It’s a common understanding that being a professional endurance athlete demands dedication and focus, and the phrase "You have to be selfish" is a fair description. But what happens when two professional, world-class athletes are a couple? When they both have to be selfish to achieve their goals?
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we caught up with OCR's resident power couple (and 2021 Spartan World Champions), Lindsay Webster and Ryan Atkins, to get insight into how their relationship is a plus when it comes to pursuing their mutual passion and profession. The Spartan world champions also shared some of their habits in the kitchen, took us inside their cross-training world, and provided a couple of badass couples workouts to get you and your partner race ready.
The Spartan Interview: Ryan Atkins and Lindsay Webster
Spartan Race: A relationship between two professional athletes, competing in an incredibly demanding sport, must be challenging. What are the positives and negatives?
Ryan Atkins: I think, overall, it definitely strengthens the relationship. I feel that, just like any couple who shares something, there can be lots of moments of lifting each other up, inspiring each other, and being there for one another. But when things are hard — like a bad race or an injury, or just a bad day — sometimes it's natural to compare yourselves. This can put a strain on you. We are lucky that we are both fairly relaxed and rational when it comes to our training and competing, so it doesn't get too complicated for us.
Lindsay Webster: I feel really lucky that Ryan and I get to share this lifestyle together. I honestly don't understand how couples where only one person is a pro athlete do it. Being an athlete is all about your nutrition, sleep, and planning your day around what will be an optimal training schedule. We share our tasks and obligations to balance our energy levels. If one of us has had a really hard workout that day, the other person gets to shovel the two feet of snow off the driveway. We also get to travel to all of these incredible places together and share some really memorable experiences, instead of having to be separated from each other for weeks at a time.
How They Support Each Other
SR: In terms of training and racing, how do you support one another?
LW: Ryan is my sounding board. If I find myself second-guessing my training, or getting ready for a race, it's nice to have someone to run things by.
For example, before races we also like to go over the course map together and share ideas about what parts we think will be challenging.
RA: We support each other in a lot of ways. It could be as simple as making a smoothie for the other person after a hard workout. Or it could mean watching a particularly hard training session and moving weights around, or treadmill settings for the other person, at the right time. But the most important support is having someone there to encourage and talk to about pretty much everything — everything from nutrition to training to mindset.
How They Coexist in the Kitchen
SR: Considering the range of diets in the endurance world, do you share a similar approach to nutrition? Or do you clash in the kitchen?
RA: Lindsay and I both follow very common nutritional habits among top endurance athletes. Having good nutrition is not that complicated, but it takes some time and practice to get it right. I think there is so much misinformation about fad diets, and having each other helps to not be tempted into following some of the sillier ideas out there.
LW: It's also remarkable how much we like the same foods. If we go to a restaurant together, more often than not we'll pick the same thing off of the menu.
Sometimes we'll order two items with the idea that we’re going to share, but usually that doesn't go well because we're both hungry athletes, and we forget to share half with the other person before we've eaten it all.
The Better Cook Is...
SR: Who is the better cook?
RA: Definitely Lindsay! She loves cooking and baking, and she's always coming up with great ideas about how to make the best meals that are tasty and nutritious.
LW: I love cooking and baking. I want to make a career out of it one day. While I would say that I'm the better cook knowledge-wise, Ryan is no slouch! He can pull random things out of a fridge and turn them into a delicious meal, which — to me — is the sign of a good chef. He understands how flavors work together.
How They Spice Up Their Training
SR: Ryan, you’ve talked about how you like to spice up your training with activities like ice climbing, mountain biking, and blasting a long run up and down a mountain to keep things fresh. Do you two share in these kinds of training adventures?
RA: You pretty much nailed it. We like doing all those activities together. We can usually find a way to make it work so we both get to have fun at our own comfort levels and speeds, and we both get a good training effect. That might mean me cross-country skiing ahead and then circling back to Lindsay, or just doing our warm-ups and cool-downs together.
LW: Climbing, road and mountain biking, skiing, cross-country skiing ... you name it. We both cross-train a lot and enjoy the same sports. Lately, Ryan's gotten into tele-skiing, which he'll do while I snowboard. I'm a bit slower on the snowboard than I am on downhill skis, so I like to challenge myself, and having Ryan on tele-skis means it's a good slower speed for us both.
Couples Workouts to Get You and Your Partner Race Ready
SR: If you were having dinner with another couple that was getting into obstacle course racing, and they asked you for ideas on how they should train together, what would you suggest?
RA: You could go to a track and, while one person runs a 400-meter repeat, the other person does squats and other bodyweight exercises. After a lap, you switch! Keep going until you’ve covered 5 kilometers.
LW: We like to do interval sessions together. Obviously we're not the same speed, but we'll do hill repeats, for example, where we're on the same hill and doing the same workout. When we pass each other, we'll get to encourage each other, and it's nice to have someone to suffer with. Sometimes Ryan will give me a head start and he has to try and catch me. It's motivating for both of us!