Joe DiStefano, director of fitness and training at Spartan Race, teamed up with MH to develop the ultimate 28 day training plan leading up to race day.
The routine is best for building the upper-body muscle, total-body power and endurance needed to run an obstacle race – or just be in your best shape ever
Chin-up bar, kettlebell, balloon
Alternate strength and cardio days, doing three of each workout (plus a rest day) per week for four weeks leading up to the race. On strength days, do the workout shown, starting with the warm-up exercises. On cardio days, do the workout shown, dropping the warm-up exercises for 10 minutes of light jogging.
1/ Power Skip
Skip forward, propelling yourself as high as you can by driving your knee into the air. As you thrust each knee up, swing your opposite arm upward to get as much lift as possible. Do 20 skips (10 each leg).
2/ Bear Crawl
Get on all fours with your hips up and your knees bent roughly 90º. (Only your hands and toes should be touching the floor.) Crawl forward 15 metres, then backward 15m, moving your opposite hand and foot together (left hand and right foot, right hand and left foot).
3/ Body-Weight Squat
Stand as tall as you can, feet shoulder-width apart, and hold your arms straight out in front of your chest. Push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Drive back up to the starting position. Repeat as quickly as you can. Do 20 reps.
4/ Joint Circles
Perform 10 circles clockwise and 10 anticlockwise for each of the following body parts without rest. Neck: tuck your chin and try to touch each ear to each shoulder as you roll your head. Arms: hold them straight out to your sides, palms forward. Start with small circles and progress to larger ones. Hips: place your hands on your hips, guiding them through exaggerated circles. Knees: place your feet together so that your knees touch. Now bend your knees and place your hands on them, guiding them through exaggerated circles.
Grab a chin-up bar using an underhand grip, and hang at arm’s length. Pull your chest to the bar, pause, and slowly lower your body back to the starting position. Complete as many reps as you can in 10 minutes, resting as needed. If that’s too hard, do a band-assisted chin-up: secure a resistance band to the bar, loop it around your knees, then follow the instructions above for the chin-up.
2/ Handstand Hold
Place your hands on the floor 15-30 centimetres from a wall, fingers spread wide. Kick one leg at a time into a handstand. Hold for as long as you can; rest for three minutes. That’s one set; do three. During each rest period, lie on the floor and blow up a balloon three times, using as few breaths as possible (this will work your diaphragm, improving stability and power). If you can’t hold a handstand, do a pike hold (feet on bench, hips raised high, hands on floor).
3/ Kettlebell Swing
Set a kettlebell on the floor, spread your feet just beyond shoulder width, and grab the handle with both hands. Swing it back between your legs, then up to chest level, then back between your legs. That’s one rep; do six. Set the bell down, do three broad jumps, then bear crawl for 90 seconds with a shoe on your back. (Note how many times it falls off – you’ll need that number for the next exercise.) Rest for 90 seconds. Do this five times.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Now push your hips back, lower your body as far as you can, and place your hands on the floor by your feet. Kick your legs back into a push-up position. Do a push-up (elbows tucked, body straight), then bring your feet back to your hands and stand up. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps for each time the shoe fell while you were bear crawling between sets of the kettlebell swing.
Dean Karnazes, professional endurance athlete and author of Ultramarathon Man, gives you his race-day tips
Lace with Pull Tabs
Mud and water reduce friction in your laces, increasing the odds that you’ll lose a shoe. Pull tabs solve the problem by allowing you to tighten your laces with a tug.
Wash Your Hands
If you apply sunscreen (a smart move at the height of summer), clean your hands before the race begins. Grip is critical in these races, and slick sunscreen undermines it.
Ease Off the Gas
Slow down about 50m from each obstacle. Sprinting in to them keeps your heart rate high, increasing lactic-acid build-up and robbing you of strength and power.
Do the Two-Step
When running down steps, take two or three at a time, rotating with each stride so your feet land sideways on the steps. You’ll maintain both control and speed.
Stop, Drop, Roll
Roll sideways under cargo netting and other low obstacles that would otherwise demand a commando crawl. This is what elite racers do – it’s a lot faster than crawling.