Break a Sweat Like Portland's Top Athletes

From rugby to ice hockey to Mixed martial arts, we work out with some of the city’s most impressive athletes to find out what makes them tick, how they stay fit, and how you can get in on the action.

Edited by Rachel Ritchie By Allison Jones and Marty Patail December 31, 2014 Published in the January 2015 issue of Portland Monthly



At Reed, rugby is no Anglophilic quirk. Massive bruises, black eyes, and full-body mud-spatter speak to a true lust for this full-contact sport. And with games consisting of two break-free, 40-minute halves, endurance is crucial. Coach Sharon Blaney, who trampled the pitch with the USA Women’s Eagles at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2010 and 2014, complements conditioning drills and scrimmages with summer camp–style “games” to make technical skills like lateral passing and tackling second nature for her squad. 

The 30-Minute Workout

Blaney’s drills are tailored for winter, when Portland’s grassy fields turn to irresistible mud puddles. All you need is a group of friends and some cones to crank up DIY playtime into a heart-pumping test of endurance. 

  1. Freeze Tag Create a square with cones placed 100 feet apart. One player is “it,” attempting to tag other players. When players are tagged, they are frozen in place until they perform 10 jumping jacks.
  2. Steal the Eggs Each corner of the cone square becomes a “nest.” Place four balls in each nest and divide players into four teams. Players attempt to steal the “eggs” from other teams’ nests without being tackled, while defending their own eggs. Continue play until one team has at least 10 eggs.

Get in the game: Portland Rugby Club welcomes ruggers of all ages and experience levels. The women’s team plays a “friendly” season, without league matches, in the spring—the perfect time to learn the fundamentals. 



“Cyclocross gives you an all-around workout: there’s intensity, there’s bike-handling, there’s balance. You can’t help but to go hard.” —Adnan Kadir

Name just about any discipline of cycling, and Adnan Kadir’s team of 12 zealots most likely races it: road biking, mountain biking, relays, triathlons. Cyclocross, that grime-soaked, two-wheeled form of steeplechase, combines it all, with riders tackling muddy courses dotted with all manner of obstacles, often while carrying their bikes. Kadir, like many others, first dabbled in cyclocross as an off-season training regimen for road racing, to stay fit and develop his bike-handling skills. Now, it’s one of his team’s favorite races. “Road biking can be really uptight, and mountain biking is relaxed,” says Kadir. “Cyclocross is somewhere in the middle.”

The 30-Minute Workout

“What you want to do for cross is build a solid base,” says Kadir, a certified cycling coach and founder of Aeolus Endurance Sport. “That means consistent long rides every few days during the off-season to build endurance, and then as the season approaches, add in intensity and specificity.”

  1. Short warm-up ride (5 minutes)
  2. Five sets of “30-30s” 30 seconds riding your hardest then 30 seconds of recovery (as Kadir puts it, “the longest 30 seconds of your day followed by the shortest”)
  3. Five “run-ups” Break up intense riding with 30-second run-ups (dismount, shoulder your bike, run up a hill, remount).
  4. Short cool-down (5 minutes)

Get in the game: Portland is home to Cross Crusade, the world’s largest cyclocross race series—and an eminently friendly, welcoming scene. Get up to speed with Portland Bicycle Studio’s series of late-summer cyclocross clinics, “CX School,” and head for the crusade.



“Hockey is a fast and dynamic collision sport. Hockey athletes tend to be built like 100-meter sprinters: lean, fast-twitch muscle, with strong legs and core.”—Winterhawks trainer Rich Campbell

Gazing at the Winterhawks’ trophy case, loaded with Western Hockey League conference championship medals from 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, it’s easy to see why the team’s fans are prone to that frenzied Rose City passion. Since 1976, the major junior ice hockey team—which splits its September-through-March gameplay between the Moda Center and Memorial Coliseum—has sent more than 100 players to the NHL, making it one of WHL’s most successful feeders. Here’s how to train like our very own masters of the ice. 

The 30-Minute Workout

Trainer Rich Campbell tailors a holistic training circuit for the team, focusing on strength, power, speed, reflexes, joint mobility, and muscular flexibility. This full-body, barbell-fueled workout will prepare you to dominate—on or off the ice.

  1. Clean pull and snatch high-pull (5 reps)
  2. Pivot bar clean and press (8 reps each side)
  3. Clean and press (5 reps)
  4. Jump-ups onto a bench or box (8 reps)
  5. Medicine ball rotation throws (8 reps)

Repeat for 3–5 sets.

Get in the game

  • Want to lace up your own skates? Hit the ice at the Winterhawks Skating Center (the team’s official practice facility) for $11 pickup games and $8 public skating, or sign up for lessons in ice hockey and figure skating.
  • Adult classes at Sherwood Ice Arena equip you with the fundamentals of skating. When you’re ready for competition, Thursday-night Adult Hockey Skills classes are just $17.

Mixed Martial Arts


“As a fighter, you don’t want mass. You want mobility. You want to be functional.”—Dave Jansen

There’s more to fighting than throwing punches. For Dave Jansen (left), mixed martial arts (MMA) is as much about speed, mobility, and core strength as it is about the brutal violence for which the sport is popularly known. A Damascus native and high school state wrestling champion, Jansen has fought his way to an incredible 20–2 record in his four years in the Bellator, the sport’s second-tier organization after UFC. Jansen credits his success in part to his rigorous kettlebell and barbell training regimen at Rose City FC. “Anything you can do with an Olympic weight,” he says, “you can do better with a kettlebell. It’s been around for a couple hundred years in Russia. It’s not a fad.”

The 30-Minute Workout

Jansen’s daily workout is a simple repetition of two simple but powerful kettlebell moves. The key to doing it right is to take slow pauses, but no breaks. “These exercises are the yin and the yang. The get-up is slow and methodical—the swing is explosive.”

  1. Russian kettlebell swing (10 reps)
  2. Turkish get-up on the right
  3. Russian kettlebell swing (10 reps)
  4. Turkish get-up on the left

Repeat 5 times for 100 swings and 10 get-ups. Find detailed descriptions of these moves at kettlebellsworkouts.com.

Get in the game: Ready to test your mettle in the ring? Take a coed MMA class at Rose City FC in inner Southeast. The trainer will tailor the course to your level—and won’t require you to actually fight anyone. 



“You can’t be quick without a core. So we start there, and then move on to explosiveness, balance, and agility.” —Sherri Murrell

After missing the Big Sky Conference Tournament three years in a row, the Portland State Vikings are poised to go big in 2014–15. How? By cultivating a deep bench of exciting new talent—and staying healthy and fit. Coach Sherri Murrell, now an eight-year veteran with the team, is confident in her squad’s potential this year. “The no. 1 thing is that we like to run,” she says. “I see a lot of talent, but we have to be in top form. That takes cardio, it takes agility, and it takes motivational work—for the mind and body.”

The 30-Minute Workout

  • Warm Up High-knee skips and foam-roll stretching (5 minutes)
  • Four-Corner Cone Drill Place four cones 10–15 feet apart to form a square. Sprint to one cone, defensive slide to next cone, backpedal to next cone. (5 reps/10 minutes)
  • Double Down-and-Backs Line up at the baseline, sprint to the other end and back, and then repeat. (3 reps with 30-second rest in between/5 min)
  • Station Work (4 reps/10 minutes)
  1. Agility Ladder Run through the ladder, stepping in and out from side to side. (30 seconds)
  2. Cone Jumps Jump back and forth over a single cone, side to side. (30 seconds)
  3. Tuck Jumps Jump and tuck your knees high, feet under butt. (30 seconds)
  • Cool Down Static stretching and yoga poses

Get in the game: Portland Basketball’s Monday Women’s League has games in Beaverton and the Pearl District, and is open to players of all levels, from recreational to semipro.

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