Spartan Sprint registration should come with a warning: Make it to this finish and you’re gonna be hungry for more. After proving his or her mettle on a 3+ miler, it’s the rare competitor who doesn’t crave another OCR challenge. You may even find you’re ready to take on an 8+ mile Super or 13+ mile beast.
But advancing from Sprint to Super means you'll have to take your training to the next level, says SGX and personal coach Brad Lane, owner of It Starts Here Fitness in Warwick, Rhode Island. And that takes time and forethought. If you approach a Spartan Super, with its 25+ obstacles, like a longer version of a Sprint, there’s a good chance you’ll fail to reach the finish.
Take your training to the next level with the key considerations below — and then crush it on the hardest courses like the champion you are!
How to Take Your Training to the Next Level
Location, Location, Location
When trying to take your training to the next level, you have to look at the location first, says Lane, who recently completed the Ultra Beast in Killington, Vermont. He notes that a lot of Spartan Supers take to the trails, while Beasts occur on mountains.
“The more you can put yourself into those environments, the better you’re going to be on race day,” he says. “If that’s not possible, find ways to simulate those terrains.”
Pro Tip: Plan running days in environments similar to the course you’re going to race. Include a good mix of endurance and resistance training, and make it tough on yourself by, for instance, carrying sandbags when sprinting up hills. If you can’t head to the hills, vary your urban running routes by detouring into grassy parks, cobblestone streets, and even sandy playgrounds.
Get Ready to Go the Distance
The #1 difference between a Sprint and a Super or Beast is the distance says, Brad. “If you’re going into a Beast from a Sprint, we’re talking easily about a 10-mile gap. You have to prepare physically – and mentally - for that.”
Pro Tip: Build mileage gradually. Go for light, long-distance runs and track how long it takes to hit a certain mile. From there, work on getting faster or running longer, adding a bit more mileage to each of your runs every week.
Train for the Terrain
“A mountain race will involve speed-walking up the incline and careful jogging down,” says Lane. “Stability and range of motion have to be brought into your exercises, along with endurance.”
Few of us have experience with running up and down steep ridges, he notes, and it’s common to put too much weight on your knees on the descent, making them sore. It’s crucial to do hill work and mindfully fight this tendency as well as train your hip flexors.
And if the terrain you have to tackle is in an 80,000-seater stadium? A Spartan Stadion, a 3-miler in noteworthy stadiums around the globe, requires a completely different training to mountain and trail courses, says Lane. Think high-intensity workouts and loads of stair-climbing.
Pro Tip: Training in the terrain you’ll be navigating, and include stability, stretching, and flexibility exercises in your workouts to ensure your joints’ full range of motion.
Build Your Body
Running a 13+ mile race like the Beast requires endurance, obvs. But add 30 or more obstacles to the mix and you can see why strength is equally important.
But put down those dumbbells, bud. “Don’t go near the free weights until you see what you can do with your own body weight,” Lane says. “In a race, you use your body to climb, crawl, lift, and swing, and if you can’t do a few rounds of pull-ups, pushups, and squats in training, that’s where you need to start.”
Pro Tip: Add pull-ups, pushups, lunges, squats, elbow planks, and – yes – burpees - to your plan.
Related: 10-Minute Pull-Up Workouts
Get a Grip
Whether a race requires you to hang, hold, or hoist, success on a Spartan course can come down to your grip. “That’s why focusing on techniques such as pinch grip, open handgrip, and crush grip is a key part of your training,” Lane says.
The intensity of your grip also correlates with physical well-being and muscle strength, and may even be used as a key indicator of health-related quality of life, according to recent research. So it’s worth building, whichever Spartan is on your horizon.
Pro Tip: Include farmer’s walks, dead-man hangs, and pinch grip plate holds in your training.
Blame human nature: Most of us like workouts that focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses. But, Lane says, “Taking your training to the next level means getting into your ‘discomfort zone’.”
For Brad, getting dis-comfortable means training in the areas our instinct wants to avoid. “We might not like them because they’re difficult or boring, but they’re typically where we need the most improvement,” he says.
Pro Tip: Gamify your most loathed training tasks, Lane advises. “If you’re weak on endurance and don’t like running, make it like a game by, say, interval training between telephone posts.” Even if you lose, you win.