Make no mistake about it: Herman Demmink is an exceptional athlete and a brilliant fitness mind. A baseball star in college — he captained a top-ranked Clemson team that reached the College World Series — the 37-year-old spent parts of four seasons in the minor leagues after being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies. In the midst of his pursuit to become a major league ballplayer, he realized his true passion and calling: exercise science and fitness. (When he was in the minors, he actually trained his fellow players, as well as the professional trainers that were hired to train him!)
After his baseball career concluded, he spent six years as the University of Tennessee's Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning, molding and preparing some of the most promising young athletes in America. But still eager and hungry to compete, he took up CrossFit and found instant success, qualifying for the CrossFit Games and ranking in the top 10 nationally in the 35-39 age group.
Spartan Games Primer: Everything You Need to Know About the World's Hardest Extreme Fitness Competition
But despite his talent and pedigree, the reality is that Demmink hasn't trained consistently since 2015. He has worked as a medical sales representative in Tennessee since early 2017, which means that he spends the majority of his day in a car, meeting with clients and taking calls. (His daily commute, each way, is generally about an hour and a half.) He wasn't originally on Spartan's radar for the Spartan Games™, presented by Harley-Davidson — held in Vermont in October 2020 and airing on Spartan's YouTube channel throughout December — but that all changed when DEKA Program Director Yancy Culp witnessed him dominate the competition at a DEKA Strong event in Knoxville weeks earlier.
Culp called Demmink 72 hours prior to the Spartan Games — the hardest extreme fitness competition in the world — and extended an invitation to participate. Completely floored, he accepted despite knowing that, realistically, he was in no condition to compete against some of the fittest athletes on earth.
Using his biomechanics and kinesiology background, he utilized data and analytics to strategically maximize the ensuing 72 hours, while simultaneously arranging travel and family arrangements (and fulfilling his obligations at his day job).
This is how he did it.
72 Hours to Prepare for the Spartan Games
Monday, Oct. 5, 2020
What Happened: At 11:45 p.m., Demmink received a phone call at his Knoxville home, inviting him to participate at the Games in Pittsfield, Vermont. The event was just three days away, and he hadn't trained. In fact, up to that point he had never even heard of the event.
The Mindset: After Demmink hung up the phone, his wife, Blair, asked who was calling so late. "I'm not sure how this is gonna go, but I've just been invited to compete with some of the best athletes in the world for the Spartan Games," he told her, still in shock. "I've never done a Spartan race in my life. I'm not sure how it's going to go, but I can’t turn down an opportunity like this!"
The Training: Much-needed sleep.
Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020
What Happened: The competition was imminent and he badly needed to train, and he also had to figure out arrangements for his kids and business, 3D Performance Training, while he was out of town. (Thank goodness for his wife, Blair, who came to the rescue on both of those fronts.) But his day job comes first. Demmink made his daily 100-mile commute to his sales territory and put in a full day of work. While in the car, he made business calls and sought out COVID testing sites ahead of the Games. Instead of driving back home, he crashed at a hotel in Johnson City, Tennessee that night.
The Mindset: “I don’t have much time to prepare. Right now, I just need to keep the training volume to a minimum so I don’t show up to the event sore and fatigued."
The Training: Demmink wore his elevation mask, which supports his posture and breathing, for an hour during his 100-mile drive. That evening, he performed some hip and lower-body mobility drills in his hotel room. He used his Theragun for 20-30 minutes before doing Frog, Pigeon, and Couch stretches. When he concluded his mobility work, he used his Compex electrical stimulation unit for muscle activation and potentiation. Because he hadn't trained seriously in a very long time, his central nervous system had shut down. Demmink understood how critical it was to shock his body and brain in preparation of the event.
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020
What Happened: Demmink drove another 100 miles back home, the majority of which was spent on the phone finalizing his COVID test arrangements, scheduling his flight to Vermont, and securing his rental car once there. Upon returning, he went to 3D Performance Training, his facility, and worked out alongside Curt Maggitt, a fellow Spartan Games competitor. Demmink and Maggitt had worked together years earlier, when Demmink was working at the University of Tennessee and Maggitt was starring on the school's football team.
After having not seen each other since 2015, they had reconnected at the DEKA event in Knoxville. Just days before the Spartan Games, they realized that they were training for the same event! Only 12 men on earth were training for this event, and two of them happened to be old friends from Knoxville. That evening, following the workout, he went to get his COVID test.
The Mindset: Demmink's main priority, just two days prior to the competition, wasn't on training: It was getting time off of work! His manager graciously approved his request, despite the late notice, and encouraged him to kill it. Major hurdle cleared.
The Training: Demmink again wore his mask (see below) for an hour during the 100-mile drive. At the facility, the two Volunteers did some treadmill work and Polar heart rate testing to gauge their fitness levels. On the treadmill, Demmink did a progressive ladder of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off with a 10-degree incline. For each 30 seconds of work, the speed increased by .5 mph, progressing from 4 mph all the way to 14 mph.
The Polar hear rate monitor informed Demmink that he wasn't anywhere close to his ideal performance capability, which was useful information. He wasn't in the necessary shape to compete optimally, he confirmed — hardly a surprise — but it provided valuable data for him to work with, and gave him an idea of how hard he'd be able to push himself in Vermont.
Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020
What Happened: Not knowing exactly what he was going to be required to do at the Spartan Games, it was a bit tricky to pack. Demmink ended up packing his wife's mountain bike — again, thank goodness for Blair — some training gear that he though he might need, and some clothing. Prior to leaving he squeezed in a mandatory COVID test and thankfully tested negative. He was ready to rock. (Well, as ready as anyone can hope to be, considering the less-than-ideal circumstances...)
The Mindset: Demmink was very concerned because he didn't have a mountain bike, and because of the late invitation to the Games, he was unable to rent one. All of the bikes in the Pittsfield area had been rented for the week. Bike Zoo, Demmink's local bike shop in Knoxville, came to the rescue: They outfitted him in the necessary mountain bike gear and hooked him up with an air travel case for Blair's bike. (Side note: In Vermont, Demmink came to the frightening realization that the shocks on his wife's Stumpjumper were broken. Forced to traverse the tough terrain without shocks, his body took a serious beating.)
The Training: While he was packing, Demmink did 6 sets (2 reps per set) of front squats — building up from 220 pounds to 308 pounds — to gauge his strength level. Again, Demmink knew that he was not at his best, but mentally, he was ready to go to a very "dark" place in order to finish and maybe even win. He was going to give it his all and push past his absolute breaking point, he decided. Demmink's concern was his tissue quality (or lack thereof), which he hoped would prevent him from sustaining an injury during the four-day marathon.
Friday, Oct. 9, 2020
What Happened: Bright and early, at 5:30 a.m., Demmink boarded a plane for Vermont, unsure of what to expect and unsure if he was ready for what was in store. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Mindset: "Well, I can’t turn back now. Time to go learn and compete with the best OCR racers in the world."
The Training: There was no time to train. Following the early-morning flight, Demmink took another COVID test to confirm that he was negative, unpacked and got settled on the farm, and met his fellow competitors. It was showtime!
To see how Demmink did at the Games, make sure to tune into Spartan Games, airing on Spartan's YouTube channel throughout December.