Ultimate Guide to a Spartan Race

by Brooks Tiller June 13, 2019 0 Comments

Ultimate Guide to a Spartan Race

The Ultimate Guide to a Spartan Race

Spartan Race Prep: About/ Sign Up

“We are doing a Spartan Race.” Wait… what?

If you’re like me, those are probably not the words you’d expect  to hear from your spouse. The simple name “Spartan Race” is an intimidating title for one of the premiere obstacle course races in America.

Surprising as it may sound, a Spartan Race is actually not as out-of-reach as you might think. With a good training plan, and a lot of effort it is achievable!

While there is nothing equal to the experience of running a Spartan Race, we wanted to provide you with an ULTIMATE GUIDE that will help you complete and dominate your first Spartan Race!

The Spartan Race is the fastest-growing participant sport in the world and this year there will be over 200 events in 42 countries!

There are a variety of race options with varying distances and challenging obstacles on the course. This allows all participants to compete and challenge themselves regardless of age, fitness level, or experience!

The Mission of the Spartan Race

The Spartan Race has the hilariously effective mission: “Rip 100 million people off the couch.” You could hop off of the couch and dive into the craziness of a race tomorrow, but we think a little preparation will go a long way to ensure you are ready to overcome the obstacles in your path.

A good Spartan training program can improve overall race time, but will also increase your physical fitness and strengthen your mind… talk about a win-win! It is time to get off the couch and leap across that finish line just in time for a Spartan Finisher medal to be placed around your sweaty, muddy neck.

Does that image get you excited? Let’s get started!

How Do I Get Started in a Spartan Race?

The first rule is, don’t overthink it.

It’s as simple as that!

Don’t give yourself the chance to agonize over the decision. Just make the commitment and sign up. You’ll be so glad you did! One fantastic way to motivate yourself to sign up is to buy yourself an exclusive Spartan-themed Groove Ring! As you slip that ring on your finger each day, it will drive you on to earn that Spartan trophy and wear the title proudly! 

Spartan provides many race options but for beginners consider starting with a Stadion or the SprintBoth of these are about 3 miles long with 20 obstacles along the course. With about 7 obstacles per mile, you don’t need to be a distance runner to complete the race. Plus, with several events taking place every weekend around the world, it is not difficult to find a race nearby. 

The biggest difference between a Spartan Stadion and a Spartan Sprint is the location. A Stadion takes place in some of the most iconic stadiums around the world! This allows participants to conquer a Spartan Race in the same stadium where they would normally be a spectator. A Sprint, on the other hand, takes place in the great outdoors where participants can splash across creeks, run over rugged terrain and tromp through mud.

spartan race obstacles

What Does it Cost to  Participate in a Spartan Race?

The true price of a Spartan Race is blood, sweat, and time… with a little money on the side! Okay, we’re joking… the entrance fee can vary depending on how early you register and the time you choose, in a range of $100-$175. Spartan also gives discounts for teams, as well as military and first responders.

To sign up, all you have to do is head over to Spartan.com and look for the closest location.

Once you sign up, circle that date on your calendar and challenge your family and friends to join you! Then, get off the couch and start training to become a Spartan!

Obstacles in a Spartan Race

If you know anything about Spartan races, you know there are a lot of crazy obstacles! How in the world are you supposed to prepare for these challenges in advance? In this ultimate guide, we are going to share some exercises with you that will help you prepare for what is in store, but first, we’re going to walk you through some of the obstacles you'll experience during your Spartan challenge!

A few obstacles vary between races, while others have become standards to a Spartan Race. Out on the course, you will need to scale a wall, participate in the bucket brigade, and complete the Hercules Hoist. You also will likely find yourself spear throwing, crawling under barbed wire, and jumping over a finish line of fire, which will challenge you mentally and physically while providing some great photo ops (always a plus)!

Here are a few of the obstacles you will most likely encounter on the course.

Obstacle 1: Pull ups/Hangs

spartan-race-hang-obstacle
Crossing monkey bars or swinging across a set of rings to avoid a mud pit (at least it’s not lava!) will challenge your hanging strength. Don’t worry, you do not have to be able to complete a single pull-up to finish the race! That being said, being able to hang and hold on for dear life will help you to stay dry above the mud.

Here’s a great exercise to improve hanging and pull-up strength:

  • Hangs for time: increase hang time with the goal of one minute.
  • Pull-up holds: Jump into the top of pull-up and hold for as long as possible before easing down.
  • Negative pull-ups: jump into the top of the pull-up position and slowly lower yourself to the bottom of a pull-up and repeat for 10 reps.
  • Banded pull ups/ jumping pull up: use a band to assist with a pull-up and to slow the movement down.
  • Bodyweight pull-ups: complete pull-ups without any assistance with the goal of 5 full range pull-ups

Obstacle 2: Rope pull/ Rope climb/ sled drag/ sled push

While practicing rope climbs and pulling heavy objects with a rope are great training, most of us probably don’t have access to a rope! If this is the case for you, any rowing action will pay off big. Add in some bent rows, pull-downs, and rowing to improve your overall strength and performance.

Obstacle 3: Hill climb/sprint/interval run

Since there is just a short distance between each obstacle, you will not need to run long distances. All you have to do is get to the next obstacle! We recommend that you build up to covering 3 miles each day to ensure you are ready to cover the ground quickly and with endurance! Whether you walk, run, or do a little of both, the key is to cover the ground.

One of the best ways to improve speed, endurance, and strengthen your cardiovascular system is to complete hill sprints. Hill sprints offer great benefits while decreasing the detrimental pounding of long distance running. When you sprint uphill, you are creating a powerful backside and improving speed while the interval nature of this exercise is great for your cardiovascular system.

spartan-hill-climb-obstacleFor a hill sprint interval workout, find a hill that will take you 10-20 seconds to climb. Take off up the hill walking or running as fast as your current conditioning allows. You will need to go all out up the hill for 8-10 seconds and then turn, taking time to walk slowly back down. This 10-second workout of a full-speed burst will get your heart pumping, so use the next 1-2 minutes for an active recovery as you walk back down the hill. For best results, complete 10 rounds of hill sprints so you’ll be ready to charge toward the next obstacle on the course.

Keep in mind, every Spartan Race will be different. While terrain, weather and the time of your race can impact the course and obstacles may vary, preparing for these obstacles will give you the confidence you need to complete the course. When you leap across that finish line, you will receive the spartan medal with pride, knowing that you earned every bit of it.

Exercises to Prepare for a Spartan Race

To overcome the obstacles of a Spartan Race, you must train in both physical and mental strength and endurance. As in any area of life, make sure you prepare well and your performance will show it! We can guarantee you that, just like in life, a Spartan Race will challenge you with an obstacle that you have not trained for, but the exercises we are about to share with you will help prepare you to take on anything that may be on the course when race day arrives.

Plank/Crawl

A strong core is critical in everyday life but you really tend to notice it when crawling under barbed wire or up to a muddy hill! To improve your core strength and endurance, abandon the sit-ups or crunches because a plank is your best choice.

Good form is essential to all forms of exercise and a plank is no exception.

Begin by lying on your stomach with legs fully extended and your toes on the ground.

Place your forearms flat on the floor with the elbows directly beneath your shoulders, then push the elbows into the floor to raise your body off of the floor.

Keeping your head in neutral alignment, tighten your glutes to hold the body straight. Keep your body tight for the whole exercise, with ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles aligned.

Step Ups

Walking, running, and jumping require single leg strength and stability. When you’re navigating the rough terrain of a Spartan Race, single leg balance is truly tested.

Step ups challenge your balance while improving your lower body strength. Whenever you have the chance, take the stairs, and if that’s not an option, you can improve your strength with just a single step by stepping up and down repeatedly. Focus on inhaling when stepping down and exhaling as you step up.

Grip Strength

Grip strength is critical to complete a Spartan Race. Plus, improving grip strength provides numerous benefits for everyday life. All you need to improve strength is a tennis ball, because squeezing the ball throughout the day will improve your grip. Squeeze and roll it around between your fingers while at work, on the drive home, or watching a movie with your family. Bonus Tip:: Give your grip extra power with the Spartan Ring. Plus, it's a great conversation starter!

Burpee

Burpees are the trademark exercise of the Spartan Race. Because they involve the whole body, burpees challenge the mind more than the body. At every Spartan Race obstacle, there is a designated area for burpees. If the obstacle was not completed successfully, you will end up doing burpees.

Incorporate burpees into your workouts or use them as a quick standalone workout in order to prepare for a Spartan Race. Don’t be afraid to start training small… burpees can wipe you out! Begin with broken burpees, as described below. Burpees are a complex movement and you can accomplish more if you break them down into five individual movements. If there was ONE move to focus on in preparation for the Spartan Race, it would be the burpee because it works every muscle in your body and get the cardiovascular system going.

Broken Burpees

Begin with a squat. Make sure you go low and attempt to touch the floor at the bottom of each rep.

Next, transition into a push-up position with arms locked, placing your hands under your shoulders. While keeping your body tight, you can now complete the knee tuck. Then, pulling your knees up to your chest with your feet under your center mass as if getting ready to jump up. To complete a rep, extend your legs back into a plank position.

The middle point of the burpee is a push-up. Lower your chest to the ground and then push back up into the plank position to complete one rep.

Execute a knee tuck again to prepare to get back to your feet and on to the next obstacle.

You’ve reached the final move! All you have to do here is jump up. You can do this by completing jumping jacks or vertical leaps to challenge yourself based on your needs and ability.

Complete 5 reps of each exercise set so, in just four rounds, you’ll accomplish a total of 100 reps.

One of the biggest keys to improving your health is simply showing up. To improve consistency, set up a workout schedule and stick to it. Commit to run a Spartan Race with someone else or get a big team together then meet up to train together for accountability! You’ll feel so encouraged working out with a group and it will pay off in the long run!

Spartan Race Nutrition and Hydration

Training for a Spartan Race is not an easy feat, but it is 100% worth the challenge! Becoming a Spartan can improve your life and health and create habits that you can maintain for years! Keep in mind that disciplined training is essential to be ready, but even more important than the training is our nutrition. (Crazy, right?)

The key to improving your health and fitness is not just some special workout program. You’ve heard that the way to the heart is through the stomach? Well, the way to be a Spartan is following the same path. No matter how hard you work out, you cannot outwork a bad diet.

If you do a simple scan of the countless blogs out there, you’ll find an instant plethora of diet recommendations. Low carb and low fat, carnivore and vegan, paleo and Mediterranean… the options are endless and many even contradict each other! We aren’t going to recommend a specific one of these diets you’ll find out there… that could get us into trouble! Instead, we’re giving you a few helpful tips to use while making meal choices during your training. Are you ready to get eating? Let’s go!

Spartan Race Nutrition? Eat Like an Adult

We will keep it really simple when it comes to nutrition. Focus on real food. When in doubt, eat food that our ancestors would recognize as food. If you find it on the store shelves in a box or a bag, or handed through a window… yeah, it’s probably not a good choice. Here’s your new rule for life - eat real food like an adult.

Protein

Your training will push you to build muscle and strength by breaking down muscle. As you break down muscle, it is critical to have the materials to rebuild and strengthen your muscles. To rebuild, you need amino acids which is consumed in the form of protein. Eggs and Meat are great sources of protein, and vegan sources include hemp seeds and seitan. Protein powders are great if you need food in a pinch, but make sure to read the label and do a little research because some are very high in sugar… that’s a no go! Amino acid supplements are a great way to help muscle recovery and keep you firing on all cylinders.

Hydration

Even more important than your food choices is your hydration. The human body on average is 60-70% water. Water is essential for the cells of the body to perform their daily tasks. Organs and tissues of the body rely on water to regulate temperature and maintain essential bodily functions, but we constantly lose water through sweating, breathing, and digestion.

We’ve all heard that we are supposed to drink eight 8oz glasses of water every day. That is 64oz or half a gallon of water per day! While this is a great starting point for the average, likely sedentary person, we want to challenge you that while you’re training for a Spartan Race, you need to have a higher goal. Training will cause your body to lose more water and become dehydrated. You need to up your intake of water to at least 64 oz or half of your body weight in ounces. At 210 pounds one would aim for 105oz each day, while someone at 120 pounds will stick to a minimal of 64oz.

So, why are so many people hesitant to drink this much water? The biggest complaint we hear is disappointment in the lack of flavor. If this is a problem for you, add fresh lemons, limes, and cucumbers to your water! Lemon and lime juice are an easy way to make your water taste amazing, and add good nutrition to your diet as well!

Dehydration

Dehydration is simply the body lacking water. Like a sponge, our body soaks up water and when we do not consume enough water, our body can begin to dry up. Our heart and brain are both over 70% water. When we become dehydrated, our most important bodily functions show a significant decrease. Some studies have shown that dehydration by as little as 2% can decrease reaction time as well as impair decision making. Muscle function can also be impaired, which can result in muscle strains and injuries.

Drinks that contain caffeine and sugar often have a water base but should not count toward our daily water consumption. Caffeine and sugar can act as diuretics, causing the body to excrete more water. This can actually end up decreasing your hydration levels.

Hydration Test

To ensure your hydration is on point, begin every morning with a glass of water. While sleeping at night your body is losing water due to various bodily functions of repair, and even through breathing. When you drink a glass of water, you help your body to get hydrated and ready for the day.

When you begin to feel thirsty or get dry mouth, it is a sign that you are already dehydrated. At this point, you are behind and already in trouble. The best way to assess your hydration level is to look at your urine. When hydrated well, the urine will have a very light, almost clear, look with no odor. As you become more dehydrated, you will urinate less frequently with urine becoming darker and possibly odorous.

When it comes to improving your health and fitness, the work you put in is important, but what you consume is even more important. Make wise choices based on real, whole, nutritious food. Focus on eating plenty of protein and limiting your sugar intake. Start the day off with water and make sure to drink a minimum of half a gallon of water each day. Fueling your body properly so you can achieve optimal health and cross that Spartan Race finish line in style!

Spartan Race Day

You did it! You are officially ready for your first Spartan Race! You signed up and circled the date on the calendar. Sweat and maybe even some blood has been shed during some pretty intense training. You are stronger and ready to overcome any Spartan Race obstacle that you may face! There’s just one more thing you don’t want to learn the hard way… it’s time to learn how to navigate and make the most of race day.

The knowledge of how to approach race day will allow a smooth and stress-free pre-race, which is key for you to achieve optimum performance on the course! The last thing you need is the stress and frustration of rushing around in a panic trying to find what you need before challenging yourself physically and mentally during the race! To make the most of your Spartan Race, here are some tips to optimize race day.

Bring Your Fans

Bring along the family and friends! You know you want to! Even if they aren’t running the race, tickets can be purchased ahead of time or even at the gate. It is so encouraging to have someone there cheering you on, and knowing someone is waiting for you at the finish line might be the extra boost we need to keep going when the course gets tough.

Arrive Early

Spartan Race suggests arriving an hour and a half before race start time. You’ll be glad you gave yourself a cushion of time, so we recommend you arrive at least two hours before your first Spartan Race. Make sure you plan extra time for traffic and check-in. Take it from the experts… you’ll want to arrive early so that getting to the start line doesn't turn into a stressful race in itself!

Parking

Most parking is not on asphalt but in a field that could get muddy, so make sure you plan your ride accordingly. Try to commute if possible, to cut down on the number of vehicles and make for a simpler exit. Bring a little cash for parking, but check the website for special offers because sponsors such as USAA often provide free parking for their members at many Spartan Race events.

Registration

There should be large, clear signs to direct you to registration. You’ll want to have your photo ID and registration barcode in hand to make the check-in process a breeze. At registration, you’ll receive your race packet that includes a few goodies as well as a timing chip and bib with your race number. If you choose to attach the timing chip with the included bracelet to your wrist, it will track your race time. The race bib can be attached but it is also recommended to write the number on our arm or leg. If you want to see yourself in race photos afterwards, make sure you have a visible number and wear your timing chip.

Spartan Dress

We recommend athletic clothing with water wicking so you’ll be most comfortable during the race. Choose clothing and shoes that are comfortable and make sure you have been using them in training! You don’t want to get blisters or painful chafing from brand new gear! Plus, your clothes and shoes will get muddy, possibly to the point of needing to be trashed by the end of the race. Cotton clothing will get heavy as you sweat and jump through pools of muddy water and run through creeks. Heavy and restrictive clothing can weigh you down. There are enough obstacles to face without your clothing choices adding weight or pain to the challenge. Also MAKE SURE you do not wear a traditional ring to the Spartan Race! This can endanger your fingers. You'll want to wear a ring that will break if it gets caught during one of the obstacles. Groove Rings are designed to break if caught (and we offer a 94 year No BS Warranty if it does) and will protect your fingers and show off your commitment in Spartan-worthy style.

spartan silicone wedding ring

Pack a Bag

Pack a bag and bring it into the race! You’ll want to pack water, snacks, and anything you may need before the race. Pack a towel or two for cleaning up, along with a change of clothes and shoes. You’ll probably want to pack a small first aid kit to slap a bandaid on the minor scratches, scrapes, and bumps that are sure to find you on the course.

You’ll check your bag into a designated “Bag Check” area where it will be safe and secure while you are out on the course. Again, don’t forget to bring extra clothes and shoes to change into after the race, and you might want to include a few plastic bags in which to stash your wet and muddy clothes.

spartan race obstacles

Race Like a Spartan

As your start time approaches, make your way to the starting line and be sure to say hello to those around you! These are the same folks that will be there to encourage and help you along the way, and you can do the same for them!

There’s nothing more bonding than completing a challenge together… you’ll want to make every second count.

Whether you are an elite racer or a first timer with a goal of simply completing the course, your real competition is not with those around you. Your true competition is the course itself! Turn your focus and determination toward the path ahead and the obstacles that you WILL overcome, and make sure you cheer others on along the way.

Post Race

Once you have jumped the finish line of fire (yes… you heard that right!) and the glittering medal has been placed around your neck, take plenty of hero photos! As you glory in your accomplishment, grab a few complimentary snacks and drinks! Enjoy the moment of victory but don’t miss the opportunity to encourage other racers as they head to the starting line, cheer on those already on the course, and congratulate fellow Spartan Race finishers! As cliche as it sounds, we’re all in this together!

After reclaiming your bag (don’t forget that step!) head over to the designated shower area to get cleaned up before heading back home, tired but victorious!

guide to spartan race

Double Check

One final note… always make sure to check the Spartan Race website and your email for any last minute details or changes. Since the races are held outdoors, there may be some last minute instructions. Spartan Race is really good at making sure to send you information to help make race day as stress-free as possible, well... except for the race itself, but you signed up for a challenge and wouldn’t want it any other way.

Have fun, and be proud of yourself! You’ve completed a gigantic accomplishment… YOU ROCK! Enjoy that medal!

spartan race ring

SPARTAN RACE DAY CHECKLIST

  • Pack a bag with a change of clothes, water, snacks, and some cash.
  • Arrive early and be patient when parking.
  • After parking, grab your bags and head to Registration with your photo ID and registration barcode.
  • Get checked in and pick up your bib number and race packet.
  • Attach the timing chip to your wrist and head to the marking station to write your bib number on your arm or leg so that you can be identified and find yourself easier in race photos.
  • Switch out your traditional ring for your Spartan Groove Ring!
  • Stretch, and get ready to race.
  • Drop bag off at “Bag Check” for safekeeping before heading to the start line.
  • Head to the “Start” line prepared and ready to take on the obstacles.
  • Race... and enjoy!
  • Jump across the finish line and revel in the moment.
  • Take muddy photos with your new Spartan Race medal around your neck.
  • Enjoy the spoils of victory in the form of snacks, drinks, and festivities with other Spartans.

YOU DID IT!

Keep Groovin'!







    Brooks Tiller
    Brooks Tiller

    Author

    Brooks writes articles about health and wellness for companies such as Groove, Mossy Oak, Drury Outdoors and Bass Pro Shops.


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