We heard of a marathon, duathlon, and triathlon. These are the typical endurance sports events. Now, there is an increasingly popular endurance race called The Spartan Race. It is categorized as Obstacle Course Race, in short, OCR. It is an endurance race that challenges your mental, physical limit with multiple environments. It could be at the jungle, hills, mountains, snow, tropical forest, and even in the desert. In between the courses, they are obstacles you need to complete. In every Spartan race, you will expect mud and barbed wire, robes, stones and spears. So do not ever expect to be clean at the finish line of The Spartan Race.
I completed my first Trifecta Last year. Spartan Race is relatively new in the Asia market. The first Spartan Race in Asia was organized in Malaysia on the 10 October 2015. I believe they were “testing the water” that time and it was a great success. Now I can see Spartan Race community is growing rapidly throughout Malaysia and in the Asia region. I am proud to be part of the community.
I am going to share a little background about myself. Running long distances was not my thing. I am a powerlifter by background. I love to lifts like squat, bench press and deadlift. I workout focus more on growth in strength and power. However, I am embarking on a journey to do both strength and endurance. In other words, being a hybrid athlete and with a spice of callisthenics. I am still learning and seeking advice from friends who are in the fitness industry and doing my own homework. So, how do I prepare for Spartan Race?
The Spartan Coordinators do not release the course map to competitors beforehand, there’s no way of knowing exactly what you need to prepare for. You have to be ready for anything. Regardless of what the obstacles are, your endurance, speed, and upper and lower body strength is going to be tested to the limit. If you want to be competitive, you may need to have to include all these components of fitness into your training routine.
These are my 7 Spartan Race Training Components.
1. You got to love Burpee.
Burpee is the bread and butter of every athlete that runs The Spartan Race. If you failed an obstacle, you must complete 30 burpees. There are some mandatory obstacles, which you must do such as the bucket carry, sandbag carry, A-frame and etc. I usually perform burpee as my finisher workout, superset workout and during a run like every one kilometre I will do 15 to 30 reps of burpees.
2. Endurance Training.
The distances for Spartan Sprint is 5km+ with 20+obstacles, Spartan Super is 13km+ with 25+obstacles, and Spartan Beast is 21km+ with 30+obstacles. It is very different from running a Marathon. The obstacles in between will mess your running pace, and it is worst is if you fail the obstacles. The 30 burpees are going to burn your legs. To get ready for the distance, I usually run at least one long (more than 10km) run per week. 3 weeks before a race, I increase the distance (12km to 21km) and the number of runs. To spice it up, sometimes I do 15 to 30 burpees every 1 to 2 kilometres. If you are preparing for an Ultra Beast with a distance of 42km and 50+obstacles, you got to train longer and harder.
3. Trail and Hills Training
The only thing to expect is the unexpected. Spartan Race is always held close to nature. Expect to face nasty hills, rocky terrain, muddy path and cold river. Hence, same goes for your training. Hill and trail running should be a must in your training.
It is quite challenging for me to find a hill to train that is close to my place. So I usually run on the highest incline of the treadmill, and at times I will carry the 60lbs Spartan Pan Cake. I usually run at the beach and not so much on the tar road. If you got hill that is close to your place, you should that the opportunity to train there.
4. HIIT and Interval training.
The obstacles between the race will affect your running pace. It was worst when you failed, and you had to do burpees. So how can we train for this scenario? You can include interval training, and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). These training increases your heart rate. Increasing your heart rate allow you to raise your anaerobic threshold.
Interval run is done by changing the running pace with the right interval duration. What I usually do, for longer intervals, decrease your speed. For shorter intervals, increase your speed. For every one kilometre mark, I sprint as fast as I can then I proceed to jog until the next kilometre. Another way to mix things up is to do 15 to 30 burpees every one kilometre of your run.
I love to do HIIT with weights. One of my favourite, barbell complex. It is a continuous movement with a short period of time. It may include back squat, overhead press, bent over row and deadlift. One of my typical routine sets are 225lb back squat, pull-ups, burpees and neutral chin up. The goal is to push your body in an anaerobic mode and recover from it as quickly as possible to continue your running pace.
5. Powerlifting and Callisthenics
Working on your upper and lower body is essential. You might have to climb over a wall, carry a sandbag uphill, climb across monkey bars, do a Hercules hoist, crawl under barbed wire, bucket carry, Atlas carry and more. Typically, powerlifting main lifts are back squat, deadlift and bench press. These workouts will help to build your lower body strength a lot. For callisthenics, being great in your pull-ups, chin up, monkey bar, and robe climbing is a tremendous asset. Invest some time to work in both powerlifting and callisthenics in your training week.
6. Listen to your body and rest!
Listen to your body. At times, you may experience fatigue and exhaustion. Then, you got no mood to workout. There could be two main reasons. One, you do not have enough sleep. And two, you do not have a rest day. Make sure you give yourself at least 1 to 2 full rest days per week to allow your body to make necessary adaptations and recovery. Make sure you give yourself 7 to 8 hours sleep. Muscle is not built during the workout, it grows when you are sleeping. Rest is very very important to improve your fitness, maximising your results, and preventing injuries. Look through your workout program.
7. Go for a chiropractic and a massage to enhance recovery.
We send our car to service routinely. Probably, every 6 months or every 10,000km mileage. Similar to our body, we push our body during our workout. We also need to “service” our body. I usually go for a chiropractic adjustment once a month. Chiropractic helps me to place my body in the proper position that then allows the body to heal itself. It relieves and losses my joints! Massage relieves the muscles which will speed up recovery and healing. It helps to relieve the Delayed onset muscle soreness! Yes, the painful DOMS! Please invest some time and money in a chiropractic appointment and a massage. It allows your body to work efficiently with less injury downtime.
Train smart. Eat right. Rest well. Sleep enough. Race hard!
Here are My Sample Spartan Race Workout Routines.
Sample Spartan Race Workout Schedule:
- Monday – Powerlifting workout (Squat + Bench)
- Tuesday – Endurance Run
- Wednesday – Interval Run (Speed) + Obstacle Training
- Thursday – Rest
- Friday – Powerlifting workout (Deadlift)
- Saturday – Interval Run (Burpee per km)
- Sunday – Rest
When you schedule your workout, here are the things that you always need to consider;
- Be flexible, it may be depending on your day job and weather.
- Balance the schedule between strength and endurance.
- Balance the schedule between the upper body and lower body.
- Listen to your body and learn to rest.