SGPT Interviews Brett Risser Kokoro Graduate

SGPT: Tell us about yourself?

BR: I am a 40-year old guy from Boston, Mass with an amazing wife, two kids (son, 6 & daughter, 8), and a dog. My career is in investment management; I’m a quant guy who builds models to pick stocks for a living. While my family is my top priority, my main hobby is working out, and I enjoy running Spartan Races now and then.

SGPT: Did you have an athletic background growing up?

BR: Yes, I played a ton of sports (baseball, football, hockey, basketball) growing up.

SGPT: How did you train for the Kokoro event?

BR: I decided to take on Kokoro 48 in March ’17. I started with an honest self-assessment of my weaknesses. While I had a solid fitness background leading up to taking my decision, I was a poor runner. Also, I never rucked weight before. I could pass the PST so determined running and rucking needed to be a focus in the months to come. The game plan was to maximize my strength-to-weight ratio. I wanted an engine that could go forever, but also be able to produce max-efforts on demand and recover quickly.

I am not an expert in programming or periodization so I hired a professional trainer with a military background to help guide the program. At 40, I knew periodization would be extremely important (i.e., working in de-load weeks, peaking at the right time, etc.). Also, I figured a good trainer would continuously be pushing me out of my comfort zones.

To sum up my training with one word: VOLUME. Tons of VOLUME. We would shoot for a total of 8- to 12-hours a week of training sessions. I split the training between early morning sessions and afternoon sessions. Also, I used my commute to/from work to add more volume by biking in/out. Nighttime was for the most part off limits so I could spend time with my family.

For the first six months (March-August) I ran and/or rucked 3x-5x times per week; this was base building phase. My mid-week runs were in the 3-5 mile range, easy pace. My longer runs (6-8-10 miles) were on the weekends, again all easy pace. If I wasn’t running in the morning, I was biking into work. Once a week I would stack a run, bike, row, bike to get three hours of work in for the day.

As I moved closer to Kokoro, say the last eight weeks or so, I shifted from easy pace runs to more sprints (e.g. 10 x 100m) and interval runs. Long distance work was kept strictly to rucks covering 6, 8, 10 miles on Saturdays. Once every few weeks I would ruck hill repeats. I found this perfect 0.25 mile / 9%-10% grade dirt hill two miles from my house and a session would consist of: 2 miles ruck out to the hill + 0.25-mile ruck up, ruck-jog down repeats until I hit 6 or 8 miles + 2 miles ruck back home. In hindsight, this was some of the best preparation.

In addition to the work above, I did gym-based sessions a minimum of four times a week lasting one hour. I focused on the key movements: PST movements, building a crazy core, building crazy grip strength, being able to hold weight OH for long periods of time, functional movements, etc. Also, I added in some crazy volume sessions like alternating EMOM of 10x burpees, 20x KB swings for 60 minutes. Another favorite was to ride the assault bike for 60 minutes at moderate-to-hard pace and jump off every two minutes and do 5x burpee pull-ups, then immediately get back on. Or ride the assault bike for 60 minutes and do 10x goblet squats every 2 minutes. Bottom line, there was never ANY rest period during my gym sessions.

Also I stopped all heavy lifts like deads/barbell squats back in April-May. The focus was on volume to build up muscular endurance. I wouldn’t do sets of 6×2’s on deads and instead integrated deads in the format of EMOM for 40 minutes 5x deads @ 205#, 10x push-ups (in the same minute) with 10 minutes warm-up/cool-down on row. Another was EMOM 5x double KB clean & press for 60 minutes; a single-movement-mind-F. I would also do Murph every once in a while or sessions that consisted of run a mile, 100 pull-ups, run a mile, 200 squats, run a mile, 100 push-ups, run a mile, 100 burpees all with a weighted ruck.

SGPT: Tell us a little about the event? Where was it?

BR: The event was held in Temecula in Southern California at Vail Lake Resort on the backside of the Palomar mountains. The event was brutal in a way words can’t describe.

SGPT: What was hardest part of the event?

BR:The fear of failure leading up to the event. During the event, it was the warfare between the positive and negative thoughts in my mind.

The body can take what felt like unlimited amounts of abuse (didn’t know this going in). It is between the ears where the war is and killing the quit thoughts at times could become difficult.

I had mantras going in, but in the end, it boiled down to something I read in the book Breaking BUD/s. “Why am I doing this? Because this is what I am doing now.” I drew on Brad’s content too; his video when he talks about mental toughness from the SGPT site. The interviews, the mind articles, and the forum helped as well. One guy on the forum said, “I told my wife stretcher or die before I quit.” I took that mindset in.

SGPT: What is one thing you wish you would have done to get ready for Kokoro?

BR: I would have integrated more run sprinting earlier in my program. The better runner/rucker you are the better off you’ll be in Kokoro. I would have integrated more bear crawls and sandbag work. With sprints, I think it would have helped with combining PST & bodyweight exercises with sprints (i.e. do X burpees, sprint X distance, bear crawl X distance, repeat X times, belly crawl X distance, sprint etc.). That said, I felt really good about the preparation and felt focusing on volume vs. strength gave paid huge dividends.

SGPT: Any tips for up and coming athletes that want to do Kokoro?

BR: SIGN UP AND DO IT. Don’t let your mind psyche you out. A man 65 years old finished our Kokoro to become the age record holder. You can do it too. As David Goggins says, “talent is not required.” Put in the time to CRUSH the PST. Put in the time to become a solid runner/rucker. Put in the time to crush Murph. Pay the price to do these three things. If you do that, have confidence in yourself, and KNOW it boils down to a choice as to whether you finish or not. Also, know that it will be life-changing, mind-altering event, not just some event to be completed like an obstacle race.

SGPT: What kind of boots did you use for the event?

BR:I wore the Nike SFB boots.

SGPT: Did you use double socks/compression socks or body glide on your feet to prevent blisters?

BR: In the weeks leading up to Kokoro, I sprayed my feet twice a day with Tuf-Foot. It’s a tincture that was originally developed for sled dog paws. It has alcohol, benzoin, in it and (1) toughens the skin and (2) keeps away any foot problems like athlete’s foot.

I used only Darn Tough Vermont wool socks. I was prepared for double socks, but since I trained in just one layer was hesitant to use two on game day. I did apply some body glide at the start. Once it began, we did not have many opportunities to re-apply (I only reapplied once more eight hours in).

I got a couple of hot spots but nothing major. Others had great success in using double socks. One guy used Injini foot liners and Darn Tough outer layer. He never changed his socks the entire 54 hours and he was blister free at the end.

SGPT: What kind of ruck did you use for training and the event?

BR: I trained 95% of the time with GoRuck GR1. I bought a Rothco pack used in Kokoro and used it a few times. It sucks but not as bad as people make it out to be. My only problem with the Rothco was keeping it in the right position during rucks. I decided that I would train exclusively with the GR1 so my technique and form was held as perfect as possible so I built the proper rucking muscles and didn’t injure myself. Looking back, I was happy I did this, and just gutted it out with the Rothco during Kokoro. Honestly, the pack was a non-issue during Kokoro.

SGPT: What book are you reading now?

BR: I read so many books on Coach Brad’s book list leading up to this that I need eda change! I am reading “The North Water” by Ian McGuire. It’s a savage novel about a 19th-century Arctic whaling expedition.

SGPT: Many thanks for the interview, Brett.

BR: Thanks Coach Brad for all that you do.

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