Spartan Race Training Plan & Workout

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Whether or not you’re a runner, you’ve likely heard of increasingly popular obstacle races like the Spartan Race series.

Obstacle course races are a fun way to challenge your mental and physical limits, compete with others, and get a little dirty.

In every Spartan race, you can expect mud, barbed wire, and a field of Gladiators poised to hit you with their pugil sticks. And although there are some signature obstacles at every race, there’s a lot of variety between courses so you can never anticipate exactly what you’re going to face.

If you’ve never done a Spartan Sprint before, you might wonder how you would train for one. The race is about 3-4 miles with 15+ obstacles. Because the Spartan Coordinators don’t release the course map to competitors beforehand, there’s no way of knowing exactly what you need to prepare for: you have to be ready for anything. Regardless of what the obstacles are, your endurance, speed, and upper and lower body strength are tested. If you want to be competitive, you’re going to have to include all these components of fitness into your training routine.

Another important factor to keep in mind—if you skip or fail any obstacle, you’re charged with a burpee penalty before you can move on. Whatever you do to train, make sure you include burpees. To help you prepare for a Spartan Sprint, we’ve got training tips and a sample workout routine you can follow.

Spartan Race Training Components

1) Endurance Training

Although the race is only 3-4 miles, don’t think you’re getting off easy. Even if you can finish a normal 5K in less than 30min, the Spartan Sprint will take anywhere from 45 minutes (if you’re fast) to as long as 2+ hours to complete. To get ready for the distance, I recommend at least one long run per week. You should progressively train to be comfortable running 6+ miles before race-day. If you can handle longer distances, you’ll be more prepared to handle the short, intense terrain of the Spartan Sprint.

2) Sprints and Hills Training

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The only thing to expect is the unexpected. This is why your training needs to be multifaceted.

Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. The Spartan Sprint is going to challenge you. The more you can adapt to training at slightly uncomfortable intensities, to more competitive you’ll be on race day.

Expect to face some nasty hills. While hill training is hard, make sure you include one hill workout per week to prepare your body to race up some steep inclines between obstacles.

You also want to include a sprint or interval workout per week to increase your anaerobic threshold. Working on sprints will help you recover faster between obstacles and between hills. Play around with the duration and speed of your intervals. For longer intervals, decrease your speed. For shorter intervals, increase your speed. Start with shorter intervals and increase the intensity/duration over time.

3) Total Body Strength Circuits

To prepare for the obstacles in the Spartan Sprint, it’s important to work on your upper and lower body strength. You might have to climb over a wall, carry a sandbag uphill, complete a set of box jumps, climb across monkey bars, do a Herculean hoist, crawl under barbed wire, and more.

Easily being able to do push-ups, at least a few pull-ups, squats and lunges, is essential. Having experience climbing walls or monkey bars is a huge asset. And including plyometric exercises will help get you ready for any jumping exercises they might throw at you.

4) And Finally…Rest!

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Here’s Kristin (the author of this article) showing off a medal as a top finisher for a Spartan Sprint.

Make sure you give yourself at least 1-2 full rest days per week to allow your body to make necessary adaptations and repairs. Rest is crucial to improving your fitness, maximizing your results, and preventing injuries.

Sample Spartan Race Workout Routine

Here’s a sample routine you can use to get yourself ready for a Spartan Sprint. Be sure to warm-up with some dynamic stretching before this workout. Complete 3 sets of each strength circuit with minimal rest between exercises. Rest 30s – 1min between sets. Use weights that are challenging to you. Burpees between sets are optional, but strongly encouraged.

Sample Workout:

Workout Instructions: Complete all exercises in each circuit with little rest between exercises (30 seconds, or less) and complete 2-3 rounds of each circuit. Complete one circuit before going to the next. Consider adding 15 burpees between each circuit for added difficulty.

Strength Circuit #1

  • 1A. 10+ push-ups
  • 1B. Max rep pull-ups (weighted if pull-ups are easy for you. Inverted rows if pull-ups aren’t available to you yet)
  • 1C. 15 box jumps

Strength Circuit #2

  • 2A. 10 DB/Barbell/KB clean-and-press
  • 2B. 8 Step-up to balance, each leg
  • 2C. 30s plank crawl (move forward/backward and side-to-side)

Strength Circuit #3

  • 3A. 10 hanging knee/leg raises or toes-to-bar
  • 3B. 10 cable chops, each side
  • 3C. 15 KB swings
  • (optional: 15 burpees)
  • 4. Stretch

Sample Spartan Race Workout Schedule:

  • Monday – Strength Circuits
  • Tuesday – Hill Workout
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday – Sprints/Intervals
  • Friday – Strength Circuits
  • Saturday – Endurance Run
  • Sunday – Rest

Train smart. Eat right. Rest enough. Race hard.

References:

Available at: http://www.hobiecall.com/category/weekly-workout-schedule/. June 13, 2013.

Available at: http://www.spartanrace.com/spartan-race-guide-to-obstacle-racing-ebook.php. June 13, 2013.

Medically reviewed by Oladapo Babatunde, MD
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11 Comments on “Spartan Race Training Plan & Workout

  1. June 19, 2013 #

    This is an awesome article, Kristin. Given you are a top finisher in every race, I’ll be sure to use this training plan when I do my first Spartan Sprint!

  2. khairul
    June 21, 2013 #

    Thanks kristin for sharing your experiences in this article

  3. Mike Graf
    June 21, 2013 #

    I’m surprised that you recommend the endurance work after 2 days of training. I’d figure you’d want to be fresh to help avoid injury?

    1. June 21, 2013 #

      @Mike – I look at endurance training as almost active rest if you are staying properly hydrated and stretching etc. throughout the week, but hopefully Kristin can chime in.

  4. June 21, 2013 #

    I would assume the same thing about endurance work… if you’re properly conditioned and take it slow, it can be a form of active rest. You’d have to build up to getting to that point, though.

  5. Kristin, CPT, CHC
    June 24, 2013 #

    @Mike: I intentionally placed the endurance work after 2 days of training. It’s meant to be really light running, ideally performed in accordance with the Maffetone Method. In that way, it is like active recovery. The Maffetone Method is a heart-rate based form of low-intensity endurance work focused on building your aerobic base. The exercise should be easy enough that, by the end of your run, you feel so fresh you could turn around and repeat the same workout. To determine the heart rate you should train at according to this method, subtract your age from 180 (and possibly cut back another 5-10 if you are very out-of-shape or coming back from illness). Following this method, there might be times during your run that you have to slow down to a jog or a walk, but that’s ok because you’re doing a lot of speed and strength work during the week. The weekend endurance work is meant to prepare your body for the distance you’re going to race, acclimate your body to running on tired legs, and strengthen you mentally for both distance and fatigue. It’s also meant to help you build your running distance without compromising your metabolism or immune system. At first, you might find that you can only travel at a slow jog, but over time you’ll find you can actually run faster while maintaining the same steady heart rate.

  6. Jordan
    June 25, 2013 #

    Hi Kristin,

    This spartan race workout, is this some kind of Crossfit workout?

    1. Kristin, CPT, CHC
      June 26, 2013 #

      @Jordan: The workout above isn’t a CrossFit workout. It’s structured using strength circuits. You can read more about strength circuits here: http://www.builtlean.com/2013/04/22/strength-circuits/.

  7. Maverick
    June 25, 2013 #

    So quick question, how exactly does one gauge overall fitness? I would like to lean towards strength.

    1. June 25, 2013 #

      @Maverick – I wrote an article about that very topic here =>Physical Fitness: What is Physical Fitness?

  8. Jordan
    June 26, 2013 #

    @Kristin: Thanks for the clarrification about strength circuits.

    @Marc: I canot comment anymore in your “The Ultimate Guide to Strength Circuits™
    ” because its already closed. But i find it very interesting and i will follow those guide in my journey of fitness.

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