If you enjoy grit, mud, obstacles, paths of fire and ultimately – the challenge of a lifetime – then a Spartan race is definitely for you. Pushing yourself to your absolute mental and physical boundaries however isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and is not for the faint hearted.
Even though it sounds like an exhilarating journey of obstacles and sludging around in mud, it requires a lot of preparation. Building your body up to endure the challenges and cross the hurdles shouldn’t be underestimated.
Every Spartan race is different. It’s important to ‘shop around’ for one that suits your goals and fitness level. As you start researching you will begin to see the common obstacles of each race and moreover know how to start getting in shape.
If you are a first time Spartan, you may be wondering where to begin. You’ve been running for a while now but the well-known Tough Mudders and Spartan Races require a whole different type of training.
What will you need?
It’s the ultimate test of not only your physical fitness but your mental and emotional endurance too. With the average Spartan race consisting of 3-4 miles and 15 or more obstacles, you must prove to your competitors and yourself, you have what it takes. Speed, strength and endurance are all put to the test and racers must be prepared for anything.
Want to be the best you can be and not only defeat the obstacles but your competitors too? Take on board some of our training advice to see you through the months leading up to your Spartan race. These will prepare you on a physical level and give you a good idea of what’s to come on race day.
TOP TIP: in advance we should warn you that skipping or failing obstacles costs you! You’ll have to make up for it in burpees. So in your training always start with a set of burpees or include it somewhere in every single workout you do.
Essential preparation techniques
If you are an accomplished marathon runner, a 3 mile race will sound like a walk in the park (quite literally). Don’t be fooled. Fastest times for elite athletes can take anywhere from 45 minutes ranging to 1-2 hours for average times. Covering the distance will require you to build up your cardio so running (off the treadmill to get used to different terrains) is highly recommended at least twice a week.
Top tip: Just remember the longer you do, the easier you’ll find the running and the more energy you can expend on those tricky obstacles.
hills Hills HILLS!
Hill training should become the holy grail of your Spartan training. Start with a simple stairs machine to build muscle then lead into steeper uphill sprints. Find a local hilly area you can return regularly to as this is a must to strengthen your legs and aid injury prevention. The short bursts of high-intensity provide a quicker way of becoming a lean mean Spartan machine.
Just make sure you choose a surface which forces you to lean forward so you can apply sound acceleration techniques. These hill sprints are also beneficial for improving your arm and shoulder coordination to give you maximum acceleration over obstacles.
Top tip: mix up with the intensities of your sprints. Doing a quicker interval? Speed up! Doing a longer interval? Sloooow down. It’s also a good idea to change the hill size. Including hills will help you recover quicker between obstacles during the Spartan race and keep you raring ahead towards the finish line.
Total-body workouts are a must!
To prepare for the obstacles in the Spartan Sprint, it’s important to work on your upper and lower body strength. You might have to heave yourself over a wall, carry a sandbag uphill, scale monkey bars, crawl under charged electrical wires, and more.
Getting your push-ups, pull-ups, squats and lunges down until you are doing them comfortably will help you power through. Knowing good techniques to climb walls and monkey bars will also put you ahead of the game.
Top tip: remember your rest days! You may be a warrior but even Spartans need rest. 1 or two days a week will give your body time to make the necessary adjustments and recoveries.
Don’t forget about diet!
The fuel you need for an obstacle race is very similar to that of an endurance race. Does that mean the same diet for a marathon runner would be fit for a Spartan runner too? Well, Torey Armul at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says in order to support the upper-body muscle groups required for obstacle races, ‘enough carbohydrates pre and mid-race’ are required.
A blend of protein is also essential with electrolyte drinks or sweets for sugary fuel during mid-race. After the race is over, a good balance between carbs and proteins is crucial for recovery.
Our top example Spartan training regime plan
You’ll want to begin each workout with a warm-up routine and some dynamic stretches to get the blood pumping and muscles in gear (don’t forget burpees – not optional).
How to do it: We recommend a 40 second rest between each set and always opt for weights that push you further. Do three sets of each routine. Aim to do at least twice a week.
To focus more on upper body strength: you’ll want to do 10 push-ups, 10 box jumps and as many pull-ups as you can comfortably do then gradually increase.
To focus more on total or lower body strength: plank crawls with 20-30 reps, 10 step-ups to balance then switch leg and 10 leg raises.
You’ll want to mix in your hill sprints and remember rest days too. Some other really important workouts you can mix into your weekly routine are:
- The power clean workout works the entire body so you maximize your impact in minimal time. Strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and back & shoulders with the power clean move.
- Rope straight arm pull-down builds strength in the biceps and shoulders. You want to get comfortable pulling yourself up for the obstacle course so finding apparatus in the gym that helps you mimic this motion is great.
- General circuit training. This is a great idea as it incorporates aspects from everything into a condensed workout.
Now you’re starting to get into the mindset of the true, well-prepared Spartan, you realize it’s not all fun and games. Once you get signed up to your chosen challenge its crucial to stay in shape, get a team/buddy on board and stay positive. Not everyone makes it to the finish line but you can rest assured that no matter how far you get, it’s an experience you’ll never forget.