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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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