A Beginner’s Perspective to Spartan Race Training
It’s been about three weeks since my last post on my quest to tackle a Spartan Super, so thought it time I share how things are progressing, and what I’m doing in an attempt to prepare for the race on April 14 (2018)…
The Super is just a couple weeks away now. It’s in Snohomish, WA (about 25 miles north of Seattle). For 2018 it will be held at the Meadow Woods Equestrian Center.
My training routine is basic – and complete disclosure – I have no idea how well it’s preparing me for this Spartan Super.
This will be my first Spartan race, and I’ve never participated in any other type of “mud run” or OCR as they say (Obstacle Course Racing) – I’m a true newbie – you’ve been warned.
I’m hopeful my routine will at least provide some basic guidelines and insight for others just starting out on their first OCR / Mud Run / Spartan race journey.
I started Spartan specific training 9 weeks prior to the race date. My initial focus was to get mind and body accustomed to running, as my primary cardio over the last several years has been stationary bikes, stair steppers, and high-incline treadmill walking. I also wanted to ensure I had the balance and flexibility to run on uneven surfaces.
My training weeks have broken out as follows for the Spartan Super. If you have any questions or suggestions for improvement, please leave a comment – I’m always open to new training ideas and concepts, as it’s important from a mental and physical perspective to keep routines fresh.
1 to 2 mile outdoor runs on grass, a track, and trails, every other day. I live near a school with a track, so my destination was the track for 2 to 4 laps. On the way to and from, I would run mainly on grass or dirt.
I maintained my normal workout routine in the gym which consists of basic weight training and stretching.
I did add a new warm up at the gym that consisted of a five minute walk / run at 30% incline on the treadmill, every other day. I wanted to get mentally and physically familiar with running uphill as I assume there will be a few in the Spartan race.
3 mile outdoor run every third day (2 days of rest between runs). I added in 10 burpees every half-mile. Maintained the same gym routine of weights, stretching, and treadmill hill warm-up.
Week 3 thru 5
Notched the running up to 4 miles for weeks 3 and 4, and by week 5, was doing 5 mile runs. My goal at this point was to do a total of 100 burpees throughout the run.
I always started and ended my runs with 20 burpees, so pushed to accomplish another 60 during. At week 3 and 4, I would do sets of 10 burpees every half to one mile. At week 5, I was doing burpee sets of 20 at the start, during, and after the run to hit at least 100 for my running session. I added hills to my runs – approximately 1 mile.
I added in pull ups to my gym workout – at least 10 each workout session (5 days a week).
Week 6 through 8
At week 6 and 7, I increased the runs to at least 6 miles (but no more than 7) and found as many hills as I could – continuing to do at least one mile of hill runs, on grass and trails. For week 6, continued with 100 burpees throughout run.At week 8 (current), I’m pushing for 7+ miles, and staying consistent with amount of hills. At weeks 7 and 8, starting my run with 30 burpees, and ending with at least 40.
I’m maintaining the same gym routine, but now pushing to do 15 to 20 pull ups at least 4 days a week.
Don’t forget to stretch – before and after runs and workouts.
Week 9 (one week prior to race day):
My plan is to take this week off from running and burpees – providing 5 days of rest. I’ll still hit the gym, but the focus will be simple core work (abs, etc), stretching, and light cardio (stationary bike and elliptical) to keep my muscles loose and active.
I wanted to highlight the burpee segments of the workouts as they can be pretty intense, and draining. Do the best you can. You may be able to do more than the goals I set for myself, or less. The important thing is to get familiar with the proper technique, and just do them. Perhaps your goal is 5 in the beginning. They will get easier, and will become second nature. Do not let them intimidate you. Know they are a wonderful, transformative exercise. I found them to be more mentally challenging than physically. Once I finally hit the 30 burpee threshold (my initial goal), it felt as if I could keep going. You will get there as well.
Thoughts on Gear
For my first Spartan race I wanted to wear a hydration pack (Camelbak Mule), so began training with one at week 5. Depending upon how much water you plan to carry, as well as other stuff (gels, bars, phone, etc), it will make a difference to your training. If you plan to wear a pack during the race, definitely train (running and burpees) with your pack to get comfortable and familiar with the load and feel.
Headphones for Training (and race day)?
I don’t plan to have music or a podcast for race day, so I alternated every other training run with “silence” rather than a podcast. There’s something about not being distracted by an external source and being more in tune with your mind and body as you gruel through the run and burpee training sessions!
According to the official Spartan rules, headphones are not allowed for Elite and Competitive racers. This post on Reddit provides some additional insight on headphones / music if planning to race in the Open wave.
For training, I’m using my Fitbit Blaze to monitor heart rate and track mileage. If you have a smart watch available, I would recommend training with such, but caution for race day based on the mud and obstacles you’ll encounter. However, if you would like to wear a GPS / smart watch for a race, this article on Reddit provides some insight of what a watch will need to endure, and some GPS watches that are up to the task.
Clothes and Shoes
I’m wearing the exact outfit I plan to race in. However, when the temps dip down into the thirties, I add a beanie cap, light gloves, and a light running jacket. I only run in the morning, and normally start before sunrise, so always wear reflective gear that can be easily seen from all directions. I also wear a headlamp to ensure I can easily see all terrain. To ensure your safety, please consider wearing reflective gear.
By week 6, I was in only what I would be running in on race day – Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX Trail Shoes, Mud Gear Compression Race Socks, polyester shorts (zippered pockets), Under Armor HeatGear long sleeve compression shirt, and Nike dry fit short sleeve shirt (polyester).
- Do not wear anything cotton for training or race day.
Cotton will weigh you down and not dry out or wick moisture away from your body.
- Avoid shorts with open pockets.
They will fill up with water and weigh you down in the water obstacles.
From what I’ve gathered thus far in my readings, what your wear on race day is a critical piece of the race and how you’ll perform – your wears can make or break you during a race.
The following links will provide additional insight on what to wear, along with what not to. They all provide the same general guidance. I’ve relied on this input to select my training and race day gear.
- Spartan.com – What to wear for my first race
- What to Wear for Spartan Race Day and Tough Mudder
- Head to Toe Guide: What to Wear For a Spartan Race
If you’re training for a Spartan Race (or any OCR for that matter), consider viewing how obstacles are approached and conquered on YouTube. Once you know what obstacles you’ll be facing at your race (Spartan normally releases the course and obstacles fairly close to race day), you can look up those specific ones. But for now, these videos will give you a good flavor of what to expect:
Well there you have it, some workout insights from a Spartan-wannabe that hasn’t run a single Spartan Race, or any OCR or Mud Run for that matter! What works for one person, may or may not work for another. You may need to alter my routine to best fit your age, body type, fitness level, and the type of OCR you’re training for.
I’m hoping my introductory training efforts may inspire a few who are considering a Spartan race, and perhaps get you up, out, and after it!
If you have any questions on my training, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!
For other training ideas, insight, and guidance, check out these sites.
- Spartan Official Training
- com – Comprehensive Training, Diet, and other Tips
- General OCR Training and Coaching Resources
If you have any questions or comments, please leave below or send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org #SpartanStrong!
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