Training For My First Spartan


It's what we yell at the Spartan Race start line before heading out on a course full of obstacles to test your endurance and strength. But I put a lot of work into my Spartan Training. I'm by no means an OCR expert athlete, but from one amateur to another, I'm sharing my OCR Training Story to help make your Spartan Adventure more fun.

So you're a runner. You lift occasionally, so you've got a decent amount of strength. A Spartan should be a piece of cake right? Not so fast.

First off, if you're a runner there's good news--you do have an advantage. You have some endurance already and a lot of strong people will admit they suck at running. Because we all want to do as well as we possibly can, you're still going to need to train a little like you would any other race. For Spartan, you need to build your grip strength and your upper body strength. And you'll need to learn some technique to save your energy as you go.

To give you an idea, here's the common Spartan elements and obstacles you'll want to prepare for:

If you miss an obstacle, you'll have to do 30 burpees. Yes. That's per obstacle you fail. And you don't get multiple tries. Most likely you'll be doing quite a few burpees unless you happen to complete EVERY single obstacle. I myself ended up doing 120.

BURPEE TRAINING: The hard part about the burpees is it jacks your heart rate way up, and you have to keep running (usually up hills) and then hit another obstacle. It's pretty high-intensity. So the  best way to train for this is to do some high-intensity workouts that incorporate burpees. Or even just go for a run and stop every mile to do 20-30 burpees. Practice makes perfect!

There will be walls of varying heights. Some 6', others 8' or higher. You'll need to learn how to jump and hoist yourself over. Check out this Spartan Wall Video for tips on the best techniques for climbing these walls.

WALL TRAINING: Lots of explosive exercises, boxes jumps, squats, etc will help give you the power and boost you need to get up and over.

You will encounter a "rig" or two, consisting of rings, bars, ropes, or a combination of all the above. This will take a lot of grip strength and technique.

RIG TRAINING: Lots of monkey bar practice at a nearby park, pull ups, etc to build your upper body strength. Also, a great way to train for any Spartan race is to visit your local rock gym. Rock climbing is a great way to learn technique and build the strength needed for Obstacle Course Racing.

Are you afraid of heights? Me too. But you'll want to practice getting used to heights so you don't panic or freeze on any obstacle on race day.

HEIGHTS TRAINING: Besides getting over your fear, how do you "train" for heights? Well, get up high! I go back to the indoor rock climbing wall. This will do wonders for building your confidence while training at the same time.

Climb the rope or take the 30-burpees penalty. The height won't make it easier either.

ROPE TRAINING: The biggest part to learning to climb the rope is getting the "wrap technique" down. Then it just becomes about using your feet. Check out this Spartan Rope Climb video to learn all about the "wrap". Some rock wall gyms will have a rope you can practice on as well.

I group all three of these because they all involve one thing: simple strength. Not a whole lot of technique involved, besides proper form so you don't throw out your back. All three will be heavy (400lb tires for the guys, and buckets full of rocks up and down a hill aren't for the faint at heart!)

STRENGTH TRAINING: You may not have access to tractor tires or sand bags, but you can lift at a your gym to build upper body strength, and the bucket carry is fairly simple to replicate. Find some heavy rocks, fill up a 24-gallon bucket and practice carrying it around a parking lot or up and down a hill.

BONUS BUCKET TIPS: Check out this video on the Spartan Bucket Brigade for tips on how to hold the bucket, and proper rest form when you need to take a breather.

**For a detailed list and videos of the most common obstacles you'll find at a Spartan Race, check out their online obstacle course training section and exercise videos. **

There will be some water stops, but you'll likely want some sort of hydration with you that frees up your hands and doesn't impede you from jumping, crawling, or rolling.

WHAT I USE: For Spartan Race hydration, I use my Orange Mud Endurance Pack. It's a small bladder pack, light weight, holds 2L of water, and stays close to my body with little bounce and no chafing. Plus, it washes off very well (b/c trust me, you're going to get muddy!)

There will be a lot of crawling on your hands and knees in sand, rocks, dirt, and mud. A good "buffer" for this is gear like arm sleeves, compression sleeves/socks, and good trail shoes.

WHAT I USE: Everyone is different when it comes to shoes. I personally ran my first race in the inov-8 Terraclaw 250. Super lightweight and with a pretty good grip. However, I did experience a lot rocks and soot piling up inside this shoe.

I've since gotten a pair of the Salomon Speedcross 4 that fit me super well and I'm hoping will be my perfect Spartan shoe. I recommend checking out this Sports Illustrated article on The Best Shoes for OCR and checking them out at your local shoe store to see which one is the best fit for you.

As far as arm sleeves go, I love my Orange Mud arm warmers. They kept me warm in the chilly weather and from getting too sun burnt. However, during the summer Spartan races, arm warmers may not be ideal. Unless you find ones that have cooling properties.

Compression sleeves/socks are plentiful and can be found in a number of places. But make sure you look for a pair that's heavy duty and won't tear from crawling around on rocks. I recommend checking out MudGear socks.

My Spartan Training experience was a pleasant one because here in Phoenix, we have an abundance of gyms that specialize in OCR training. I spent a month training at Fitness 5 and owe them every ounce of success I've made. There, I had some one-on-one OCR coaching that helped prepare me and we trained hard on all the above obstacles listed and more. If you live in the Phoenix area, definitely come out to Fitness 5 Gym in Scottsdale. No matter what your fitness level, they make it fun, but they're going to put you to work.

The Fitness 5 OCR Bad @$$es!
If you have any sort of gym like that in your area, I highly recommend checking them out. Spartan also hosts different workouts in some areas, so be sure to search for them online here. And I also recommend signing up for the Daily Spartan Workout as well for tips on workouts you can do at home or in the gym to prepare. I also was lucky because a local group meets every Sunday to train and practice for various OCR races. So be sure to search out what is available in your area!

Phoenix Spartan Training Crew

I started training for a Spartan Race because I knew it would be something different, and it would force me to work on upper body strength. Boy were both of those an under statement. I did much better than I thought I would at my first Spartan, but I really saw some improvement on my strength, as well as in my overall running.

How did my first Spartan race go? Check out my Arizona Spartan Super Race Report HERE.

Have you ever participated in an OCR event before? If yes, how did you train? If no, have you ever thought about it?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. the Speedcross 4 would be a great addition to your shoe collection!


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