Spartan Race Trifecta Medals

6 Training tips for your first Spartan Race – “Cheong ah!”

Having recently completed a Spartan Race Trifecta, the one question I get asked a lot is “How should I be training for a Spartan Race?”

I could answer that question in two ways, because the query is normally followed by a variation of;
a) “I’m already running, what else should I do?” or,
b) “I signed up for Spartan Race Singapore, I have no idea what it’s about and I haven’t been training”.

My response;
a) “You’ll be ok. Just continue what you’re doing and add a bit of this, this and maybe that.”
b) “You’re fucked.”

Let me digress for a moment to say, I’ve never considered myself an athlete or an authority on OCRs so I’m quite flattered to be asked that question and there are Internet personalities out there who are better versed in being experts. But perhaps where I could come from is with you, the ‘weekend warrior’, the enthusiast. Because like you, I had no clue what I was doing when I first started.

1. Run less, lift more
If you’re already running 4–6 times a week and that’s all you’re doing, you’d think it’s counter-intuitive to say this but – run less, lift more.

A Spartan Race is 40% aerobic and 60% anaerobic, with a fairly good running base, you’re probably really fit aerobically already. But the obstacles you’ll be facing will require you to lift stuff off the ground, from 28kg kettle bells, 50kg sandbags to your own body weight.

So head out there for a run, but do some push ups, dips, overhead presses, pull-ups, rows, squats and deadlifts.

2. Run less, sprint more
At about 5–7km, a Spartan Race Sprint has lots of running then stopping at obstacles to jump/crawl/throw/climb/lift/pull/push. So train your anaerobic threshold and endurance to be able to deal with the running, stopping and running again.

While the venue for the Singapore Sprint has not yet been revealed, Spartan Races have historically gone across hilly terrain. The U.S courses are known notoriously for their slopes and based on the experience in Australia I’ve learnt to be prepared for hills. Find a hill and get used sprinting up it.

3. “Learn to love the burpee”
Unlike other obstacle runs the penalty of choice for a Spartan Race is the burpee. While some obstacles require you to keep trying until you clear it (typically a marshaller will inform you at each obstacle), if you fail an obstacle there’s no skipping away merrily, you pay a fine of 30 burpees. And we’re talking about the ‘squat-thrust-pushup-tuck-jump’ variant here.

4. Eat, eat and eat
You’ll be burning loads of calories as you’re training and even more when you’re doing the race. And to aid in your recovery eating enough of the right foods will help you get stronger and perform better during the race. And we’re obviously talking about avoiding processed foods and eating whole fresh foods. There’re smarter people out there who can tell you more about food like;

5. Train for the obstacles
Mud Crawl

Something that didn’t exist when we did our first Spartan Race is the new Spartan Race website which gives a pretty clear description of the obstacles you can expect ( ). So you can pretty much base your training on what’s listed there, but as the website states “We will never reveal all our secrets. We must maintain the Spartan element of surprise at every one of our races.”

In any case, run through the website and figure out creatively how you can train for them. For example;
Atlas Carry – squats, deadlifts, burpees
Fire jump – box jumps, tuck jumps
Monkey bars – pull-ups, dead hangs

6. Find some friends to ‘suffer’ with

Lion City Spartans Beach Workout at Sentosa

What better motivation is there when you have buddies on your left and right who are going through the same sh!t as you are. Get some friends together and be accountable to each other in getting your training done. You could also join our community of OCR fanatics the “Lion City Spartans”. Find us on Facebook and come by during one of the many group training sessions.

7. (Bonus) Manage your expectations
When we completed our first Spartan Race Sprint in Perth, I remembered looking at my recorded timing and thinking “Woah. I didn’t know we had been on the course for that long.”

The listed distance of a Spartan Race Sprint is 7km (the other categories – Super is 14km and Beast is 21km. Completing all 3 categories in a year qualifies you as a Trifecta finisher) and this is sometimes a lie because the actual distance is always further. Depending on what kind of runner you are, you might expect to finish 7km in maybe 40–60mins. So when I went “Woah”, my recorded timing was 1hr 55min. How does that compare to the rest? Well, the first place ‘elite’ runner finished at 52 minutes and race ended with runners coming in at 4 hours.

So, expect to be on the course longer than you would normally be out on a typical run.

Get off your couches
And so what about the folks to whom I’ve said “You’re fucked.”?

In spite that a Spartan Race is no walk in the park, it has always been the mission of Spartan Race CEO Joe De Sena that the OCR be a motivator to “rip people off their couches to lead fitter lives”. In Australia, I’ve witnessed all sorts of people from different walks of life – like a wheelchair bound man, a 64 year old woman, an overweight 22 year old, a 14 year old teenager – all cross the finish and smile broadly with their finisher medals.

The race might just be the toughest activity you would have ever done, and during the race you might be questioning yourself why you’ve put yourself in all that ‘pain’ but believe me, it will be something most anyone can complete and it will be worth it at the finish.

The Spartan SGX Training Program is a training program specifically made for Spartan Races and is typically designed as a 12 week program in 3 progressive phases. While you may be a bit late to the game, there is still have a few weeks to train for the race, so its not too late. So if you’re not already following the tips above, get off your ass today!

You can also pick some workouts from the Spartan Race website to get yourself started.

Spartan SGX WOD

Listed at the end of this post is also a snippet of how I’ve planned a week of my workout program. It includes alternate days of running, HIIT, strength training and a longer ‘Canal WOD’ – a run that I do around my estate which simulates as much I can of a Spartan Sprint, check it out to see if it’s something that you could work in your training.

So while I was a little rude with that expletive, it may just be the right word you use when you cross the finish yelling “Fuck yeah!”

Sample Week Workout A
Monday – HIIT followed by 5km run
Tuesday – Strength training (could be upper body: pull-ups/overhead presses/dips or lower body: deadlifts/squats)
Wednesday – Stretching and Mobility
Thursday – Strength training (or HIIT) followed by 5km run
Friday – 5km run
Saturday – Longer workout day up to 2.5hrs (#HybridStrength)
Sunday – Rest

Sample Week Workout B
Monday – HIIT
Tuesday – Canal WOD
Wednesday – Stretching and Mobility
Thursday – Strength and Met-con
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Longer workout day up to 2.5hrs
Sunday – Rest

Canal WOD v1
7km run with the following series of exercises every 1km:

  • 6–12 pull-ups (ladder up)
  • 6–12 box-jumps (ladder up)
  • 12–18 overhead log presses (ladder up)
  • monkey bar traverse (sideways in each direction)
  • 10–16 burpees (ladder up)
  • 10–16 walking lunges (ladder up)
  • 45s plank holds

Canal WOD v2
6km run with 1 exercise every 500m (e.g. 500m, pull-ups, 500m, burpees, 500m…). Rest as little as possible after each exercise and continue running the next 500m.

  • 10 pull-ups
  • 10–15 burpees
  • 15 log overhead press
  • 10–15 burpees
  • 10 box jumps
  • 10–15 burpees
  • 100m lunges
  • 10–15 burpees
  • monkey bar traverse (front and sideways)
  • 10–15 burpees
  • 10 dips
  • Finisher – 30 burpees

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