I hear it all the time, people questioning their ability to complete a Spartan Race. And the answer I give every time is an adamant YES!!!! Everyone possesses the ability to “Finish” a Spartan Race. The question you should ask yourself is “Do I want to do a Spartan Race?” “Do I want to conquer my fears and get out of my comfort zone?” “Do I want to push my mind, body and soul past the limits I have placed on myself?” If your answer is an adamant “YES”, then the first step is choosing which Spartan Race is right for your fitness level and signing up.
There are three levels of Spartan Races: Spartan Sprint which is 3+ miles with 20+ obstacles, Spartan Super an 8+ mile race with 25+ obstacles, and Spartan Beast involving 12+ miles with 30+ obstacles. And if you want to become an Epic Spartan Racer you can complete all three races with in the calendar year and earn your Spartan Trifecta. Spartan also offers Ultra races which are marathon distances with over 60 obstacles for the ultra-runner out there.
I recommend if you aren’t a runner and are just starting your journey, the definitely start with the Spartan Sprint. It offers a great introduction to the world of obstacle course racing. If you have experience with running and have ran a few 5k’s and are ready to up your miles, then the Super is your race. It is more challenging and will place a higher demand from your body. If you are an avid runner and your body can take 2+ hours of time on your feet and you are ready to drive your body to the next level, then the Beast is where it’s at. The distance alone is demanding, but add the obstacles and you have the perfect match to completely change your life.
Since the first Spartan Super I completed in Burnette Texas back in May 2012, I was hooked. Granted it was an awful experience as I had the stomach bug, but in the end it was one of the most rewarding races of my life. Leading up to the race I questioned my ability to “finish” the race. “Did I train hard enough?” “Was I strong enough to complete the obstacles?” Will I survive all the burpees?” I mean the list of questions and doubts went on and on. But as I leapt over the fire I knew at that moment I did have what it takes to complete the race and I fell in love with Spartan. I’ve seen it happen to so many of my clients and friends once they take the leap and run a Spartan.
Spartan Races are unlike any race I’ve ever run. They require so much more from your body than just running. The obstacles are challenging and they are a requirement. You must attempt every obstacle and for every obstacle you fail there is a 30 burpee penalty. So get comfortable busting out 30 burpees at a time. Do it several times a day and do it during workouts. The faster and more efficient you get at it the easier the race will be. I love burpees. You can do them anywhere, anytime without needing any equipment. Learn to love them. Another aspect of Spartan Races is the terrain and it will vary from venue to venue, however they are not nice, neat flat easy clean trails. They are challenging and in nature. The obstacles also vary from venue to venue, but most will have walls, carries, barb wire, rope climbs, traverse wall, and fire jump. Check out the Spartan website for a full list and overview of all the obstacles.
So, the next question I usually get after picking a race and signing up is “How do I train for this?” “Oh my God, I need to start running 10+ miles every day!” “I’m going to die!” But my response is always the same. “No to all!” When training for a Spartan Race you need to vary your workouts and get outside. Don’t get hung up on obstacle specific training. Don’t think if you don’t have a wall to practice getting over or a traverse wall, I will not be able to complete them, all you have to do is train specific muscles to perform the obstacle. For example, to get over any wall solo without help will require a pull-up into a dip, then a kick over and a descending jump into squat position. So include those exercises into your workouts and you will have no problem conquering any wall. Also don’t get in the mindset I have to be able to run 10+ miles every day, non-stop to complete a Beast. Remember the miles will be broken up with obstacles and there will be areas where you will have to wait for an obstacle. There will be areas where you can’t run, where you will have to walk, crawl and climb your way through the race. So include all of those in your training. Grip strength will also increase your success rate at obstacles. Farmer carries are one of my favorite ways to increase grip strength. There a so many different farmer carries you can do and I recommend incorporating all of them. I also like to do burpees, squats, push-ups and lunges during my runs. I will stop every quarter to half mile and do 10-20 of each exercise depending on how far I’m running. Also picking up logs or rocks to add weight to lunges and squats is another way to up the challenge. Or carrying a log or rock for distance while running. Find a hill preferably on a trail and sprint up/jog down for time. Practice carrying heavy logs or buckets up and down hills. Another key to “Finishing” a race is “Time on your feet”. It doesn’t just have to be running, it can be walking, climbing, crawling or carrying heavy loads up and down stairs, your feet/ body should become accustomed to the energy expenditure that will be required for the race. I recommend one day a week be dedicated to this type of training. Building up to the expected completion time of the race.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Push your mind and body passed their limits during your workouts. It’s important to become mentally tough. Train your mind that quitting isn’t an option. That no matter how bad it gets or how bad your body feels, you will not stop. The body will achieve what the mind believes. I truly believe that mental toughness and true grit conquers Spartan Races over physical ability alone. If you build an unbreakable mind your body will be unbreakable and there will be no obstacle or circumstance that will keep you from finishing. Get uncomfortable and push your body and mind beyond their limits. It takes every ounce of your mind, body and spirit to become a true Spartan. It is my passion to bring that inner Spartan that I know is in each and every one. We are all capable of greatness and I love bringing it to the surface. If you are contemplating your first race or a seasoned Spartan wanting to PR your next race, I offer online programming, online personal training and Spartan Race prep. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to get you Spartan Fit.