23 Spartan Race Training Tips That Will Make You “Burpee-Proof”
Burpees. The word alone will send shivers down any Spartan’s spine. Most obstacle course races will let you off with an easy time-penalty if you can’t complete an obstacle. But if you want to cross the finish line of the world’s most competitive obstacle course race and bask in Spartan glory then you might want to consider these 23 Spartan Race training tips that will save you from the dreaded burpee penalty. That is, unless you enjoy doing burpees…
And by the way. If you do end up having to do even one burpee during your Spartan Race, then don’t do it with poor form. Poor burpee form will only drain your strength like an energy-sucking vampire. At the end of these 23 Spartan Race training tips that will make you a conqueror on the course is an instructional video on how to do burpees the BEST way.
Enjoy the training Spartan. AROO!
Spartan Race Training Tip #1: Do Burpees Everyday
Why do burpees every day? After all this article is telling me that if I just follow these 31 Spartan Race training tips then I won’t have to do them come race day, right? Exactly. And doing burpees every day is going to help you be “burpee-proof” come race day.
Not only are burpees one of the best exercises you can be doing for an intense cardiovascular and plyometric workout. But the more you do burpees, the more you hate them.
I can’t tell you enough how motivating, “I can’t fail this obstacle because burpees suck,” can be. That same thought crossed my head while I was hanging 19 feet in the air with barely any grip strength left to slap the cow-bell. I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that falling from 19-feet in the air may hurt a little. Nope, it was the motivation of the burpee.
Spartan Tip #2: It’s Not A Couch To 5K
Spartan Race training is no Couch to 5K program. Going for a few runs throughout the week will not be your bread and butter to sprinting through the finish line of a Spartan. You need bodyweight strength, and lots of it if you’re attempting a burpee-free Spartan Race.
My advice. Stop doing so many long distance runs throughout the week and start adding bodyweight strength training. Getting stronger provides just as much cardiovascular benefit as it provides muscular benefit.
Spartan Tip #3: Get Weird With It
Plain and simple, get creative with your Spartan Race training. Obstacle course racing is unlike any fitness event you will ever participate in and to be honest, that’s why it’s the most popular and exciting fitness challenge in the world. And because Spartan Racing adds so many twists with their obstacles, you need to train a bit “weird”.
Of course, bodyweight exercises will become a staple to your training but you can also use sandbags, tires, kettlebells, heavy buckets, monkey bars and battle ropes. You name it and chances are you can make use of it for training.
Spartan Tip #4: Master Of Your Domain
A primary focus for your Spartan Race training should be bodyweight control. For example, what does your running feel like when you are trotting down a steep decline?
If you’re controlled in your breathing and body movement then you are master of your domain. If your hands are flailing, your breathing is heavy, and you feel like you can’t stop then you are doing nothing more than was
ting tons of valuable energy on what should be one of the easiest parts of your race.
Learn how to control and balance yourself against gravity. Above all other Spartan Race training tips, this may be one of the most important to you race day success. If you can control your bodyweight then you will waste less energy and ultimately perform better on every obstacle and every half-mile in between.
Spartan Tip #5: Don’t Become A Runner
This one may ease your mind a bit. Unless you plan on becoming an elite obstacle course racer
and making a run at the podium, you do not have to sell your soul and become a runner to crush a Spartan Race. With that said, no running at all would be a BIG mistake.
When I’m asked, “How much running do I need to do before my first Spartan Race…” the answer is simple. Commit to one long distance run per week and crush it. That’s right, just one day per week and you’re good… If you do it right.
Too much running will actually shrink your major performance hormones making recovery a challenge and fitness progress much harder. By the time you get to your Spartan Race you’ll feel more “run-down” (pun intended) than energized for victory.
Spartan Tip #6: Become A Trail-Running Beast
Get off the pavement. As far as you’re concerned, pavement is nothing but hot lava when you’re training for a Spartan Race. Take your running outdoors and on the trails. You’ll more closely simulate a Spartan Race when you run this way.
Pack your long distance trail runs with inclines, declines, some logs to jump over and some branches to duck under. You’ll notice trail-running is much more challenging than running around a track or on your neighborhood sidewalk. Challenging is best. Do it.
Spartan Tip #7 Don’t Do It Alone
Bring your friends, family, and co-workers along for the journey with you. Recruit 1-4 people to sign up for a Spartan Race. No need to hog all of the fun for yourself.
Be sure to recruit friends who are going to motivate you on the course and encourage you through obstacles. It’s amazing how a few close friends can keep you performing at your best. And hey, you don’t want to look like the weak link, right? You’ll be telling stories of your Spartan Races for years to come… don’t be the guy or gal who clocked 150 burpees.
By the way, chances are you’ll form bonds with complete strangers too. It’s strange how when you’re all suffering together that it actually makes a Spartan just a little bit easier.
Spartan Tip #8: Feel As Close To Naked As Possible
You’re going to get wet, sweaty, and muddy. The last thing you need is for all three of those things to follow you to each and every obstacle. Ditch the baggy shirts and cotton tees. They only soak up moisture and weigh you down during your runs and on the obstacles. Also, shorts with pockets are only going to fill up with mud and water and slow your stride.
Instead, throw on a sweat management compression tee and some compression shorts or pants. If you’re not a fan of wearing compressions in public, the tighter the shorts and shirt, the better.
Spartan Tip #9: Clock Some Cold Shower Minutes
You want something that is going to build mental toughness before your Spartan Race that
requires absolutely zero working out? Cold showers. Hands down, this is one of the best mental toughness tricks you can start implementing today to build up your grit.
No one likes a cold shower… but forcing yourself act-out to the last scene of The Titanic for 5 minutes each day will definitely take your Spartan Racing to the next level. While everyone else is hesitating when they reach the inevitable water obstacles, you’re running through them like it’s just another morning shower.
Spartan Tip #10: Wake Up Bright n’ Early
Here is another one of those “mental training” tips that will build discipline and mental resilience before your next Spartan Race… And I’ll explain why, I promise.
Set your alarm clock early and don’t hit the snooze button. Not even once. Despite your warm bed calling your name after stepping foot onto the cold hardwood floor of your bedroom at 5 a.m., you resist the urge to climb back under the comfortable covers that 99.9% of the rest of the population does.
Every morning (even on weekends) you’re making the small, difficult decision of doing what others won’t. Standing up to the initial suck factor of waking up early and becoming “okay” with it. Trust me, a lot of things will suck out on the obstacle course race. But mentally, if you’re “okay” with it… you’ll be just fine.
Spartan Tip #11 Stretch It Out
Have you ever tried hoisting yourself over an 8-foot wall? There’s no way you can swing your leg over the top without flexibility. Heck, you may have a better shot trying to run through the wall than climb over it. Add stretching to your weekly “to-do” list ASAP.
Also, the more flexible you are, the more energy efficient you will be with running, jumping and hoisting. Spartan Racing is a game of conserving energy as much as possible. So be sure to limber up so you don’t end up suffering another burpee penalty.
Add 5 minutes of stretching after your Spartan Race training sessions. That’s all you need.
Spartan Tip #12 Hill Sprints… And More Hill Sprints
Just because I recommend just one long distance run per week, doesn’t mean that’s your only cardio. Hill sprints are one of the most effect workouts to build massive amounts of cardiovascular endurance and build your #1 performance hormone, testosterone.
Find a hill near you, start at the bottom and sprint up to the top, giving your absolute best effort. 10/10 effort, nothing less. Proceed by walking down the hill until you reach the bottom. Turn around and do it all over again.
This high intensity interval relationship is going to massively increase your running economy come race day without having to spend hours and hours of your week running.
And let’s be honest. If you’re going to race in a Spartan, you better learn to run up and down hills. Period.
Spartan Tip #13: Got Grip?
Grip strength training is the most underestimated strategy for running a burpee-free Spartan Race. There is hardly an obstacle you will face during a race that will not challenge your grip in one form or another. You’ll encounter at least 20 of these obstacles during a race, so if your grip is failing you then you can expect several trips to the burpee zone.
Saturate your training with grip taxing workouts that exhaust the forearms, hands, and fingers. These small muscles will prove to be the most important. The best exercises for grip strength training include dead hangs, pull-ups, farmers walks, and bucket carries.
Spartan Tip #14: Dial-Up Your Nutrition
Spartan Race training is intense and exhausting. Because of this, your nutrition has to be on-point so you can recover from day-to-day workouts, enhance your workout performance, and drop a few pounds (if needed).
Think about your nutrition just in the form of an all-natural recovery drug. Amino-acid rich foods, carbohydrates, and anti-oxidants from fresh fruits provide muscle building power and also help reduce inflammation caused by exercise.
And let’s face it, if you are still tired and sore by the time you hot tomorrow’s workout then chances are you won’t train at a high level of intensity. Intensity is everything with Spartan Race training. Without it, you are leaving some serious results on the table.
Take your nutrition seriously. When you do, you’ll have the best workouts of your life and incredible energy on race day.
Spartan Tip #15: Have Accountability Partners
Whether you have people running a Spartan Race with you, or not… you NEED to have an accountability partner or two. Accountability partners will keep you going when the going gets tough. Get the negative people out of your life for the next couple of months leading up to your Spartan Race. You know, the people who want you to “cheat” on your diet or take a day off from your workout… yea, find some better friends.
Tell your accountability partners what you want to accomplish and invite them to come into your world and help you crush your first Spartan Race. Again, they don’t have to race with you to be a great support system.
Spartan Tip #16: Include The Miscellaneous Stuff…
Don’t forget the “skilled” obstacles like the spear throw for your next Spartan Race. This “obstacle” is infamous for sending racers to the burpee zone. It’s not about strength or endurance, it’s about skill and accuracy.
My suggestion? Put together a homemade Spartan spear that you can throw at an old squat recycling bin or box. This obstacle may not be physically exhausting but if you miss the hay bale you’ll be launching your spear at, then this “easy” obstacle will have you drop down for 30 exhausting burpees.
Spartan Tip #17: Find Your Balance
At some point during a Spartan Race your balance will be tested. Whether crossing over a wooden beam or hopping across a series of logs, you want a reliable center of gravity that won’t send you tipping over the edge, resulting in another burpee-penalty.
Set up a few thin planks in your backyard to get some balancing practice in 1-2 times per week. This plan will have you more than ready to tackle on some of Spartan’s balancing acts.
Spartan Tip #18: Realize What Fear Is…
This one is a bit deep, but it’s something you need settled in your spirit so you can dominate your Spartan Race. You see, fear causes hesitation. Fear will make you question your ability to succeed. And during a Spartan Race, you cannot question your ability. Train hard, plan for success, visualize yourself winning and step up to the starting line without fear and attack every obstacle without hesitation. Not only will hesitation slow you down but it will rob you of your momentum. Fear creates burpees. Want to avoid them? Turn off the noise of fear and crank-up the voice of confidence.
Spartan Tip #19: Never Train “Just To Finish”
Always aim high… If you train with the attitude of, “well, I just want to finish…” then you’ve already set yourself up for a painful race. Train to dominate. Train to be unstoppable. Train to conquer this race. Don’t settle for “just crossing the finish line.” I can promise you that attitude will lead to more burpees than you hoped for.
Spartan Tip #20: Obstacle Simulation Training
If you’ve read any of my prior articles on Spartan Race training you’ll know that the most effect training strategy is obstacle simulation. This means performing similar or the exact movements you’ll experience come race day.
Go for a run and add in burpees, push-ups, and lunges. Or take a bucket filled with cement to your nearest hill for bucket carry practice. Even something as simple as doing army crawls in your backyard is sufficient Spartan Race Training.
The closer your training simulates your experience on the obstacle course, the more comfortable you will be on race day. It makes plenty of sense, but is often overlooked by participants.
Spartan Tip #21: Hydrate Up!
The week before your Spartan Race be sure to intentionally hydrate with one gallon of water each day for maximal athletic performance. Also, you can add in some electrolyte drinks two days out from the race to further protect yourself from cramping. Water and electrolytes are incredibly important nutrients that will drive you through the finish line of your Spartan Race. It’s a simple tip but equally essential as the rest of the tips on this list.
Spartan Tip #22: How To Carb Load
Carbohydrates are a powerful source of fuel that you’ll want to maximize for race day. Your goal is to “overfill” your glycogen stores for quick and easy energy utilization on the course.
However, many athletes are doing carb loading WRONG. The tradition of carb loading is to stuff yourself with a massive pasta, breadstick, and pizza dinner a few hours before going to bed. This is not optimal and could lead to stomach distress and gastrointestinal issues come the next morning.
Instead, load up on carbs for breakfast and for lunch, somewhere in the ballpark of 400-500 carbohydrates. For dinner, wind down with maybe a Subway sandwich or a couple of sweet potatoes with some brown rice. Max out around 200-300 carbs and you’ll be more than energized for the race in the morning, without the stomach distress.
Spartan Tip #23: Pre-Race Fuel
Breakfast time shouldn’t be anything too crazy. Keep from trying anything new at your hotel’s continental breakfast. Instead, pack yourself a whole grain bagel or some apple-cinnamon oatmeal with some peanut butter.
You’ll want to refrain from trying something new at this point nutritionally. My suggestion is to eat a meal that you’ve noticed to be your favorite pre-workout meal throughout training. In fact, use your training to test out the pre-workout meals that will work best for you come race day.