You’re likely reading this post for one of a couple reasons.
1. You’ve never done a Spartan Race and you’re looking for some advice on how to survive.
2. You’ve completed a Spartan or two but feel you didn’t prepare enough
First of all, you have to really understand that a Spartan Race is not like your normal, everyday run or workout. This is an ass-kicking event that is extremely unconventional. Therefore, you are going to have to train a little more unconventionally. You cannot bench-press your way to the finish line. The same as simply being a marathoner will not be enough alone to dominate this event although arguably, good distance runners may have the advantage particularly in the super and beast events. You’re going to have to think ‘outside the gym’ and experience some unconventional exercises before you can truly prepare for this event. Remember, this is a bad-ass race, train like a bad-ass for it!! But don’t forget to enjoy the journey;)
- Team up for accountability – This is a big reason why group training like boot camps and cross-fit work so well. If you’re in a group setting you’re less likely to cheat. It’s just human nature. We set up P90X challenge groups the same way. If you’re in a group, large or small, you tend to be more accountable to the individual workout as well as the total program. It’s proven. There’s also the social aspect of it as well. We feed off each other during training sessions and after the total bad-ass trail runs it’s a blast to talk about it afterwards. Like “Hey, did you see me almost bail off that log coming down the back of the mountain!”. I recommend a few months training for your first Spartan (depending on your fitness level of course) so you need to enjoy this journey. Get yourself a training partner or a small group of like-minded people and get out there and have a blast together! Don’t go it alone!
- Set up your plan. If you aim at nothing, you’ll probably hit it! – Once you’ve got your training group (or partner) you’re going to want to map out your training for as long as you have until your race. If you only have a month, you’re going to have to fast-track it and get your hill climbing in a couple times per week plus a strength/anaerobic day and a good distance run for a 4 day/week routine. If you’ve got 2-3 months you can fit more in. Figure out how many days per week you have time to train. Make sure you plan for rest days to let your body heal. The last thing you want to do is get to the start line injured. Have a look at the following tips and fit in as much of it as you can and that works for you. Take a day for a long run(preferably not on a treadmill), a day for strength training, a circuit day, and a day for some hills. If you can go 5 days/week maybe have a look at what you need the most work on and build a routine around that. We all hate burpees but honestly, get efficient at them by throwing them in wherever you can.
- Climb that mountain/hill training – Do not underestimate the hill training required to crush a Spartan! Find some good hills around and ‘pound them ’till you puke!” Seriously, if you struggle with hills, you’re just not going to have much fun at Spartan Race. If you can, find a hill that you can run/walk up in about 45 minutes and preferably an off-road trail or mountain side. The gnarlier the better! Roots, gravel, steep, mountain goats, whatever! Remember, you’re not preparing for a Sunday stroll, this is SPARTA!!! Make sure you time yourself and improve each time you run it. When you can run it entirely, stop every 10 minutes and do 20 burpees and 20 standing squats. Then keep running. Don’t forget to show some courtesy…if you have to hurl, do it off to the side of the trail;)
- Hit the beach – Road running and hill running are great to prepare you for a Spartan Race, but you have to train for the unexpected. You’re likely to encounter some different and varying terrain on a Spartan Race so be prepared for it. If you have a beach/lake or sandy area that you can run along make sure you use it every now and then to mix it up a bit. Find a straight stretch and mark it off. Work on 30 second sprints in the sand. Rest for 30 seconds then back, rest, sprint etc. If you can find a log or rock even better! Challenge each other with a race. Sprint one way and carry the rock/log back then throw in some sandy burpees or inverted push ups with your feet on a log and your hands in the sand! Have some fun and get creative with what you find out there in the wild! You watch, those will be some of the best workouts you’ll have!
- Build up your strength – the size of your biceps ain’t going to push you up those hills or power you over the walls. They might help you climb the ropes but not nearly as much as gaining some over all body strength! If you have access to a gym, find some time for the old fashioned, tried, tested and true exercises like dead lifts, squats and bench-press. You do not need to go all out power lifting but make sure you’re using enough weight to work up a sweat! These are great ways to build up leg , back and upper body strength to help propel you through some of the obstacles you’ll encounter! As with everything during training, make note of your lifts (weight and reps) and work to surpass your benchmarks every couple weeks!
- Run Forest, Run! – There is no question in my mind…Really good runners will beat cross-fitters in the Spartan Race. No offense to the cross-fit community in any way but the reality is, you will be running a good portion of this event. Sometimes up a hill, sometimes down, sometimes level but mark my words, you’re gonna run! Particularly the Super and the Beast, if you are not comfortable running 8-12 miles then don’t expect it to be easy when doing it over a mountain range or two;) Have no fear though, even if you’re not a great runner, give yourself some time to train up to those distances. Start with smaller runs, even 2 miles is fine for a start. But make sure you stretch it out each week. Set aside a day for a long run each week. Your goal is to be able to run 12 miles without stopping. However when you train, and want to work up to longer distances, it’s OK to run for 10 minutes, then walk for 1, run 10, walk 1. Or whatever your threshold is. It might be 5/1 to start, it doesn’t matter but work your way up. If you’re a good runner and you can crank out 12 miles right away, push yourself for time each week. Either way, put in the mileage but also listen to your body. Your knees, hips ankles and back may not appreciate the mileage so rest when you need to rest.
- Create Circuits -Gym, home, outside, wherever you train it’s a good idea to crank up some anaerobic training. Here’s where the cross-fitters have the advantage (you thought I forgot about you;) Get creative with what you have access to and create some circuits. Incorporate things like burpees (get to love ’em), pull ups, skipping, battle ropes, box jumps, sprints, stairs etc. You can improvise on your circuits and shouldn’t need a lot of equipment. If you have 4 people, set up 4 stations then to finish it off you all go for a 5 minute run. Rest and repeat. Do it 3 times, then switch up the exercises. Or stick with those and crank out 6 sets of the circuit. Get the heart rate up and make sure you start you’re next set before it slows down too much. It’ll seem hard at first but that’s why you’re training! Do this at least once per week and push yourself and you’ll see results and it’ll get easier! This training will allow you to keep pushing in your Spartan Race while you pass the people that wish they trained as hard as you did;)
- Core is key (P90X2 core) – Find yourself a good CORE routine to build up strength in your midsection. I’m not just talking about a rock solid 6 pack, I’m talking overall core strength. A strong core will help you become a better athlete, jump higher, run faster, and will prove to be an advantage with hill climbing as well. Remember a strong core also means a stronger lower back, hips, glutes etc. All very beneficial muscle groups when climbing hills. I recommend P90X2 Core routine but if you take fitness classes like cross-fit ask your trainer to add more core into the routine. It’s never a bad thing to have a strong core;)
- Train in your race gear – This is pretty self explanatory but felt it was important enough to mention here. Don’t save that brand new pair of trail runners for race day. Work ‘em in and make sure your feet are used to them. They need a few weeks of mileage to form to your feet. Also, if your feet do blister in them during training, you’ll have time to replace them or remedy the problem. Same goes for shorts/shirt. My recommendation is to wear as little as possible (don’t read into that too much;) If you can get by with no shirt (guys) or an athletic top (girls) all the better. Show off your buff bodies on race day! Besides, the less clothes to pack around when you’re all muddy the better. If you have to wear a shirt, something form fitting that won’t hold the mud and water so much. Make sure your shorts aren’t going to chafe as well…that can be really painful and will slow you down…and you’ll pay for that one for days…trust me:(
- Push yourself hard! – If this was easy everyone would do it;) You can do this though! You’re going to have to dig deep and push yourself hard. Those days when you don’t feel like training are likely the days you need it the most. Set goals for each training day. Do more reps then last week, finish your run quicker, run just a little bit further, squeeze in 2 more burpees. When you think you’re gassed, do one more set of your circuit! It may be the ugliest set ever but nobody said it had to be pretty! Seriously, push yourselves during this training and the whole time during your next Spartan Race you’ll have just a bit more confidence knowing you’ve prepared as hard as you could…And you will CRUSH IT!!!