I’m thrilled to welcome hybrid athlete and sports dietitian Corinna Coffin to Lessons in Badassery! If it’s fitness, strength or endurance related, Corinna’s likely completed it – from triathlons, CrossFit and Hyrox, to podium spots at Spartan Games, Tough Mudder X and DekaFit, amongst others. Not to mention being the Season 5 female champion of Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge. Phew!
The American multi-sport athlete and nutrition coach recently added the USA’s Tactical Games (intense military fitness challenges combined with shooting) to the list. In this Q&A, Corinna shares her thoughts on this new-to-her competitive event, plus we cover the Spartan Games, nutrition, and how she trains for such a diverse roster of races and competitions. Thank you, Corinna!
You’ve competed in triathlon, CrossFit, OCR, Hyrox, and Tactical Games. Do you have a particular focus this year?
I love keeping my training varied to be able to rise to any challenge that comes my way and sounds fun! I now consider myself a hybrid athlete, so a lot of the events I’m focused on this year include a combination of running/endurance and strength. I recently competed in the Go Ruck Games, which was a two-day event with a variety of challenges ranging from long-distance rucking, weighted pull-ups, obstacle course racing and wrestling! This year I have also taken on a new interest in shooting and have my sights set on competing at the Tactical Games Nationals in the Fall.
You had only 3 weeks to prepare for last year’s Spartan Games 2.0 without knowing what the event would serve up. What did you focus on in with so little time to prep?
The beauty of keeping my training so varied is that I often feel prepared for the unknown regardless of the time frame. I enjoy the types of activities I do regularly, which allows me to stay very consistent with my training. I’ve found that this approach keeps me pretty competitive year-round.
What was the hardest element of last year’s Spartan Games?
Day one of Spartan Games 2.0 was definitely the most challenging, specifically the Air Force Special Warfare PAST. Between the weather, freezing cold lake water, and having to successfully complete all 6 elements of the PAST in order to get points, there was a lot at stake, and it set the tone for the rest of the competition.
Events like Hyrox require strength but also speed. What does your preparation look like for something like this?
Finding the right balance between strength and speed is a constant struggle in the hybrid fitness world. Most hybrid athletes like myself have one area that predominates: for me, it’s strength. This means that I have to put more time and focus into my running and adopt more of a maintenance strength plan in order to get the results I’m looking for. This looks like several days per week of long slow distance running, speed/interval sessions and, of course, some non-impact cross-training days to give my legs a little bit of a break. I will work my strength training in around those sessions.
Can you share what a typical week of training looks like for you right now?
AM) Power and Strength: Olympic lifts, lower body push/pull + core
PM) Running intervals (anaerobic)
AM) Strength: Upper body push/pull
PM) Longer aerobic capacity training
AM) Strength: Lower body pull/push + core
PM) Weighted ruck (20-35lbs, ~45-60 min)
Active Recovery Day (Zone 2 run/row/bike/swim + mobility + stretching)
AM) Upper Body pull/push
PM) Intervals (mono-structural or mixed modality – run, row, bike, ski, stair climber)
“Fun Day”… this changes up weekly but will usually be a long “grunt work” session with friends involving strength and endurance.
Full rest day
How important is your mindset to your athletic career, and what strategies do you use when it gets super-tough in races and competitions?
Mindset is so critical to achieving anything in life. This is an area that I can struggle in at times, but I try to focus on the things I can control and not stress about the rest. A lot of people get caught up in what their competitors are doing and lose sight of their own track. I work really hard to run my own race based on my strengths and understanding of my weaknesses.
You’ve mentioned using visualisation ahead of competing. Can you explain a bit more about this?
Yess, I am a huge visualiser! It calms me in moments of doubt and unease while also giving me something to focus on. When I play things out in my mind, I feel like I’ve already run through it once I finally get there, and I’m not trying to come up with a game plan on the fly. Even if my plan falls apart, at least I have pieces to work with.
You’re a qualified sports dietitian. What’s the most common nutritional mistake your athlete clients make?
I see it time and time again, but so many athletes don’t realise how much food their bodies need! Under-fuelling is a very common mistake, so a lot of my work involves helping clients understand their nutrition needs and developing strategies to best meet them!
You’ve recently moved into competing at the Tactical Games. How are you finding this new-to-you event, and what does the competition involve?
This is a very new endeavour, and it brings me a lot of excitement! The Tactical Games is a firearms and fitness event that involves precision shooting with pistol and rifle in combination with various strength and endurance tests. It has been incredibly humbling to learn a completely new skill (shooting) but also very rewarding. As someone who used to be terrified of firearms, I have made a lot of progress when it comes to gun handling and safety, which has been empowering. Similar to OCR, the Tactical Games community is so wonderful and has welcomed me with open arms. It’s the people that make these experiences so enjoyable.
What are your favourite items of kit, and who are you sponsored by right now?
My competition must-haves are my Altra Running shoes (I live in the Solstic XTs for training and the Torins for my running), Gnarly Nutrition fuel products (Fuel20 hydration, whey protein, creatine monohydrate), MudGear socks (the Ruck socks are my new favourite). My mobility tools are also on the list- my hip halo, lacrosse ball, foam roller and theragun. FOOD, of course – all of it! Lots of it! 😊