By Rob Shimonski, SGX Level 2
As the 2018 race season begins, we find ourselves either planning our first Spartan Race of the season, or for others, starting our first race ever. In the US this coming March, Spartans will unite at Greek Peak NY for the upcoming Winter Sprint. Many ask, “How is this event different from any other Sprint and what do I need to do differently?” Lucky for you, we have some answers…
Let's talk about the Sprint race in the winter
First, let’s consider the biggest difference between a regular sprint and a one held in the winter… weather is your biggest challenge. Aside from it being held in the winter time, it is really no different than running a Sprint during the other seasons of the year. Winter can bring about the most drastic weather and why it is in a class all its own.
For many, preparing for a Sprint requires building up cardio and endurance. For a Winter Sprint, this must be done outside in colder temperatures. If you are not training in colder temperatures, your body may have a harder time adapting to it on race day. Your body temperature is also affected, so you will tend to dress warmer for these events, so you have to find a balance of wearing restrictive clothing while running an obstacle course. Lastly, you are likely to encounter snow. Running on snow is different and can slow you down depending on the conditions. Now that we have covered the most obvious, let’s look at the other challenges you may face and how to prepare for them.
How do I prepare?
The Winter Sprint will bring you to a mountain where you would normally find people skiing or snowboarding down it while you are planning an adventure to run up and down it doing obstacles. This requires your normal preparation be reviewed for changes or adjustments. For those of you running your first Sprint, you can still do this! Consider the same steps in preparing for it and those of you who are old Spartan salts looking to run your first winter event, just consider the changes to your training plans.
To train for a Winter Sprint, first consider that temperatures may be anywhere from zero to 30 degrees. Your clothing needs to be considered first and foremost before you being to train. When you know what you will be wearing, you can then start to train while wearing what you will have on when race day arrives.
Footwear: Footwear should be selected to provide some grip and provide some warmth. Your compression socks may not be warm enough so you may want to consider specific gear sold to run in during cold weather. You don’t want to freeze but you also do not want to overheat either. Remember, once you get going, your body does warm up. You will still sweat so you still want gear that wicks. Consider cold weather compression gear.
Outerwear: You want to protect your skin from the elements. The same rules apply from when we reviewed footwear, but now you can select layers if needed. For example, your base clothing set should be cold weather compression gear. You can then layer as needed from there. You want to keep your skin covered so you do not get frostbite.
Headgear: You should also consider a hat, face covering or neck cover. You can find online a series of special headgear offerings that cover everything mentioned in one product which are very helpful.
Also, pay attention to the race day page where they provide updates on required gear such as headlamps if requested, hydration packs and other needed items. Consider everything up front and most importantly, start to train and prepare using these items so you can feel the difference while using them while running, jumping, climbing and so on.
Readying for the cold
Now that you have your gear, it’s important to break it in, be comfortable while wearing it and using it while running the obstacle course. To physically prepare for a Winter Sprint, consider the same exact training plan you would use for any other Sprint with a few minor changes.
Cold weather running can really impact your ability to get air in and out of your lungs as you normally would do in warmer weather. If you are not training in colder weather, attempt to do so. You should also consider that conditions such as Asthma can be triggered by cold weather running so make sure you consult an expert or medial professional before beginning your training plan. A good tip to train with is, plan for how breathing can be affected while running if you are wearing gear to cover your face. If you have something covering your mouth, you will more likely breath in through your nose which is said to have a better effect on heating incoming air to your lungs. Consider everything.
Lastly, consider the obstacles seen at other events. How would you address them while possibly wearing more cumbersome clothing? Here are some examples: Wall Jump, Barbwire Crawl and Spear Throw. This is why you should know what you will wear to keep you warm while being able to conduct yourself on the obstacle course. Don’t worry – Spartan doesn’t want to cause hypothermia so no water obstacles.
Rob Shimonski is an SGX Level 2 coach and bestselling author based in Long Island, N.Y. Rob's work has appeared in various publications to include Men's Health and Entrepreneur Magazine. Follow Rob on Twitter: @robshimonski
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