As the world seems to be closing in around us, now is the time to make that world our playground. For most Spartans, we are used to getting out for our runs as we prepare for our next race. With gyms not an option now (for must of us, at least), where can we turn to in the absence of our barbells and dumbbells? The answer lies in the world around us.
In these times, it is essential to use our creativity to keep up our fitness. The trails provide the perfect opportunity to harness our creative minds and continue onward with our training. If you are a traditional gym goer, all it will take is getting out of your gym mentality. Gone are the days of sets and reps. It's time to usher in movement skills and creativity. Train like the world is your obstacle course.
The World Is Your Obstacle Course
The next time you head out for your trail run, think about spicing it up a bit. This type of training will take focus. While you are running, you can’t just let your mind wander. Instead, you must focus on what is around you and what you can use at any moment as a training implement. During these training sessions, you want to think in terms of movement skills. The same types of skills that we so often use in a Spartan Race are the same ones that should be at the front of your mind as you train. Running, climbing, balancing, crawling, carrying, and throwing sums up what goes on during a race.
Climb Like a Spartan
Fallen trees are a staple in most trails and can be used for multiple movements. If you are lucky enough, some trees fall across the trail path and create an arch with their branches. This is a perfect opportunity, as you are running, to stop and work on your climbing. Climbing doesn't necessarily mean you have to go up and over the tree limb. This gives you the perfect opportunity to work on hanging and moving your body while you are off the ground.
In the video below, I explain three different exercises that you can do when you come across a fallen tree. Remember to always make sure that the limbs of the tree are sturdy enough for you to hold onto.
Carry Like a Spartan
Have you ever had to carry something in a Spartan Race? If so, you can also work on this skill as well. When trees do fall in the trail, many times they are cut into smaller logs by those that care for the park. The logs are left off to the side right off the path of the trail, and can be used very easily to help you get a great workout in. The loose logs can be picked up and used as a free weight. You can perform multiple exercises with them or just carry them for a certain distance, and then throw them off to the side once you're done and continue with your run.
Bigger rocks can also be used as a weighted implement. Rocks are great not only for carries, but also for throwing. You can perform chest presses, side tosses, or overhead tosses to work on power development. With either the logs or rocks, make sure that you check the weight before you just pick it up. You don’t want to attempt to pick up a rock or log that is too heavy, for obvious reasons.
Balance Like a Spartan
One aspect of skill training that people neglect is working on their balance. Balance training is key in the development of a complete athlete. Using a fallen tree is perfect for this type of training. You can walk across the tree limb going forward and backward, or move across it by side-stepping in a lateral fashion. You can also navigate the limb by crawling across it and maintaining your balance while doing so.
The key with balance work like this is the extreme focus that you need to do it right. This is what I like to call mindful training. Gone are the mindless repetitions that we perform in the gym. This complete focus gets our mind away from all the stress, especially in these times, and shifts it to the task at hand.
Lift Like a Spartan
Looking for some serious strength work? Again, a tree that has fallen to the ground will give you the opportunity to work those strength gains. The deadlift is a very common exercise that is performed in gyms across the world. For strength development, it is at the top of the list. Just because you may not be able to get your hands on a barbell right now, you can still maintain your strength. If you have ever used a Landmine in the gym, a fallen tree can be used in similar fashion.
Find a tree that has fallen, and make sure it's not too heavy. Using the proper technique, you can deadlift the one side of the tree. Don’t think about sets and reps. Do what you can with the weight of the tree. If you want to do more, by all means!
Training in the traditional sense is difficult these days. The type of training techniques that are found here bring us back to our ancestral roots, when training wasn’t about getting bigger, faster, and stronger, but was instead for survival. In these chaotic times, it is important to reach down deep into our DNA and train like we are made to. The next time you hit that trail run, make sure you are looking around for things that you can use. They will take your session to the next level, but more importantly, will keep you strong and having fun.
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