Train Like a Champion: A Q&A with Spartan Champ Rebecca Hammond
We all want to know: What makes the best-of-the-best Spartan athletes out there tick? How do they keep their edge? In our Train Like A Champ series, we dig into the details of the training, nutrition, mindset, and more that keeps our most epic athletes on top.
Spartan champion Rebecca Hammond (@becchamm) may be tending to an injury, but she remains focused and confident in the North American Championships and the World Championships this year.
The Harvard Medical School grad and Spartan pro shifted her training, focused more on recovery, and has learned many lessons that any Spartan would be wise to apply themselves.
Spartan.com got the exclusive on Hammond’s most recent training plan, her secrets to gaining a mental edge on the course, plus what makes her a real-life Spartan.
Check out what a FULL week of Spartan Rebecca Hammond's Workouts Looks Like
A Q&A With Spartan Rebecca Hammond
SPARTAN RACE: How did you get hooked on racing?
SPARTAN REBECCA HAMMOND: I enjoyed CrossFit and was good at the more endurance-y workouts that involved running or rowing. I also had started rock climbing. So, one of my buddies from CrossFit said, "Hey, obstacle racing is kind of like long-distance CrossFit. Did you ever think about that?” I tried one out and was immediately hooked. So, yeah, I guess CrossFit was my gateway drug.
SR: How would you say Spartan Racing carried over into other parts of your life?
RH: The workouts sort of structured my life in a way. My whole year feels like it's structured around the races, which is kind of nuts. But I feel like even the non-professionals feel that way too, and it’s pretty cool. It's cool that you don't have to be a professional athlete to get the same weird proxy for meaning that competition gives to me.
Spartan is a way for me to be present in my body and a way for me to access intensity that I crave in life. And I think for a lot of people it helps them feel like they're part of something bigger because there's the whole community. It so meaningful for so many people and that feels beautiful. It feels great.
SR: What do you consider when you're designing your programming?
RH: I think about the distance of the race as well as the terrain. It's mostly endurance training, especially for mountainous and high altitude races so I always make sure that I'm getting in enough miles.
SR: What about strength or obstacle training?
RH: I have been doing more strength training this year, but it’s still mostly running stuff. I think my upper body strength is pretty decent so I don't worry too much about that. But that could be different for other athletes.
Related: Spartan's 5 Toughest Obstacles—And How To Train For Them
SR: How do you know when to push and when it’s time to pull back?
RH: I’ve used a WHOOP to tell me about my recovery. When I was a med student with tough hours everything with my body was unpredictable because I would be so sleep deprived. Right now I'm not as sleep deprived so if I follow my training program it’s usually okay.
I take one day completely off, have one day that’s pretty easy, and one that’s really long. If I stick to that, I’m good. And if I’m feeling really crappy one day then I’ll switch things around.
SR: What does your recovery look like?
RH: I really enjoy those squeezy boots, the NormaTec boots, but my main thing is foam rolling with a tennis ball. I do that multiple times in a week. If I'm getting ready for a big race, I will incorporate ice bathing and do a lot of massage work with my massage therapist once a week or every other week.
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What's the next best thing to running along the Charles River? Pulling a tire along the Charles River. What you lose in speed you gain in high fives from bewildered onlookers. Like, 5 high fives per hour. . I got this exercise (and sweet set up) from @enduranceproject_dwep . It beats other forms of crosstraining not only because you get to be outside and moving, but also because the movement promotes good running form. The tire provides resistance such that you can get your heart rate up as if you were running but with the impact on your joints of walking. . #ocrtraining #spartanrace #spartanpro #familyoffast #endurelite #dwep #bostonskyline #charlesriveresplanade
On Diet & Nutrition
SR: How about your pre or post-race nutrition?
RH: A general rule, I try to consume carbs before and after my workouts. I actually wasn't aware how important consuming carbs after you workout was until I started working with my sponsor. I've since looked into the research, and it is important to replenish your carbs after working out. I have a mixture of protein and carbs, but mostly carbs, then in an hour or two or whenever I'm hungry, I have a larger meal with plenty of protein in it.
SR: How would you describe your diet?
RH: I try to make sure that I'm eating a lot of veggies. That's sort of my main thing. It's not difficult for me to consume enough protein or carbs because I like carbs and protein. The thing that's easiest for me to skip is veggies, so I really try to focus on that.
Related: 5 Jaw-Dropping Spartan Transformations
SR: In all of your years as an athlete, what have you learned about your body?
RH: I’m not invincible. My body needs to recover. And that’s a fairly recent lesson. Before I hurt my achilles I never had any acute injuries. I sort of only focused on my training, but now learned the importance of recovery. It’s an active process that I can very much participate in.
On the Mental Game
SR: What do you do to mentally prepare for a race or intense training session?
RH: I'm an over thinker and I get nervous about races. My stepmom suggested I visualize floating through the obstacles, going through them in an easy, graceful way. I think that calms me because it makes me more confident. It flexes my muscle memory and the parts of my brain that control those muscles that are involved in going through the obstacles.
SR: What inspires you?
RH: It's rare that I have a moment where I can really be present in my environment and in my body but intense exercise helps me get to that point.
Racing to me feels like life or death so it takes my mind off of everything else. In a weird way, the intensity of racing and competing at that high level helps relax me in a broader sense.
You're really pushing your body to its limit during the race. We're doing a hard workout. To have that sort of adrenaline rush, the high, the endorphins, after an intense race, it’s sort of a proxy for meaning to me.
SR: Do you have a mantra?
RH: “I can only do my best.” It sort of not only implies that you can't do better than your best, but it also implies that the only option is to do your best.
I also try to remind myself that there are things I can control and things I cannot control. I can’t control the conditions of the race or the competition, but I can control how I think. All I can do is my best and there’s no use in doubting myself.
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Rare shot of me wearing the @spartan headband. . I ran a clean race today in Alabama, good enough for a podium spot behind @nickeldm and @lindsaydawnwebster ! WOO!!! At 7wks running, 1wk of strength, it's all coming along. Im pumped for the season, guys 💹 👊 . P.S. I almost missed the race, I'm glad PerformElite has caffeine in it bc there was no time for coffee... . 💪Coached by @enduranceproject_dwep and @mightymight88 🔥Fueled by @endurelite . 🚄Trained at @bkbx and @brooklynboulders . . 📸 @spartanrace #familyoffast #bodybypiseth #makeadventureyoursport #spartanusns2019 #spartanalabama #spartanrace #spartanwomen