The Ultimate 15-Day Plan to Conquer Your First Spartan Race
For all of the potential Spartan Race rookies who are on the fence about registering for their first race, let’s clear a few things up:
- You don’t need to be able to run a six-minute mile.
- Rippling abs and bulging muscles are optional.
- Yes, the events are more fun than scary. We swear.
Feel better? Good.
Intimidation should not be a reason why you don’t follow through on your goal to register. Sure, each event — be it a Sprint, Super, or Beast — is designed to present mental and physical challenges, but you’ll be running with a supportive group of like-minded people who, even if they’re strangers, will help you scale a wall or balance across a beam should you need a hand. That’s just how Spartans roll.
So whether you’ve been procrastinating with your training or you’re ready to shake off the cabin fever, now is the time to sign up. Once that's settled, you can rely on these tips, and this workout plan, to get you primed in just 15 days.
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WIll you finish first? Nope. But that’s not the point. The point is to finish. And to help you do that, we’ve recruited Brenden Brazier — a former pro Ironman triathlete, a two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon champ, and the author of Thrive Fitness — to provide his expert input.
Set Realistic Goals
These “don’ts” will help you avoid manufacturing ways to back out of signing up or showing up.
- Don’t compare yourself to Spartan pros or OCR vets. They’ve likely been at it for years, not days.
- Don’t compare yourself to "High School You," or whenever you were in peak condition.
- Don’t worry about how long it might take you to finish. Just finish.
If you get frustrated in the lead-up to the event, remind yourself what you want to accomplish: Finishing. Always bring it back to the goal.
More: The 2022 Spartan Race Schedule Is Live! Here's Everything Racers Need to Know
Focus on Movement First
On Day 1, specifically for people who haven’t been super active in years, be careful not to overdo it. Progress slowly to give your body enough time to adapt. (And if it’s been a really long time — as in, your running shoes are covered in dust — it’s probably best to see your doctor before you Spartan up.)
“If you start slow, you can fit more training into the 15 days than if you were to go crazy right away,” Brazier says. “Spend the first day focused on movement. At work, try standing more if you’re used to sitting all day. And don’t make the workout too intense. Sometimes people do a lot in the first few days and then get worn out or injured. For many people, their muscles can repair themselves rather quickly, but tendons and ligaments might not adapt as well.”
In the final week before the race, scale back the intensity.
“You don’t want to break your body down so much that it doesn’t have time to repair before the race,” he adds. “Overdoing it too close to the race increases the risk that you’ll show up exhausted.”
Don’t Put Pressure on Yourself
While the race itself is the payoff for the two weeks of work, the experience should be fun.
“It’s not a job or something that's going to be unpleasurable," Brazier explains. "It’s a privilege, not a burden, to get to do a Spartan Race. Approach your workouts leading up to the race that way, too.”
Brazier’s two-week workout routine can help you get as prepared as possible. However, if you can’t follow every set or rep, simply use it as a guideline. Above all, make it a point to stay consistent. Consistency builds confidence.
“Even doing a little bit of exercise each day helps make a big difference over time — you just have to be consistent,” he says. “I think people will also enjoy the other benefits once they start adding exercise into their routine: mental clarity, endorphin release, and being more productive.”
More: The 10 Best Exercises to Train for Your First Spartan Race
Brazier’s Two-Week Training Plan
Perform the following routine 3-4 days per week on non-consecutive days. Aim to walk 10-20 minutes per day on days you’re not training.
“You’ll want to try to have an arc,” Brazier says. “So start off slow but build into it until around five days out. That’s when you’ll want to taper off a bit.”
If your fitness level allows you to run, go for it. Again, just start slow and build up gradually. Ideally, you’d progress at 10 percent per week and build up for three weeks before scaling back on week four. That’s not possible in this 15-day time crunch, so allow your body to determine how hard you push yourself before it’s time to reduce the intensity.
Warm-Up (5 Mins)
Walk (preferably outdoors instead of on a treadmill), do jumping jacks, or ride on a stationary bike,
- Bent-Over Stretch (Each Leg, 30 seconds)
- Quad Stretch (Each Leg, 30 Seconds)
- Shoulder, Chest, and Hip Flexor Stretch (Each Side, 30 Seconds)
- Swiss Ball Lat Pull (15 Reps)
- Reverse Lunge (15 Reps, Each Leg)
- Push-Up (15 Reps)
- Plank Leg Lift (10 Reps, Each Side)
- Jackknife on Swiss Ball (15 Reps)
- Double Crunch (15 Reps)
Keep a Training Journal
Knowing what you’ve done can help you determine what went wrong or right, where you’re weak or strong, and how to adapt as your fitness level increases.
“I kept detailed nutrition and training journals that I could just go back to if I had a good race,” explains Brazier. “That helped me build a template that I knew would work for me because it worked for me in the past.”
You’d be surprised at how many people overlook little things that can prompt them to skip a training day or even postpone an event. Avoid that. Know what you need for training, and what you need to eat, the night before.
- Don't forget your gym bag, with your clothes and shoes.
- Don't forget the workout routine you’re doing.
- Don't forget meals and snacks for the day.
- Don't forget a water vessel to encourage hydration.
Recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation suggest anywhere from seven to 10 hours of sleep per night, depending on your age. If you feel refreshed after six or seven, you're likely getting the right amount that you need.
This is important because sleep plays a vital role in repairing and restoring memory and muscle tissue, and keeping immune functions healthy. These expert sleep tips can help you prime for a good night’s rest.
1. Keep Your Room Dark
If you can tear yourself away from your smartphone or tablet, aim to do so about an hour before you turn in for the night. Blue light from those devices can screw with sleep cycles. Using blackout curtains is also advised.
2. Keep Your Room Cool
Sleep experts suggest anywhere between 60 and 67 degrees. Of course, those are guidelines. If you share your bed with someone prone to chilliness, 67 might be cool enough for you to sleep, but the raging fight over the thermostat could keep you up super late. Sleeping in a cool room aids sleep, so find your sweet spot.
3. Keep Noise Disruptions to a Minimum
There’s not much you can do to prevent the baby from crying, or your teenager from charging up or down the stairs. However, using a white noise machine — or if you must, downloading an app or finding it on YouTube — can create a dulling sound that walls out noises that might potentially rip you out of deep sleep.
More: Benefits of Sleep: 5 Tips for Better Rest and Performance
Manage Stress Levels
The odds are that you’re stressed out. Don't feel too bad about that: Out of the 150,000 people surveyed by Gallup in their annual stress survey, Americans were the most stressed, with 55 percent admitting to feeling stressed “a lot of the day.”
One way to combat stress? Exercise. You’ll release more endorphins (aka the feel-good neurotransmitter), and it provides a much-needed distraction from work and other causes of angst.
“That's one of the benefits of deciding to do, and train for, events like a Spartan Race,” Brazier says. “Getting out of your head and getting away from whatever it is that's causing stress is a good routine to adapt.”
Water does a lot for you. It aids digestion, transports nutrients and oxygen from cells, shoos bacteria out of your bladder, regulates body temperature, and helps maintain electrolyte (sodium) balance. When you’re dehydrated, things likely aren’t running optimally. Unclear thinking, mood swings, constipation, and a dip in performance are all potential dehydration side effects.
You hear a lot about electrolytes in regards to hydration. They’re minerals in the body that, among other things, help ensure that the muscle and nervous system function optimally. Sports drinks, leafy greens, nuts — almonds and peanuts —and avocados are all common electrolyte replenishers.
More: How to Avoid Dehydration Before a Race
Your next question, we presume, is, "How much water should I drink each day to stay hydrated?" Unfortunately, your health, activity level, what medication you’re taking, and where you live can all have an effect on hydration, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
The American College of Sports Medicine suggests adding 12 ounces for every half hour you plan to exercise. Other experts suggest cutting your bodyweight in half and consuming that many ounces of water. It's also best practice to drink water every 15 to 20 minutes to replace lost fluids.
“People tend to forget that they can eat some of their liquids, too, such as adding more fruits, vegetables, and salads — things that naturally have minerals and water in them — to their diet,” explains Brazier, who has been a devout vegan since his teens.
Green veggies, especially, are a natural way to replace electrolyte loss through sweat.
Figure Out if You’re Dehydrated
It’s not 100 percent accurate, but the color of your urine can indicate whether you’re in need of hydration. When in doubt, drink up.
If your urine is clear, you’re likely over-hydrated, which means you’re taking in more water than you’re losing.
If your urine is pale yellow, you're hydrated.
If your urine is darker yellow, you’re dehydrated
If your urine is amber, drink up. You’re definitely dehydrated.
Make Small Diet and Lifestyle Changes
“Making drastic changes two weeks before an event might not be the best idea,” warns Brazier. “It’s not uncommon for people to feel worse before they feel better when they switch to a new diet.”
Instead, focus on some basic swaps. Drink more water and less soda (and sugary drinks), eat more whole foods and less processed foods, and reduce beer, booze, and fatty foods, as well as other unhealthy vices.
“A lot of how to change someone’s diet depends on their relationship with food,” he adds. “As far as booze goes, alcohol that will leave you sluggish or dehydrated should be avoided."
More: RD-Recommended Après-Workout Snack + N/A Beer Pairings for Smart Athletes
Stay the Course With Your Diet
As mentioned, there’s nothing wrong with making healthy swaps. But don’t ambush yourself by eating or drinking something you’ve never introduced to your body a day or two before the race.
“Even if you’ve heard of a meal plan or food that was perfect for an individual, that doesn’t mean it’ll be perfect for you,” Brazier says. “You have to be in tune with your body and how it reacts with what you’re eating and drinking.”
More: Try These 7 Plant-Based Swaps Instead of Animal Protein-Based Meals
Make Sure You Break in Your Kicks and Clothes
Anyone who wears unworn shoes or apparel on race day is asking for trouble, or at the very least, an unnecessary layer of discomfort in the form of blisters or chafing.
“Wear what you plan to wear during the race many times beforehand,” Brazier says. “Make sure everything fits, it won’t give you blisters, and you’re not going to chafe.“
Having a backup for everything — make sure to take inclement weather into account, and have clothes to change into after the race — isn’t a bad idea, either. Whatever you don’t need, leave it in the car or stash it in an on-site locker.
Do Your Homework
The unknown can cause your mind (and anxiety) to run wild. Quell those worries by researching what the experience at that course has been like for rookies in previous years.
“Knowing how hilly the course is, or if there will be open stretches, can help remove mystery, as well as help you plan your fueling,” Brazier says. “If you know there are certain climbs at certain mile marks, then you can prepare by eating before you hit that point.”
Get Mentally Prepped
Now that you’ve done your homework and know what to expect on the course, as well as what obstacles you might encounter, visualize yourself completing these obstacles. Research has shown that mental run-throughs can boost performance and physical strength.
Brush Off Self-Doubt
If you’ve done all you can do before your first race and you still find yourself feeling iffy about your odds — or even feeling intimidated during the race — remember your training.
“It becomes about relying on the confidence in the training you've put in at this point,” Brazier says. “The first part of the race is really about adrenaline and just getting past the starting line. As the race goes on, your training is what really carries you through. Remind yourself you’re capable of this. Be confident.”