Think you’re hardcore? If you haven’t taken on a Spartan Race, then how will you ever really know?
Equal parts adrenaline rush and lunacy, a Spartan Race is the ultimate in obstacle course racing, covering anywhere from a 3 mile Spartan Sprint to the Spartan Ultra, a 30-plus mile, 60-plus challenge behemoth filled with everything from barb-wire crawls, spear throwing, and rope climbing—plus a bundle of burpees for each missed challenge.
Sound daunting? As Spartan’s 2021 schedule is unveiled, Spartan Director of Training Sam Stauffer is confident anyone regardless of skill—or pain threshold—has it within themselves to successfully completing a race.
“The biggest and most common misconception is that a Spartan Race is “too hard” or “impossible,” says Stauffer, who’s completed more than a dozen Spartan events and has developed many of the workouts on the recently released Spartan Fit App. “The truth of the matter is this: ANYBODY can complete a Spartan Race! Your fitness level will dictate how quickly you can move through the course, but just because you’re not in tip-top shape doesn’t mean that you can’t do one.
The key, Stauffer says, is not immediately leaping (or bear crawling) into the hardest races at first, but instead gradually progressing in your Spartan endeavor till you’re ready for the Ultra. “Start small,—it won’t be long before the excitement hits your blood and your completely hooked,” he says.
For those who don’t know, what exactly is a Spartan race?
Spartan races are so much more than just a race; it shows people that they are capable of great feats—which translate on and off the course. We provide the means for people to become better humans—and that sets us apart from other races and events. Competing in a Spartan race is all about changing your frame of reference. Too many of us write off hard things because … well, they’re hard and uncomfortable! Spartan pushes boundaries and proves that hard or impossible things can be overcome, leaving you stronger and more resilient as a result.
What are some of the rigors of one of the tougher Spartan races you’ve completed? What makes each race so personally fulfilling?
My most memorable Spartan race was Big Bear, CA, in 2019. Walking through the festival beforehand, I heard whispers of this course being the “soul crusher.” And It absolutely was! But that’s also what left me feeling incredibly fulfilled and accomplished. I may not have crushed my time, but I got it done, and that’s what is important. If it weren’t for the obstacles and stellar views, it would’ve been a grueling four hours! But the accomplishment of crossing the finish line and wearing the “heavy beast” medal was the most fulfilling feeling ever.
What is your sports and fitness background?
I’ve been in the sports and health and wellness industries for about 12 years now. Prior to Spartan, I worked with strength and conditioning pioneer Michael Boyle. I trained and certified coaches all over the world with cutting-edge programming and business practices.
With people having been forced to work out at home, can you still train effectively for a Spartan Race?
Yes, 100 percent! Our philosophy has ALWAYS been rooted in body-weight training first! Most people write it off as being too easy when it is actually your greatest resource. Starting with body-weight training will teach you how to master your body and movement. When you’re ready, you can up the intensity by adding more traditional modalities such as kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells—but they’re not always necessary. Our Spartan Fit App has tons of great body-weight conditioning, core, and strength workouts that require no equipment at all.
What’s one piece(s) of equipment everyone should have at home if they want to get Spartan fit?
The be-all and end-all for me are kettlebells. A decent weight can go a long way. Once you mastered bodyweight movement, the kettlebell is a great compliment to any exercise.
What’s the one exercise everyone should have in their Spartan routine?
The burpee is the ultimate body-control and conditioning exercise. This exercise will get blood moving throughout your body at a rapid pace. If your workout didn’t leave you feeling achieved, throw in 30 to 60 burpees and you’ll walk away feeling accomplished! There is a reason we make racers pay their “dues” when failing an obstacle. The defeat of failing an obstacle can be tough, but by completing your 30th penalty burpee, you’ll walk (or even run) away feeling accomplished!
Is there an exercise people mess up the most? How can this be fixed?
Improper form across the board. For a lot of people, it comes down to laziness; for others, it’s movement education. Regardless, proper form is so incredibly important. The number of times I see people doing half pullups is crazy! I almost never catch an individual doing the full range of motion. The same goes for pushups. I’ve seen folks crank out 80 pushups at a time, but with the most awful and awkward form you can imagine. Take your time with each rep and make it count. It should be quality over quantity every single time.
Any advice for people working out at home and trying to train like a Spartan athlete?
Keep it simple. There is no need to change it up every single time. Look to train strength and conditioning equally and don’t forget about grip training. For the most part, grip training is a byproduct of kettlebell/dumbbell training. Including farmer walks and suitcase carries are paramount too! And using tools like the Spartan Fit App are great ways to prepare for your first race.
SPARTAN FULL-BODY BLAST
This workout from the Spartan Fit App takes you through a grueling full body-weight workout. You’ll get things started with a solid warmup before jumping into strength and conditioning circuits. “The moves are simple, but the workout is harder than it looks,” Stauffer says.
Warmup: 3 rounds total, 15 seconds per exercise, no rest
Strength Circuit: 4 rounds total, 60 seconds each exercise, 15 seconds of rest
Alternating Reverse Lunge
Conditioning Circuit: Tabata style, 20 on 20 off
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by Jeff Tomko