New Spartan Rules : Yancy Culp Speaks Out

Editor’s note : Yancy Culp is arguably the most prolific trainer in OCR these days. Through Yancy Camp, his training programs and stable of trainers (which includes Matt Novakovich, Ryan Kent, Rose Wetzel, and April Dee), have become one the leading resources for hundreds of athletes in our sport. The following are his views regarding the recent Spartan Rule announcement. This announcement includes changes which state Spartan Gear must be worn on the podium at all Spartan Races. We’ll include a link to his website at the bottom of his article.

Since the rules changes were shared around on Facebook I’ve been able to talk to a lot of people through phone calls, text messages, social messaging, and email. I have great appreciation for both sides of this discussion. I fully support a company’s right to outline rules and conduct as they see fit. I also understand the top level athletes showing concern when levels of control are put in place. It’s a great discussion to have early on in a sports infancy. Spartan has performed far beyond and accomplished more than most of us could have ever thought possible for our sport of OCR in a short period of time. I’m one of the biggest supporters of Spartan and the entire OCR racing community. The racing experiences they have provided for us over the past 5+ years has been nothing short of amazing. Many like to say, “the sport is so young”, “we’re not there yet”, “we’ll never be big like other sports”, etc. Try and find another sport that had as much success as OCR during the first few years of existence. I’m willing to bet you can’t find one. Basketball started out with a group shooting homemade balls in to a bushel basket. They weren’t as far along as OCR was five years in. I think it’s safe to say Basketball has made it to the big time. I could go on for days providing other examples.

We’ve moved very fast and Spartan has done an exceptional job keeping their foot on the gas. Because of great organizations/leagues, employees, sponsors, television networks, fans, and high performance athletes, there are sports that aren’t on the excitement scale of OCR who have had a crazy level of success while generating billions of dollars.

One problem that comes up when topics like this surface is the fact that some get extreme with their rhetoric vs trying to understand the topic from both sides. People will lash out with rhetoric that serves little to no purpose while a graciously direct conversation can go on in the middle and things can get accomplished.

Spartan has to operate under a budget watching P&L’s, EBITDA numbers, etc. and at the end of quarters and annually, they have to show success and profit. The television networks have to do the same thing. The high level athletes who have brought a lot to the sport and have been a big part of the success also have to operate under a budget. Most organizations in the sport of OCR have aligned their races in a way to create high level competition and OCR is a sport. Without the top level athletes you have a televised event. With the top level athletes you have an edge of your seat viewing experience that’s a full blown race! If you watched the NBC and CBS televised races on Christmas Day 2016 you saw how the networks spent a lot of time showing the audience top level athletes going toe to toe out on course. The viewers start following the top level athletes and all successful sports have top level athletes creating edge of your seat excitement. We love it and we always will!

The sport has top level athletes grooming their work schedules and teaming with sponsors in a way that allows them as much time at possible to train and race. There are also athletes who are earning enough money with the sport to train and race full time. Some of the athletes in both categories are accomplishing this because of support from the race organizations they align with and they receive additional sources of revenue from other sponsors. Because of the high level athletes who dedicate a huge amount of time annually training, the sport has worked its way in to a situation where the athletes are arguably being considered some of it not the best athletes on the planet. We are also a sport now where top level athletes from other sports can’t waltz in and knock off our top level athletes.

Podium Shot

Up to this point, Spartan and other OCR organizations have allowed athletes to use their bodies and garments to market their sponsors, which as Spartan recently said, has played a key role in the development of the sport. In my opinion, this has been a very smart move on their part and I hope rules and conduct continue to allow this to take place in a way where the athletes can continue using their body and garments to support their sponsors. A very large majority of the top level athletes are in agreement. There are great examples where this has been very successful and there are examples where athletes have been overly controlled. Golf is an example many don’t think about. When you watch golf on television you’ll see almost every golfer wearing different hats, visors, shirts, using different clubs, balls, golf bags, etc. There is definitely a level of control in place with golf but the athletes have the freedom to promote their sponsors. Golf is performance based. Prize winnings can be very high if you perform well and sponsorships can be huge. Like most other sports, when you watch golf on television, the top golfers get the majority of the air time. They get to show off their sponsors and a healthy amount of money is earned. There are other sports models that have had similar success where the athletes make a very nice living. In other successful sports there are strong league minimums where the lowest paid athletes are paid very well and the highest performing athletes earn huge annual salaries. In most if not all the cases listed above, all the people involved in making the sport great are making a good living off the sport. Both models can work very well. The Track and Field/Athletics comparison is brought up a lot in the world of OCR conversations. This is in large part because the majority of top level athletes in the sport make very little money and the athletes consider the model unfair. Their bodies and garments they wear are also heavily controlled which doesn’t create a situation where outside sponsors want to give them any attention and create partnerships. I personally know that a vast majority of top level athletes in the sport of OCR do not want a model that would ever look like track and field.

My next point may ruffle some feathers but I think it’s important to bring up. Imagine if you were a top level athlete in your sport and the organization/league/federation was involved in very large sponsorship deals and you were paid very little to no income. Imagine being controlled to the point to where outside sponsors weren’t interested in teaming with you because you had very little ability to market their brand during competitions, on podiums, etc. Imagine being that high level athlete and being the lowest paid individual in the ranks of all involved in making the sport what it is. In the world of Track & Field, this is the case.

We are knee deep in an awesome time in our sports history where Spartan Race along with NBC and a lot of top level athletes are creating amazing viewing experiences. We’re moving in to the 5th year of NBC televised Spartan events. It has been successful! Without a level of success, there’s no way NBC could continue putting together a budget to come back each year. Private business just doesn’t work that way. Now we have Tough Mudder partnering with CBS and they will have seven televised races in 2017 which follow up the successful World’s Toughest Mudder race that aired on Christmas Day. The top level athletes have been a huge part of the success. Many top level athletes rely on outside sponsors to help supplement their ability to train and race full time or as much as possible. When Spartan launched the latest rule changes, it was presented in a way that the majority of top level athletes didn’t know about the changes until after they were already posted. Most can probably understand why the top level athletes would be alarmed when they saw the new rules being posted around social media by individuals who found them on the website. The rules stated you are required to wear the Spartan issued headband for the entire race and purposely discarding headband during the course of the event will be subject to DQ & In order to be eligible for awards racers agree to wear a Spartan branded finisher shirt or other shirt of Spartan’s choosing for any award ceremony and promotional photos. It also discussed consent to WADA drug testing which is a rule I’m confident the majority of the top level athletes are excited about.

I think most, including myself, understand why Spartan and other organizations need to have some level of control in place to ensure corporate sponsors are happy and for other reasons. I also think it’s important for people to understand why most top level athletes don’t want their bodies and garments controlled at a level that would inhibit their ability to promote their sponsors. There is common ground here for sure.

Yancy and Morgan

I’ll close with something that I feel can be a game changer in a world where there seems to be a lack of civility often times when processes, issues, challenges, and decisions are being made. No matter if you’re knee deep in the middle of what’s happening, or on the outside looking in, avoiding snap extreme decisions with your actions and words can go a long way in helping promote graciously direct dialogue and actions which is where great things get accomplished. Avoiding the extremes on both side will almost always put you and everyone involved in a better situation.

Much love to everyone involved in making the past 5-6 years an amazing experience for us all. From Austin Texas, here’s to an awesome year of training and racing.

2.3.17 Update to this article – A conversation with Joe Di from Spartan Race.

 

Learn more about Yancy Camp here:

Yancy Camp

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:

A Day in the Life of…Miguel Medina

Follow along as we examine the daily routine of elite obstacle course racer Miguel Medina to get a feel for how he mixes training and racing into his already busy life.  With over 10 podium finishes spanning stadium races to ultra-distance events, including a 1st place team finish at WTM in 2014 and a 2nd place finish at the 2015 Spartan Race Ultra Beast Championships, there is no question that this Spartan Pro Team and SISU Pro Team member fits into the class of elite obstacle course racers.  However, there’s more to Miguel than OCR.

Miguel Medina Spartan Ultra Beast

Miguel Medina (left) on the Spartan Race Ultra Beast Podium

5:30 am:  Alarm goes off.  The sun may not be up yet, but Miguel Medina is.  The 27-year-old Torrance, California, native doesn’t even give the snooze button a second look.  After answering nature’s call for himself, he lets his three dogs outside…nature is calling them as well.  Back inside, he starts a pot of coffee while stretching and getting warmed up for the day.  Then Miguel heads out the door for what Coach Yancy Culp calls his ‘daily necessity run’.  Miguel uses this three miles of relaxed aerobic running to clear his mind so he can concentrate on the day ahead.

Miguel Medina Necessity Run

Miguel during his morning necessity run

6:45 am:  Back from his run, Miguel feeds the pups and preps his breakfast shake.  After downing breakfast (a shake made from flax milk, kale, banana, oatmeal, flax, and chia seeds), Miguel hits the showers, puts on a polo or a shirt and tie, pulls back that famous long hair, and heads to work.

Miguel Medina Breakfast Shake

Typical ingredients for a Miguel Medina breakfast

7:30 am:  The commute is not arduous.  Since moving to Ft. Collins, Colorado, this year, Miguel has started working from home as a Medical Interpreter and Translator.  If you’ve been following OCR for several years, you probably already know this, having seen a hypoxic Miguel on 60 Minutes Sports, tearing off his training mask and testifying, “I’m a medical interpreter”.  What the heck is a Medical Interpreter and Translator?  Picture sitting at your desk in your office when a Skype call comes in.  On the other end of the call are a Doctor and Patient, one of which speaks Spanish, the other English.  Miguel’s job is to bridge the cultural and linguistic gaps in communication between the two.  It requires effective communication skills with an understanding of both cultures.  In any given conversation, he could be communicating the topics of neurology, nephrology, gastroenterology, psychiatry, nutritional science, etc. in two languages with two people from vastly different backgrounds.  He says every day is a little different.  Although the job can be very challenging, it is also very rewarding because Miguel gets to help people who may have some very serious health problems.  Without Miguel, they would have difficulty getting treatment.  Miguel fields calls from around the U.S. off-and-on all day long.

Miguel Medina Medical Interpreter

The Medical Interpreter in Action

In between calls, Miguel is squeezing in some basic movements, like the stationary bike, pull-ups, Turkish get-ups, or stretching.  Anything to get his heart rate up in the 135-145 range.  He also squeezes in snacks all day, such as carrots, celery, and cherry tomatoes, as well as peanut butter and some awesome and healthy cookies made by his girlfriend Meredith.  Lunch is eaten on-the-fly as well, and today includes a vegetable curry with cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes, garlic, onion, kale, and some legumes.

Miguel Medina Typical Lunch

A typical Miguel Medina working lunch

He also uses the time in between calls to catch up on questions from his Yancy Camp athletes and have his almost daily conversations with Coaches Yancy Culp and Richard Diaz, his BFF Hunter McIntyre, and his family.

4:00 pm:  The medical interpreter clocks out, and the obstacle course racer clocks in.  After work you’ll find Miguel on the trails, at the track, or at the gym.  For roughly three hours a day, he’s running, bouldering, rock climbing, swimming, doing crossfit, or lifting heavy things.  You will also find Miguel knocking out one of his Yancy Camp prescribed workouts, a sadistic mix of aerobic run, tempo run, speed run, burpee, pull up, burpee pull up, farmer’s carry, sandbell snatch, sandbell step up, sandbell squat, lunge, weighted lunge, or some other form of body torture.  Once the season picks up, those three-hour training sessions will be extended to almost six hours.  Miguel is especially psyched today because he is going to his new favorite gym in Ft. Collins, Maniac’s, where the highlight of the workout will be tire drags in the parking lot.  Miguel says he listens to a variety of music while he works out, including classic rock and metal, but his playlist lately has shifted into a lot of electronic music.  Maniac’s is totally cool with that.

Miguel Medina Tire Drag

Miguel (right) drags a tire at Maniac’s

7:00 pm:  Just getting out of the gym, Miguel and his girlfriend will typically pick up something for dinner to save a little time.  Not tonight, though, for tonight there’s a big roast in the oven with some sprouted bread and a ton of vegetables.  We’re talking 4-6 services of vegetables, which Miguel insists is a requirement for the OCR lifestyle.  He tends to avoid alcohol so it doesn’t distract from his goals this season.  The remainder of the evening is spent discussing plans for the upcoming weekend with his girlfriend, playing with the dogs, and catching up on questions from Yancy Camp athletes.

10:00 pm: In bed, after a long day of working and training there will be no problem going to sleep tonight.

Stats for the Average Day
Sleeping:  7.5 hours
Eating:  1 hour
Working Out:  3 hours
Working:  8 hours
Driving:  0 hours
Rearing Children (well, pets):  1 hour
Other (Yancy Camp, Phone Calls, etc.):  3.5 hours

Miguel Medina Family

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Up for a challenge?  Join Team Medina at www.YancyCamp.com