“What did I get myself into?”

It’s an inevitable question. The worry of uncertainty always finds a way to creep deep into your consciousness in between breaths during any Spartan race, especially your first.

Spartan Races certainly aren’t for everyone but offer a unique challenge that frenzies the mind, body, and spirit. As Spartan Races, and other obstacle races similar (e.g. Mud Run, Battle Frog, etc.), become more popular, there is a good chance you have considered participating in this fitness craze. Moving from consideration to commitment is a huge step in itself. You willingly signed up for something that is going to leave you exhausted, muddy, and challenged (amongst other things).

Next is preparation, no matter your athletic level, specific “spartan” training is essential. There are workouts, techniques, and strategies needed to know to ensure a successful race. However, many don’t know how or even what to prepare for. After finishing my fifth race (and the Spartan Trifecta), I have developed a good strategy, specific techniques, and easy exercises that serve as my obstacle course training. Now, I would like to share it with you.


The Rope Climb 

  • A simple but frustrating obstacle. I failed my first attempt and realized it was much more about technique than strength.
  • There is a very simple method to learn and practice to master this obstacle.
  • How to:*
    1. With both hands, grab the rope as high as you can. As you lift yourself up, hook your dominant leg over the rope and tuck the same foot back under the rope.
      • The rope should snake under your knee and over your shin and foot.
    2. Use your free leg to stomp on the rope wrapped around the other foot making a “rope sandwich” (i.e. free foot, rope, bottom foot).
    3. Like a pulley, the “rope sandwich” will give you a temporary break to rest, hold, and leverage as you keep climbing.
    4. Once you have the sandwich, reach up with your hands, slide the rope between your legs, lift your feet, and stomp.
    5. Repeat this action until you reach the top.
      1. There is a bell needed to ring, with a tight grip, reach out and ring the bell.

*You will need to find a gym with a rope. Most CrossFit gyms have a rope, and if you don’t have a membership, most gyms welcome a quick 15-min walk in.

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Weighted Hill climbs

  • This obstacle comes in all shapes and sizes. You will be required to carry awkward objects (buckets, logs, sandbags, etc.) that weigh from 25-50 lbs for distances from 50-150 yards, downhill and uphill.
  • These climbs are the most physically and mentally demanding because they are the longest obstacle in time and distance.
  • Suggested workouts to simulate and prepare:
Training with friends is always better!
  •  The above exercises focus on your “explosion muscles.” Working on your quads and glutes will help strengthen your leg drive and endurance.
  •  Regarding strategy, I recommend equally portioning your distance climbed and rest. You typically won’t be able to complete this obstacle in one effort, you will need to rest. Therefore, set a goal for X amount of steps and X seconds rest. This will ensure a good pace and manageable climb.
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Endurance

  • My biggest fear when considering a Spartan Race was the long distance running. I had never run 8, 12, 15 miles ever! 
  • The good news is that you don’t need to be a long distance runner to find success. Each Spartan Race obstacle is ~.5 miles apart, making the course manageable when broken up. In summary, know what a good .5 mile pace is and be able to run a couple miles at a time.
  • I would suggest interval training. Interval training is “a combination of activities that require different rates of speed, degrees of effort, etc.”  This not only replicates the variety of a race but offers a more compelling training experience than a treadmill.
  • You can do the following running alternatives:
    • Boxing
    • Indoor cycling
    • Jump rope
    • Fitness classes
    • Row machine
    • Running hills
    • Band resistance
  •  The great thing about the exercises mentioned is that they can be brief, but still valuable.

Misc Workouts/thoughts

  • Many of your daily exercises can translate into obstacles. Here are a few I recommend and what they translate into:
  • Pull ups: Wall climbs/Monkey Bars
  •  Deadlifts (or actual tire flips): Tire flips/rock carries
  • Grip exercises (45 lb plate holds, hanging for time, farmer carries): Monkey bars + carries
  • Army crawls: Barbwire crawl
  • Any obstacle you don’t complete is 20 burpees. Practice your burpees!
  • Spartan spear thrower obstacle – can be made with PVC pipe
  • Do your research. This is just the start! Many racers post their videos on youtube and SpartanRace has a channel posting “how-to’s” from the pros.
  • The course is designed to be muddy and wet, so your “Spartan Gear” should include water-resistant clothes and water draining shoes.
  •  Some people brought camel backs, I typically wouldn’t recommend bringing one because they are awkward/ bulky.
    • Although there are water stations every mile, bring hydration tablets, salt packets, mustard, snacks that can fuel you for the longer races and prevent cramps.

Final takeaways

  • The courses are tough, but most anyone can complete the race. There is no pressure or expectations, no one is there making a spectacle of your failures (most everyone is concerned with their own efforts to recognize others).
  • It’s always nice to compete in front of friends and significant others!
  • Have fun; there is no point to show up and compete if you aren’t going to enjoy yourself. A motto that carried me through football and life is “fake it till you make it.” Put a smile on your face, put on some war paint, hoot, and holler, and I guarantee it you will have a better time. Good luck!
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P.S. Lots of great photo opportunities, so don’t forget to smile. 

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