- What are obstacles course races (OCRs)?
- The obstacles
- The best exercises for your Spartan training
- A Spartan diet plan for you
It’s Charlie again. I want to give you all an update on my progress and also write up my training schedule for The Spartan Race Beast, which is just under a month away. This training plan does not have to be specifically applied to Spartan Races and is most definitely an effective way to lose body fat. For those of you that have not seen, I have embarked on a fitness challenge to get in the best shape I possibly can.
Please feel free to copy my training regiment or even give me some advice. I have never run a Spartan Race and so it is always beneficial to hear from more experienced people. At the bottom of the blog you can download our FREE Spartan Race Training Plan. It gives you a 30-day program to get you in the best shape possible.
Obstacle Course Races (OCR)
OCRs have exploded in popularity in recent years and are continuing to grow in number, as many more organizations have started to host their own versions.
What is an OCR? The clue is in the name. OCRs are runs of varying lengths that also require you to overcome various physical challenges/obstacles.
Examples of these obstacles include crawling under barbed-wire fences, conquering monkey bars and climbing ropes.
My previous experience with obstacle racing
I have done a few events that will give me an idea as to how difficult the Spartan Race Beast will be. These include running two half-marathons (which will prepare me for the long run I will be facing), a Desert Warrior (a 115 Degrees Fahrenheit, 6.2 Mile OCR) and I have completed a 10.5 mile trail run.
I am not a natural born runner. I have a relatively bulky physique/frame and that is why I am working hard to lose body fat. Less body fat = less weight for me to carry around the 12-14 mile, 35 obstacles, race course.
The picture above shows me competing in the 10.5 mile trail run.
The Spartan Race, however, will be in a new league of difficulty.
What is the Spartan Race?
To put it in their own words, a “Reebok Spartan Race is the world’s leading obstacle race series. It’s an event of pure primitive craziness that you’ll never forget.”.
The difference between Spartan Races & Tough Mudder
As I have not yet attempted the OCRs hosted by either company, I scoured the internet looking for reviews from people that had completed both.
It became apparent that those that had completed both events felt that because Tough Mudder is not competitive (they have just added the “Competitive Start Wave” where your lap will be timed), it is a great event to do with friends and colleagues and some of the obstacles even require you to team up with people. Whilst, the Spartan Race is for real competition junkies. You identify as a Spartan and are proud of your achievement. One blog I have included below said that the Spartan Race left him sorer and it requires greater endurance.
Everyone is different and there are plenty of OCRs to suit every ability. You can choose which OCR you participate in depending on whether you seek competition or a team event.
The ultimate goals of OCRs, in my opinion, is to take you out of your comfort zone and take you to a place where every step you take is a mental battle. Should you succeed, you will feel proud of yourself and you may even grow as an individual as you realize you are capable of more than you previously thought possible. They are also designed to encourage you to motivate your peers and especially in the case of Tough Mudder, inspire teamwork.
The different types of Spartan Races
There are three main types of Spartan race, The Beast, The Super and The Sprint. Some locations also host an Ultra Beast.
- The Sprints range from 3-5 miles and have 20 – 23 obstacles
- The Super is around 8-10 miles and has 20 – 29 obstacles
- The Beast is 12-14 miles and has 30-35 obstacles
- The Ultra Beast is 26+miles and has 60+ obstacles (and you have to be crazy to try it)
As you have seen from my 12-week transformation blog, Team Shape will be tackling The Beast and so we are all planning how best to prepare ourselves for this.
Spartan Training So Far – Half Marathon
I HATE RUNNING! FACT! The Beast has plenty of running involved, around 14 miles in fact. In order to force myself to get some miles under my belt, I signed myself up to the Giant’s Race Half Marathon in San Francisco. This took place on Sunday, August 27th. My time was 1 hour 39 minutes and 47s, which I am glad to say beat my previous half marathon time.
I actually signed up to this race with 10 days notice and so was not very well prepared. I had done a handful of 5 – 7 mile runs and this was the motivation I needed to up my mileage. After paying for my entry, I went out and ran 9 miles, then a few days later, a 10-mile run and I will not lie to you, It was tough. I was trying to up my distances very quickly with little preparation.
However, I knew I needed this. It was something I needed to do to get my first element of Spartan Training underway, how to cope with the distance.
At this stage, I had not set an official training plan and I now feel planning my regime will really help me optimise my performance come race day and for future OCRs, I compete in.
A Brief Recap
Up to this point l have been doing an upper/lower body split in the gym. An upper/lower body split consists of training various upper body muscles on certain days and on alternate days, you train your lower body. This allows me to train each muscle group more regularly. I personally like doing this as my muscles tend to have recovered after 48 hours (this has often been cited as the minimum muscle recovery time).
In the mornings I have been doing fasted cardio. This has consisted of either HIIT or low-intensity incline walking on the treadmill. I explain this in the previous blog, 12 Weeks To Shred.
These HIIT apps have some great workouts you could try!
I fully understand this has not been enough training if I want to be serious about the Spartan Race and so it is time to create a proper training plan for the final month of preparation.
You can find the full training plan I am following at the bottom of the blog post. It is FREE to download!
Analysis of the obstacles
The list of obstacles below is not extensive and different events can vary significantly.
- Sandbag Carry
- Tire Drag
- Fire Jump
- Ape Hanger
- Spartan Ladder
- Spear Throw
- Atlas Carry
- Wall Jumps
What is evident is that many of the events require serious upper body strength to help me power myself over walls of different heights and powerful legs that can endure significant elevation gain. The Spartan Race that I am competing in takes place in Lake Tahoe and the course reaches heights of over 9000 feet (The race starts at a reasonable elevation, you are not expected to climb all 9000 feet).
Therefore, my training program will ensure I incorporate many more calisthenic movements (body weight) into my workouts than I was doing in my previous weights sessions.
As I have mentioned, doing an upper/lower body split allows me to train each muscle group more frequently, as I am not overloading each muscle with too much volume. My first upper body session will be strength related using weights and focusing on compound movements (bench press, military press, barbell rows) and the second will focus more on calisthenic movements (push ups and pull ups). This will enable me to become comfortable hoisting my body over the various walls and climbing any ropes that I am faced with and the strength session will give me some much needed, additional power.
I want to ensure I incorporate some plyometric work into my lower body workouts as previously I have focused on strength training, however, the punishment for failing to complete an obstacle in the race is death……by burpees.
Death by burpees
You have to do around 30 burpees for every obstacle you fail. That means every time you fall off the monkey bars or from the rope, you need to get down and get jumping. Explosive power is extremely important for this, hence why I will dedicate one lower body session to strength and one to movements like squat jumps and box jumps.
And obviously, I will be doing a tonne of burpees (sigh).
Download The In-Depth OCR Training Guide, Found At The End Of The Post
Weekly Training Plan
Featured below is a little teaser of how I will structure my training plan for the remaining month until the Spartan Race. You can get a greater insight into my training plan by downloading the comprehensive PDF.
|Monday||Run (4 – 6 miles)||Upper Body Strength Training|
|Tuesday||CrossFit Workout/HIIT||Lower Body Strength Training|
|Wednesday||Low-Intensity Training||Upper Body Strength/Calisthenics|
|Thursday||Lower Body Strength/Plyometrics|
|Saturday||Run (8 – 12 miles)|
Starting The Week Off Right
I want to start the weeks off with high intensity and set the tone for the rest of the week. Check out 7 reasons why you should get up and exercise on Mondays to start your week on a high.
Therefore, I will be doing a short quick run on Mondays. On Tuesdays, I want to continue this intensity and so I will be doing some high-intensity training or Crossfit style workouts. The type of workouts I will be doing will vary from week to week.
One workout I recently completed is known as MURPH. This left me in a puddle of sweat and I will definitely be doing it again and aiming to beat my time. MURPH is outlined below if you would like to give it ago. I want to incorporate lots of skipping into my workouts as you can burn 10+ calories/minute and it’s great for working out your legs, shoulders and many more muscle groups simultaneously.
If you would like to find out how I tackle MURPH, download my comprehensive Spartan Training Guide. The guide also includes a few other sweat-inducing workouts and provides different versions for each of the workouts, depending on your fitness and experience level.
- 1-Mile Run
- 100 Pull Ups
- 200 Push Ups
- 300 Squats
- 1-Mile Run
Vary Your Intensity
Varying the intensity of your training has several benefits. You can lower intensity after intense workouts for rest and recovery. I want to increase my all-rounded fitness levels and so that is why I incorporate a fast middle distance run, plus longer endurance runs.
Although keeping your heart rate in the fat burning zone ensures you are using fat stores as your predominant energy source, you are actually burning more calories doing high-intensity training. When exercising at high intensity, however, your body metabolizes carbohydrates first. Therefore, the golden rule to losing weight is just to ensure you are in a calorific deficit.
A Glimpse Of What Awaits
I have also signed up for an obstacle course practice day to get a taste of the hurdles I will be tackling.
Take a look on Youtube for videos that reveal some of the obstacles, you could try and cater some of your workouts to replicate some of these. If your gym has monkey bars, try throwing in a few sets of these at the end of your work out.
Spartan Diet Plan
The intense training regiment I am doing would usually allow me to maintain a high calorific intake. However, I am also trying to hit my first goal of 12% body fat. Maintaining a low body fat to high muscle ratio helps for bodyweight exercises and endurance running, unlike pure strength competitions. However, I will still be eating around 1800 – 2000 calories (I will not be actively counting calories but I will be making a mental note of my intake).
This is around 200 calories less per day than I have been eating so far on my cut, as I have noticed I am losing weight at a less rapid rate. This is natural as the body gets used to functioning off fewer calories after some time.
Another reason for lowering my calorific intake is due to the fact that I was (very) lenient with my diet over the Labor Day Weekend and so I want to make sure I get back to the stage I was at. It is important not to dwell on the past but instead, to set yourself new goals and smash them!
My Macronutrient split (again this is an estimate as I am not counting) will be around 200g Protein, 150g Carbs, 50g Fat. This means my % split of macronutrients is 50% Protein, 37.5% Carbohydrate & 12.5% Fat.
The rough rule I would advise to follow is ensuring you eat 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. My protein intake is high as I want to lose body fat whilst maintaining as much muscle mass as possible. If I begin to feel drowsy or low on energy, I will adapt to this change and up my carbohydrate intake as necessary! It is extremely important to listen to your body.
Calorific increase prior to race day
I will be raising my calories significantly a few days prior to the race. This article by Freeletics gives you an insight into how Spartans should eat before race day and why they should structure their eating habits like this.
My typical day of eating may look something like this:
If I have done fasted training in the morning (between 6-6:30 am) I will have a protein shake for breakfast or eggs and some salad. At around 11 AM, I will have a protein bar or a shake, if I did not have one for my breakfast. My lunch will be my highest calorie meal. This is a personal preference because if I have lots of calories left to play with come the evening I tend to overeat.
I usually have a salad with chicken or lamb and some grains as my carbohydrate source. Dinner will be slightly lighter and I will eat after I train in the evenings. I will have a protein source with plenty of vegetables to fill me up before I go to bed.
If I am especially hungry, I may have some natural Greek yogurt with fruit after this.
I am going to make sure I drink lots of water and drink a couple of cups of black coffee as it can, to some extent suppress appetite.
This regime will be hard, however, I am sure with the motivation you, our audience, give me and the rest of Team Shape we will be able to perform well.
I will be giving another update on my training, my physique and how I am coping with restraining myself from eating everything in sight, in a couple of weeks. It will soon be time for another body fat % test, so fingers crossed!
All that is left to say is good luck to anyone else running the race and also let me know if any of you experienced Spartans have any tips.
Remember to download our FREE training plan, found below
Are you Spartan enough?
Wish me luck