Trail running is one of the best ways to train for a Spartan race because the demands of trail running mimic the cardiovascular demands of an obstacle course race. According to Sergio Florian, a Hawaii-based physical therapist, every hill causes you to max out your heart rate, and then you get to recover (somewhat) on the downhills. For longer Spartan races especially, there is no substitute for incorporating trail running into your training.
Anatomically, a separate set of muscle groups are required to climb, while another set of muscles work eccentrically to control your descent. Trail running helps develop the power needed to climb, as well as the strength to descend every hill fast.
Hawaii, which will host its annual Trifecta weekend on Aug. 20-21, is one of the best places to train for a Spartan race. Due to the volcanic nature of the islands, there is a lot of steep terrain to work with, and it's great for incorporating "vert" (aka vertical elevation gain) into your training. Combined with the heat and humidity, Hawaii is an ideal training destination. The vert you get during a run will strengthen your legs for both ascending and descending, and the heat will tax your cardiovascular system more. It also helps that the weather is favorable all year long.
The Top 3 Trails in Hawaii
Florian has been racing competitively for 15 years. He's a four-time XTERRA Trail Running World Championship, a three-time HURT100 finisher — he placed second overall in 2022 — and the current Oahu Perimeter Run record holder (135 miles).
So if there's anyone who knows about trail running, and trail running in Hawaii, it's him.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy offered his top three trail runs in Hawaii, perfect for any Spartan looking to challenge themselves and get into peak race shape.
Koko Head Stairs: The climb is just under a mile, but it offers 1,000 feet of climbing and descending. People do this one multiple times for a great workout.
Kuliouou Ridge Trail: This is a long, steep trail with a roughly 1,700-foot climb from the start of the trailhead. It's a great place to do repeats and gain vert.
Makiki-Tantalus: These trails are home to the annual HURT100 foot race. There is lots of technical terrain, plus elevation change.
Sergio's Advice for Spartans
When racing hard, a steady stream of calories every 30-45 minutes is needed to stay energized. Usually a gel or a caloric sports drink does the trick in between obstacles. Hydration should also not be overlooked in the Hawaiian heat. Drinking electrolytes, along with water, is very important.
The Connection Between Trail Running and Subaru
There is no shortage of similarities between Subaru vehicles and trail running. Both prioritize power, balance, and efficiency, as well as traction and stability across all different kinds of terrain.
Here are some of the reasons why we felt compelled to partner with Subaru, and why our missions are aligned.
- Every Subaru is built with quality parts and precision engineering, so you can count on your Subaru vehicle to be with you for the long road ahead. This legendary reliability and longevity has earned awards from automotive experts and inspired loyalty from Subaru drivers everywhere.
- Almost every Subaru vehicle features standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive for optimal balance and an even distribution of power, so you can count on maximum traction, exceptional stability, and impressive efficiency — no matter the conditions.
- Subaru's engineers are dedicated to protecting you and your passengers on every drive. It’s why they consistently lead the industry with award-winning safety technology, and why families keep coming back to Subaru year after year.
- The horizontal layout of the Subaru Boxer engine combines balance with power and efficiency. You’ll find one at the heart of every Subaru model.
- The Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, and Outback offer raised suspensions for added ground clearance — up to 9.5 inches, to be exact. So no matter which trail you choose to travel, you will certainly enjoy a smoother ride.
- X-MODE optimizes the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system for maximum traction on slippery surfaces. Some Subaru vehicles – like the Wilderness family of SUVs – let you choose settings for specific conditions like deep snow, sand, and mud. When you need to descend difficult grades, you can turn on Hill Descent Control for extra stability and confidence.
- With extensive upgrades to their ground clearance, drivetrain, and all-terrain capability, Subaru Wilderness models open up new territory to explore. The rugged exterior design and convenient, high-tech interior features help you take on the roughest trails in style and comfort. But most importantly, every Wilderness model is a Subaru first, so you know you can rely on it to help take you — and help protect you — wherever your trail leads.
Subaru's More Love Loyalty Program
Owning a Subaru goes beyond driving a reliable vehicle. You become part of a passionate group that's inspired by the outdoors and dedicated to promoting good health, building communities, and conserving the environment.
With Subaru Hawaii's More Love loyalty program, all Subaru owners have exclusive access to special discounts, offers, and experiences. For more information, click here.