Killington. Tahoe. Palmerton. West Virginia.
It’s impossible to list Spartan Race's most iconic venues without pointing out the most essential component of each course: a mountain.
Spartan, the king of obstacle course and trail racing, was born in the mountains of Pittsfield, Vermont, and the hilly, rugged, unforgivable terrain that surrounds it. Taking serious vertical gain to new levels, we build it into our race courses as a the key player in each challenge. In other words, when you sign up for a race, a hill is all but guaranteed for each course.
You will climb up and up, and then you will face the gnarliest of terrain heading down. Then, just when you think it’s your last climb, you head right back up the mountain for another go. For many athletes, running uphill is the hardest obstacle of the course, and it can feel like a slog. The good news? If you train properly for it, it doesn't have to be. Here's how to become a stronger runner, build stamina and grit, and tackle the vert like a champ.
The Driving Force: It's a Total-Body Effort
In order to run uphill, you must have strong legs. Leg strength, recruited particularly from your glutes and your hamstrings, provides the driving force to carry you to the summit. But climbing uphill also engages your core stability to hold your body in one cohesive unit as you lean forward to maximize your lower body's range of motion and mobility. Plus, as your core remains stable, your arm-swing creates more power and momentum to aid your legs in propelling your body forward. The more you drive your arms, the stronger you'll climb.
Build a Stronger Cardiovascular Base
While cultivating a biomechanically sound and healthy body is the main reason to start hill running, the biomechanic benefits translate even more so into performance benefits as well.
Running uphill will equate into deeper cardiovascular endurance. Due to the added resistance of the incline, your body requires more energy (read: burns more calories) to maintain your gait, thus elevating your heart rate. As your heart rate stays elevated for longer, you will build a stronger cardiovascular base and, as you work harder, you will see more improvement in speed, power, and explosiveness. Hill running is the most race-specific training you can get as you prepare for your next Spartan course.
Related: Hill & Mountain Racing 101
The Hill Training Workout for Spartans
This workout can be done on a mountain, on rolling hills, or on an incline treadmill.
You will run up for X amount of time, and then can either jog or walk back down for X amount of time. Remember, the uphill is the workout. Take the downhill/ recovery interval for to let you body rest.