Defeating the Spartan Race (& Other Obstacle Challenges)
For some, running a marathon or swimming a mile just isn’t enough. Today’s fitness junkies want to be warriors. Organizations are taking the typical 5-10k race and pumping it full of military-style bootcamp steroids to create “obstacle racing.”
These races (like the Spartan Race, above) pit athletes through mud, water and even fire in a grueling test of strength and endurance. Competitors will climb over walls and under barbed wire in a race that’s so intense, you sign a liability waiver before setting foot on the starting line.
The popularity of obstacle racing is spreading like the fires in these competitions. Outside Magazine reported more than one million people signed up for an obstacle race in 2011 and that number keeps rising. To the enthusiast, these races are an opportunity to test physical prowess. To the novice, they can often be intimidating. But at any skill or experience levels, there are ways to train for these races to help you compete like a gladiator.
Not All Races Are Created Equal
Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Rugged Maniac — the names all sound rather similar but the difference in difficulty is vast. Warrior Dash is a short sprint (5k) that consists of mostly running and stacks easy to moderate obstacles towards the end of the race. Tough Mudder (10-12 miles) is an absolute meat grinder testing every angle of physical ability.
If you’re new to obstacle racing, Tough Mudder shouldn’t be your first. Depending on your fitness level, find a race that is both challenging and realistic.
Strengthen Your Weaknesses
If you’re a runner, pick up the bar. If you’re a weightlifter, hit the trail. Obstacle racing requires more than a cardio junkie’s endurance, but a “fit bro” who benches 325 will tire after the first mile. Competing in an obstacle race means becoming a well-rounded athlete — one who runs with ease and lifts heavy weights. To complete an entry-level race like Warrior Dash, you should be able to:
- Run a 5k without breaking
- Do 50 pushups with minimal or no breaks
- Do 50 sit ups with minimal or no breaks
- Do 5 strict pull ups
- Do 100 air squats with minimal or no breaks
These are rough goals and vary from athlete to athlete. If you can’t do them all on the first try, don’t worry. It’s an assessment to find your weaknesses and opportunities to improve. High intensity, interval workouts like CrossFit are a good way to get in total body shape and its members commonly compete in obstacle races when they come to town. Tough Mudder also put this training video together to help with workout ideas.
Utilize Proper Recovery
Training for your first obstacle race means working muscles in ways your body isn’t used to. This new work will build strength and muscle like you’ve never seen, but it can also lead to injury. Before you start your hot tub or pour up an ice bath for post-workout recovery, have a few of these tools to help keep your muscles healthy and limber.
- Get a foam roller. If you don’t use one already, foam rolling is a fantastic way to break apart any stiffness in the muscles to prevent injury during the next workout.
- Then, use a lacrosse ball. A lacrosse ball is made of a hard rubber and about the size of the pool ball. If you’ve already been foam rolling a while, a lacrosse ball is the best reach to reach parts of the muscles where the foam roller fails. It’s the best type of pain after a workout.
- Eat more. Extra training require extra fuel. When the body doesn’t have it, early fatigue sets in and leads to poor form, which leads in injury. Eat more than your fair share of green vegetables and healthy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes.
Don’t Do It Alone
Obstacle racing is about more than just crawling through the mud. It’s a social event. If you watched the Tough Mudder video above you saw not a hundred individuals but a chain of teammates helping each other over walls and pumping each other up before the race started. This is probably the most rewarding aspect of obstacle racing. So grab a friend, train hard, stay healthy and enjoy your first race through the dirt.
Author: Kim Cox – Kim is a freelance writer who covers health and fitness.