8 Tips for Running a Spartan Race
Spartan Race is an Obstacle Course Race along with covering distance. As you all know, I traveled to Jacksonville, Florida last weekend to participate in 2 Spartan Races, the Super (8+ Miles / 31 Obstacles) and the Sprint (3+ Miles / 20+ Obstacles). Although I’ve run 2 Sprint Spartans in the past, this was the very first time I ran 2 races in 2 days. So I wanted to share my experience with you on the things I’ve learned and whatever tips I can offer to encourage you to start training and participate in this race.
1) Build Endurance
Start running, not on a treadmill, not on the road, run on a trail. Trails have uneven surface, slopes, muds, all these things keep your mind alert. Learning how to run downhill also requires technique especially if the slope is slippery and muddy. You will need all of these skills on the race day.
2) Lift but only to facilitate Functional Training
You could be someone who could bench press 300 lbs or deadlift 500 lbs but running a Spartan Race requires total body synchronization. If you’re able to do 300 crunches but unable to carry a sandbag you may need more shoulder, core and leg training involved. If you’re able to crank out 20 pull up but unable to climb a rope, you’d need to learn the technique and get more grip or forearm training involved. So you have to hit the weak spots that do not correctly translate your gym strength into functional strength.
3) Increase Grip Strength
Grip Strength is perhaps the most overlooked when it comes to gym training. You have to start thinking beyond aesthetics. Aesthetics and looking good are important, so is performance. Increasing grip and forearm strength can exert more force and strength through these muscle groups. A lot of the gym work is done around large muscle groups but not around the small muscle groups that sort of become the weakest link.
Again, the entire lifting strength is not translated into functional strength because of isolated movements. Isolated movements are great to hit those weakest links that prevent the large muscle groups to exhibit complete strength. All those monkey bars, rope climbs, etc. require grip strength. It’s also important to move like a champion, have great athletic performance along with great aesthetics.
4) Invest in a pair of Gloves
I cannot emphasize the importance of having good gloves. In my first Spartan Race, I ripped my hands with at least 3 obstacles. Get a cheap pair from Home Depot and look for mechanic gloves. They hold grip even when wet. Cost me about $3 per pair. Don’t worry about the fancy shit.
5) Leave your Ego
I cannot tell you how many people get injured on the race. There is a lot of peer pressure around (in a good way) and people are trying to encourage each other. If you haven’t practiced for an obstacle, or if it has rained and your grip might slip, try hanging first on the bar or the rope and see how you hold up. There’s a difference between being tough and being stupid. Ask someone for help during the obstacle. Most people are happy to help each other out. There are some obstacles where helping each other is prohibited for safety reasons but most others you can ask for help. Leave your ego outside the field. Your goal is get through with the obstacle safely. You’re there to get better not to get hurt. Stay safe.
6) Practice awkward training outside the gym
Cross Training is important, lift groceries, lift uneven objects, walk outside with a heavy sandbag or a bucket filled with stones. Flip tires, practice plank walls, practice push ups that require core work. These are real life strength skills. All these elements involve balance, core and stability training. Attend boot camps where a variety of training is offered. You’ll need a ton of balance to walk, run through the muddy water mixture. The more awkward training you do, the better prepared you are for the Spartan Race.
7) Invest in good mud run shoes and proper attire.
Mud run shoes are specifically designed to have better grip on trails and similar surfaces. Inov8 is a great mud run shoe company. They make shoes specifically for mud runs. Also mud run socks are important to cover all the way to your knees and hold the calf muscle tight. First it’s great to blood circulation and second it prevents the mud, stones, sticks to get inside the shoe.
When it comes to apparel, get something that is quick to dry. You’ll be going through water, mud slushes and cotton will only make your clothes heavier. Check for performance clothing in any fitness store.
8) Work with a Coach
I highly recommend working with a coach for at least 3-4 sessions to understand the major obstacles and how to train around them. I worked with a couple of coaches until I found the right one to work with. My friend Coach Matt really helped me a lot on techniques with the wall climb, rope climb, monkey bars. So work with a coach even if you’re a certified trainer, that’ll help you expose your blind spots and your weaknesses.
Also I watched a lot of YouTube videos on many obstacles and what to do to work around them. There are also Spartan Certified coaches that you can work with. They may have a gym with the obstacles in the their facility. That might be a great thing to do although I have never worked with any Spartan Certified coach so I don’t have any suggestions on that.
Hope that helps.
Love and Gratitude,
Here’s my first Video of my Spartan Race so you can see the race and how the prep was.
I write from my heart.
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