Vanessa Gebhardt started doing Spartan Races in 2016, she was looking to push herself outside of her comfort zone. Now a 17-time racer, the 29-year-old has made the podium an astounding 12 different times. Embodying what it means to be a strong female, we caught up with the Spartan fanatic leading up to International Women’s Day, and asked her what keeps her motivated coming back for more time and time again. Follow Vanessa's training and racing here.
Why don’t you start off by telling me what you do for work?
I’ve been working at Freeletics for 5 years now. Starting out as an intern and working up the past 4 years, I’m now a content manager. I always prioritize my training for races, so in addition to my traditional role at the company, I’m an active member of the Freeletics communities around the world and often host bootcamps. It’s really special to connect with so many people with a mutual interest in fitness.
Wow. So correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Freeletics started by a group of three guys? How is it to be a woman in that sort of male-dominated workplace?
It really is exhilarating. I went to school with the three guys who had this idea of creating an app with a personal trainer and bodyweight-only exercises. I began working out with them in the summer of 2012 and started working for them as their very first employee in January 2013.
After my first training with the guys, I was hooked, and after just a few weeks, I was able to beat some of them in our workouts. I became the girl that they didn't want to train with because they knew I was faster, and that was a really great feeling. I wanted to motivate more women to workout with their own bodyweight. So back to the whole bootcamp thing, I started rallying one that was girls only. I’d train with them four times weekly, and really loved showing them that things like push-ups and pullups are not just for men. We don’t need to be so intimidated, you know?
Oh, for sure. So then, how many Spartans have you done?
To date I have completed 17 Spartan races, and I made podium on 12 out of those. When I’m not doing Spartans, I also really enjoy competing in similar endurance races like Survival Run for a little variety.
Why did you start doing Spartan races? I’ve always been eager to push myself to the next level. For me, racing keeps me motivated and helps to push me to be better and stronger. It was natural that I wanted some variety, and I get that in Spartan Races with the variety of obstacles. No two courses are the same. Spartan Races are a unique way to continuously push myself and race alongside both male and female competitors.
What does a typical week of training look like for you?
I usually have my big training sessions on the weekends. That means 2 to 5 hour workouts. During the week I mix it up with different workouts, whether that be yoga and mobility stuff, interval runs or long runs, and some sort of other mixed workout using Freeletics.
What is one of the most memorable moments you’ve had in a race?
Oh there are so, so many. When I won the Ultra Beast in Morzine, I was speechless. The course was absolutely breathtaking and so, so adventurous. But I constantly reflect back to my first podium and first win at the same time in my home town Munich in 2016. It was a truly special moment when I not only conquered a challenge, but it made me want to go further. To do more.
What should women keep in mind when it comes to Spartan?
Spartan is not men’s sport. Spartan is not men’s sport. Spartan is not men’s sport. I can’t say it enough. Every single girl can run those races with the same passion and strength that a man does. And if you want to get ready for one, I would first off recommend setting training “dates” or group workouts. For me, I’ve always found that training in a group helps to motivate and pushed my limits.
A major misconception is that you have to be super athlete to run a Spartan Race. In my mind everybody can run a sprint or super, for sure. Run in a team and help each other motivate your friends during the race and you will have a wonderful time together. It’s always the mind you tries to get into your way. You will be surprised how good and well you going to do and how great you feel when you finish.
That’s inspiring. To finish off, why don’t you fill us in on one tip you’d give to a Spartan newbie?
Stay motivated, push yourself, and listen to your body. It is important to focus on the right nutrition and recovery. It may be one of the challenges that you endure, but the feeling when you finish is unbelievable.