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Beginners Guide to Surviving a Spartan Race Sprint

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So you want to run a Spartan Race, do you?

Pre Spartan Race Image

Here is my team for the Indiana Spartan Race.  I’m in the back row, second from the right.

If you are like me, then these may be some of the feelings and concerns that come to mind:

  • Scared to bite the bullet and pay the $100 Spartan Race entry fee?
  • What type of training do Spartans endure to prepare for the race?
  • How far in advance should I prepare for a Spartan Race?
  • What should I wear/bring to the Spartan Race?
  • What are the obstacles and how many are there?
  • I don’t run long distances, can I survive?
  • Am I going to look stupid if I can’t finish an obstacle?
  • Could I really die like the website says?

 

Well what if I told you that I survived the Spartan Race without any training other than normal trips to the gym?  Weight lifting and a maximum of 25-30 minute cardio sessions are all I did.   I even missed a bunch of cardio sessions the month prior to the race…

Throughout this blog post I will provide you with my thoughts and opinion on the Spartan Race Sprint.  I will include all the information that I wish I had found or known prior to running the sprint.

Get 10% off a Reebok Spartan Race! Use Code: FINISH10. Sign Up Today!

Brief Background:

My brother-in-law is pretty big into trail running, marathons, and endurance training.  (I’ll put it this way, he made it 75 miles into a 100 mile run a week before doing the Spartan Race, only to injure his leg…)

He asked me, my other brother-in-law and some of his friends early in the year if we wanted to run the Spartan Race with him.  I agreed to do it early, but procrastinated actually signing up and paying for entry until about two weeks prior to the race.  (Part of me kept thinking, “I don’t usually do this stuff, maybe I should just back out…”)

I go to the gym 3-4 times a week, lift weights and do short cardio sessions, but despise running long distances.  I usually do HIIT Cardio if I want to burn some calories, but if I am being honest, the 6 weeks prior to the Spartan Race, I rarely did cardio (maybe once a week) and was focusing more on weight training.

With that said, I would say that my cardiovascular endurance was fairly weak going into this race…

I had tons of questions and as the race got closer, I got a bit more nervous about running it without any training.

What Kind of People Can Finish a Spartan Race?

Team Dirt Devils

ANYONE!  Seriously…  The best part about the Spartan Race is that it really is a team race.  As long as you have a good, supportive team, I have no doubt you could finish it.

There were men and women of all ages, shapes, and sizes…  Anyone from extremely fit people, your average joe, and even much heavier set people.

In the end, I would say that 90% of people probably finished the race.  If you can walk a few miles to the grocery store and back, wearing a 35lb back pack, I think you can complete this race.

Just don’t think you will finish it fast…  Those hills will take a toll on your body.  It took our team 2 hours and 35 minutes to finish.  The individual winner of the “Elite” race finished just under 50 minutes.  (Let me just say, that time is CRAZY FAST!)

The Goal is to Just Finish the Race!


What to Wear/Bring:

  • Moisture wicking shorts.  Dri Fit material is great for both warm and cold.  (Do not wear cotton, it will get too heavy)
    • I would even go as far as saying shorts without pockets… Like these Nike DriFit Shorts!  
    • Getting mud filled up in your pockets sucks!
    • I would also make sure that there is a good draw string on whatever you wear!  You will be in and out of water A LOT!
  • Moisture Wicking Shirt  (Do not wear cotton)It was about 60 degrees and overcast when we ran the Spartan Race, so I wore a long sleeve, black, Nike Dri Fit shirt.  If I did it over again, I would have went short sleeve.
  • Spandex Underwear/Compression Shorts.  Again, anything but cotton…
  • Shoes you plan to donate after the race.
    • They will get trashed, so make sure it is shoes that you don’t mind getting extremely dirty.  I would go with something that has decent grip on the sole.
    • Alternatively, I wore the Reebok Men’s All Terrain Sprint Running Shoe to my last Spartan Race and they worked awesome!
  • Gloves.G Shock Mudman Watch
    • I wore some cheap Wal Mart garden gloves with grip on the palm.  They worked fine up until the barbed wire, mud hill, climb where I ended up taking them off and leaving them in the mud.
    • Doing it all over, I would have worn some sort of gloves with good wet grip and straps around the wrist.
    • Something like these: Mechanix Wear Original Glove
  • Casio G-Shock Mudman Watch(For time tracking)
    • I put my G-Shock’s claim that it was “Mud Resistant” to the test!
  • Garbage Bag (for the muddy stuff)
  • Complete Change of Clothes (plus shoes)
  • Most Importantly, Have a Supportive Team!
    • I was on a fantastic team!  We all got a long great and everyone encouraged each other to do our best, finish obstacles, and lent a helping hand any time one of our team mates needed the extra help.

What Training Would I Recommend?

I did not do any formal training in order to prepare, but doing it all over again, I definitely would have done some preparation!

Spartan Race Wall Jump

  • Burpees!  
    • Get good at burpees…  If you cannot perform an obstacle, you must do 30 burpees.
  • Pull Ups!
    • You will have to pull yourself up ropes, climb and jump walls, so pull up strength will be beneficial.
  • Run Hills!
  • Run Hills!
    • Yes, I meant to put running hills on here twice.  I was completely caught off guard by the amount of hills we had to run throughout the course, not only the amount, but the grade of the hills were incredibly steep.
    • The hills were by far the toughest part of this race, no doubt…
  • Push Ups!
    • Any good burpee requires a push up, so might as well…
  • Kettlebell Swings!
    • There is no doubt that CrossFitters would be very good at the Spartan Race.  The race really reminded me of many CrossFit workouts I have seen.
    • The mix of HIIT Cardio and the explosiveness of kettlebell swings would be a fantastic exercise in preparation.
  • Sandbag Carries!
    • We had to carry a sand bag during the race, about 100 yards down a steep hill, and then turn around and carry it back up the hill.
  • High Intensity Interval Training Cardio
    • There will be periods of high exertion, followed by down hill periods.
  • 12 Weeks to Your Next Spartan Race Weight Training
    • You can find out more about my 12 week, three phase, foundation of strength fitness plan HERE 
      • This 12 week plan is guaranteed to help you build the muscle/strength needed to get through every obstacle and lose that extra body fat which will hold you back!

So How Far and How Many Obstacles?

I was initially told that it was approximately going to be 3 miles or so…  Well, as we were lined up to start, the announcer says, “we know this is typically a 3+ mile race, and the map says it is 4.7, but the officials just told me it is actually measuring around 5.3 miles today.”

cargo-net-climb-cross

Keep in mind, I am not a long distance runner, so the whole 5.3 mile thing was not what I wanted to hear…  Oh well, time to man up…

View The Calendar and Sign up for a Reebok Spartan Race Today!

The Obstacles:

I may end up missing some of the obstacles, but here are the ones that stood out:

Beginning:

  • The race started with a jump into the Moats.  Basically mud pits filled with water…
  • We then had to jump a couple 6 foot walls, crawl under walls, and go through holes in walls…
  • Then came the monkey bars…
  • Possibly one of the most difficult obstacles was the 100 feet we had to crawl up an extremely muddy hill, under barbed wire the whole way!  It was so muddy that you could not get good traction and the mud really held you back…
  • There were numerous areas where we were trekking through the creek, falling into deep areas of water, climbing muddy mounds and then dropping into more water…

Mid Race:

  • There was an area where we had to jump two 6 foot walls, followed by a 7 foot wall, and then try to spiderman our way across a plywood wall with 2×4’s screwed to it…
  • Then came the cargo net cross, climbing 30 feet up a cargo net, across a suspended cargo net, and back down the other side.
  • Then came the slippery, muddy, rope climb.
  • Followed by Spearman…  Where we had to throw a spear into a bail of hay and make it stick.
  • Then came the most difficult of trails, with extremely steep hills.
  • There was a point where we had to drag a 35 pound block on a chain through a little loop course.
  • We then had to use a rope and pulley to pull a weight 20 feet in the air and back down.

Home Stretch:

  • Then came a grueling sand bag carry about 100 yards down a hill and then back up again…
  • Tried our balance at the stump walk…  No dice…
  • More f**king hills…  Followed by a dip back into some cold, muddy water…  Which then led to a “victory run” around a lake.
    • At this point I and two other guys on my team started getting cramps in our calves.  It was almost the same exact time…  The only thing I could think was the cold water, followed by the run started to make my calves cramp up…
  • We then got around the lake and had to jump into 5 foot deep water, cross, and climb up a barbed slip wall.
  • That then led to the famous “fire jump” and finished with a clash of the Gladiators who smack you with one of those giant q-tips from the American Gladiator show

After plowing your way through the Gladiators, at the finish line they place your medal around your neck, refuel your body at the banana table, and grab some water.

Now, take that free beer ticket that they gave you upon registration AND GO DRINK A BEER!  You have earned it…

They do have “showers” which is just a row of garden hoses and some VO5 shampoo…

Here are some pictures of the obstacles we encountered along the way…

Barbed Slip Wall Spartan Race

6ft-wall-jump wall-scale cargo-net-climb rope-climb

Looks like fun, doesn’t it??

So What Did I Think?

Once the nerves settled, I looked at the crowd and realized I wasn’t out of place, I began to feel more comfortable…  Once the race started, I forgot about everything and just went with the flow.  Could we have finished at a faster time if we really pushed it?  Yes…  But we weren’t going for time.  Our goal was to finish the race and have fun!  We did just that…

I had a blast!  It was honestly the most fun I have had all year.  I will most likely be doing more of these types of races.

Final Thoughts and Feelings?

Zach and Jake Spartan Race

Two members of the team Dirt Devils, Jake on the left and Myself on the right…

  • You will be sore the next day!
    • My calves are really sore…  By far the most sore out of everything!  Probably from all the hills…
    • Quads are a little sore…
    • Knees and elbows are plenty scraped up!
    • Shoulders, Traps, and Back are somewhat sore, not too bad though…
  • Have fun!
    • The goal my first time was just to finish…  I really didn’t care about how long it took.  The next time I do the Spartan Race, I will try to beat my current time.
  • Get out of the way of others!
    • Some people are trying to beat a personal record.  If you are holding people up, move to the side and let them by.  Some people aren’t just doing this for fun…
  • Eat some bananas or supplement some Taurine to help with cramps/pumps…
    • Those calf cramps at the end were killer!
  • It is definitely worth the ~$100!  (What are you waiting for? Get $10 off a Reebok Spartan Race! Use Code: SPEAR10, Sign Up Today!
  • Forget About Everything Else and Just Finish!
  • The whole point of the Spartan Race is to get up when you’re knocked down and finish what you start!
  • Click Here to Sign up for a Reebok Spartan Race Today!

team-dirt-devils

If you have any questions about what to expect at the spartan race, leave a comment below, tweet me, or contact me on facebook.  Let’s hear your Spartan war stories!


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It is at absolutely no extra cost to you and I would greatly appreciate it.  If you click my affiliate link below, IT WILL SAVE YOU MONEY!  You have two options, depending on what will save you more money.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Patrick

    Hey I saw that you wrote there was deep water. I can’t swim so will that be a problem ?

  • Hi Patrick, thanks for stopping by! There really was not any water deep enough where I had to swim. The deepest water was probably chest high on me (I’m about 6′ tall) and I could walk across everything. Keep in mind, you will probably go under water a few times just due to jumping in the water obstacles…

  • Bob

    Hey Zach,

    Awesome review! I have my first Spartan Race on Feb 15th in Tampa, FL. I assume we will have less hills due to Florida’s climate, but who knows if that means more obstacles?? Looking forward to it more after reading your experience.

    Bob

    • Hi Bob! Thanks for stopping by! It will be one of the best experiences you will have this year, is my guess. Enjoy the race and come back to tell me how you liked it!

  • Jason

    Hey Zach,
    I’ve got a few friends that feel like they’re too out of shape to run this race. How do you think I’d go about motivating them? I sent them this article but some of the obstacles made them question themselves even more.

    • Hi Jason! Thanks for stopping by!

      In my opinion, I would recommend a short test run for you and your friends. If you can, head out to a local park. Bring along backpacks for each person. Weigh out a sand bag to approximately 30 pounds per backpack. Have each person wear the backpack for a 4 mile hike. No need to run as you will not run the whole Spartan Race anyway. Just go for a brisk walk.

      If they can make the 4 mile hike, they can easily do the Spartan Race. They should not be intimidated by the videos. Yes, it is a test of will, but you do not have to be in top physical shape. Seriously, there were people which would be technically considered “obese” running the race and doing great!

      If you cannot make an obstacle, no issue… You just have to do 30 burpees. I would incorporate periodic burpees in your four mile test also… I’m doing another race in late April this year and am just now beginning to up my training. Let me know if I can be of any further help!

  • Chancey

    Hi there, Im about 5 1, 107lbs, was active last month but due to unforseen events I stopped lifting and running. Any chance I can still do this in 4 days? Will need to get back in my regimen first thing tomorrow.

    • Sure you can! Just remember, the whole point of the spartan race is to just finish what you started. Take your time and enjoy!

  • Rene

    I did my first Spartan Race last year, I agree 100% with everything you said. It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done! It was also one of the most fun! I signed up for one this year and plan to train before hand. Like the article said, anyone can finish it, push yourself and you will be amazed at what you will be able to do. Great article!

    • Rene, great job on completing the spartan race! You hit it right on the head! Difficult, but so rewarding and yes, everyone can do it!

      Please stop by again after your next race!

  • Jamie

    Good article. It was exactly what I was looking for, a first hand account from a first time Spartan. We are doing ours in August here in Calgary, thanks for the tips and advice!

    • Thanks Jamie! Good luck on the race! Stop back by afterwards and let me know how it went.

  • Nicole

    Thank you SO much for publishing this article! I’ll be doing my first Spartan race in Korea in April, and while I’m scared, knowing what you went through should help me. I already train for ultimate frisbee, so I’m decent in the fitness level, but I should start working on my pull up strength. That I think is what I will struggle with the most.

    • Hey Nicole! Thanks for stopping by! No need to be scared… Just do your best at your best pace. Ultimate frisbee will help with your cardio pretty well. I would work on burpees, pull ups, and run hills prior to the race. Good luck and have a blast!

  • Mike

    Hey, Zach. Thanks for the posting the great info on the race. You’ve addressed many of the questions and concerns that I have had about the race. My big take-away is “have fun.” Looking forward to the Charlotte Sprint this weekend! My wife and I are doing it along with several friends. I was told to be sure to hydrate the day before the race. You mentioned cramping. Was it the cold, hydration or a combination of both? Thanks, again!

    • Hi Mike!

      Looking back on my hydration for the Spartan Race, I can definitely say that I did not hydrate enough prior to the race. The night before I had beer and pizza with some of my team members. I will be doing it differently for my race this year. I will also be getting long compression socks and compression shorts to year this year which should help with some of the cramping I experienced.

      By the way, My wife and I are doing the Spartan Race in April! It will be a blast.

  • Great article! Burpees and hills are a definite MUST for training! I did a program called P90X2 that whipped me into serious shape but one thing I will do next time is more hills. That part killed me! Thanks for the tips though!

    • Agreed Tanner! The hills are for sure the hardest part of the spartan race. I checked out your site also, great transformation! Keep doing what you’re doing.

  • Pingback: Trip Fitness » Blog Archive Head to Toe Guide: What to Wear for a Spartan Race » Trip Fitness()

  • Chelsey

    Awesome article :-D!
    My first race is in June on the eighth in NY.
    I have done the warrior dash before.. But I know that this is more difficult than that.
    The only thing that I am concerned about is the monkey bars. I don’t have all that great upper body strength, and have recently been doing pushups ( I can now do fifteen in a row! ).. And I try to do the monkey bars at my local park.
    I try to switch to a new bar, and I keep falling off. It feels like my hands keep slipping, and it is very discouraging :-/.
    But I just want to finish, and have fun ^_^.
    This article definitely helped!

    • Chelsey, thanks for the kind words! Good luck of your first race, you will do great!

      The key to the monkey bars is to shift your weight (legs) from side to side. Do not go at the monkey bars straight on. When you swing your legs left, go to the bar with your left hand, when they swing right, go to the bar with your right hand. Your momentum will carry you along. You have to swing your legs if your upper body strength isn’t as strong as you’d like.

      Also, in my last race, we were allowed to help our team across the monkey bars.

      Try my leg swing momentum tactic first and I bet the monkey bars will get easier.

  • ellen

    thank you for posting this. it would be really helpful for my august race. i am a beginner and i am really excited!

    • You will do great, Ellen! Just remember, the goal is to finish what you start! Have a great time and come back to tell us how you liked it.

  • Good gloves are a must. After trying many, I think the best are MadGrips available at MudGear.com. They also have trail socks and knee high compression socks that can help protect your legs during a mud run. Shirts have to be close fitting and drain well. Good luck!

    • I agree with you on the shirts and loved wearing compression socks to my last race! I’ve never checked out those gloves, but would like to give some a try on my next race.

  • Hey, thanks for the detailed review – its much appreciated! Im signed up to one in Barcelona next month, and I’m slightly shitting myself – so nervous!! But your post has given me some ideas on how to train, so hopefully I get through it ok! Thanks heaps, and well done on finishing!

    • Thanks Liz! Enjoy the race, you will do great! Check the site tomorrow for my review of the race I just ran with my wife (who was also shitting herself) to feel more confident that it can be done!

  • Patricia

    Hi Zach,

    Thanks for this information! I’ve definitely never done anything like this but want to mentally and physically challenge myself and do something like this.

    • Hi Patricia! Thanks for stopping by! It sounds like you are running this race for the exact reasons I have. You have something to prove! Check out my other blog entry on me and my wife’s experience at our latest spartan race we ran together. It was her first. I think you will love the race. It certainly won’t be the last one you run… It is addicting!

  • Kevin

    Just a couple of questions. I’m in decent shape. I hit the gym 3-5 times a week. Play hockey and skate 1-2 times a week. But specifically what workouts should I commit to, I’m about 12 weeks out from the Spartan sprint at Fenway. Also a friend said compression everything is a necessity as well as gloves, is that true?

    • Hi Kevin. I would commit to high intensity training. Hill sprints, kettlebell swing intervals, etc would be beneficial. I would also recommend some rope climb training (difficult if you haven’t practiced yet), pullups (for climbing ropes, pulling up over walls during the race), burpees (there will be an obstacle with your name on it and 30 burpees will be in store), tricep/ring dips (assistance in pushing yourself up and over obstacles), monkey bar work (you will have swinging/monkey bar obstacles). You can do a lot with kettlebell work and hill sprints in my opinion. I’m in process of putting together a training plan and I will release it on here once it is finished.

      As for the clothing, I wrote an article about exactly what to wear. http://www.tripfitness.com/what-to-wear-for-a-spartan-race/

      I’m convinced that compression helped a lot. Gloves, I’m not so convinced on yet. I haven’t found a good pair that is decent when wet and muddy…

  • Mara

    Thanks for all the info. I”m doing the Chicago Super Sept. 27. Nervous as hell. I do weights, Zumba, kickboxing. Just not a runner. Will this be a problem? Are these good things to help me prepare? Lately I”ve been working on burpees. Also bought a pair of Reebok Spartan All Terrain shoes. Anything other advice?

    • Hi Mara! Don’t worry, you will do great! The goal is to just finish what you start.

      I’d really start running. Keep in mind the Spartan Super is 8-10 miles depending on course. I would start incorporating running into your training. Especially trail and hill running.

      As for weight training, I’d start mastering body weight moves since much of what you will be doing will involve moving your body weight from point A to B. Pullups, Burpees, Pushups, Bodyweight Tricep/Ring Dips, etc… Start incorporating some kettlebell training into the mix also. Kettlebells make for a great/intense workout that you can do at home during any free time. I have a few beginner kettlebell moves on the site here if you search in the top right search box.

      Only other advice would be to get some compression gear. I like the Reebok compression socks. Check out Shop Reebok.com

      Let me know if there is any other advice I can help with! Good luck! Aroo Aroo

  • Lisa

    I am doing the Super in Chicago. I can jog/run for about 1 mile ….should I train to run longer than that ? I can walk for miles but really dislike running. I wasn’t sure how much space is between each obstacle and if I should train myself to run a longer distance. I also do Bootcamp with weights, kickboxing, a little bit of p90x3 and lots of walking with my dogs. Also, What is the best way to train for the spear throw ? Burpees are my weakness …so far I can do about 15 in a minute …30 yikes 😉

    • Hi Lisa! With the Super being around 8-10 miles, I would train to run for approximately 3-4 miles unbroken at your own pace. That way you can assure yourself that you will be able to jog from obstacle to obstacle. The obstacles probably won’t be paced a full 3 miles apart, but I am of the belief to train for further than I’d need. Training for further distances will assist you from a cardio aspect. Keep in mind, the obstacles will take as much out of you as the running portions at times.

      To train for the spear throw, there really is no better way than to buy a hay bail, put it in the back yard, grab a broom stick, makeshift a pointed end, and practice. Might look a little strange to your neighbors, but it’ll be effective! haha

      Don’t sweat the burpees, you are on a good pace. If 15 takes you a minute, you are doing great! Just keep at them!

      You will do awesome, I have no doubt. Keep us updated on how it goes!

  • Rose Lee

    looking for a sprint race in my area 90275.

  • bob nyc

    wow!! great info!! very informative. thanks for posting. i.m 50 years old and in fairly good shape ( 5’11/165 lbs ) was wondering what excercises would help with my upper body strength that would be beneficial in a Spartan race. Also, were all participants on teams or did some run on their own? not sure I can find someone to accompany me in doing this. is it possible to be placed on a team with others who also have nobody to run with? i’m shooting for a Spartan next summer. i’m also a non-swimmer. appreciate any help and advice you can give me. thanks!!

    • Hi Bob!

      Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by the site!

      Pullups and burpees will be the key to spartan race success. You will be pulling yourself up ropes, over walls, etc, so pull up strength will be key. Burpees will work on the remainder, the push side of the upper body strength. Not all participants are on a team. While it is great to be on a team for both moral and physical support, everyone else at the Spartan Race will be in the same boat and surprisingly, most participants were extra helpful to everyone. I’d recommend to get another person or two to run with, for both the moral and physical support aspect, but also for fun. It will be more fun running with someone you know.

      If you are doing a standard Spartan Sprint, you most likely will not need to swim. There will be water obstacles, but most you can walk through. If it is a Super or Beast, there will be more swimming…

      Hope this helps!

  • Marie

    Hey Zach!

    I am doing a Spartan Sprint on Oct 4 and loved coming across this! I hope, like you, I am inspired to do more and more! Cheers and thanks for sharing your story!

    • Hey Marie! Thanks for the kind words! You will do awesome at the race, no doubt! It is addicting… This won’t be your last one!

  • Thank you for really good reading, ive just signed up for the 10k Survival of the Fittest in London.
    48 days to go 🙂
    Im really glad i read the tips about clothing, will avoid cotton thanks to you.
    My goal is to finish the race and I am currently training hard core for this.
    Thank you for the inspiration, now im off to do more burpees :p

    • Sorry to interrupt your Burpees Camilla! haha

      Good luck on the race, thanks for the kind words. You should do great!!

  • Chris

    Great article! I’m doing my first sprint in 2015 and this is exactly what I was looking for. I just registered but haven’t gotten any emails or any kind of confirmation and was wondering if they wait until it’s closer to race day to confirm not
    Sure if you know but thought I’d ask. That’s for the great info!

    • Hi Chris,

      From what I recall, you should have received some sort of confirmation/online receipt once you registered. I’d reach out to the folks at the Spartan Race website. I’ve emailed them in the past and they are very quick to respond. Good luck and thanks for the kind words!

  • Samantha

    Hi!

    I just wanted to let you know how helpful your article was. I’m planning to do a Spartan Sprint with my brothers in June so I’m very excited. I’ve heard so many good things from my brothers. I mean my oldest brother did a little over 30 spartan races this year! He just got his fourth trifecta medal. I’m a little nervous because I’m not in the best shape for everything and I don’t want to hold them back but your article gave me confidence so thanks!

    • Don’t sweat it Samantha! You will do great! Sounds like your brother is a beast! (no pun intended…) 😀

      Enjoy the race. You have plenty of time to work up to the conditioning and strength needs.

  • Johnny

    Zach,

    Did you get a lot of cuts/scrapes/bruises? I’m a diabetic, so I have to be careful about that kind of stuff. Thanks!

    • Hi Johnny,

      Yes, I did have small cuts on my arm and knees. Bruises will also form, no doubt. A way to keep the cuts down would be to wear the long dri fit/spandex, long sleeve and long leggings under your shorts. I will probably wear the long dri fit bottoms under my shorts during my next race to keep my knees from getting so cut up.

  • Rosie :-)

    Loved the blog! Great job on it, very informative and perfect for what I was looking for. I’ve already forwarded to my team for this Saturday’s Nov 1st Spartan Beast in Dallas, TX. This will be our first time doing the race. A couple of our teammates have already done the Tough Mudder a few times, but a couple of us have never done these types of races before so we didn’t know what to expect or what we are getting ourselves in to. This made me feel at ease and a little more comfortable with what’s up in store for us! My boyfriend and I are like you, we do not do long distance running so that was pretty much our only fear of whether or not we’d be able to keep up with the running. He is 50 years old and in great shape, we both have great upper and lower body strength. One of the best things we did to improve our upper body strength was the Murph Challenge. We did the full challenge on Memorial Day weekend and decided to incorporate it in our weekly Spartan training, but instead of the full Murph we did the mini 1/2 Murph on Fridays w/ a 20-30 lb weighted vest on. We’ve both done the MS150 bike races for a few years already without any training, so I think we can pull this Spartan race off with the minimal training we’ve had. Our goal is to have a blast and make it to the finish line without injuring ourselves! I’m sure after doing this race we’ll be addicted and decided to do more in the near future! Aroo! Aroo!

    • Sounds like you all are ready Rosie! Come on back and let me know how it went for you both! Keep on rocking! Aroo!

  • Keyra

    I will be doing my first Spartan this Sat. In Mississippi! Excited and NERVOUS! looking forward to a hard fun filled day!

    • Aroo Keyra! Good luck! You will do great.

  • Chelsea

    What happens if someone can’t complete an obstacle?? Do they fail the race?

    • Hi Chelsea,

      You do not fail the race. They want you to finish the race however you can, and believe me, almost everyone fails at least one obstacle. If you do fail an obstacle, you must perform 30 burpees before you can move on to the next obstacle…

  • Gary

    I just finished Rugged Maniac this weekend and my friends and I thought to sign up for the 2/7/15 AZ Spartan because it looked similar. YES I WAS WRONG! After reading this fear set in, but that went away after reading the comments. Im not in the best of shape so with 10 weeks to go, I’m thinking i should step up my workouts. The comments on this post are helpful. Thanks!

    • Gary, don’t sweat it. You guys will do just fine. Hit the workouts hard and I’d recommend running some hill intervals.

  • David

    What do you do about drinking water on the course? Do they provide water stations?

    • Hi David, yes, there are water stations spread out throughout the course. Usually they are not close enough for my liking, but they suffice. If you have any worry about it, I’ve seen many people wearing camelback water packs while running the race.

  • Bryan

    Zach,
    Great write up, this was just what I was looking for. I am going to be doing my first Spartan race in Indiana this year. I currently run 3 miles in about 26 minutes 5 days a week taking the weekends off, do you recommend that I switch up the running to running with hills on Tuesdays & Thursdays? I currently have no upper body strength and plan on adding some type of upper body exercise, do you recommend any?

    By the way I am in my mid 40’s and currently have a desk job. I have been really wanting to get into some shape and I think this would be a fun way to get things really rolling and something to look forward to while training.

    • Bryan,

      You hit it all on the head! Sounds like you are around an 8 min mile, which is good pace. I would up your length to about 5 miles and then yes, make sure to do some hill work! I cannot stress that enough. It looks like the Indiana Spartan Race is moving this year, but when it was at Haspin Acres, the hills were tough!

      As for upper body exercise, I’d recommend pull ups, push ups, burpees, and grip work (farmer carries, etc…). If you will be training in a gym, I am launching a 12 week muscle gain program this weekend here on Trip Fitness. I’d love for you to be a beta tester if you’re interested? Drop me an email if so!

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  • Jessica

    Great article and just what I was looking for! Some friends are trying to convince me to do this in Vancouver in June, but I’m not sure my knees can handle it! What was the highest height that you had to jump from and was there an option to get lower and drop from there (ie/ jumping from top of wall vs. hanging and dropping)? Also, downhills, any shame in gingerly picking my way down? I can do up no problem, but down kills my knees 🙁

    • Hey Jessica, I would say that the highest points you had to jump from were around 8 feet, but you could easily hang from the wall instead of jump from the top. As for the downhill section, the main goal of the Spartan Race is to finish what you have started… There is absolutely no shame in gingerly going downhill. Everyone out there are very supportive and helpful. My only recommendation is to stay to one side and allow the faster runners to pass, don’t take up the whole pathway.

      The hills are tough, so you would have to assess if you knees could take it, since that would be pretty personal from your pain level. Take it easy and… You’ll know at the finish line! Aroo!

      • Bruce Malmstrom

        Just wanted to add for Jessica. I too have bad knees and have found that walking backward down hills is MUCH easier on the knees.

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  • Deidre

    Hey Zach,
    My husband and I are stationed here on fort carson and the race will be here in 9 weeks…I just had a baby a month ago and I am determined to do this. I’m curious about the fact that I never give up so I know I can fish ish this…but I’m 5 ft tall exactly and you mentioned the walls and water depth/height …is there anything I should prepare myself most on. I’m 180 lbs unfortunately but am looking to be my regular 135 in about a year…your story is inspirijg..I just worry about holding my husband, team…down

    • Hey Deidre!
      For the vertically challenged 😉 the walls can become a difficult task. The good news is that typically women get to step up on a small step/platform to help you get over the wall. In addition to that, they will allow your husband to help you over and through every obstacle, so you should do just fine. All of the water obstacles are pretty short, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that if you can at least doggy paddle…

      Don’t worry about holding your team back, you will do great! The goal is to just finish what you’ve started!

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  • Katherine Cortina

    Thank you so much for this. It’s exactly what I needed to not be scared out of my wits. I think I’ll make it, I’m just a bit worried about lacking the necessary upper body strength.I’m a small woman, and not terribly “jacked” up top but I’m not weak by any means. Think I am going to have a problem?

    • ZachSwit

      Hey Katherine! Thanks for stopping by!

      No need to be scared. You will make it through the course.

      The main issue you may have with upper body strength is rope climbs and pulling up and over walls. There is also the Hercules hoist and bucket brigade. You can get through these though… It’s all about pacing yourself and finishing what you started.

      I have many female clients who are using my 12 Week Foundation of Strength Program and are loving it! Check it out if you need a little extra strength boost! http://www.tripfitness.com/12-week-muscle-gain-program-works/

  • Buffy Poole

    Hey I’m considering doing a spartan race in September. My major concern is that I have asthma and running is really hard for me. I’m getting better at it but not sure I can especially up hills with my breathing. Any recommendations that might help me? Also I can’t swim I saw where you mentioned falling in deep areas of water, if I couldn’t do that obstacle I would just do the burpees right? Any help would be greatly appreciated. I’ve been working out with crossfit for a little over a month so I’m real new to this.

    • ZachSwit

      Hey Buffy! So from the asthma side of things, I can’t really comment, mainly because I don’t know what it is like to be in your shoes. Asthma can be very serious and I’d be cautious giving you advice on something that could cause you trouble.

      I think if you can get through CrossFit WODs without much effect on your asthma, you should be fine during the Spartan Race. Remember, you don’t have to keep up with anyone, you can run at your own pace. If your asthma is acting up, take a break, or slow down. The key is to just finish what you started.

      Honestly, as long as you’re over 5ft tall, I don’t think you’ll have an issue with most of the water obstacles. Most are just jumps into muddy water about waist high or so, there was only one where I had to reach to touch the bottom… Keep in mind that this will vary per race venue, but I really wouldn’t stress too much about it. If you can doggy paddle, you will make it.

      As for not finishing an obstacle, yes, you will have to do 30 burpees. You absolutely want to finish as many obstacles as you can, because 30 burpees can take a lot out of your stamina. Buck Furpees! 🙂

      Good luck! You will do great!

  • Scott Volmer

    Hey Zack, thanks for the helpful article! I am thinking about doing a Spartan Race Sprint in the near future (hopefully Dallas in June). I’ve been doing Crossfit for about 3 months now, but before that I was working out maybe 2 days a week and I played sports pretty regularly. All that goes to say, I’m not in bad shape now, and I’m seeing a lot of results since I started Crossfit (I’ve gained a few pounds muscle, I’m lifting heavier than ever… etc..). However, I don’t run much since I’ve been trying to bulk up a bit, so where would you suggest I start training if I want to do a Race in about 5 weeks? My pull-ups are pretty solid, I do a a good number of burpees every week.. basically all the Crossfit stuff.

    And I’m new to this area so I really don’t think I’ll be able to get a team together, but I would like to give it a shot as an individual and (hopefully) finish with a decent time.

    Thanks again!

    • ZachSwit

      Hey Scott!

      Thanks for stopping by! Good luck on your Spartan Race.

      It sounds like you have a really solid base with CrossFit. The high intensity style training will cross over very well to the spartan race. As for running, I’d focus the majority of your running on hills and trails. Mix it up a bit… Go for weighted hikes wearing a weight vest, or load up a backpack. Go for jogs. Go for hill sprints.

      Do this for about a month and your running capacity will increase greatly!

  • Noah

    I’m running my first Spartan race in two days!! I’ve been running and lifting on my own but what should I expect on the course? What can I do to help succeed

    • ZachSwit

      Hey Noah, good luck with the race! The biggest advice I can give you is to hydrate yourself before the race! Drink a lot of water and electrolytes starting now and the day of the race, leading up to the start time. Cramps suck and this will help! Also, wear compression socks to help reduce cramping.

      Being two days out, I would reduce the training effort and “deload” for the next two days so you are fresh and ready to go on race day.

      Have fun and kick some ass!

  • Mark Rabenold

    I am running my second Spartan this Sunday. At 51, I am looking to show people that age is just a number. My son and daughter are doing this one with me. We are looking for ward to it. Thanks for a fun and realistic description of what a Spartan race is like.

    • ZachSwit

      Good luck Mark! Age really is just a number!

  • Sean Rainone

    I’m signed up for the race today, but my team bailed on me. Should I still run it alone? Is it worth it?

    • ZachSwit

      Hey Sean, if I were you, I’d still do it. It’s well worth it as long as it is something you are excited about doing. I ran one with my wife, so I helped her through all the obstacles, which left me to do the obstacles on my own. It takes some determination to get through the obstacles on your own, but in the end it is well worh it.

    • Kerry

      I hope you did it! I was in exactly the same position last year: my entire team bailed. I am a 50 year old woman and I am not super fit – I had not trained for the race (just did a short run once or twice a week). So when I arrived at the race I thought I might be in way over my head. The race was tough, but I did it anyway and finished with a decent time. In many ways I am really happy that the team bailed out because now I know I am strong enough to do this alone and I did not need to worry about feeling bad for holding anyone up. I felt SOOOOO proud of myself when I was done. It was one of the best things I have done in years.

      • chrispy

        Kerry, that is so great! Very inspiring!

  • Scott Doscher

    First Spartan race. I wear eyeglasses that I need to see. I bought a strap to keep them from falling off. I have to believe that some racers have to wear their glasses. Can anyone “confirm” that for me. If anyone reading this post has done the race with eyeglasses, do you have any suggestions? I am kinda nervous about that part actually. Thanks!

    • ZachSwit

      Hi Scott, I do not wear glasses, so I wont be much help. My wife wears glasses, but when she did the race, she wore her contacts. I’m hopeful that someone on here will be able to give you some good direction.

  • Rub Maps

    If you guys need to get some relaxation after such a tiresome race…come check out EroticMonkey for your special needs ;].

  • I did the super last september and I just signed up to the Sprint in two weeks… I’ll be close to 19 weeks pregnant… right now I’m doing 10ks and moderate yoga… just wondering if there are any other preggos out there who have done it? (I fully plan on doing a lot of burpees…)

    • Jullien Jimenez

      That’s awesome Kat! Being pregnant isn’t what it used to be.

    • Obviously I’m not pregnant, but I think this is completely bad ass Kat!!!

      • Now I am questioning my judgement…. hopefully I won’t be too sore after next weeks run!!!!!

  • I agree Jullien! There are benefits to teams from a morale/motivation standpoint, but it will be just as fun doing it yourself!

  • WaveCrusher

    Just registered for the Singapore leg this November 2015. Need to learn from the experiment on some preparation and outfits needed. Goodluck to me…. 🙂

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  • Redzuan Kamis

    Just registered for Malaysia leg this October 2015. It is the first Spartan Race’s event in Malaysia and of course it is my first time.
    This article really help me for the preparation. Thank you.

  • Kabobble

    Hey Zach, I’m running my First Spartan Sprint at the end of August with a couple friends and I’m completely terrified. Your article helped a bit, knowing that you don’t have to be in insane shape to finish. I’ve always been athletic and strong for my size, I’m a 5’3″ female, but my upper body strength has always lacked. I started doing weight lifting in January and have gotten stronger (still can’t do pull ups though), but my main fear are the burpees. How strict are they on them? I’ve never done burpees with a push up (not even for training for lacrosse), but I see you have to do one for Spartan. Any advice you could give me to talk me off the cliff over here would be most appreciated. 🙂

    • Hey! They aren’t strict on form for burpees, just make sure you get your 30 in… Don’t sweat it. If you have friends running with you, they can help get you over obstacles. You don’t have to come in first place, just finish what you started. Have fun and enjoy the time out there!

      • Kabobble

        Thanks for the reply, Zach! Refreshing to hear from someone who isn’t pretentious. Believe me – I’ve read a few blogs where they say “if you can’t easily do the 30 burpees, when you don’t belong at a Spartan”. Pretty disheartening when you’re trying to do something new that pushes your limits. So far, I think I’m only going to have an issue with any monkey bars, rope climbs, or pull ups. 🙂 Aside from that – walls, water and barbed wire don’t scare me too much. I have a good couple of friends I’m running with. Start together, stay together, finish together. 🙂 Thanks for the help and the great article.

        • Nah, if you listen to Joe Desena on any interview he’s done, his goal is to get people off the couch. He doesn’t want just the elite out there running his races, he wants to get the world active again. That means every shape, size, and conditioning should be on the course.

          The rope climbs get the majority of new racers, so don’t sweat that. The tip for the monkey bars is to use your body momentum and swing your legs side to side to keep you moving through them.

          Enjoy the race!

  • Jen Hill

    Zach, Thanks for the honesty and valuable advice. I will be travelling in Scotland soon and registered for a Beast Race on Loch Ness. I’m very excited, but very unprepared. Not exactly fit, but ready for the challenge, and have no plans to finish, just want to experience the fun. As I will be a Texan all alone in Scotland, I’m trying to meet others so I can be part of a group – I’ll never make it alone. Thanks for the info about what to wear and how to prep. Too late for prep for me, but I’ll do some jogging up hills in the next few weeks to get the legs ready. Can’t wait!

    • Hey Jen, you can make it with, or without a team! Without will just take you longer and may pose to be more difficult getting through some of the obstacles, but people run them alone all the time. I have no doubt you can do it.

      Hills were definitely the killer for me, so good idea on running them before the race. Have fun and enjoy the atmosphere! Aroo!

    • Kabobble

      I know that there are a lot of people who run the race that are happy to boost you over a wall, etc. even if they’re not on your team. Heck, I’ve never run one (running a Sprint at the end of the month), but I’d totally help out a fellow racer by giving them a hand or a boost. 🙂 I’m sure you’ll find plenty kind souls over there! Good luck!

      • The overall helpfulness of the people running the race is amazing to see. Like Kabobble said, there will be plenty of people willing to help you through the obstacles. It’s almost a small family out there.

  • emily

    I only run my max run is 7 miles. I have done half marathons. With no upper body strength training do you think from now till october 3 rs thats enough time to train for the upper body strength part?

    • Hi Emily! Running is half the battle, so you’re half way there. Strength and determination are the rest. I would say you have enough time to make an improvement in strength, but it really takes about 6-8 weeks to show a substantial improvement. Do a quick search on here for my 12 Week Muscle Gain Program, it is also on the sidebar. My female clients have had amazing success with the program! I’d love for you to try it out!

  • Hailey

    Do you get a tshirt if you complete the race? Also what if you need to carry epi pens with you? Can you bring something to carry them in?

  • Kabobble

    Hey there Zach! Thought I’d check back in since I completed my first Spartan Race this past weekend. Wanted to throw in my two cents from another beginner. As you mentioned to a couple of people – HYDRATE. Start the day before and keep going on up until you race. You’re going to get up to pee a LOT during the night, but don’t stop hydrating. I ran on Saturday in Massachusetts and it was about 83 degrees and sunny. No shade for the first part of the race. I had hydrated a lot and felt dizzy by the third obstacle. You can’t drink too much water/electrolytes. The course was tough. There was nothing easy about it. We were on a farm, so there was a lot of deep mud (that smelled like cow poop… but you power through), steep hills, uneven ground, etc. Then there were the obstacles. There were 4 that I had to do my burpees on. As a follow-up to my question about number and form of burpees – there was NO ONE overseeing burpees in my race. Unless you were Elite, you were on the honor system. I saw people not do the obstacle, then not even do the burpees. I didn’t care. I mean, YOU know if you do them or not. Not being Elites, we’re not in it for the cash or prizes. We just want to finish. lol. Being on a team was a ton of help. They allowed teamwork on the tall walls, inverted wall, sandbag hoist, and tractor pull. Of course, if you’re Elite, you have to go it alone. I noticed a LOT of teamwork among the runners – even those not on the same team. I had strangers pull me over things and I helped a girl who was claustrophobic go under the “dunk wall” by holding her hand and going under with her. People help you, so you help others. Pay it forward because you never know when you’ll need someone to push you butt over the next obstacle. I’m not sure I’ll do another one, but I’m glad I did this one and I’m proud of my team and I for finishing together.

    • Thanks so much for the follow up! What a great recap and congrats for finishing what you started!

      Aroo! Aroo!

  • WaveCrusher

    Preparing for the first Singapore Spartan Race this coming 15th of November. Your tips were awesome, though I might say I hate running too. Now at 48, I’m doing HIIT during our boxing class twice a week. I don’t have so much outdoor training due to the haze problem in neighbouring Indonesia that affected few countries a couple of months now. Will try to intensify my training since only 4 weeks left before the race. Also, will try to find some good Dri-fit outfit or compression for this race. Wish me luck and will also try to aim to complete the race instead of racing for time. Since this is my first race, I don’t have any comparison, so I will just enjoy it and have fun. AROO!

    • Good luck! You will do great. Just remember, the goal is to finish what you started! Aroo!

  • rj_williams

    Thank you for this article. I am running my very first ever sprint by myself this weekend in Nashville. My nerves and the anticipation is what I’m feeling. Like you said, I will just go with the flow and have fun. No one wants to do it with me so I figured that I already committed myself to this, I would just go by myself and make new friends.

    • Young King

      I am doing it alone too! My wave off timing is 1445hrs.

    • How did you like the race!? Hopefully you had fun and enjoyed the race! Aroo!!

      • Rejimaru

        I was nervous at first, but I ended up having so much fun. The Spartan community is awesome. Like Kabboble said on his comment, there were people just wanting to finish. They were skipping obstacles as well as their burpees. I made sure I did mine and over all I feel better. Hopefully I can train well enough next year to earn my Trifecta. Thanks again ^_^

  • Thea

    Oh man thank you for writing this! I am about to sign up for my first Spartan race that’s January 31st in Socal. My co-worker invited me to join them in going. I am really excited to do this for the experience and to be able to say I’ve done it. It’s comforting to read that not everyone is experienced, or on a team. Makes you feel not so alone with all the worries lol. But I am still so nervous to do this because I am not in shape and have no kind of upper body strength. I have done the Camp Pendelton mud run a few years back, but haven’t done anything like that since. I am definitely taking all of your tips and those in the comments to work with. I don’t really have the funds for a personal trainer but I have do see that I have about 14 weeks to train. Will that be a good amount of time to be able to get my strength and endurance up if I train everyday until the race?

  • Felipe

    If I fail an obstacle can I try again right away or do I have to do burpees before trying again?

    • That wouldn’t be typical. If you fail an obstacle, you usually do burpees right after. There really isn’t a second try.

  • Ben Bitten

    I seriously underestimated my forearm usage in the obstacle race. Great advice in this article for the Spartan. Wish I would have focused more on arms in training. http://www.beenbitten.com/top-4-training-tips-i-wish-i-knew-before-my-obstacle-race/

  • ReeseC

    Thank you for this article! This is the most helpful information I have received thus far. You have helped ease my nerves. I signed up for a Spartan sprint and have two months to train. I have been doing Crossfit for over 6 months. Crossfit has boost my confidence(as well as my competitiveness), I do not consider myself an athlete. After signing up I have overwhelming thoughts like, “what was I thinking” and “I can not do this”. I was super nervous about the obstacles(and burpees) but after reading your article I am more motivated than ever. Thanks again.

    • Reese, CrossFit is a great way to prepare for a spartan race. I’m glad I was able to ease your nerves a bit! You will do great! Good luck and please come back and let us know how it goes!

  • Karolina Kay Melton

    I am running my first spartan race on saturday with my husband and a friend. I am nervous. I know my weakness are running and rope climbing lol but your article helped a little. all I want is to finish this run with a little dignity haha I will come back sunday and report how it was 🙂

    • You will do great Karolina! By this time, you’ve probably already finished! How did it go?

      • Karolina Kay Melton

        It was awesome! It was about making it to the finish line. There is a sprint in ft Bragg in September that’s where I live. I will attend again. I’m not fit enough for super or beast but I can improve my time at the sprint.

  • Fitness Focused Fun

    Zach, I am so glad I found your blog! It’s exactly what I needed. I am running my first Spartan Race Sprint this Saturday and the nerves are getting to me. Mainly because everyone who said they would sign up to do the race with me bailed! So I am running it alone… Is this wise? Should I reconsider? I really want to do the race but only if it’s actually doable. Any feedback you can provide would be so appreciated! Thanks…

    • Run the race and forget about the rest! The spartan community is so strong, there will be plenty of people to help you with any obstacle if needed. It’s really amazing how much everyone helps each other!

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  • Bryn Hadley Sowash

    Just signed up for the sprint in 6 days…haven’t trained and freaking out. I can run about 4.5 miles and I lift regularly. Can’t throw a spear!

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  • Opinionated

    Hi Zach, I’m running my first Spartan sprint in 2 weeks in Toronto. I’m not a runner (I can barely run for 1Km) and in fact sprained my knee last week trying a wall jump. It’s getting better. I do work out and strength train. Am I nuts to try Spartan? I anticipate having to walk the race due to my knee as for the obstacles…I’ll be ok on strength ones, but anything with upper body requirement is questionable. Your article has helped…but wouldn’t mind a reality check given my strengths/weaknesses.

    • Well… I missed this comment and am too late! Looks like you ran the race last week? How did it go!? I’m sure you had a great time if you did the race…

  • Jordana

    Thanks so much for this article. It’s made me feel much more confident in my ability to get ‘er done! Just signed up for my first sprint on a whim. We’re about 3 weeks out, and I am a little nervous because I haven’t officially been “training” though I am fit and do HIIT, plyo and weight training exercises daily. It’s all about doing things that scare us, right?!

    I keep reading about being sure to hydrate in advance. What about during the race? Are there hydration stations? Water available? Or do we just push through without it?

    • Hey Jordana, don’t worry about not training. You’re right… Do things that scare you! If your goal is to just go out, run, have fun, and finish, you will do it.

      As for water, there are hydration stations spread through the course. My experience has been, depending on your hydration level prior to the race, it either feels like they are spread out way too far, or they are just right. Needless to say, there are hydration stations.

  • Jasmine Marie Buckingham

    strange question…i’m bringing a GoPro for my race in Indonesia this weekend, after already doing the sprint, where would you recommend i wear it?? i don’t want it to always be falling off or just be a nuisance.
    By the way this article has helped a great deal.
    I’m much less terrified haha. thank you!!!

  • Chase

    So I’m thinking about doing the sprint in Boise next June. Problem is, I’m not in good shape. Is it even possible to train for this to be ready by June or should I wait until the following year?