Brian Felschow is an obstacle course racer and marathoner who had his start as recently as 2015. That, however, doesn’t mean he’s new to fitness.
Let’s take a peek at his training program, and also find out how he coped with a recent ankle injury (that took him out of training for 3 months).
Brian Felschow Interview
1. What do you train in and what’s your goal?
I’ve been training for both a marathon and Spartan races. For Spartan Races, I have been training for about a year and a half at this point, going back to my first one in 2015. I do have a goal of eventually running in elite heats and competing in that top tier. For marathons, I started training around November 2016, when I realized I needed to increase my cardio endurance. My end goal is actually to start running endurance events and ultra-marathons.
2. What do you do during an average training session?
My training is usually broken into 2 sessions.
Just about every weekday morning, I wake up around 4:00am and head out for a run. These are usually shorter in distance, ranging from 3 miles to 8 miles at the high end. I’ll go outside almost every day, unless it’s icy or torrential downpour, at which point I’ll aim for a treadmill and do some interval training (1 min run, 1 min jog, alternating until I feel like I’m done). I tend to follow the Hal Highdon marathon training schedule, shown below.
Visit this site for more info, or advanced training.
When I get home from work, I start a strength session. Depending on the week, I may isolate individual muscle groups and work those (back and biceps, chest and triceps, shoulders, legs). I may just opt for a total body workout each day of a week, mixing up the exercises that I do.
Either way, I focus on pyramid style reps, starting low and working my way up in weight or rep until muscle failure/inability to perform the given exercise.
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Regardless of which style of strength training I choose for a week, there are usually heavy carries involved as well. I own a 50lb Wreck Bag that I will carry to my apartments fitness center and then take the long way back with it on my shoulders. Or I will do some laps of my apartment building with a 5 gallon bucket filled with 50lbs of sand.
I actually have a lot of random things in my apartment, making it easier to get some strength work in. I call it my “ghetto home gym” (see image). It includes the aforementioned Wreck Bag, 15lb dumbbells, a low weight kettlebell set, resistance bands, my bucket, a jump rope, and my pull-up bar.
On the weekends, I aim to get a longer run in on Saturdays, trails near my house if possible. I follow this up immediately with body weight training such as burpees, pull-ups, chin-ups, planks, crunches, body weight squats etc.
3. How do you make it work at this stage in life?
I’m just about 30 years old, with a solid job that is more like a career at this point. One of my top priorities happens to be my job, as I need it to take care of everything else in my life, and I would like to see myself grow in my current company/position.
Outside of work, my top priority IS my training, so I will always find a way to make time. I wake up early to get a solid run in, and I head almost immediately to the gym when I get home (a little fuel up and motivation is sometimes required though!).
The way to make it work is having a solid support network My brother and dad are also into fitness, and we constantly talk and text about what we did on a given day, even though we’re all separated by a couple hundred miles a piece.
Outside of that, it’s knowing that you will have to make sacrifices if you want to achieve your goals. I’m not going out every night, there are times when I flat out say I can’t do something. Going to bed early helps with this, because somehow the phrase “I’m in bed”/”I’m going to bed” ends a lot of questions from your friends!
4. Why did you begin training? What’s the story?
A few years back, I lived in a condo with my brother and a friend who were big into going to the gym. They eventually convinced me to start going with them. After a short amount of time, I was starting to actually see progress (first time bench pressing my own weight, let alone above that!?!). So I started to actually like working out.
Then, in November 2014, my brother and cousin ran the Spartan Stadium Race at Fenway. They had a blast and towards the next year, they were convincing me to do it. I did, and was immediately bitten by the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR), bug. I wanted to do more, earn my Trifecta, do better! So I started training. Last year I earned my Trifecta alongside my dad.
As for the marathon, I was really getting into Spartan at the end of 2016. I decided I was going to set loftier goals, but that would require more running. So why not set an early goal for 2017 of running a marathon? No real story there.
5. What were some challenges and obstacles you faced?
The only real challenge that I faced was breaking my ankle in January of this year. It flat out took me away from training for 3 months, being completely unable to bear weight on it. I’m about a month out of the cast, getting some PT time in, and getting back to training now though.
My workouts are already near the intensity before the break, just no running yet. Still a couple weeks away from that.
6. What happens in a week in your life?
My weeks are pretty straight forward. Mon – Fri I wake up at 4am, go for a run, head to work, come home and hit the gym, eat dinner, then it’s off to bed. There is a lot more that happens in that time, but it’s the basic rundown. Aside from work, the only other things that compete for my time are friends and family. Heading away for weekends can be an issue, but I am usually going to see my brother or parents who will do some training with me as well.
The trick is find and/or making time. Don’t have time to run after work? Go in the morning. Don’t have time to lift? Grab some dumbbells while you are relaxing watching TV. I forgot to mention it earlier, but every morning, as soon as I wake up, I fire out 30 burpees the second my feet touch the floor. There is always time, you just have to actively think about it.
7. Do you see yourself still training when you get to the next stage of life?
I may not be pulling 2-a-days at the next stage of my life, but I don’t see myself stopping training as a whole. My parents have always instilled in me that fitness is an important aspect. You only have 1 body, 1 life, you best take care of it. So, while I may not be training for specific things, I will at least be staying in shape.
8. What were 3 things you’ve learnt since you began training?
1Don’t take anything for granted
Breaking my ankle destroyed me mentally for a few days.
Training was such a big part of who I was at that point, but I wasn’t enjoying it.
Now, every time I even walk to my desk carrying a coffee, let alone get on a bike, or throw some weights around, I am taking a second to ENJOY the process. You never know when it can get taken away from you.
2Rest days are vital!
Let me say that again, REST DAYS ARE VITAL!
You can’t be active every single day. You’ll burn out or get hurt. Don’t think of rest days as days you aren’t training, especially if you build them into your routine (Sundays for me).
Check out @RestDayBrags on Twitter for some rest inspiration (rest-piration?) from some top tier athletes.
I always knew how to eat healthy, but starting my training has gotten me to actually start doing it.
There is nothing worse than getting ready for a run, but feeling like garbage because you ate fast-food for dinner.
Eating right makes you feel right. I’m even meal prepping lunches every week to help limit temptations.
More About Brian Felschow
Brian Felschow manages a blog that curates obstacle racing and training advice – The Obstacle Blog. Go check it out. Please also follow him on Twitter (@BFushu).
If you want to join a Spartan Race, here’s a list of Spartan Sprints all over the world (in 2017).