This article was originally published on the Spartan Race website.
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New Year is right around the corner (can you believe it?). We don’t know about you, but we’re stoked to boot 2019 goodbye, and bring on 2020. To get ahead of next week’s holiday shuffle around booze, food, family, fun — and hopefully, working out — we sat down with Spartan Champion Robert Killian to talk fitness resolutions and how to set legit goals. Instead of waiting until Jan 1 when ‘New Year, new you’ kicks in, (because we don’t believe in going nuts on holiday nosh or slacking off), we asked Killian for his best tips to start NOW. Learn what he does to set realistic — but badass — fitness goals. Get clear in your intentions with his advice below, and prep yourself to blast into 2020 like a champ. Plus, try his high-intensity New Year workout to push yourself today and prove that with focus and dedication, you can do just about anything.
Related: 12 Days of Fitness
SPARTAN RACE: How do you I.D. what your fitness goals should be?
ROBERT KILLIAN: I prioritize what races I feel are the most important and make those my “A” race. I usually target the most competitive events as my most important races; hence the Spartan Race World Championships because it has by far the most competitive field of athletes. I may have other events I attend with a different goal than winning — like a great threshold training workout or seeing where my competition is. For my “A” races, I train based on the terrain and course, as well as the distance because those are the most important “natural obstacles” outside of weather.
SR: What’s the best way to track your goals? What really works for you?
RK: I use a GPS watch and Strava App on my phone. This helps me keep up with weekly mileage, elevation gain, personal records and also how many miles I’m putting on my shoes; which a lot of people don’t think about or consider. This is a great way to prevent injury because your shoes do have a limit (normally around 300 miles). I also track my sleep and overall day strain using the Whoop strap. This device has been the biggest game-changer for me by tracing my Heart Rate Variability [the physiological variation in the time interval between heartbeats].
SR: Why is it important to articulate — in some way, shape, form — your fitness goals?
RK: I think it’s important to physically state a goal, not only to yourself but also to others, or even publicly, so you are held more accountable. Of course, there are a few tiers of goals within every event I make that don’t just include winning. For example, I like to set something that’s easy to achieve, like have fun or learning something new. Secondly, it’s about the fitness piece, like hitting the podium or winning overall. Finally, I like to set a goal that’s really hard to obtain like a personal best, course record, or back-to-back laps of the course. I also believe that it’s an important process to set goals, train hard, and achieve what you set out to do. These basic principles can be applied to any aspect of life or work. When you set a goal and tell someone else, often they will help you with your goal; either as a training partner or they might come back and set the same goal for themselves. So I think it’s important for health and companionship wellness. And of course, it’s important to state a goal, so when you do what you say, you have bragging rights! It’s very self gratifying and motivating to complete the process.
SR: What are your goals for 2020, and why?
RK: For 2020 I have two major goals. I want to win the US Championship series and the Trifecta World Championship. I have done everything else in aspects of Spartan Race already in the past four years putting me in a category by myself. So I’ll focus on the Ultra World Champs in 2021. It’s about setting your sights high. If I conquer all three of these goals, that would set me apart from any another OCR athlete in history.
For my fitness and health, I want to focus this season more on strength and mobility training. I have battled some really painful and performance-limiting injuries the past two years, and believe they’re due to racing and traveling too much. This leads to overstressing the body and making it more prone to injury. This year, I want to have a LONG training block to actually improve my fitness versus just being on a maintenance path where I’m in the cycle of minimal training, tapering, racing, and recovering. With this cycle I’m not able to put in the long training blocks I need to improve and be at my absolute best come “A” race day.
SR: What are your best tips for other Spartan racers that will help them get clear on their intentions and make them come to life?
RK: The biggest advice I can give is to find happiness being outdoors in nature and challenging the limits of the human body; both mentally and physically. It’s a well known fact that completing something extremely challenging sticks in your memories much longer than anything else. I can’t think of a Spartan Race I’ve been to that after the event I didn’t hear EVERYONE who raced talk over and over about their experience. You just have to get out and do it; after that you’ll be hooked. There’s a reason why the Spartan motto is: “You’ll know at the finishing line”. And I couldn’t agree more with that feeling you get after sacrificing so much: devoting time to train (often early mornings or after work), mental and physical preparation, traveling to the venue, and properly fueling your body just to name a few.
SR: Why is your New Year workout, below, ultra effective for intention setting in 2020?
RK: This high-intensity workout requires a lot of mental focus to keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, i.e. threshold training. It’s much like setting a goal, and then taking specific focused action to do the required work to achieve it. Most strictly, running or even weight lifting workouts require you to push yourself, but often you’re still in HR zone 2-3 where you still feel relaxed and can even hold a conversation. It’s that crossover between zone 3 to zone 4-5 where you actually have to concentrate on giving harder effort to improve. These types of workouts should only be done 2-3 times per week and other zone 2-3 recovery or stamina type workouts built in for “active recovery”. But they can be crucial in showing you, in one day, that you can achieve what you set out to do. Just do it.
Start with a Dynamic Warm Up, then run 1 mile at training pace.
4 x rounds
20 x hand release push-ups
20 x weight overhead lunges (20 – 35 lbs sandbag)
1 x 400m sprint, all out
10 x One Arm (each arm) Kettle Hang Clean Press 30-40lbs
20 x Alternating Toe Touches on your back (ab work)
1 x 800m 5k race pace
2 min rest between rounds
5 min sets
Assault Bike or True Form challenge with 10-25 lb weight vest
Start with a dead hang for time. However long you last, subtract that from the five minutes and then go immediately to the Assault Bike / True Form for the remainder of the time. Go until you can no longer dead hang for more than 30 seconds.