Signing up for any race can feel intimidating at first. Add in obstacles that create even more of a physical challenge (with an extra test for your mental strength, too), and it can seem downright scary. But to do a Spartan race, you don’t have to be a marathon runner or bodybuilder. The key to success is being an all-around competent athlete.
“That’s the unique thing about a Spartan race — you have to be well-rounded from a cardio and strength standpoint, as well as core stability," says Sam Stauffer, director of training for Spartan. "Overall good mobility throughout the body is also important. You can’t be good at just one thing."
You also need some good coordination to take on the trails, as the terrain can range from hilly and rocky to flat and slick.
Even if you don’t have much experience with fitness or races, Spartan has options. From the 5K Sprint to the 12-mile Beast and 20 to 30 obstacles in between, you can find an event that’s challenging yet doable. Take a look at this list and gain more confidence in your capabilities. If you frequently tackle any of these physical feats, you’re already prepped to do a Spartan race. Don’t let that "Sign up" button put you on pause. It’s time to face the finish!
Stauffer says that most endurance athletes can handle a Spartan race with no problem. You don’t necessarily have to run the course if you don’t want to (walking is totally allowed!), but you do have to cover some distance. If you already do that on the regular, you’re good to go. Maybe just add a few days of strength training to your upcoming workout schedule.
Besides going the distance, most obstacles throughout each Spartan race involve upper or lower body strength and core stability. If you incorporate all types of movements into your workouts — say you take CrossFit or BODYPUMP classes, or you frequently lift kettlebells or barbells — you should shine when it comes to crushing each stop along the route.
You certainly need a positive mental space to even start a Spartan race, but you also need a strong mindset to push through 8 to 13 miles, stopping for strength tests along the way, says Stauffer. For those who have completed races before, you likely know the mental (and physical) commitment it takes to make it to the finish, so you’re already halfway there. Just make sure to visualize yourself nailing the course, and carry a positive mantra with you on race day so you can pull it out when you need it, says Stauffer.
You need a little foot-eye coordination to make it over rocks, stones, branches, and up and over muddy hills as you cruise along a Spartan route, says Stauffer. So if you’ve trekked to the top (and back down to the bottom) of a mountain before, then you’re likely pretty solid at traversing tough terrain, and you can easily do so come race day.
While a triathlon requires a lot of endurance, you still need total body strength and the ability to seamlessly switch from one discipline to the next while keeping up your speed. That’s exactly what it takes to cross the finish line of a Spartan race, too. So don’t be afraid to jump into it.
That all-around athletic approach to training that Stauffer mentioned really comes in handy when it comes to race day. By building up your cardio capacity while also getting stronger, you gain the skills you need to compete in a Spartan race. If that’s how you’ve been training already, then you might as well be wearing the Spartan medal.
Whether you’ve completed a race, hiked a high peak, scored a new bench press PR, biked 100 miles, or done 100 days of barre, it means you’re up for a little physical test and an exercise with consistency. And you need that drive to sign up and complete a Spartan race. But through those challenges, you also get to know what your body can and cannot handle, as well as the signs that help you recognize it’s time to pull back. If you’ve been through that, a Spartan finish is yours.
Except maybe why you like to torture yourself so much ... But seriously, because you have to do 30 burpees for any obstacle you miss, anyone who likes this exercise enough to do it often (and without being forced to do so) should feel confident and crazy enough to handle anything Spartan throws at him or her.