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.

Brakken-Kraker-Monkey-Bars-at-Citi-Stadium-Sprint

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

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

Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series: Ryan Atkins Takes The Crown

Atkins Breckenridge

This weekend was the final race in the inaugural Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series. The USCS is a five race series to determine which male and female Spartan Race athletes will hold the title of U.S. Champion. The series is televised on the NBCSN network.

Each athletes final score is determined by the cumulative number of points they earned across each of the five races. The lowest individual point score is dropped leaving each racer with their four best races counting toward their final score. A first place finish is worth 300 points, a second place finish is worth 299 points and so on down the line. A perfect score with 4 (or 5) wins in the series is worth 1,200 points.

As the series began, Ryan Atkins looked unstoppable. He rattled off three quick wins in the first three races. In the fourth race at Asheville, North Carolina, Atkins finally came up against an opponent he couldn’t beat: The Spartan Race officials.  Atkins was disqualified for failing the rope climb and not completing the required penalty of 30 burpees. In an interview afterward with ORM’s Matt B. Davis, Atkins told how the first rope he grabbed was coated in clay and unclimbable. Atkins described what happened next.

I guess I’m used to racing mandatory obstacle completion races where if you screw something up you just find a lane that works as fast as you can and get it done. I had never failed an obstacle at Spartan. So I went and I climbed a different rope.

The controversy of Atkin’s disqualification was magnified by a similar situation with Robert Killian on the Multi-Rig obstacle. As Killian neared the end of the obstacle he appeared to touch the ground with his foot, causing him to fail the obstacle. The Spartan official at the obstacle did not penalize him and Killian continued. After viewing video of the incident Killian offered to “self-DQ”, but Spartan declined and said the decision of the official would stand.

Going into the final race this weekend, Atkins could secure the series win with a third place finish or better. A fourth place finish for Atkins combined with a first place for Hunter McIntyre would allow McIntyre to tie Atkins for first place in the series. A fifth place finish at Breckenridge for Atkins combined with a win by defending Spartan Race World Champion Robert Killian would mean a tie for first between Atkins and Killian.

Atkins made it interesting by finishing in fifth place at Breckenridge. McIntyre could have claimed the title with a win but ultimately finished in fourth place. McIntyre was 24 seconds in front of Atkins and six minutes and 42 seconds behind the winner.

Atkins’ surprising finish also gave Robert Killian a chance to claim first place in the series. With a win at Breckenridge and Atkins finishing in fifth place, Killian and Atkins would have been tied in series points and Killian would have won the tiebreaker by virtue of a better finish at Breckenridge.

Killian fell just short with a second-place finish that was three minutes and 33 seconds behind the winner – Cody Moat.

Stop for a minute. Imagine the controversy that would have resulted from Killian winning the championship on a tiebreaker after the disqualification incidents at Asheville. Spartan is extremely lucky that did not happen. Joe DeSena should thank Cody Moat and take him out for a nice lunch at Zaxby’s.

“The Summit” Results – Breckenridge Beast Elite Men’s Results

2016 Breckenridge Men's Elite Top 10

Ryan Atkins finished the 2016 U.S. Championship Series in first place with 1196 points. Robert Killian finished in second with 1195 points and Hunter McIntyre finished in third with 1194 points. Congratulations to everyone who raced in the Spartan USCS, but especially to these men.

2016 Spartan U.S.C.S. Men's Final Point Totals

In a few weeks,  Spartan will crown their “World Champion” with it’s annual Spartan World Championship Race in Squaw Valley (Tahoe), California.

2016 Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series: Atkins, McIntyre, and Killian fight for first

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 11.48.41 PM
This weekend is the fifth and final race in the Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series. “The Summit” is a Beast-length course with 13+ miles and 30+ obstacles and the course is on the mountains in Breckenridge, Colorado.

There are three men with a legitimate chance to claim the series win, but Ryan Atkins controls his own destiny. Hunter McIntyre and Robert Killian both have a shot, but they need a little help to get there.

At the end of the five-race series, each runner’s lowest individual race score is dropped. By removing each runner’s lowest current score we can see where they stand against each other. A first place finish is worth 300 points, a second place is worth 299 and so on. Atkins has three 1st place finishes for 900 points. McIntyre has one 1st, one 2nd, and one 3rd, for 897 points. Killian has two 2nds and one 3rd for 896 points.

  • If Atkins finishes in 3rd place or better he will be the 2016 Spartan U.S. Champion.
  • If McIntyre finishes in 1st, AND Atkins finishes in 5th place or worse, McIntyre will win the championship.
  • If Killian finishes in 1st, AND Atkins finishes in 6th place or worse, AND McIntyre finishes in 3rd or worse, Killian will win the title.

There are also several ways Spartan could end up with a tie for first place. Here are a few:

  • Atkins and McIntyre tied for first place overall: McIntyre wins, Atkins finishes in 4th.
  • Atkins and Killian tied for first place overall: Killian wins, Atkins finishes in 5th.
  • McIntyre and Killian tied for first place overall: Killian wins, McIntyre finishes in 2nd, Atkins finishes 6th or worse.
  • Three Way Tie for first place overall: Killian wins, McIntyre finishes in 2nd, Atkins finishes in 5th.

Any one of those scenarios could easily happen. Ryan Atkins could save Spartan from doing a lot of math (although honestly, we already did it for them. We’re happy to show our work Joe) by winning his fourth series race in five outings.

For our analysis of the Women’s U.S. Championship Series, read here.

For all the results as they happen this Saturday, follow ORM on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

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Photo Credits: Spartan Race and Screengrab NBCSN

2016 Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series: Ryan Atkins, Lindsay Webster and destiny

This weekend is the fourth race in the Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series – The Southeast Showdown in Asheville, North Carolina. Ryan Atkins and Lindsay Webster have finished in first place in each of the first three races: the Big Sky Sprint in Montana, the Golden State Classic in California, and the Blue Mountain Challenge in Pennsylvania. With a strong showing this weekend in Asheville, they can lock down the wins in the inaugural U.S. Championship Series and claim the titles of 2016 Spartan Race U.S. Champion.

The Spartan U.S. Championship series is a five race series with the points from an athlete’s four best races counting toward their final standings. First place in a race is worth 300 points, second place is worth 299 points, and so on down the line. A “perfect” score with four (or five) first place finishes is worth 1,200 points.

Mens Standings

Ryan Atkins has finished in first place in each of the first three races. If Atkins finishes in third place or better at either of the last two races he will win the 2016 Spartan Race U.S. Championship. If Atkins finishes in 4th place or worse at BOTH the Asheville Super this weekend and the Breckenridge Beast on August 27th, both Robert Killian and Hunter McIntyre will have a chance at catching him.

Womens Standings

Lindsay Webster is in a similar position as Atkins. She has won all three of the Spartan U.S.C.S. Races so far and can secure first place in the series with a win or second place finish this weekend or at the Breckenridge Beast. If Webster finishes in third or worse at both Asheville AND Breckenridge, she will be within reach of Faye Stenning. If Webster finishes in sixth place or worse at BOTH upcoming races, KK Paul and Rose Wetzel will also have a shot at first place.

For all the results as they happen this Saturday, follow ORM on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

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