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Interviews

How Elite Athlete Tanner Farenik Got to the Top by Training at Home

tanner-farenik-spartan-race-athlete

Just a month ago you were at the Spartan World Championships, competing with the world’s top OCR athletes. What was it like?

It actually went pretty well. I was nervous going into because I had heard a lot of people’s experiences with Vermont and how it is a brutal course. I was also a little bit nervous about the altitude but I didn’t really think it would affect me too much, because I live at a higher altitude than most and train at about the same altitude as Tahoe. Those two things kind of made me hold back a little bit, expecting the race to be extremely brutal but it wasn’t too bad. I think the course was actually easier than the Montana Beast for the most part.

After I’ve finished a race, I always feel like I could have run harder, but I think I probably could have pushed a bit harder. The other thing that really slowed me down was getting stuck way at the back in the starting chute. I’m not saying I should be at the front or anything because I’m definitely not at that level. However, about half a mile in we hit some single track trails and people started to walk the hills and it was next to impossible to pass. I’ll hopefully do better next year.

All in all, I failed two obstacles (the Monkey Bars and the Multi-Bar) and finished 105th in about 3hr 25min which I’m pretty happy about! Many good athletes didn’t even finish because of hypothermia from crossing the freezing water as well as from the cold wind. So just finishing the race felt like a great accomplishment.

 

Absolutely a huge accomplishment – congrats!

Looking back to your first obstacle course race, is there anything you would have done differently with your experience now?

I would have started running more miles when I first got into OCRs. At first I relied mostly on plyometric type cardio workouts and not as much on running.

 

So how was it that you discovered obstacle races?

I used to be a competitive soccer player, but when I stopped playing after University, I also started getting out of shape. Some years later, it was the news that I would become a father, that lit that fire to be fit back in me. I started a home workout program called P90X2 and got into the best shape of my life. After that I accidentally stumbled on an advert for Spartan Race and knew it was something I wanted to try. During my first race, I thought I was going to die but I was hooked afterwards. Obstacle races have re-ignited that competitive side of me.

 

tanner-farenik-spartan-race-athlete4You mentioned plyometric cardio workouts and P90x. Are they still a part of your training regime?

Yes. Currently I do the majority of my strength workouts from programs like Insanity Asylum and P90X2. I love those types of workouts because they are very athletic.

On top of that I try to run between 40 and 50 miles a week. Recently I have started focussing way more on running than on strength training because that is by far the area with the biggest room for improvement.

 

What are your top 3 exercises?

My go-to exercises are lunges, deadlifts or squats, and pull-ups. That is assuming we are talking just strength exercises otherwise running is definitely numero uno. Lunges and deadlifts or squats will really help you on any heavy-carry obstacle as well as on the hills. Pull-ups will help you with the upper body and grip-intensive obstacles.

 

So many people focus on lifting weights but OCR is an endurance sport not a strength sport.

 

You’ve emphasised running a couple of times so far. Is there any other advice you’d give to someone who plans to race competitively next season?

Well, it really depends on your current fitness level. Unless you are already an elite runner, building a solid cardio base is very important. So many people focus on lifting weights but OCR is an endurance sport not a strength sport. So, cardio workouts are the most important. Secondly, if you are carrying any extra weight it will really help to cut any extra weight first.

 

Let’s talk fuel. What do you eat on training versus rest days?

I’m actually a chronic under eater. This affects many things, including my performance so I make sure to track my calories now and then.

Generally, I try my best to eat as well as I can which for me means lots of vegetables and meats. I used to eat a “Paleo” type diet but found it difficult to stick to when I’d travel out of town for races; it’s almost impossible to avoid grains when you have to buy ready-made food. Now I’ve gone back to eating a classic diet which includes whole grains as well. I still try to eat very little processed food, but I’ll eat things like bread from time to time. When it comes down to it I stick to the 80/20 rule. I eat very healthy 80% of the time and then don’t fret too much if I have the occasional garbage meal.

 

And in terms of mental fuel – what’s your driver for racing? Do you have a mantra?

Honestly the only thing I think about when I race are my daughters cheering me on. They are the biggest reason I race, and when things get tough I just imagine they are there cheering me on.

 

tanner-farenik-spartan-race-athlete3Interesting. A while back we spoke to Patrick from the HEXT team, another family man. How do you manage to both race and spend enough time with your family?

With two kids it definitely can be a struggle to train as much as I would like and still spend time with my daughters and wife. What has worked for me is to either get my workouts in when my daughters are in bed or allow them to hang out with me in my basement while I work out. It helps that I still do a lot of the home workout programs like P90X2 so I can get a good workout in without leaving the house.

I also end up doing quite a few of my runs on the treadmill. I really would rather spend all my runs in the mountains but that just isn’t feasible for me, so I will do lots of my runs on the treadmill after my daughters go to bed. Creating time to work out when you have kids does take sacrifice. For example, I don’t watch much T.V., except when I run on the treadmill. I actually set up a little TV in front of the treadmill so that I can watch Netflix or something, otherwise I would never get through a workout on the treadmill.

 

And have you defined any goals to get through the upcoming racing season?

For this season I aim to rank in the top 10 in Canadian Spartan Races and in the top 30 or 40 world wide. When it comes to World Championships, this year has been more of a learning experience so I can now focus on making a plan for next year.

 

Good luck Tanner!

Find out more about Tanner here:

Facebook: Tanner Farenik Fitness
Instagram: @Spartan_Farenik

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