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Train like a Warrior: Preparing for Your First Spartan Race

Fitday Editor

Obstacle racing, more commonly known as a Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Race, or Zombie Run, seems to be the new chic in terms of trendy physical fitness. Just as cross-training, P90x, Zumba, and other forms of exercise pop into the cultural mainframe, you may find yourself signing up for one of these bad boys without really knowing what you are in for. No need to fear, Spartan. Follow these guidelines in preparing for your first Obstacle Race and you will be HA-OOHing like the inner Spartan you know you are.

Step One: You'll Need Endurance, Leonidas

Obstacle race training will involve you training for the race you choose: anywhere from a one mile trot to a marathon. You should stick with protocols for training for your race length as any normal race. However, obstacle races will throw various curves at you that will not only test your running endurance, but also put stress on the limits of your physical strength and athletic skill.

In addition to the standard running training, you should begin and fully prepare yourself with body-weight resistance, especially upper body strength. Adding body weight resistance exercises like pushups and especially pull-ups and chin-ups will help you to tackle the wall-climbing portions of most obstacle races.

To maximize your strength and endurance, complete various sets of increasing repetitions immediately after your running workout. You may also think about incorporating these exercises during your running workouts to mimic the race-day conditions. Most competitors forget this aspect and while they may be conditioned to run, they may not have the endurance and upper body strength to complete the weighted portions of the event.

Step Two: When Prepping for Battle with Xerxes, Simulate Conditions

The other condition of race-day that gives the identity to Spartan and Mud races is just that: mud. Substances like mud, water, and sand can cause additional and sometimes overwhelming forces of resistance to athletes. Not to mention making running or crawling difficult and uncomfortable, mud can get into delicate areas and cause irritation and a lack of concentration. To avoid being thrown off on your race day, consider practicing in similar conditions by doing some of your running training in a park or wooded area where you have the opportunity to run through soft, muddy terrain. This will help build endurance and won't leave you shocked and unprepared on race day.

Step Three: It's All About Timing in Thermopolis

The last piece to the Spartan training puzzle is to plan your conditioning so you reach your physical peak as close to race day as possible. I suggest beginning a solid six weeks out from the date of your competition and concentrating specifically on weight endurance training, training in simulated conditions, and running endurance training. You may also want to do research on the types of obstacles your specific race will have and try to replicate those in training. By adding these types of exercises to your regimen, you will be able to meet the physical demands of the race and give your best effort. HA-OOH!

Ryan Barnhart, MS, PES, is a certified Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). He also holds a master's degree in exercise science, as well as a bachelor of sport management, both from California University of Pennsylvania. Ryan has worked with numerous collegiate and amateur athletes across many different fields. Ryan also has had the opportunity to work with several professional athletes. Recently he has worked with amateur and professional athletes within the emerging sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

Ryan is currently the director of fitness at a 700+ member gym near Pittsburgh, PA. He enjoys working with weekend warriors, athletes, and everyone in between. You can contact Ryan at

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