When Ryan Kent raced his first Spartan event, he says he got his “butt kicked.” The butt-kicking lit a fire though, and he quickly found his sport. Originally from Yorktown, Virginia, Kent started running when he was four. In college, competing for Concord University, Kent was a conference champion in the 3000-meter steeplechase.
We recently caught up with Kent, who explained how he tweaked his off-season prep for 2018—including a major reduction in overall running mileage. However this pans out for him in the lead up to the U.S. Spartan Championships, it doesn't seem like he sacrificed much in early season running speed: He finished second at the series opener in San Jose this past weekend.
How did your off-season training go?
It’s been going great! I decided to take a little different approach this off-season, as far as preparation goes, compared to years past. Typically, I spent winter months running lots of miles, anywhere from 60-90 miles per week. I’d even begin doing tempo runs and interval sessions in January. And that usually lead up to a great first half of the season and probably a mid-season plateau. And I’d hope to rebound in time for Spartan World Champs. As difficult as it’s been for me to do, I haven’t been doing much running at all these past few months. Pretty much all I’ve been doing is weight/circuit training. Some pool and rower sessions for cardio, but very little running. The plan going into 2018 was to spend a few months building the strongest, most durable version of myself. I wanted my body to feel bulletproof. And once I felt I was ready, I would then start to implement more running into the regimen. This strategy might not bode so well for races early in the year, but my cardiovascular fitness is going to be on a continuous rise as the season progresses.
Do you do the bulk of your training alone?
Pretty much all of my training is done solo. I don’t mind the occasional workout with friends, but I’m just used to doing things alone. When I’m training I prefer to focus on the task at hand, think about my competition, and all the goals I have set for myself and how I plan to accomplish them. It may sound selfish to some, but really it’s about having zero distractions.
What’s your secret weapon for recovery?
For me personally, sleep is everything. I typically need at least nine hours a night if I want to be able to tackle the next days workouts at a high level. I don’t always get that, but my body and mind love it when I do. In addition, after particularly demanding sessions I’ll sit in an ice tub for about 12 to 15 minutes. Once my legs thaw out, I immediately follow that up with a 20-to-25-minute hot epsom salt bath. It keeps my muscles feeling loose, fresh, and rejuvenated for the next day.
What race in the U.S. Series do you most look forward to?
West Virginia! I finished 2nd there last year, and hope to top that in 2018 with a victory. I also grew up across the border in Virginia, and actually went to college about 30 minutes from that venue. Needless to say, that part of the country and I have a history together.
What’s a favorite exercise for you currently?
Squats or Cleans are probably my favorite exercise right now. And as far as workouts go, probably anything that Spartan coach Yancy Culp programs for me over at YancyCamp. His workouts are always exciting and challenging. Here’s a workout that everyone can attempt, but be sure to pace yourself. It can go from aerobic to anaerobic real quick if you don’t.
1 min run (aerobic effort) + 2 burpees
1 min run + 4 burpees
1 min run + 6 burpees
1 min run + 8 burpees
1 min run + 10 burpees
1 min run + 2 burpees, 2 dumbbell snatches (1/3 body weight if possible)
1 min run + 4 burps, 4 db snatches
1 min run + 6 burps, 6 db snatches
1 min run + 8 burps, 8 db snatches
1 min run + 10 burps, 10 db snatches
1 min run + 2 burps, 2 db snatches, 12 pull ups
1 min run + 4 burps, 4 db snatches, 14 pull ups
1 min run + 6 burps, 6 db snatches, 16 pull ups
1 min run + 8 burps, 8 db snatches, 18 pull ups
1 min run + 10 burps, 10 db snatches, 20 pull-ups
What advice do you typically give out to a beginner in the OCR world?
It really depends what your goal is. If it’s to finish a Spartan Race, I’d say just go out and have a lot of fun and don’t worry about time. I’d also be willing to bet you’ll meet some pretty cool people throughout the course. On the other hand, if your goal is to beat me one day (Kent says with a wink), I’d say do as many races as you can, so you can gather the experience and feel of what it’s like to red-line in a Spartan Race. Almost anybody can complete an obstacle when they take rest breaks, but how will you do when you’re fatigued and that heart rate is sky high? The only way to know is to put yourself out there and do it, over and over and over again.
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