Igniting the Fire: Interview with Ryan Kent, Professional OCR Athlete

“It sparked a fire inside of me and I knew right then that OCR was something I was going to pursue.”

In recent years obstacle course racing (OCR) has taken the world by storm with no signs of slowing down. OCR reaches over 20 million people globally and has emerged onto the United States college scene. For most sports, professional athletes find their focus at a young age and train for years before reaching pro-level. With popularity growing so rapidly, the elite level OCR athletes you see today found their calling in unchartered territory. Rehband has caught up with Ryan Kent for insight into his journey to the Spartan Pro Team.

How do you describe OCR as a sport? 

That’s a tough question to answer, and one I think the sport is still trying to answer itself. For lack of better terms, it’s basically a race testing all forms of fitness. Cardiovascular and muscular endurance, strength, accuracy, speed, power, coordination, agility, balance, and the list goes on. You can’t just be fast, and you can’t just be strong. The individual who possesses a wide range of fitness is likely to be the one who has the best chance to succeed.

When did you start doing OCR and why? How were you introduced to the sport?

My first Spartan Race was in August of 2014. I had never heard of a Spartan Race, but a friend of mine told me about it 2 weeks prior to the event and convinced me that I could do well and I should give it a go. Little did I know I was up against one of the most challenging courses on the circuit at the time. Needless to say it was a humbling day, but it sparked a fire inside of me and I knew right then that OCR was something I was going to pursue. Early on the following year I decided to quit my job and try to pursue this sport on a professional level.

Tell us a bit about your career. Any milestones that are highlights for you?

In my first year competing I received Spartan Race’s Rookie of the Year award. Since then I’ve gone on to win nearly 30 races and over 50 podium finishes. My highlight in 2017 was finishing 2nd at the Spartan Race US Championships in West Virginia. And in 2018, I’m currently sitting in 2nd place in both the Spartan Race Stadium Series and the US National Series with only one race remaining in each of the series. It’s something I’m extremely proud of because it shows my range and versatility as an athlete.

Why do you think OCR has grown so popular?

The community is great. No matter what level athlete you are, everyone is so encouraging and bonds from the experience. It’s a sport that appeals to a wide demographic. Whether you want to test your fitness or just have some fun with a group of friends, anybody can get out there and experience it.

 

You can’t just be fast, and you can’t just be strong.”

What athletics were you involved in growing up?

I grew up in Yorktown, Virginia and played a variety of sports. I just loved being outside and finding ways to be competitive, so yeah, sports sort of just came natural. Believe it or not, I started running competitively when I was just 4 years old. Through the years I played soccer, basketball, football, tennis, and even taekwondo for several years before ultimately finding my path in track & field and cross country.

What are you strengths/weaknesses as an athlete?

The primary strength and advantage I have as an athlete is over 25 years of competing that I have under my belt. And more importantly, I am so tuned in to my body and what it’s telling me at all times. My mental toughness and ability to adapt during races is something I take a lot of pride in as well. My weakness would be that I’m too hard on myself when a race doesn’t go as planned. I’m my biggest critic and I’ll be the first to admit that I need to do a better job of not getting so down on myself if I have subpar performance.

What mentality do you need to have to compete in OCR?

A gritty and gutsy mentality. You’re going to get muddy, you’re going to get wet, you’re going to be cold, you’re likely to get cut, and you’re probably going to fall down. You might even fail an obstacle or two, but you have to stay both physically and mentally tough through the most adverse conditions.

How do you train and prepare to compete?

There is not one specific or correct way to train for these races, which is partly what makes it so interesting and fun. If you could blend the training program of a marathoner runner, a CrossFit athlete, and a weightlifter into one that would be how I train. You have to have all your bases covered in this sport.

 

Tell us about the Spartan Race World Championships.

The 2017 course was awesome but brutal! This race is held in the high altitude of Lake Tahoe, CA. Last year was 16 miles long and it had about 5,000 ft. of climbing (uphill running) with nearly 40 obstacles. The craziest part was the high alpine swim. The air temperature was in the 30’s making the swim quite a challenge and a complete shock to the body. My goal was to finish in the top 5, but I came in 12th that day. Not what I was aiming for, but it was a learning experience. I’m excited for some redemption in 2018.  This is the race I’m most excited about this year. It’s the pinnacle of the season and ultimately the race that decides who the best athlete in our sport is.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by many things. Places I go, people I meet, experiences that I have, music, opportunities, getting out of my comfort zone. I could honestly list several things here. My family and friends are my #1 inspiration though. Making them proud gives me a feeling unlike anything else.

There are tons of gear companies out there in the OCR world, why did you choose Rehband?

Many reasons! First, I think most everyone should be wearing knee sleeves when attempting lifts like squats, power cleans, thrusters, and so on. The support that it provides will allow you to feel way more confident when you work out and likely to help reduce the risk of injuries. Along with that, the knee sleeves and compression gear keep my joints and muscles warm at all times. Sometimes I’ll even put them on 20-30 minutes before I train that way when I get to the gym my body is already warm and ready to go. It also helps with blood flow, swelling and inflammation. I throw the sleeves and compression on particularly after hard sessions, and I always wear them when I travel. I train hard and often and it’s important to me to have gear that will last.

What products are most relevant for OCR athletes?

I would say the 3mm RX Knee Support, Elbow sleeves, QD compression socks, and the compression arm sleeves are key for OCR athletes. You could also wear one of the many back support options. There are a ton of obstacles where you’re going to lifting with your lower back (tire flip, atlas carry, plate drag, bucket brigade just to name a few). If you need some support in that area Rehband definitely has you covered.

What does our mission statement “Enable your Full Potential” mean to you?

To me it means to constantly test yourself. Intentionally find ways to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. In life, when we come up short or experience hard times, only then is when we can actually learn and begin to flourish. So don’t be afraid to fail- that is how we find out who we really are, what we’re truly capable of, and ultimately how high our ceiling of potential actually is.

 

Throughout the interview there was one aspect that really set Ryan apart and made him a pleasure to talk to- his high energy and ever- goofy personality. With Rehband’ s recent 2018 partnership as the Spartan Race Official Injury Partner US we found an ideal ambassador in Ryan Kent. Rehband and Ryan share the value held in quality products and their importance in training. Make sure to follow Ryan and Rehband’ s road to the Spartan World Championship on September 29th, 2018.

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