How do elite Spartans optimize their days? When do they wake up and go to sleep, what do they eat, how do they train, how do they stay centered, and how do they balance life and work? We've been asking these questions for years, and now we have the answers. In Spartan Day in the Life, our highest-performing athletes and coaches share the daily routines that make them unbreakable.
Jamie Brusa, Ph.D. is a research biologist at the University of Washington, specializing in wildlife populations. Her current work involves using hierarchical distance modeling to gain insight into the abundance and distribution of harbor seals in the Salish Sea. Living in Bozeman, Mont., she’s also an accomplished Spartan Pro who manages to weave her OCR training into the demands of a life in science.
It’s a lot, and it all requires a steady dose of discipline. Here's how Brusa puts it all together on an average day.
The Life of a Spartan Pro
5:30 to 6:30 a.m. — Wake Up and Work
Brusa doesn’t set an alarm, but she gives herself an hour range of time to wake up. These days, her first action item is a quick check of pandemic numbers — new cases, total vaccinations, and trends — in Montana and across the United States.
She dresses, brushes her teeth, and then heads downstairs to check some emails and do some early-morning work while eating breakfast.
“If it’s Friday, I'll read a couple of articles on ScienceMag.org to try to learn about some things that are totally outside of the areas I study,” Brusa says.
Late Morning: Keep Moving
Most days, Brusa goes back to work at this hour (except for Mondays, when she performs her strength circuit followed by spear throwing and uphill running striders).
The strength circuit takes about 25 to 30 minutes. She describes it as the kind of workout that a mid-distance runner might do.
"[The workout consists of] step-ups, squats, lunges, calf raises, wood chops, pull-ups, deadlifts, and balancing exercises," she says. "Later in the week, I will lift a little heavier and shorter, or focus specifically on improving grip strength.”
Brusa uses a grip strength ball, which climbers often use, and also has a pull-up bar for upper-body strength work.
She hits the showers if she’s finished training for the day, or changes clothes if she has more training planned. Then the scientist gets back to her job with a snack in hand. Stitching training into her work schedule as closely as she does is a massive benefit of working from home.
“My schedule is generally pretty flexible, and I don't lose any time commuting,” Brusa says.
As for what her work as a postdoctoral research scientist looks like, let's just say it's a lot of reading and writing.
“My work generally involves reading peer-reviewed research journal articles, collecting or compiling data, building and testing statistical models, reading more papers to learn how to improve my models, working on writing a research journal article for peer-review, peer-reviewing other researchers' submitted journal articles, and working on creating presentations to communicate research,” she says.
You can imagine how this kind of work could lead to all sorts of problems related to too much sitting at a desk — from mobility to metabolism to circulation issues — but Brusa keeps things moving.
“Working from home also enables me to move around a fair bit throughout the day," she says. "I often move from inside to outside and then back inside, and I alternate between standing, sitting, and laying on the floor.”
Early Afternoon: Working Lunch
“Lunch!” she says. “And I continue working.” For a detailed look at what Brusa eats throughout the day, click here.
Mid-Afternoon: Work (Mostly)
“Depending on the day, I attend online meetings and keep working," Brusa says. "If I don't do my strength exercises in the morning, I'll complete them at this time. If I end up breaking up my run and going shorter in the morning, I'll double in the afternoon. But this is pretty rare because I usually get in all of my miles in the morning.”
On Fridays, Brusa may use this time for form running drills and a light strength session (although sometimes she gets this in in the morning). She usually doesn’t train on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons.
“At some point, I'll usually grab a snack, too,” she says.
Late Afternoon: A Personal Break
“More work," Brusa says. "But I'll take a break to call my mom.”
She may also head out for a walk.
Early Evening to Mid-Evening
Around evening time, the scientist will wrap work up for the day, then finally shift into some downtime, making dinner with her husband. But Tuesdays are different.
“If it is Tuesday, we will have a little snack and then run over to a local park for the running club I lead and complete the week's workout,” she says.
Unsurprisingly, Brusa’s workouts have a scientific sizzle.
“I mix it up to include tempo/anaerobic threshold work, VO2max intervals (a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness), aerobic strength intervals, rhythm work and pace changes, and some speed endurance training in eight-week training blocks,” she says.
The cool down is the jog home, followed by a recovery snack and some quick bodyweight exercises, like single-leg squats, jumps, toe and heel raises, push-ups, and core work.
She'll shower, and then — finally — have dinner and take time to fill out her training log.
“Tuesday evenings are when I do my most substantial workouts of the week," she says. "I'll also do a hard running effort on Friday mornings and sometimes integrate sections of hard running or hit a difficult trail during my long run on Saturday or Sunday.”
Brusa also likes to check on her garden.
Late Evening: Winding Down
“After dinner, I might finish up some lingering work for the day, but I usually spend some time doing something leisurely with my husband before bed,” Brusa says.
The couple might watch something on a streaming network, play video games or cards, read, go for a walk in town, or maybe just enjoy some time talking with each other.
Just before her 9:30 p.m. bedtime, Brusa may get in one last bit of recovery work, spending a few minutes on a foam roller.