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5 Ways To Train For Your First Spartan Race

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

As the new year sets in, there are a lot of opportunities to get your body moving and become fit, toned and lean. You might be thinking 'This is year I complete a 5k race' - that's so wonderful! - but if you are reading this and you are on the fence about registering for any 5k race - I will tell you that no matter where you are in your fitness level, it is never to late to start training for a race that you will never forget.

This brings me to day's topic - the Spartan Race. This race is really an amazing experience.

It's now a month into 2023 and nothing says "new year, new you" like new fitness resolutions. Why not make this year a good year to do something more than just head to the gym?

I'm not sure about you, but I thoroughly enjoy working out at a gym. I could live there and just never get tired of hearing those weights, or the sound of the treadmill. But, if you are someone who really just likes to get outdoors for those long runs, or likes to lift weights outside, then I have the perfect solution for you. (And even if you do like to hit the indoor gym - I still have a great idea for you too!) - Why not try a challenge this year? Yes! it could really be a lot of fun!

Spartan races are designed to make fitness fun by involving mud puddles, crawling under barbed wire, jumping over the fiery pits of doom and more!

Speaking of challenges, I've been hearing people ask how tough is a Spartan Race? Everyone seems to have a different opinion and that is totally fine! But the fact of the matter is that everyone completes the race...even if they aren't in the best of shape. That still leaves the question: Can I do a Spartan race if I haven't trained in many years? - let's find out below!

How fit do you need to be to run a Spartan Race?

Yes, I know...Spartan has the word "race" in it, but to be honest, there isn't a whole lot of running in a Spartan Race.

Honestly, when you walk the race, you'll save energy and reserve it in order to complete each obstacle. I've been to a a few races that have the obstacles far apart, so I moderately jogged to the next one. You don't have to do that, but if you feel up to it you totally can! I've even seen people actually run in a full sprint! - But, I'd recommend that you do reserve some energy to climb those ropes and those 10 foot high plywood walls!

To be honest, running might even be the last thing on your mind. You might be a little bit more focused on how you are going to maneuver over the wall, or repel yourself down. (Not to worry! every Spartan athlete there will be more than happy to help out another fellow Spartan)

How to train for a Spartan Race

I love when I've signed up for a Spartan Race and it's time to start training. I love Obstacle course racing! - But it does test several measures of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, strength and mobility.

One important thing to remember when training for a Spartan Race is that you have to make sure your training plan is very well rounded. If you end up focusing on cardio but not strength, you will end up struggling in certain parts of the course. - Not to say that you can't do the obstacle, but it just makes it harder.

Take me for example: My first Obstacle Race I trained so hard - or at least I thought I did- I I ran those miles, completed those burpees and nailed those push-ups. But one thing I neglected to work on was several pulling exercises. This meant that I could barely have the strength to pull myself up onto the obstacles!

Remember when I mentioned that fellow Spartan athletes would help? Yes. That's exactly what happened! I had quite a few other fellow racers who came to the rescue and helped me with quite a few obstacles because my muscles were weaker than what I wanted. Just remember, if you give up on an obstacle, you must endure a penalty of 30 burpees!

Preparing for your first Spartan Race, is so essential and quite easy if you focus on the following pillars:

1. Upper body strength

You do want to make sure you are working on that upper body strength - pushing and pulling movements. To develop pulling strength, perform exercises such as pull-ups, barbell or dumbbell rows and lat pull-downs. To develop pushing strength, perform push-ups, bench press, tricep dips, overhead presses and other similar exercises.

You can also complete exercises such as kettlebell swings and power cleans. If you have never completed these exercise, you can always ask a personal trainer to show you how to do these with correct form.

2. Lower body strength

When training your lower body, always make sure you are keeping it simple. Squats, lunges and deadlifts will prepare your muscles for the challenges of a Spartan Race.

If you are up for a challenge, you can always include other exercises such as box jumps, tuck jumps, jumping lunges and other plyometric movements.

3. Mobility

When we talk about training, you might be wondering what mobility has to do with racing. But, seriously, you'd be surprised at how much flexibility you'll need for a Spartan Race -- particularly for obstacles like the slip wall, for which you'll need good hip mobility to get up and over.

I highly recommend that you spend some time stretching after your workouts to make sure your joints are good and loose before workouts.

4. Endurance

You might think endurance is a given when we talk about training. You do need to build muscular endurance - don't just focus on the cardio.

To up your endurance -- both cardiovascular and muscular -- for a Spartan Race, you should complete at least one high-volume workout per week.

5. Grip Strength

Spartan race obstacles require a lot on your upper body and cores. One of the important things you also must focus on is your grip strength. You might be wondering what is an effective way to strengthen your grip. You can try completing Farmer's Carries, or invest in a good pair of Hand Grippers. You can go ahead and add them into your fitness routine. Trust me, it’ll especially come in handy on the monkey bars, monkey rings, rope climb, rope traversal wall and twister.

Course length and obstacles

Spartan has five different obstacle races: the Spartan Sprint, the Spartan Stadium Series (also called Spartan Stadion), the Spartan Super, the Spartan Beast and the Spartan Ultra.

The Spartan Sprint is best for beginners. This face is 5K (3.1 miles). I've read that depending on the location, the length can vary from three to five miles.

I had a friend whose race was just around 4 miles long. No matter how long the race is, there is always 20 obstacles in the Sprint. What the best part is that Spartan sets up a unique course for every location, so you won't know which obstacles you'll encounter until you sign up and receive the course description. (You know you love surprises!)

Some obstacles that appear at many, if not all, Spartan Races include:

  • Rope climb: Climb a rope and ring a bell at the top

  • Monkey bars: Get all the way across with no assistance

  • Barbed wire: Crawl underneath barbed wire

  • Cargo net ladder: Climb up and over a cargo net structure

  • Hoist: Lift a heavy weight with a pulley system

  • Sandbag carry: Carry a sandbag for a designated length

  • Tire flip: Flip a tire from flat on the ground

Take Away

We covered a lot of information in order to set you up for success for your very first Spartan Race! We are super excited that you are at least thinking about joining one and becoming apart of the Spartan family.

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