Rosie and I have completed several Spartan Races, both the 5ks and the full on 12 miler ‘Beast’. We’ve got our next race coming up soon so thought we’d gather together our joint experience and put together our top tips for training for a Spartan Race.
Spartan Races aren’t quite like any other obstacle course race. As one of the first obstacle course races to hit the UK, they’re the real deal. They call upon complete mental and physical strength regardless of which mileage you opt for. There’s a sense of community and loyalty with those who run Spartan Races, after all, it’s not everyday you share ‘AROOs’ back and forth the British countryside as you race across sticky ankle-deep mud or carry a log as tall as yourself up a steep slope.
Spartan Races are also timed which means that for those who have a competitive spirit, the first thing you’ll be wanting to know (after you’ve re-fuelled) is where you came. My top tip for this is if you want to race for time, rather than fun, choose an early morning wave otherwise you’ll end up feeling frustrated if you’re in a queue for obstacles.
There’s several reasons why it’s important to train for a Spartan Race. But let’s get down to the main one; Spartan Race is hard. In my opinion, along with Nuts, it’s one of the hardest. Why? Because especially for women, it demands a fair amount of upper body strength and we often don’t often train in the right way for this. There are many movements in the Spartan Race which we don’t come across in our usual fitness class (CrossFit gets the closest) and it’ll have you carrying Atlas balls, flipping and running with ‘pancakes’ over your shoulder, crawling under cargo nets, traversing along narrow ledges and much more.
So how do you prepare for this? We’ve had a good long think and have come up with our top tips for training for a Spartan Race.
Nail your burpees
There a 30 burpee penalty for every obstacle you don’t succeed. With approximately 25 obstacles in a Reebok Spartan Super and 20 packed into a 5k Sprint, you could be looking at 600 burpees! Of course, you’ll have your training nailed so you whizz through the obstacles but you want to be prepared. Otherwise, it’s going to be a looooong race.
Work on upper body strength
It’s not only your legs that are required to get your around but your arms too. As well as carrying heavy loads, you’ll be needing strong arms to hoist weights on a pulley, climb ropes (proper technique will help shift some of the work to your legs), A-frame hanging climbs over mud or water and more. Practise all the different movements, from pulling horizontally, pulling vertically (a TRX is great for this, as are pull-up exercises) and pushing too. There are lots of children’s playgrounds with monkey bars – a great place to practice!
Work on bodyweight exercises
Unlike many other obstacle course races, what makes Reebok Spartan Race so unique is that there aren’t any bells and whistles – all the obstacles are fairly simple but challenging. Spartans didn’t have inflatables to clamber over! No, they had mud-filled trenches and heavy stone balls to carry! Bodyweight exercises are PERFECT for Spartan Races as they are an efficient form of exercise, testing your cardio, improving strength, increasing your overall fitness and also often improving your balance. Squeeze press-ups, squats, lunges, jumps, pull-ups and planks into your workout too.
Vary your workouts
“If you keep doing things the same way, you’ll get the same results.”
Variety is the spice of life and mixing up your workouts will make you better for smashing a Spartan Race. Mix in weights with cardio, HIIT, bodyweight exercises and even yoga.
Learn how to work with others
Whether you’re running in a team or as an individual, there are some obstacles where you’ll need some help. Watch out for others and they’ll watch out for you. Practise this during your fitness sessions – people may not need leg-ups during a bootcamp but start by giving encouragement and seeing how much of a boost it is for them and you.
Train in the kit you’ll wear on the day
Don’t make the mistake we made where we ran a Spartan Beast in new shoes. We ended up adding an extra hour to our time and limped home with bleeding heels. Work out what you’re going to wear in advance and make sure you do full training sessions in your kit.
Train your way
There’s no set training you should do for the Spartan Race. Be sensible about it – take sessions you really enjoy and also have a think about your weaknesses (they’re often the exercises which you hate the most) and focus on them too. Google training videos, speak with others who have done it and make up your own training plans.
Remember that you’re training for a Spartan Race and Spartan Races are fun! Enjoy the training journey as much as the race itself. Each fitness session you do gets you stronger and fitter.
Are you training for a Spartan Race this year? How’s your training going? Any particular top tips that you can share with our readers too?