7 Tips for Running Your First Spartan Race

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

FroBunni | 7 Tips for running your first spartan race

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I love yoga. I post a lot of my poses and thoughts on the practice, but that's not the only type of physical activity I do. I'm also quite fond of high intensity cardio workouts, such as tabata, and I even go to a boutique gym in DC called Elevate Interval Fitness that specializes in athletic-style interval training.

I've been going to Elevate since January; while the workouts are exhausting, they've made me faster and stronger, and in July, I had an opportunity to test this improved athleticism at a Spartan Race.

Spartan Races are obstacle races that vary in difficulty and distance. This particular race was at National's Stadium, and was only 3 miles, but a large chunk of the running was up and down stairs. When it was first mentioned at Elevate, I was almost sure I wouldn't do it, but the more people talked about it, the more interested I became.

After a lot of pep talks with myself, I decided to sign-up and just go for it. After all, what did I have to lose? And on July 15th at 9am, I stood at the beginning of the race course ready to test my strength and endurance. I ran up stairs, jumped rope, climbed walls, lifted water jugs, and after an hour and 15 minutes, I crossed the finish line sweaty and exhausted, but also proud and accomplished. Not to mention, I had fun! Yeah, running an obstacle course can actually be fun! I even decided that I will run again next year!

If you're trying to get healthy, want to get out of your comfort zone, or even if you're scared of the unknown, like me, I totally recommend running a Spartan Race. But since it's not as straight forward as running a 5K, you may not even know how to start training for it. Well, that's why David Magida, founder and owner of Elevate and a professional Spartan Racer, is here to explain how to prepare for your first Spartan Race.

First and foremost, how did you get into Spartan Races?

I used to be a runner but had not run for a number of years, opting instead to focus exclusively on strength training. I was living in Miami when one of the first Spartan Races came to town. It advertised itself as a unique combination of strength and endurance. I crushed myself to win my heat that day, finishing completely depleted and knew I had found my calling. The next year I registered for a number of events, including the Spartan Ultra Beast, at the time a 31 mile Spartan Race on the ski slopes of Killington, Vermont. By the next year, I was winning the Elite wave of races around the country and was quickly offered a contract by Spartan Race to travel the country, represent their brand and win as many races as possible.

Now, a few years removed from having the time to train and race at the level I was before, I currently host Spartan Live, a 4 hour LIVE broadcast of actual races, including the U.S. Championship Series and World Championships on new media (Facebook, YouTube and directly on the website, Spartan.com). Previously I hosted Spartan Race on NBC Sports and I also authored the book, The Essentials of Obstacle Race Training.

There's a lot of different kinds of obstacle course races like Tough Mudder and Rugged Maniac. What makes the Spartan Race stand out from the crowd?

The biggest difference between Spartan Race and the other races is their goal of making it the most physically challenging event you can compete in. They really use the terrain against you, typically maximizing hills, mountains and rough terrain like off trail running, rocky downhills and riverbeds. Additionally, Spartan Race is the only major obstacle race that uses strength and power obstacles such as heavy sandbag and rock bucket carries, tire flips, and pulley hoists. It challenges every single element of your fitness from strength to endurance to flexibility and mobility. Spartan Race was also the first event that introduced a pro racing circuit, bringing the best racers from around the country together to compete for cash and prizes on nationally televised and online broadcast events.

When people want to get healthy, they often will sign up for a 5K, and training for a 5K is basically just running. But Spartan Races are so different compared to a 5K. So how should someone prepare for a Spartan Race?

The most important thing is build your endurance first. It’s still a running race so be prepared to run the distance (and then some). The reality is, the combination of strength and terrain means each mile of the race is equivalent to 1.5 or 2 miles on the road. Work on your muscular endurance, particularly your pull strength by doing plenty of pullups and TRX row work.

Two days prior to the race, I went to a workout, and I remember you saying I shouldn't be here because it was too close to race day. So, along with that mistake, what other common mistakes do first time racers make?

The worst thing you can do is change what you eat. Your body is used to what you traditionally feed it. Changing your food intake on the day of a race can have a disastrous impact on your digestive system. Other mistakes revolve around attire, where people select the wrong type of shoes and apparel for the terrain. Make sure you train in your gear before racing in it to be sure you’re comfortable with it.

What kind of obstacles can first time racers expect and how should they prepare for them to avoid the dreaded 30 burpees per failed obstacle?

The obstacles that give people trouble are typically the ones that involve hanging from something. Monkey bars, traverses and rope climbs for example. Go to your local playgrounds and practice your climbing, hanging and swinging skills and you will avoid most of the major burpee penalties.

Besides getting a good night sleep, what are some things people can do the night before and morning of the race?

Hydrate heavily for a few days leading up to the race, but be sure to increase your sodium intake as well so you don’t flush your system. The morning of the race, be sure to eat at least 2 hours before the race to provide yourself with ample fuel.

Even for reasonably active people like myself, that first race can be pretty hard on the body? What are ways that people can recover?

The best thing you can do the day after a race is go for a light jog. It could be painful because you might be really sore. But it will loosen you up. Do not just do nothing the day after a race. Also, a good ice bath after the race and a hot bath the next morning can be a game changer. And foam roll like crazy.

Awesome! These tips will really help someone get ready for their first Spartan Race. Do you have any more advice for a first time racer?

Go into it with an open mind and know that the race is going to test your physical and mental limits. Have a mantra and repeat it to yourself when you consider quitting. Do your first race with a friend of similar athleticism. You’ll keep each other engages and you’ll focus more on the fun of the event. And just go into it committed to the task at hand. You’ll get more from that experience.

Thanks so much David! I really appreciate this and I know my readers do too. If you live in DC, or you're visiting and just need a good workout, come to Elevate on 14th street. The first class is free and a 1-month unlimited trial is just $99. There's also a location in Fairfax, VA at the Mosaic District, and shortly a 3rd location in the Southwest Waterfront. Visit www.TrainAtElevate.com to book your Free Introductory Class.

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