A Spartan Race is unpredictable. Posted distances are approximate, unidentified obstacles abound, and aid station placement is not guaranteed. Presenting 10 tips to prepare you for battle, no matter what distance you’re up against.
Hobie Call, winningest Spartan Racer of all time
Joe Desena, Spartan Race founder
Jeff Godin, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., Spartan coach certification director, professor and chair of exercise and sport science at Fitchburg State University
10. Come ready to race
A Spartan Race is not a prelude to an afternoon of drinking. It’s a timed competition with cash prizes at stake for the best competitors. Athletes earn points in the Spartan Point Ranking System for their top four performances, and the top 300 men and women at the end of the season will be eligible to share a prize purse, which grows throughout the year. “Spartan Races have a very professional atmosphere,” Desena says. “Not many people dress in costume at our events.”
9. Dress accordingly
“The less you can get away with, the better,” Call says. “You’ll be getting wet and muddy and a shirt won’t keep you warm when you’re wet.” Of course, you have to wear something, particularly if you’re concerned about cutting up your bare skin while crawling through the trenches. Call suggests wearing form-fitting clothing made of lightweight synthetic material that won’t weigh you down when wet. Under Armor’s synthetic tops should work. And leave the sunglasses at home; they’re usually the first casualty on the course, with iPods, wallets, and car keys a close second.
Bonus Tip: Train in your race outfit to make sure it is comfortable and doesn’t chaffe, Godin says. A wardrobe malfunction should be the least of your worries on race day.
8. Don’t forget your feet
“Cross country racing shoes are the best,” Call says. “They weigh next to nothing, they fit snug so they won’t come off in a mud pit, and they have great traction.” If for any reason this type of shoe doesn’t suit you, reach for the least bulky shoe you can handle. “The less of a shoe you’re wearing, the better, because they’ll hold onto less water and mud,” Call says.
7. Stay in shape
Got more than 12 or 16 weeks until your race? Start training now by following the Spartan Race’s Workout of the Day (WOD). Developed by Desena and endurance athlete Jason Jaksetic, the WOD is designed to keep Spartans in shape and to be done anywhere, no gym access necessary.
6. Learn to love the burpee
Even if you don’t follow the WOD, it’s in your best interest to start practicing burpees ASAP; a failed or skipped obstacle will result in punishment of 30 burpees or more. “We’re infamous for burpees,” Adams says. Check out Call’s instructional burpee video. Fastforward to 2:40 to see the exercise.
5. Stay positive
It may be difficult to smile when, after more than two hours, 20-plus obstacles, and dozens of burpees, a Spartan warrior beats you with a foam-padded stick or shoots you with a paintball gun. “Don’t let anything get you down,” says Call. “It’s supposed to be tough. That’s what makes it even greater when you’re done—knowing that you’ve truly been challenged, that you hit a wall and finished anyway.”
4. Buddy up
Yes these are timed races, but that doesn’t mean you have to go into battle alone. Register with an army of buddies and go for the team title. The first four finishers on your team will count toward your team’s time. But don’t slack off if you’re not up front; you’ll still get timed and be eligible for individual awards.
3. Get a routine
If the unpredictability of Spartan races makes you nervous, control the things you can, like your pre-race routine. “I’m so structured it’s ridiculous,” Call says. First thing race morning, Call downs a protein drink made with raw eggs. One hour before the gun goes off, he drinks a protein wheatgrass drink, then does a 40-minute dynamic stretching and plyometric routine—the same warm-up he does before each and every race. “It helps make sure I have a good day,” Call says.
2. Flirt a little
“Hands down this is the best place to find a mate,” Desena says. “The men and women look like gods and goddesses.” So play nice on the course. Get out of the way for faster racers and say “thank you” when you pass. You never know which dirty, bloody Spartan might be your match.
1. Stick around
“At road races, nobody talks about the race itself because it’s boring,” Call says. “But everybody talks about the Spartan Race,” Once you cross that coveted finish line, stick around to share war stories while downing your free beer and watching fellow Spartans face the final obstacles. As the series’ tagline goes: You’ll know at the finish line. Back in the real world, your family, friends, and coworkers who have never seen that finish line just won’t get it.