Train Like a Pro: Beni Gifford

Beni-Gifford-NBC-Spartan-Ultimate-Team-Challenge

If the name Beni Gifford sounds familiar, it should. Gifford led his team (The Comeback Kids) to victory on NBC’s premiere season of Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge. He was also the captain of Team Dallas on Battlefrog’s League Championship, which aired on ESPN. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll now be able to watch him on CMT as he competes on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge.

Beni-Gifford-Terrain-Racing-Finish-in-Flagstaff

Off the small screen, Gifford has won fourteen races, with twenty-one podium finishes overall in just two years. That includes an undefeated record when competing in the Terrain Racing series.

Below you’ll find a workout that Gifford uses to train his body and mind to continue to perform, even after fatigue sets in and his muscles become tired. It helps with situations where your heart rate is high or your legs become heavy.

Beni-Gifford-Running

PART ONE
2-MINUTE RUN / 1-MINUTE SLED DRAG INTERVALS

Run for two minutes at an aerobic base effort. You should be able to carry on a conversation at this pace. Once the two minutes is up, do a one-minute sled drag at the same effort level. Alternate between the two until you reach thirty minutes. Once complete, perform an aerobic pace run for up to thirty minutes. You can adjust the time based on your level of fitness, but aim to hit at least ten minutes.

Pro Note: Part one is about getting your legs pumped and strained (sled pull) and going right back into a run. This teaches you to run with heavy legs.

Writer’s Tip: If you don’t have a sled to drag, go to your local hardware store and buy several feet of rope that is at least ¾”-1” thick (usually about $1-2 per foot). Then punch holes in a flattened cardboard box and thread the rope through. Stack as much weight as you can handle onto the cardboard box for your own homemade sled. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty. It’s more about function over aesthetics, here.

Beni-Gifford-Savage-Rig-Dallas

PART TWO
BURPEES – 10/100 SUPERSET

Do a set of ten burpees at 90% effort, followed by 10/100 pull up/dead hang. Complete six total rounds. To perform the 10/100, start a timer and, with palms facing forward, immediately do one pull up. Then lower yourself into a dead hang. After ten seconds of dead hang, do another pull up. Repeat this until you hit 10 pull ups and 100 seconds or failure, whichever comes first. You must remain on the bar the entire time. The 10/100 is considered by OCR coach, Yancy Culp, as the Gold Standard for grip endurance and strength.

Pro Tip: Keep your transitions as short as possible from the burpees into the 10/100. This will help with your ability to tackle obstacles successfully without having to spend valuable seconds slowing your heart rate down before attacking.  If you can’t meet the Gold Standard at first, don’t worry. You now have an easy goal to track so you can match the best in OCR.

Writer’s Tip: For the 10/100, use an interval timer app so you don’t have to keep your eyes on a stopwatch. These apps allow you to customize so that an alarm sounds every ten seconds, giving you the signal to do apull-upp.

Writer’s Note: Thanks to Beni for providing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo Credit: NBC, Terrain Racing, Beni Gifford and Savage Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

Train Like a Pro: Faye Stenning & Josh Stryde

Faye Stenning ran her first Spartan Race in 2013. Two years later, she placed ninth at the 2015 Spartan World Championships. This year, Stenning joined the Reebok Spartan Pro Team and continued her success by finishing second or better in each of the five Spartan U.S. Championship Series races. Her 1197 points in the inaugural series was good enough for second and only three points behind winner, Lindsay Webster.

Faye-Stenning-Medal-Picture

Though Stenning does have a background in track and cross country, success like this comes from a number of areas, including a great training regimen. The following workout is one that she designed with boyfriend Josh Stryde. Stryde, himself, is part of the Western Canadian Spartan Elite Team. He’s also the Calgary Place World Health Regional Nutrition Director.

The workout comes in four parts. Try to rest as little as possible throughout since you don’t get much, if any, during a race. Stenning and Stryde perform this weekly.

Pro Tip: Stay positive throughout and work your way up each time. Don’t use the workout too close to race day. As you’ll see, if you do it right, you’ll be too drained to perform at your best. Give yourself at least a week if you have an upcoming race.

Faye-Stenning-and-Josh-Stryde
PART ONE
TREADMILL HILL CLIMB WITH MEDICINE BALL (10-15 minutes)

Set a treadmill to an incline that will make you uncomfortable. Try increasing the level each time you do the workout. If you become comfortable with the incline, you know it’s time to bump it up. Every minute, get off the treadmill and do five burpees. Keep the timer running when you do your burpees. Most treadmills shut off after 30 seconds, so try to perform the burpees in that time frame. Hold the medicine ball however you feel comfortable. Stenning loads it onto her shoulder, while Stryde alternates between shoulder and front, to simulate a bucket carry. Stenning normally does 12 minutes at an incline of 15 and speed of 4.0, using a 40-pound medicine ball.

Writer’s Tip: If you don’t have a medicine ball, find something other than dumbbells to carry. Anything that would give you the option to carry it on your shoulder or in front of your body. I used an open bag of grass seed weighing about 35-pounds that I had in my garage. If you do that, just make sure it’s sealed up!

Josh-Stryde-Loaded-Incline

PART TWO
EMOM/Every Minute on the Minute (15-30 minutes)

Alternate between the following three each minute.

  • Hook a TRX strap up to the end of a weight sled. Run forward, dragging the sled behind you. Go as far as you can for one minute. If you don’t have a strap to attach, push the sled instead. Stenning and Stryde use four 45-pound plates on the sled.
  • Hop on a fan/air bike and go as hard as you can (bike or row) for one minute. If you don’t have access to a fan bike, use a stationary bike and pedal as fast as possible on as high of a resistance as you can stand.
  • Do between 5-15 toes to bar, depending on your core and grip strength. Grab a pull up bar with an overhand grip, roughly shoulder width apart. Engage your core and lift your toes up to the bar. If you’re unable to do toes to bar, do knees to elbows or knee raises instead.

Pro Purpose: This part of the workout hits your entire body. The sled drag gives your lower body strength and power, which helps for hill climbs. The bike portion is great for general aerobic conditioning and the toes to bar gives your core and grip both strength and endurance training.

Pro Tip: Try adding a couple minutes to this part each time you do the workout.

Writer’s Tip:If you don’t have access to a sled, you can take a larger weight plate (45-pound should work) and put it on the ground, flat part down, and push the plate. Add a dumbbell for extra weight.  Another option is to put a treadmill on an incline and turn it off. Then, hold onto the sides and run for the minute.

Faye-Stenning-Sled-Drags

PART THREE
MAX HOLD: SINGLE-ARM DEAD HANG

Grab a bar with one arm and hang for as long as you can, then switch arms. Your only rest is doing the opposite arm. Do three sets per arm.

Pro Purpose: This improves grip strength, while also getting you used to being supported on one arm. This will help on obstacles like rigs and monkey bars.

Writer’s Tip: If you aren’t strong enough to do single-arm, throw a towel over one end of the bar and grab it with the opposite hand. Focus on mainly using whichever side is holding the bar, and only use the other to lightly hold the towel, giving yourself some support. This doesn’t give your arms much rest, but will allow you to work your way up to using one arm.

Faye-Stenning-Monterey-Rig

PART FOUR
FOUR SUPER SETS

Do the first exercise, then move right onto the second.

  • Hold a weight plate with a pinch grip in each hand and walk, like you would for a farmer’s carry. Your distance is determined by how long you’re able to hold the plates before putting them down. Aim to hit the same distance each set. Also, try only squeezing with your fingertips. Stenning considers it cheating if you’re using the edge of the plate to hook your fingers around.
  • Do 15 reps of barbell bent-over row.

Pro Purpose: Doing these at the end of your workout will help to burn out your grip.

Writer’s Tip: To avoid cheating, use two plates per hand and press them together so that the flat sides face out. This removes the temptation to hook your fingers around the edges.

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Josh and Faye for sharing this workout. You can follow Faye on both Instagram and Facebook. Follow Josh on Instagram

Photo Credit: Faye Stenning’s Facebook Page, Faye Stenning, Spartan Race

BattleFrog BFX Miami Review 11/21/2015

BattleFrog Miami Start - Courtesy of BFBefore competitors would take on the wrath of “The Beard” at the BattleFrog Miami race, the first and most painful obstacle at OCR events would have to be defeated. Parking and Packet Pick-Up!  How organized an event will be can usually be determined once you pull into the gate. At this event, both parking and registration were run with efficiency and among the quickest I’ve experienced. Staff had packets ready with minimal delays and were funneling participants into the festival area in no time.

Within the festival area, there were the typical merchandise and food vendors. One thing that stood out was the “Largest Team” Tent.  By the size of the crowds, it seems that BattleFrog Series has been able to keep people coming back for more by promoting group participation yet still keeping competition at the forefront. There Largest Team competition motivates groups of people to take on the course with their friends and families.  With such perks as free bag check and parking, a VIP team tent and a bunch of sexy BF swag, there are plenty of incentives to compete for the title. Team FIT4LYFE walked away with two consecutive wins by rallying over 280 participants.BattleFrog Miami Biggest Team FIT4LYFE - Sandy Tocci

As usual, BattleFrog would bring out some of the big names in OCR for their Elite Waves. For this showing, the female competition would be the one to watch with returning BF winners Corinna Coffin, Claude Godbout and K.K. Stewart. All of who would finish among the Top 3 in that division.

After the Elite Females blazed the start of the course, it was time for BattleFrog Xtreme competitors to head to the start line. For those not familiar with this division, this is where obstacle course racing meets ultra-marathon running. BFX competitors would have to complete as many laps of the 8k (5 mile) course between 8:30AM and 4:00PM (No additional laps could be started after 3:00PM). After each lap, competitors had access to a Pit/Transition Area where refueling and gear adjustments could be done.
Battlefrog Miami Tunnel Rat - Scotty JackmoreFrom the start, the BFX course would mirror that of the Elite’s. A mandatory swim was thrown at us seemingly right out of the gate. This would be a mandatory obstacle for the first lap only. A bypass route was offered for BFX competitors. Out of the six laps that I was able to complete, I opted for this route only on my last lap, mostly because the path wasn’t clearly marked and I didn’t want to waste time finding a volunteer to point me in the right direction. This was the only portion of the course where I thought the path could have been marked better.

The course would have a total of three water crossings. None as long as the first. These obstacles usually had a few people pausing due to fear of swimming. I welcomed the water. For those familiar with running in the scorching Miami heat, multiple water obstacles and the forecasted thunderstorms would be a much-appreciated reprieve from the sun.

A good portion of the course would take place on the rock and coral trails through the park. Walls varying in height seemed to be the theme on the course. For the first two miles of the loop, six different wall obstacles would have to be completed.  For me, the Inverted Wall seemed to increase in difficulty as the day went on.

The Wreck Bag Carry was the halfway point of the 8K loop and also a mandatory obstacle for Xtreme runners. During my first two laps I wasn’t too happy about this obstacle because it was a time killer. Later in the race I didn’t mind it so much because it gave me a reason to hit the brakes and take a leisurely stroll through the trails.

The last quarter of the loop brought you the Jersey Cans. For those that don’t know about these dreaded green gas cans, the best way to describe them is “they suck”.  Each weighing 40-50 lbs., competitors had to carry a pair of them through a winding trail obstructed by logs and branches. After six laps of carrying them, they really suck.

BattleFrog Miami Platinum Rig - Scotty Jackmore

The tail end of the 8K course is where the real action began. What I thought to be the three toughest obstacles were all in close proximity to each other. The 12′ Rope Wall, Tip of the Spear and Platinum Rig. I’m sure that the spike in difficulty was by design. While on the course I caught up with Trevor Hoadley, a BFX veteran who had a similar opinion, “The last few obstacles are really challenging. I like the Rig, it’s extremely hard”.

With mud from repeated climbers and the addition of the falling rain, the 12′ Rope Wall was getting more dangerous as they day went on. With grip strength fading, the transition from the slippery rope to the top metal support beam became extremely challenging. Tip of the Spear, a collection of grip strength obstacles appeared to be uncrossable for most but could be defeated with proper technique rather than strength. This was the same for Platinum Rig, a frame consisting of multiple ropes and grips that has grown in popularity due to its difficulty.Battlefrog Miami 12 Foot Wall - Scotty Jackmore

The only major flaw that I saw with BF Xtreme was that competitors are not required to complete all of the obstacles. While on my last lap, I was talking to a couple of fellow BFXers and was told that most of the competitors were opting for the 8 Count Bodybuilder Penalty instead of completing the Jerry Can obstacle as a strategy to increase lap count. I later found out that this was the case with multiple obstacles, especially Tip of the Spear and Platinum Rig. Although BFX doesn’t have a cash prize, a BattleFrog Paddle is presented to the competitor with the most laps completed, making it a title that many strive for. With that, I think the event needs to take on a format that is similar to their Elite waves.
BattleFrog Miami Finish - ROGUE USA

Overall, BattleFrog Miami was a great event, especially due to the BFXtreme course.  For those who are “WTM Addicts” like myself, BFX is a welcomed addition to the OCR race catalog.  With new OCR companies still popping up like weeds, none have focused on ultra-endurance competition like the World’s Toughest Mudder.  BFX is relatively new but seems to be building steam in this department. Can it be that another one of the big boys on the block is inching towards a 24-hour OCR event?? If anyone has the capability and strong following to make it happen, BattleFrog Series is the one.

Erick Hernandez (AKA Leeroy Jenkins)
ROGUE USA

Spartan Race – New Jersey Super 2015 – Race Review

Welcome to the Spartan Race New Jersey Super 2015!  Welcome to HILLS!  Welcome to TIRED LEGS!  Welcome to SMILES and TEARS at the finish line. For many people in the Tri-State area, this is one of the yearly races that is a true test of determination, courage, and athletic ability. In my experience, it is a bit emotional. A lot of people in the area come from doing the Tuxedo Park Spartan Sprint to the New Jersey Super, since the venue is only about thirty minutes from that race venue, and its very close to the border óf New Jersey and New York. For many beginners, this is the first time they are running a difficult and lengthy distance. On average, the race takes about three hours to complete. This year was no different. Overall, this year was a challenge against the mountain and against self.

THE VENUE

Spartan Race - Pig Roast at NJ SuperLike years past, the New Jersey Spartan Super was held at Mountain Creek in Vernon, New Jersey. This has been the site of the New Jersey Super for the last few years and is overall a great venue for an obstacle course race.

THE FESTIVAL
If you came for just the race and left, you definitely missed out on a lot fun attractions in the festival area. There was a new and shiny merchandise store. It’s presentation was a lot nicer than the tent that has the merch just hanging up. It looked a lot more professional and more accessible. Plus, there was a lot of Reebok Spartan merch that I have not seen at previous races. If you are looking for that 2x Trifecta hoodie, you came to the right place. If shopping wasn’t your thing, you could always play on the rig. While waiting for friends and family to finish the course, you could “hang” for a bit or practice your rope climb. I saw a lot of kids playing on it and swinging from bar to bar better than some of the athletes (I kid though)! You had more traditional areas such as the finisher shirt pick up, main stage, podium, and Panasonic area where you could film yourself in a 2 second video slowed to the time of about 15 seconds. And what Spartan Race in New York would not be complete without the epic pig roast (see picture above)! Truly, a Spartan’s appetite was present at this race.

 

Kid on RigTHE OBSTACLES (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)
There were A LOT of obstacles on the course and perhaps many of them you know. Rather than go into each obstacle on the course, I narrowed it down to my top ten picks including challenging obstacles (those of which may have been near other ones to make it harder aka dunk wall), different obstacles (those that may not be on the usual course), and easy obstacles. Before I get to that, I definitely want to give a shout out to the amazing team who decided to make the course more creative and pile burpees upon burpees on many participants. I also want to say that the course was a lot tougher according to a bunch of participants I spoke to, mainly due to the steep incline for the first half of the race and the steep incline of the second half of the race in addition to the line of obstacles set up in their path.

  1. Swim – I have to start with this one because it was a joke of an obstacle. It may have been from the scare of a storm in the area but rather than an actual swim across the lake that they normally do, they just had people walk or run through the shallow, knee-deep portion. It took literally thirty seconds to cross and continue uphill.
  2. Walls featuring Rolling Mud + Dunk Wall – Definitely a pace killer, this combination of obstacles slowed a large group of runners down since they were right next to each other. The runners had wet hands and if you weren’t a 6-foot giant, then you really had to focus on gripping the top of the 6-, 8-, and 10-foot walls to get over.
  3. Monkey Bars – Another killer of Spartans, this was an obstacle that ended with a lot of burpees. Because of the water from previous participants and the weather, there were many slips, falls, and splats on this obstacle.
  4. Bucket Brigade – Everybody’s favorite obstacle made an appearance at this race. If memory serves, it was in the same place as the previous year but made higher.
  5. Rope Climb – A traditional obstacle at Spartan Races, the rope climb looked to be a challenge. You had a choice of knotted or straight climbs. For elite, you had to use the straight rope climb.
  6. Hay Wall – This one was not necessarily tough, but it was set before a steep incline. Once you jumped over the four feet of hay, you better have hoped you stretched your legs well enough.
  7. Sandbag Carry – Another hike up the mountainside with either a 40lb trademark sandbag for men or 20lb bag for women.
  8. Log Carry – Surprisingly short and easy if you ask me.
  9. Downhill Barbed Wire – A bit different than what I am used to; people were forced to crawl downhill toward the finish line under the barbed wire. For me, it was the first time, and I thought it was pretty easy, with the exception of pointed rocks bruising every part of my body that wasn’t already bruised from the rest of the race.
  10. Rig – The last obstacle before the fire jump and finish. If you defeated this monster, you are definitely on your way to being an elite athlete.

Spartan Barbed Wire Crawl.

Spartan T-Wall NJ.

 

Elite FinishersOverall, I liked the race – with the exception of twisting my ankle halfway through. Some words of advice though, WORK ON GRIP! It helps a lot with obstacles that may have slip. And run incline if you have some hills near you. If you don’t, find some stairs.

Grade: A

All pictures by Alexander Sallahian.