Interview: One Spartan’s Secrets to Staying Healthy and Balanced

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Rose Wetzel Spartan Race Fire Jump
Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of 2 in our series of interviews with Rose Wetzel. If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 where Rose discusses her transition into obstacle racing. To learn more about Rose, visit her website at RoseRunnerSports.com or find her on Twitter @rosewetzel.

As we learned from Part One of our interview with professional Spartan Racer Rose Wetzel, transition from the sport of running to the sport of obstacle racing can be backbreaking work. Even though the difficulty of training and time management is substantial, the hardest part may be staying healthy in a sport as inherently dangerous obstacle racing.

Every professional athlete puts a considerable amount of time into preparation and recovery. From acute injuries to day-to-day soreness and fatigue, it can be difficult for an athlete to stay healthy and on top of their game. It is especially difficult for those who must find an equilibrium between their sport, work, family and life.

Rose seems to have found a way to balance all of these things with a healthy dose of perspective, preparation and a little luck. Through hard work and vigilance she has managed to stay healthy despite the sport in which she competes, and still finds time to have a good time while doing it.

Transitioning from one sport to another is a difficult task, but athletes who are perceptive and adaptable can find the parallels and use them to their advantage. Rose is one such athlete.

IH: What are the main difference between the preparation and recovery between running and this more grueling sport of obstacle racing.

RW: The biggest difference is training so much more upper body and core strength along with more lower body. It really can help a lot to throw in a sandbag at the end of your run or during your run a couple times a week. Grab a bucket and fill it with a bunch of rocks and get your body used to that feeling so that come race day you can be super fast.

Even having a strong core, you get handed this huge bucket and you’re like “oh gosh, my low back is really tightening up.” I’m not used to having that much of a load in front of me. It’s just different so it’s nice to prepare the body specifically, at least to a certain degree.

IH: Besides coming in to InHealth, do you have any other things that you have to do after a workout to stay healthy?

RW: Coming in here is the most important thing that I do; and I’m not just saying that.

Very close to that is massage therapy. Massage therapy keeps me, in general, loose it keeps me maintaining a good range of motion and ability to physically and mentally relax and catch any knots that are forming.

ART (Active Release Technique) just takes everything to a whole deeper level and I feel it can really help with range of motion and mobility to such a greater degree. And, [ART] has prevented my pseudo sciatica from coming back which has been key because it totally trashed my cross country season a few years ago. ART is so targeted, so specific and so effective in such a short amount of time. I’ve told so many of my clients that they’ve got to come do it. I’m sure I would have been injured at least a couple different times by now if I hadn’t been coming to ART consistently.

Also, massage therapy helps both physically and mentally. Other than that I’ll take the occasional ice baths and epsom salt baths as needed. That’s about it. Massage therapy, ART, ice baths, epsom salt baths, foam rolling seems to do the job.

The one thing I do sometimes that maybe not everyone does is go to the Russian spa. You go into the sauna and then a cold plunge, it’s really cold, and it just gets your blood flowing really well and then you go into the steam room. I’ll do that maybe once a month just to stay healthy inside and out in a different way.

IH: Your main background is in running, and you have been a personal trainer for a number of years. Have you been able to use your knowledge of the sport of running and personal training to give yourself a leg up?

RW: Of course. Last weekend I had to go to a continuing education seminar because my [personal training] certification was up and I need 60 hours. Whether I had time or not I had to go learn about olympic lifts again, balancing your workload, and lactate. I’m required to go learn that stuff, and I want to, but I have an organization keeping me up to date for sure.

There is also a baseline level of strength that comes with what I do all day long. I feel like even just during the day, my clients that I’ve had for such a long time have gotten so strong that I lift heavy weights all day long. Even before I do my workout I’ve already been lifting quite a few weights to the point where lifting up a forty-five pound plate–squatting down and picking it up and putting it on bench press–is something my body is used to.

Also, in the summers when I’m working outside, I’ll sometimes carry a good hundred pounds of weight out to a park. When I think about it, I think it does actually help me with spartan racing; carrying all that stuff out. Plus when I was a little kid and we had paper routes and I was carrying bags of newspapers bigger than I was, so that also helped.

Rose makes her way out of the dunk wall obstacle.

Professional Spartan Racer Rose Wetzel makes her way out of the water during the dunk wall obstacle. via Spartan.com

IH: Besides the external checks-you mentioned your certification requires you to stay up to date on certain things-are there ways that you keep yourself on track for your goals?

RW: I have whole calendar at home in my hallway. A big old wall calendar that has all of my different races up: it has my A race, B race, C race. I always have races and periodized training plan that I’ve sat down and written out to make sure that I am fit and taper and peaking at the correct times.

I definitely always have goals for my races and also downtime. Time during the holidays to chill out and stuff. It’s so important to have those peaks and valleys and that recovery time. Not just “Ok, I don’t want to work out for a week.” At the end of the season if I have given it my all, which I always do, I am happy to a week off and do nothing. Happy to.

IH: I know you need to run, so one final question: Is there anything that you do before every race to put yourself in the zone and mentally prepare for the obstacles ahead?

RW: I try to stay relaxed. I feel fortunate to have been racing for so many years and done so many races in my life; I think I’ve done over 200. I feel fortunate because I’ve had great races and horrible races and I know that I’ll survive no matter what-no matter how upset or down I am about something-I’m always fine afterwards. So I feel like I have this great perspective that not everybody has.

People who just start doing obstacle racing after their stint in the military or someone who hasn’t done much racing – didn’t race in highschool or in college – maybe they played another sport but it’s different when you’re racing. It’s an individual sport. So I feel like I have the ability to come with perspective and say, “you know what? Oh my gosh this is the world championship and NBC is here! Oh my gosh!” but at the same time – I hate to say it’s just another race – but it’s just another opportunity to go out there and take the training that I’ve done and do my thing.

I’m going to trust my body, to just do my thing. I don’t often get super psyched out and I’m grateful for that because I’m able to keep the perspective of it. I just feel like I go with a sense of perspective and gratitude. I’m so lucky to be here. If my idea of a bad day is I didn’t win when I thought I should have, I’m so lucky that I have friends and family that I love. I have my health. I don’t have bombs falling on me like some people in other countries do. All I have to do is turn on the news to get the perspective that I need to say, “oh, I’m lucky, I’m so lucky to be here standing on my two feed at the starting line regardless of the outcome of the race.”

Sometimes I wear costumes, especially at the beginning of the season just to stay relaxed; to remind myself that I’m still training through [those races]. After I take some time off during the holidays I’m still in shape in general but not at a such a high level for me, so I have to remind myself to go do some races and have fun. I don’t want to be going at 100% all year long, that’s how you get mentally burnt out. So wear a few costumes at the beginning of the season and have a good time.

Remind yourself that it’s not always about winning, it’s also about bringing a smile to other people’s faces. By the way, if you wear a costume, especially an empowering costume like Supergirl or Wonder Woman, and people as your running yell, “Go Superman! Go Wonder Woman!” psychologically that is empowering. Mainly I love bringing a smile to other people, little kids, other people around. Seeing other people smile makes me smile and that reminds me to keep that perspective, have that gratitude in front of me and do my best, move along in a positive way when I’m done regardless of the outcome.

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