his own training studios, Elevate Interval Fitness. Currently, Magida operates a location in Washington, D.C. and a second in Fairfax, VA, with a third expected to open in D.C. in 2018. Magida employs many of the methods he learned and relied upon in his OCR training to push his clients to their limits and maximize their performance. Elevate focuses on both strength and endurance training, to help athletes develop mental toughness, stay well-rounded and, as Magida says, “to have zero weaknesses.”

At Elevate, you’ll use equipment like treadmills, water rowers, airbikes, kettlebells, sandbags, TRX and dumbbells during sessions that include circuits, intervals and partner workouts. Plus, the coaches will teach you the correct technique to ensure total effectiveness and avoid risk of injury. For more information and a free intro class, visit www.elevateintervalfitness.com.

David-Magida-Savage-Race-2015

THE WORKOUT

This workout is basically a race-simulation type of workout. Magida recommends doing it only once or twice per season and allowing around two weeks before racing. He suggests only doing some light running the day before and a pretty easy workout the day after.

Pro Tip: Don’t overdo it on the first two miles, or you’ll pay for it later.

Run to be completed at a 5k race pace on a treadmill. If you want to use this as a race simulation, complete as fast as possible. Warm up with a 10-15 minute jog

  • Run 1 mile with the treadmill at 2% incline. Once finished, complete either 30 pull ups or TRX Inverted rows.
  • Run another 1 mile with treadmill at 2% incline. Once finished, complete 30 burpees.
  • Increase the incline to 4% and run 0.50 miles. Once finished, complete 50 switch/jump lunges. That is 50 total, or 25 per leg.
  • Run another 0.50 miles with treadmill at 4% incline. Once done, complete a 100-meter bear crawl.
  • Increase the incline to 6% and run 0.25 miles. Once finished, complete another 25 pull ups or TRX inverted rows.
  • Run another 0.25 miles at 6%. Once done, complete 30 burpees.
  • Run another 0.25 miles at 6%. Once finished, complete another 50 switch/jump lunges.
  • Run one more 0.25 miles at 6%. Once done, complete another 100-meter bear crawl.
  • Finally, run 1 mile with the incline back at 2%. Once done, complete the workout with another 20 pull ups or TRX inverted rows.

Workout Totals:

  • 5 Miles of Intervals
  • 75 Pullups
  • 60 Burpees
  • 100 Switch Lunges
  • 200m Bear Crawl

Writer’s Note: Thank you to David for sharing this workout. You can follow him on Instagram.

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

Photo Credit: David Magida, Elevate Fitness, Spartan Race, Savage Race

Train Like a Pro: Rea Kolbl

Rea-Kolbl-Bucket-Carry-MontereyIf you haven’t heard the name Rea Kolbl before, there’s a good chance that will change soon. One of the newest members of the Spartan Pro team, Kolbl has excelled in the early stages of her career.

Because she mostly ran local Spartan races, Kolbl was a virtual unknown at last year’s Golden State Classic in Monterey, one of the five Spartan U.S. Championship races on NBC. So much so, that one of the race referees had asked her to spell her name while she was finishing burpees. Kolbl went on to finish 4th, under a minute from hitting top three in what was her first ever elite race.

Despite being caught off guard by the cold (like many were) at the 2016 Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe and having to complete 150 burpees, she still managed a 7th place finish at the site of the 1960 Olympic Games. That included an untimely fall on the descent, one of her typical strengths. “Usually I’m pretty fast on the downhill because trail running is what I do, but I was so cold that I was shivering and couldn’t see the ground at all,” Kolbl recalls.

Rea-Kolbl-Snowy-Mountain Climb

Originally from Slovenia, Kolbl came to the United States almost seven years ago to attend U.C. Berkeley before moving to Stanford, where she is currently a full-time grad student.

Like many other athletes on the team, she’s had to find a healthy balance of work, training and personal time: Working full-time, this means a morning run, a full day of work, then getting in a second training session with her husband, Bunsak. Kolbl attributes him for most of her ability to keep up with training. “He does all the cooking beforehand and all the cleaning and shopping,” she says. “I do dishes to do my part, but I’m definitely lucky from that perspective.”

Having a full schedule is nothing new to her, however. “Being on the gymnastics team when I was younger,” she recounts, “I had like seven hours of practice (every day)…and I still did school full time so there was always a balancing of the two.”

Rea-Kolbl-Fire-Jump-SoCal

This year, keep an eye out for this up and comer as she takes on more of the Spartan U.S. Championship Series races and looks to improve on her finish (and burpee count) at Tahoe. She’s already started 2017 with a bang, winning both the Sprint and Super races at the SoCal event in January.

Below is one of Kolbl’s favorite training sessions. She generally performs it the day after a rowing session, and follows it up with a low impact cardio day. As you’ll see below, the Stairmaster is one of Kolbl’s favorite forms of low-impact cardio. “It really pumps my heartbeat, but it doesn’t really work hard on my knees or ankles,” she explains. The rest of her week includes some training on a track, trail/mountain running and another HIIT session.

Rea-Kolbl-Spartan-SoCal-Sprint-2017

MORNING

RUN
This part should always be done in the morning. Go for a nine-mile run at an increasing pace. The second half of the run should be at maximum sustainable effort. For Kolbl, this consists of a sub-7 minute per mile average pace on a loop that has almost 800 feet of elevation gain.

Rea-Kolbl-Monterey-Sand-Bag

AFTERNOON

PART ONE
20-MINUTE STAIRMASTER CARDIO
Begin at 96 steps per minute. This is usually level eleven. Incrementally increase each level at the following times:

  • 2 Minutes – Increase to 103 steps per minute
  • 5 Minutes – Increase to 110 steps per minute
  • 8 Minutes – Increase to 117 steps per minute
  • 11 Minutes – Increase to 126 steps per minute
  • 14 Minutes – Increase to 133 steps per minute
  • 17 Minutes – Increase to 140 steps per minute

Pro Tip: If a Stairmaster is unavailable, substitute 20 minutes on a rowing machine or exercise bike. Any form of low impact cardio will work.

Rea-Kolbl-Beach-Swing

PART TWO

TABATA
Perform each set of two exercises in alternating fashion, executing 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest. Complete each one four total times so that each set ends up being four minutes long. Rest 30 seconds between each set. Kolbl usually does this part with an elevation mask set at 12,000 feet.

  • Set 1
    • Burpees: If you’re an avid OCR fan, chances are you know what a burpee is. Just in case: Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Touch your hands to the floor and kick your legs back so that you are in a push-up position. Perform a push-up, then bring your feet back up in between your hands and jump straight into the air.
    • Star Jumps: Stand with your feet slightly spread apart and arms at your sides. Bend at the knees and explode up, spreading your arms and legs out. Your body will create a star shape. As you land, bring your arms and legs back in. It’s similar to a jumping jack, except you aren’t landing on the jump out.
  • Set 2 
    • Squat Jumps: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and jump up in the air. Land softly.
    • Lunge Jumps/Split-Squat Jumps: Get into a lunge position. Jump up into the air while simultaneously switching legs. You should land so that your front leg is now your back, and back is now front.
      • Writer’s Tip: This one is not fun. If you run out of gas, rather than stopping, modify if you need to. Instead of jumping straight up in the air, bring your back foot up with your front, sending the previously front foot back almost instantly. If you can, still try to ensure each foot is off the ground at the same time (at least a little) during the switch.
  • Set 3 
    • High Knees: Run in place, but make sure you are bringing your knees to at least a 90-degree angle when it leaves the ground.
    • Mountain Climbers: Get into a push-up position. Bring one knee towards your chest and tap your toe on the ground. As that foot returns to its original position, bring the opposite foot up and tap that toe. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Set 4 
    • Back and Forth Frog Jumps: Squat down and bring your hands to the ground in front of you. Jump forward, briefly bringing your hands above your head. Then do the same, but backward.
    • Kettlebell Swings: With a 25-pound dumbbell or kettlebell, stand with your feet at least shoulder width apart. With a slight bend in the knees, hinge at your waist so that your back is parallel to the ground and the weight is between your legs. As you transition into the standing position, thrust your hips forward so your body forms a straight line. Simultaneously swing the weight in front of your chest, while keeping your arms straight.
  • Set 5 
    • Push-ups: Your hands should be at least a little wider than shoulder width and your back should remain straight through the each repetition.
      • Writer’s Tip: If doing a push-up normally hurts your wrists, grab a pair of dumbbells that won’t roll (hex-shaped or adjustable normally).
    • Elbow Plank with Knee to Elbow: Get in a plank position with your elbows touching the ground. Your first set, bring your left leg up to your elbow and back. Alternate to your right on the second set, so that you are doing two total sets per leg
  • Set 6 
    • Russian Twists: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. Lean your torso back, while keeping your back straight. It should be roughly 45-degrees off the ground. Straighten your arms and clasp your hands together. Rotate your arms to the right, pause, then back in front of you and to the left.
    • Sit-ups: Lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. With either your hands across your chest, or touching the side of your head, use your core to lift your torso up to your knees. Return to the starting position.

Rea-Kolbl-Monkey-Bars-Monterey

PART THREE

GRIP STRENGTH
Perform one minute of jump rope. Once finished, immediately dead hang from a bar for one minute. Repeat this five times with no rest, totaling ten minutes of work.

Writer’s Tip: As odd as it sounds, jumping rope may be a bit difficult if you aren’t used to it. If you can’t quite get the hang of it, just keep going. You’ll find that you’re rope jumping will improve each round!

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Rea for sharing her favorite workout. You can follow her on Instagram and catch her training at King’s Camps and Fitness.

Photo Credit: Rea Kolbl, Spartan Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

Train Like A Pro: Ryan Atkins

Podium-At-Palmerton-2016

Few athletes dominate their sports the way Ryan Atkins has dominated OCR in recent years. He has emerged victorious at World’s Toughest Mudder four years running, most recently completing 105 miles with partner Jon Albon, and Atkins also finished on top in the first ever Spartan U.S. Championship Series.

At the Spartan World Championships, he has finished in second place three years in a row, missing first place by just 00:27 in 2016. The fourth main event in the sport, OCR World Championships, hasn’t slowed him down either. He won the 3k short course this year and finished second in the 15k Classic.

Ryan-Atkins-and-Suunto-in-the-snow

If you follow him on social media, you may not be surprised at all of the accolades. Atkins is an avid climber, runner, mountain biker and skier, not to mention proud Alaskan Malamute owner. A typical winter day for him includes a morning ski, fatbike ride and even a snowshoe hike or run for up to three hours. That’s usually followed by an afternoon climb or workout.

Below is one of those afternoon workouts, with climbing included. Atkins will generally warm up with four or five easy bouldering routes. 

Ryan-Atkins-in-Yosemite

Do part one followed by part two and repeat four times.

PART ONE

BOULDERING 

Boulder near your limit for approximately 20 minutes. If you are unable to find a place to climb, perform the following six exercises as a circuit, doing 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat four times:

Dead hang – Plank – Pinch-plate carries – Kettlebell swings – Pull-ups – Wall sit

Pro Tip: Try to avoid using chalk to make previously easy routes seem harder, or to simulate wet hands in a race. After you have warmed up, go hard for the bouldering session. You’ll want to rest about one minute between difficult routes.

Writer’s Note: I don’t normally have easy access to a rock wall or mountain, so I opted to do the 30/30 circuit. I also used my homemade hang board, at times, to feel a little more like I was actually climbing. To mimic bouldering, I placed a chair a bit behind the board so that my toes were the only part of my feet touching. I then worked back and forth on the board, sometimes moving my feet from the left side to right side of the chair. Because I added this in, I did the circuit three times as not to over-exhaust my muscles and increase injury risk. 

Ryan-Atkins-Palmerton-Crawl

PART TWO

WEIGHT ROOM CIRCUIT

  • Wall Balls (20 reps): Stand in front of a wall and assume a squat position. When you come up, throw a medicine ball up in the air towards a target above you on the wall. As you catch the ball, return to the squat position. Atkins uses a 35-lb medicine ball.
  • Mountain Climbers (40 reps): Get into a pushup position. Bring one knee towards your chest and tap your toe on the ground. As that foot returns to its original position, bring the opposite foot up and tap that toe. That is one rep. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Side Planks (2 minutes per side): Lay on the ground facing sideways, with your hand, forearm and elbow on the ground. Your elbow should be under your shoulder. The only other part of your body touching the ground will be your bottom foot. Raise your body up so that you form a straight line and hold that position. Your free hand can either be on your hip or in the air. Focus on not allowing your hip to dip down toward the ground. 
    • Writer’s Tip: Use a yoga mat to make it more comfortable for your supporting arm.
  • Toes To Bar (8 reps): Grab a bar with an overhand grip, your hands shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and bring your toes to the bar. Be sure to perform each rep slow and controlled. Your body shouldn’t swing at all when you come into the lower position.
  • Weighted BOSU Ball Lunge Squat (20 reps per leg): With a BOSU ball under each leg, stand in a lunge position. Hold weights at each side or at your shoulders. Lower until your back knee almost touches the ground, making sure your front knee doesn’t pass over the toes. Return to the starting position. Atkins uses 20 lbs. 
    • Writer’s Tip: If you struggle too much to have a BOSU under each foot, start off with one and work your way up. 
  • Weighted Goblet Squat (20 reps): Hold a kettlebell or one end of a dumbbell at your chest, with your palms facing in. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Squat down, retaining a straight back, and return up to the start position. Atkins uses 30 lbs.
  • Calf Raises (30 reps per leg): Stand on one leg, either flat on the ground or on a step with only the toes and ball of the foot touching. Raise your heel up, then lower it back into the starting position. 

Pro Purpose: Part two is a great way to allow your arms to recover from climbing. It also gives you some good leg and core strength training.

Pro Tip: Pace yourself during the strength section. The main purpose is to rest your arms and build functional, injury-free fitness.

Ryan-Atkins-Log-Hop

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Ryan for sharing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. For more workouts from Ryan, check out his Obstacle Course Training (a joint venture with Jon Albon and Matt Murphy): they are offering 20% off for the holidays.

Photo Credit: Ryan Atkins, Spartan Race, the author

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