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Interviews

Be Spartan-Fit with Ben O Rourke

BenORourke-spartan-race-athlete-featured

What was your last race and how did it go?

My last race was Northern Alberta Spartan Sprint and I placed 23rd in elite. It was a tough course, the best so far that I raced in Western Canada. Lots of steep climbs and ended up being 6.8km in the end!

 

How did your obstacle racing journey start?

So I started because one of my friends I met at soccer told me about Obstacle racing, Spartan in particular. I signed up for one and have been hooked since. I was always in to my fitness and played soccer from a young age and went to the gym since I was 17 but after my first race I found a new passion.

 

Passion or not, why do you continue to race?

I race because I love it, I love the training, mental aspect and the build up on race day. Racing keeps me focused in my day to day life, helps me keep fit and healthy, to set goals. I recently had a son and I want to set the best example I can for him, I believe obstacle racing has helped me become a better person. My fiancé also recently raced the Northern Alberta sprint so maybe when my son is older, it’s something we can all do as a family.

 

As a family man, how do you reconcile the family life with your training? And, how do you make sure to get all your miles in?

It can be difficult some times as you want to spend as much time with your family as you can. My son is 5 months old so he always comes first. But my fiancé and I sit down at the end of the night and schedule when each of us can get a workout in the next day. It might be a HIIT workout, it might be a run but I know how important health and fitness is so I have to set the best example I can.

Since last year I have become more focused and started to get more miles in where as I use to do mainly strength training. I make sure I am getting quality over quantity now and it has helped with my results so much. I am getting about 30 to 35km a week now but when I first started I used to only get one run a week in. I found its about been smarter, I try to learn something new everyday in relation to training so I always ask questions read articles to fine tune my own fitness program. A good quality half an hour workout then getting to play with my son for the evening is better than an unfocused hour workout.

I like to write down my workouts the day before.

 

ben o rourke spartan elite athlete b-fitDo you have a pre-race ritual or a mantra which keeps you achieving your goals?

My personal mantra and the one I use for my bootcamp is Strive for Progress not Perfection. If I can shave even 10 seconds off a race time or do an obstacle better than the last race, it’s an achievement. Some days won’t be as good as other, whether it’s training or during a race, so if you make progress week to week you are on the right track. Put in the effort and the results will follow.

My pre-race ritual is always to get up early, have a good breakfast. I like to pack the night before a race so I am not running around the morning of the race. I get up a little earlier so I can listen to a favourite song or watch a video to get myself pumped for a race, then head to race site early and take it all in.

 

What does your bootcamp training look like? Do people get inspired from your Spartan lifestyle and want to join you too?

I run a six-week program and the training includes strength, cardio, endurance, agility. I like to give my participants workouts that are simple and fun but efficient; something they could do at home or in the gym. I like to make the workouts progressive so each week they are harder so my participants can achieve their goals and progress. I also like to set my B-Fit participants bi weekly challenges that they do outside of the bootcamp.

The Spartan lifestyle is one I stand by and try to love each day. If I am helping others to be a better version of themselves become fitter and healthier it motivates me more and in turn the participants. 20 people ran for the B-Fit team in the Northern Alberta Sprint and many of them have signed up for other races which makes me happy and proud that others share my passion. The OCR community is one of the friendliest and welcoming communities that I have been part of. That’s why I love introducing new people to it, being able to race with friends, family and incorporating it into my bootcamps.

 

So, knowing about your bootcamp, if you had a month to train up a relative beginner to OCR to run an Elite heat, what would you have them do? What would you recommend training-wise?

First off I know just from myself adding more running to my program has helped big time, so a lot of the focus would be training for that. I like to do two 5km runs a week, one easy and one timed, then a longer run. One day training hill intervals and one day training track intervals or intervals on the treadmill. This would be a focus for someone getting ready for elite waves of races.

Then I am a big believer in strength/cross fit style of training. I like to incorporate two to 3 lower body workouts a week, with one been heavy lifting and the other two with bodyweight exercise. Then two upper body workouts which include a lot of pull ups, push ups and grip strength training.

The three key things for me to train for an obstacle race are running, grip strength and pull ups as they help with most climbing obstacles. If I was training someone these areas would be the focus!

 

ben o rourke spartan elite athlete b-fitSounds like a good plan! Let’s jump to nutrition.
What foods always end up in your grocery basket?

Nutrition for me is something I always kind of struggled with. I love my food and always thought I ate healthy until I changed my diet about two years ago. I cut out a lot of simple carbs like breads, white rice and pasta. I replaced them with quinoa and sweet potato. This made a huge difference and, not that I was over weight, but I dropped about 8 lbs this way. It helped my day-to-day training so much, added to the new-found passion of OCR racing and I felt healthier and fitter than I had for years.

In my grocery basket I make sure there is a variety of fruits and veg as I eat a mainly plant-based diet now. I make sure I have a fruit and vegetable smoothie every day and I try to eat lots of different colours! A tip I use now is to stay on the outside aisles of the groceries stores as that’s where the healthiest foods are.

My top three foods would have to be broccoli (I love it and it’s one of the best foods out there for you), chia seeds (I like to add these to smoothies and my oatmeal in the morning) and finally spinach (I also use this for my smoothies and again it’s great for you).

 

What about your pre-race meal? What are your go-to snacks on a race day?

My pre-race meal is oatmeal with a handful of walnuts and chia seeds and a cup of tea. I like to chug some water to stay hydrated and have a banana and a Thoz Barz. I space them apart as I don’t like to eat too much or feel too full. But that gives me the right amount of energy needed for a race.

If it’s a longer race like a Beast or a harder Super I’ll bring my hydration pack and put in dates and some Thoz Barz to snack on throughout the race. I don’t like to eat too much but enough to keep my energy up and the hunger at bay. Hydration is always important for longer races, that’s why the pack helps so much!

 

So apart from using a hydration pack for longer races, do you have any other essential gear picks?

Definitely! When I first started I didn’t know what to expect so I fished out my oldest running shoes, shirt and shorts. This was a big mistake as the mud and water stuck and weighed me down. I then got rid of the t shirt and ran a few races shirtless as I saw a lot of people do that but for me the essentials are compression gear and good, trail-running shoes.

I recently got sponsored by SKINS and they have fantastic compression apparel. I like to wear long tights and a compression top, this helps with climbing walls and crawling. The terrain can also get nasty and branches everywhere can all lead to some nasty cuts so having good compression gear helps. Not to mention less chaffing during longer races and it’s more comfortable to run in. Then a good pair of trail running shoes that is light with a lot of grip. I personally use the Reebok All Terrain Super shoe and I love them but there are some many options out there. Shop around and find what’s best for you!

 

ben o rourke spartan elite athlete b-fitLet’s talk about goals. Now that you have a top 25 finish, what’s next up for you?

So at the start of the year I set a goal of qualifying for the OCR World Championships and to finish top 100 in two Spartan races. I qualified for the OCR World championships by coming top 30 in my age group in the Montana Beast (I placed 27th). I won’t be able to go though, as I have some family events in Ireland.

I reached my other goals by placing 78th in the Montana Sprint, which I was happy with as it was a stacked field for the NBC races and I had competed in the Beast the day before, and placed 23rd in the Northern Alberta Sprint. I am delighted I achieved these goals so I set myself two new ones for this year.

To place top 20 in a Spartan Elite wave and to earn my coin so I can run at the Spartan World Championships. I also have a longer term goal of completing an UltraBeast but this won’t be until next year!

 

Awesome, good luck with this! How can people find out more about you and your bootcamp?

B-Fit on Facebook

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