As a Spartan World Champion, Ironman Military World Champion, Best Ranger Competition winner and Million Dollar Mile defender, Robert Killian would have every right to be a little boastful of his accomplishments. Yet this dedicated athlete – who is also a proud father and military veteran – remains humble and modest throughout it all. For him, it all comes down to maintaining a balance and taking the time to step back and refocus periodically to know where his priorities lie.
Even when he was still working full-time in the National Guard, Robert had already discovered a passion for racing. He competed in the All Army Sports Programs, which included orienteering, a marathon, the army 10-miler, and the army triathlon. He was introduced to obstacle course racing by his mentor – the only other Green Beret to win the Best Ranger competition – and in 2015 he became Spartan World Champion. Since then, he has had the most podium finishes at the World Championships of any athlete, never finishing off the podium. He now races full-time from his home in Colorado Springs and is a pillar of the Spartan and PurePower Pro Team.
It All Comes Down to Mindset
There is no doubt that Robert is racing at peak physical performance, thanks in no small part to his grueling training schedule. Yet for him, the key to his success has always been his mindset.
“When I won my first major race there was this huge mental push because I really wanted to win. I wasn’t necessarily the fastest or the strongest that day, but I just really had the grit and the determination to push past the limits that even I thought I was capable of. I literally shocked myself that day.”
Despite his numerous successes though, Robert is careful not to get complacent, especially as many of his races are against the same group of people. “You can’t win if your mindset isn’t right,” he says. “There has to be not just a physical push but also a mental push when you’re training and when you’re racing.”
Robert’s way to maintain his winning mindset has been to allow himself the space to reevaluate periodically. With his family, military commitments, and coaching, all in addition to racing, time management is vital, as well as the ability to keep focused on the task at hand.
Finding Your Why
He urges all athletes – whether professional or amateur – to find their why, as this will become their main motivation. For him, it is his kids. “I want to see them being more active and getting involved in Spartan racing. I want them to see me race and to be inspired by seeing me set goals and then reach them. That’s really important to me.”
Yet Robert stresses that you also have to want to do it for yourself. “There can be a lot of pressure, from sponsors, from other racers, from yourself… You have to take a step back to remember what you actually enjoy about racing in the first place. For me, not only do I find it fun, but I also enjoy pushing the limits of what the human body is capable of.”
With this in mind, he has been racing less this year to allow himself time to focus on the races that are really important to him. “There have been people, doubters, who don’t think that I can win another Spartan World Championship four years later. I want to prove them wrong, and I want to prove to myself that I can do it.”
Getting Back on the Ball
But does this unflappable focus and motivation ever wander? “Sure, there are days when I want to do something different or I just want to spend time with my kids. There will always be highs and lows – you won’t be beating your personal record every day. You just have to reevaluate and keep going.”
Robert is a statistics lover, and keeps meticulous records of every aspect of his training, from diet to workouts to heart rate variability. Yet despite this attention to detail, he maintains that success ultimately comes down to mindset. “Sometimes even with the exact same conditions, you might race differently. What worked then might work now or it might not, but it’s really about your mindset: that what puts all the hard work together.”
The PurePower System has been crucial to maintaining Robert’s mindset, especially when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep and waking up recovered. “I’ve had more high heart rate variability days this month alone than I had in the past year,” he says. “I haven’t changed intensity; I’ve just been able to recover quicker and wake up feeling ready to work out again. For a parent, that is huge!”