Training Tips

Midwest Super Spartan 2013! Race recap plus training tips!!

The Spartan Race Warrior Ethos states: “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

The Spartan Race is one of my favorite races – I look forward to it all year.  To me, there is nothing better than running through the woods, climbing through mud, testing my strength against obstacles, and doing it all with my good friends.  

My team running into the woods after completing an obstacle!
My team running into the woods after completing an obstacle!
Team Riot Makers
Team Riot Makers

The age old questions… “Who am I? What am I made of?  Who can I count on?  How much can I endure, and can I be victorious in my life?”… are questions that come up for me in the Spartan Race.  For me, there is something spiritual about asking those questions and finding the answers.  The Spartan Race is just one of many places to ask and answer those questions, but it’s a good place to ask them.

You will see all sorts of people out in a Spartan Race, from very fit athletes, to regular people working toward becoming more active and strong – different sizes, different ages, and lots of crazy people (I say that with love as I consider myself crazy) 🙂  From people dressed in kilts and tutus, to guys with long, flowing beards full of mud, to young teenagers, to people with paint all over their bodies – there are all types at Spartan Races.  But don’t get me wrong: a Spartan Race is not the Warrior Dash.  It’s a very challenging race and a person should train for it.  Being strong and having endurance not only helps you complete the race, but helps you finish without injury.

I’ve done the Spartan Race all 3 years it’s been in Illinois.  Having tried some “groupon” races for fun this year – a half marathon and a color run – I can unequivacally state that Spartan Race is one of the best-organized races that I’ve done.   From parking, to packet pick-up, to the starting waves, they know how to put on a good race.  I love the venue in Marseilles, which has us running through the woods, down in the ravines, and up many hills.  The course this year was longer and harder than last years – there were new obstacles and many more hills to climb.  Although we kept a faster pace with running, my team took much longer to do the first 6 miles, due to the obstacles, hills, and mud.

How do I train for the Spartan Race?  It should come as no surprise that I train by running long distances and lifting heavy in the gym.

Since I am usually training for a half marathon or marathon during the summer/fall, I follow one of those plans for my runs… one long run during the week, and other shorter runs/sprints/strength work.  I will make sure that my long run plan has me doing MORE than the mileage required for the race before race day…. for example, the Spartan Race in Illinois is 8 mile long – I had done a few 10 mile runs in the weeks leading up to race day.

In the gym, you can find me doing squats, dead lifts, lunges, pull-ups, push-ups, dips, planks – along with lots of other heavy weight exercises.  Some weeks, I go heavy and try for new 1RMs (1 rep maxes) – and some weeks, I go for endurance, going lighter or just body weight, with reps in the 20 or 50 range.  I think both strength and endurance are equally important, AND it’s good to shock the body by switching things up every now and then.

As a Mom, I have to make time to do my long runs on my own, and my gym time – sometimes this means getting up early, staying up late, or fitting the long run in between other activities.  But I also find some ways to either include my children in my training, or train in proximity to them.  There are lots of ways to train at the playground or in the backyard, including running sprints around them at the park, using them as weights, including them in the workout, and using the park equipment as they play:

Playground pull-ups
Monkey bar practice
Buck Furpees!
65-pound weighted walking lunges (with helpful doggy sniffs)
Sand bag carry

Training should include some running combined with strength work – hills, lunges, squats, sand bag carries, sled push/pull.  This teaches your legs to deal with the lactic acid and to keep going when they feel “dead”.

Burpees are another important part of training.  We all hope to do as few burpees as possible in the race – but not only do we need to be ready to do them, it’s great cardiovascular training.  I’m not gonna lie, burpees are tough – but that’s why we do them.  They make us stronger!

Last but not least by any means, are practicing the specific skills required for obstacles…. getting over a 10′ wall, climbing a rope, throwing a spear, getting across monkey bars, vertical walls.  This year I only had to do 2 sets of burpees, for the rope climb and the spear throw.  Big surprise – these were the two skills I had not specifically practiced.  I can do pull-ups until the cows come home (75 pull-ups in sets for my last back workout), but climbing up a wet rope out of a muddy pit is a completely different skill.  This year, I plan to find a place I can practice rope climbing, and I plan to set up a hay bale and practice the spear toss.  On the Spartan youtube page, you will find tutorial videos that go over how to do these specific skills.

This is the official video from the Illinois Race this year (embedding not allowed, so a link will have to do!)

The Spartan Race is not for everyone.  Some people are much happier and better off walking, doing road races, or ultras, or Tri’s, or endurance biking – there are many ways to find out what you are made of and test your body.  But if you watch that video and are feeling the yearning for mud, fire, hills, and a Warrior Ethos that requires never leaving a fallen comrade behind – get off your couch and start training!!!!!

About Molly Beth, BA, RRCA


Molly has been a runner for 10 years who run likes to run long distances, lifts heavy weights, and lives for adventures. She is a volunteer breastfeeding counselor and a writer. She is passionate about community – supporting and helping each other to achieve all of our goals. She enjoys writing about the everyday things that inspire her. She runs because it’s her “room of my own” – something that is just hers.



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