Train Like a Pro: Robert Killian

Robert-Killian-2017-Spartan-Pro-Card

Success came early in Robert Killian’s Spartan career. In his fourth Spartan event, he won the 2015 Spartan World Championship. Most of his success from that race can be traced back to his first event, a Spartan Beast he ran four months earlier in Breckenridge, Colorado, where he placed 3rd overall. Breckenridge is known for having a high elevation gain and being one of Spartan’s toughest races.  “When I did that race, I kind of was like, ‘Okay, this must be what all the races are like. This is how I have to prepare,’” he recalls.  Because of Breckenridge, Killian immediately began running more mountains, carrying everything from sandbags to logs, and increasing his grip strength.

Although, at the time, he’d only run in four Spartan races, that doesn’t mean he was inexperienced. Before ever attempting a Spartan race, Killian had already won numerous triathlons, competed internationally on the Army Biathlon team, and won both the individual and team categories of the military division at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. He was also named 2010 Army Athlete of the Year. 

Robert-Killian-Obstacle-In-Fatigues

Killian has served in the United States military for about fifteen years. During that time, he was able to participate in numerous competitions, gaining experience moving through obstacles. Though they were urban obstacles, Killian had to learn how to properly navigate terrain, move through windows and tunnels, repel, and even climb chain ladders. “It just kind of became second nature,” he explains. “We’d do it so much that once I was introduced to OCR on a normal course, it was just a combination of all the running and orienteering that I had done in the military.” 

After winning the World Championship, Killian joined the Spartan Pro Team and was able to use 2016 as the first year he could dedicate to being a professional athlete. In the inaugural Spartan U.S. Championship series, he finished 2nd overall and never finished worse than 3rd in any of the five series races. When it came to the 2016 Spartan World Championship race, he narrowly missed defending his title, placing 3rd, under three minutes behind winner Hobie Call. Six weeks later, Killian and partner, Chad Trammell, placed 2nd at World’s Toughest Mudder, completing a remarkable 100 miles in 24hrs. Outside of OCR, Capt. Killian won the 2016 Best Ranger Competition with partner, Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, becoming the first National Guard duo to do so. 

Robert-Killian-Cycling

To maintain such a high level of performance, Killian continues to focus on cycling, swimming, mountain running and cross training. Many days, he does what he refers to as “power hours.” “Every hour I take five or ten minutes just to do one OCR task,” he explains. This includes carrying a sandbag, spending time on his rig, and climbing his rock wall. In order to help prevent over-training, Killian sticks to workouts that involve what he would see in a race.

The below workout is one that Killian includes in his training program on LeaderBoard. He uses it to practice throwing the spear and performing heavy sandbag carries during stressed effort levels. You will want a station set up for the spear with two or three spears and a 40-pound sandbag (or bucket) ready to go. For more information on LeaderBoard, stick around at the end of the article.


Robert-Killian-Spear-Throw

WARM UP

  • 5-minute progressive warm up jog. Start easy and build up to a moderate pace.
  • Dynamic Drills (10-15 minutes)
    • Two or Three 50-Meter Strides – Run just shy of max speed for the allotted distance.
    • High Knees – Concentrate on ensuring your knees are getting at least as high as your waist. Make sure that you stay on the balls of your feet.
    • Butt Kicks – While keeping your upper body straight, run while bringing your ankles up to touch your butt. Try to keep from kicking your whole leg back. Your knees shouldn’t pass behind your body.
    • Skips – Like high knees, try to get your knee to come up to your waist. While one knee is up, the other foot should “skip” off the ground. Alternate between left and right legs.
    • Walking Lunges – Step out with one foot, keeping the knee at a 90-degree angle. Try not to let your opposite knee touch the ground. Bring the back foot forward so that leg is now the front leg, again, keeping your knee at 90-degrees. Don’t let it pass in front of your toes.
    • Karaoke – Move side to side, crossing your trailing foot in front of the other, then behind it. Allow your hips to twist as you go. Alternate going to the left and then to the right.
    • Progression Sprints for 100 Meters – Slowly build up speed until you are running at almost a full sprint.
    • Jumping Jacks – Start with your feet together and hands at your sides. Bend slightly at the knees and jump a couple inches off the ground, bringing arms up above your head and your legs out to the side. Jump again and bring your arms and legs back to the starting position.
    • Side to Side Ski Hops – Stand feet together, bend at the knees and bring your hips back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle. Bend your arms like you would if you were holding ski poles. Jump up and to the left. As you’re jumping, allow your arms to come up, bringing them back down when you land. Repeat to the right.

Robert-Killian-Sandbag-Carry

MAIN SET

800 meter runs should be performed at a 10k race pace. Do 10 penalty burpees for each missed spear throw.

  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.

Writer’s Tip: Try to maintain the 10k pace, especially early on. You may be tempted to run the first couple 800m at a quick pace.

COOL DOWN

  • 5-10 minute light jog or walk. Then stretch the major muscle groups.
  • Go for an easy one-mile run.

 

Robert-Killian-and-his-son

 

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Robert for providing this workout. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

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LeaderBoard is where Killian and fellow Spartan Pro Team member, Brakken Kraker, coach elite athletes. Anyone can sign up for a free LeaderBoard Takeoff, to get an idea of how the program works. During the two-week Takeoff, athletes will complete five “Benchmark” tests. After completing a few of these tests, the athlete will be invited to a one-on-one chat with either Kraker or Killian in order to personalize his or her training.

After the Takeoff is complete, you can book a free seven day trial of either one’s program, plus a discount after the trial is up. The full program is personalized and includes a community chat, so you can communicate with other athletes or the coaches at any time. For more information, go to www.leaderboardfit.com.

For those just getting into OCR, or looking to take the next step beyond an open heat, Killian recently introduced his 12-week SGX program on LeaderBoard. Included in the program are detailed workouts, instructional videos, plus technique and pacing tips. Athletes also receive discounts on gear, nutrition products and non-elite wave races. To sign up go to https://leaderboardfit.com/signup-sgx/.

Photo Credit: Robert Killian, Spartan Race, NBC

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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