So it’s a week after I ran the Spartan Sprint in Windsor. I’ve never been a fan of running unless it’s on a football pitch or a 100m track, plus I was worried I’d lose too much weight.
In the end, it was an absolute blast and I learned a lot about training in the process.
Read on for more.
1) Train with a team
Out of everything I’ve learned, this stands out as the most important – the importance of a team (just make sure it’s the right one.)
Training with a group of strong-willed individuals will take the energy and intensity of your own work to the next level.
I always used to train solo, partly because I like doing things on my own, and partly because I rarely meet others with a similar training philosophy.
In the past year however, I’ve been lucky enough to find a good number of people who share that philosophy, who love to train hard, and are great guys too. Whether it’s sprinting, lifting, or ‘Spartan’ style training, the sessions are always a blast,
For the Spartan Race, I had three very motivated guys alongside me. Every session was fiyah! Fun, enjoyable, but gritty, hard work. Nobody wanted to give up or wuss out. I gave everything I had to keep up with the others in certain areas, and vice versa. Our last training session before the race was one of the most intense I’ve done in a long time.
Be very selective about who you align yourself with. Only train with people with whom who you can go to war.
2) Get comfortable being uncomfortable
The Spartan Race is not ‘comfortable’. It was rainy, cold, and we had to wade through mud, slime, and ravines full of stinging nettles. Near the end of the race, some kind of wooden branch stabbed the sole of my foot, and it still seems to be embedded there (I must get it removed).
I tried to ensure our training sessions were as hard or harder than anything we would encounter on race day. We took all comforts away.
– An air-conditioned, carpeted gym is comfortable. Being outdoors is not. So we ran outdoors.
– Using chalk is comfortable. So we stopped using chalk (chalk improves grip).
– Taking long rests in between sets of big compound lifts is comfortable. So we started doing other exercises in between.
– Lifting heavy weights at the beginning of a session is comfortable. Lifting them at the end is not. So we did hard fartlek style sprints first, and did the heavy lifting later.
– Carrying a nice soft sandbag in the gym is comfortable. Carrying a huge log with sharp and awkward edges all over is not. So we carried mothaf*cking logs!
– Using a treadmill to run is comfortable. Running up a hill is not. So we got out and ran up hills.
You get the picture.
Spartan Race or not, do things that shake you up. (Please note, the aim is not to puke or be ‘hardcore’. All the above were done while ensuring good technique.)
3) You can always do more
No matter how tired you are or how bad it burns, you can always do one more. Just that little bit more.
One more rep, one more burpee, one more minute of holding those kettlebells.
Your brain is the most powerful muscle in your body. Talk to yourself positively and never give up.
(Again, the exception is if your technique is poor or has completely broken down, putting you at risk of injury. If that’s the case, STOP.)
4) Carry, carry, carry
Loaded carries are one of the most primal, brutally effective ways of training. Excellent for building a strong, cut Spartan physique.
Depending on what variation you do, they develop a crushing grip, plus strength and endurance in the arms, shoulders, upper and lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.
On the rare occasion you see people doing them in commercial gyms, they’re using weights that are far too light. Either up the weight, or up the distance.
If you go for distance, you’ll develop more endurance in the muscles and lungs. If you go for weight, you’ll build up more strength and muscle.
In the race itself, we had to carry logs, buckets, and sandbags for up to a one kilometre at a time. My arms and lower back were absolutely screaming (got a nice pump though :)).
I very often use some type of farmer’s carry as a finisher to my strength training sessions.
Here are some variations for you guys to use:
Sandbag zercher carry
Sandbag fireman carry
Sandbag Bearhug carry
Trap bar walk
5) Have a focus
Train for an event. I’ve said this before, but having a goal makes your training way more powerful.
Writing this a week after the race, my training sessions have definitely calmed down. The focus and intensity just isn’t there. Until I figure out a new goal, I’ll probably be coasting a little bit, because there isn’t a ‘why’ to my training.
6) Do more endurance training!
Cross training and being an all-round athlete is a great feeling. Knowing that you can run long, sprint hard, lift heavy, and do it for two hours a pop is cool.
I train for life. Life isn’t just a short sprint or a max effort squat. It’s being able to handle yourself in different situations. There’s nothing worse than playing football or climbing a hill and breathing like Big Pun (rip). It sucks. It makes you feel weak.
Unless you’re competing or trying to conquer a specific performance goal, we should all be doing more conditioning and ‘endurance’ type work.
To improve my base level of endurance, I did an easy ‘aerobic capacity’ session every other day. I wore a monitor and kept my heart rate between 120-150 bpm. I used the sled, bodyweight exercises (such as press-ups, squats, lunges, inverted rows), and various ‘cardio’ machines for about 30 minutes.
I had no problem running the race, and in retrospect, I should have sprinted harder in between obstacles. Because I had no concept of what a 5k felt like, I was conservative with how hard I ran.
7) You won’t lose all your muscle
One of the reasons I was initially reluctant to do the race was because I was scared of losing muscle. I already have to fight for the muscle I have, so I was reluctant to lose 10 kg again (like I did when I was boxing).
I ended up losing about 1 kg, and it was probably fat anyway. My upper back seems bigger (from so much pulling and carrying presumably). The other guys reported their arms, legs and glutes growing, while stomach fat disappeared.
We were lifting heavy and eating healthy. We ran, crawled, carried, lifted, and pulled heavy things. All of us were happy with our results. If you want to lose weight, Spartan style training is perfect for you.
If you don’t want that, just keep the calories up and add a very small amount of traditional lifting to maintain muscle size (although I didn’t).
8) Burpees suck.. but they’re good for you
We all have exercises we despise – zercher squats and burpees immediately spring to mind.
Burpees are the penalty for failing an obstacle in the Spartan Race, so it made sense to start practicing them in case (I had to do them for two obstacles).
I have never liked burpees and I never will, but I respect them.
Throughout training, myself and the Spartan boys committed to doing 30 every day (whether we had trained that day or not).
Imagine you did 30 burpees everyday? How would that change your body?
It’s not just because of burpees, but one of our team members, Pete, achieved great results in just 6 weeks while training for the race.
Stay strong Spartans. Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!
If you want to carve a Spartan physique and have the will to succeed, please fill in the following:
P.S. Here’s a little video of Spartan sprint highlights (from the perspective of Pete). Unfortunately the video cut out half way through so we didn’t get some of the coolest parts of the race, but there’s still some good stuff here anyway.