How to train for a Spartan Race (when I don’t like running)?

You’re thinking about doing Spartan Races but don’t know how to train for them? Especially since you don’t have the time or the enthusiasm to do long distance running?
The good news: even for my Spartan Ultra Beast which was a grueling 50 km+ and for me 12h+ event I didn’t do a lot of running while training for it. Still, I made it to the finish line and my stamina was quite remarkable. My client Eva on the picture did her first Spartan Races this year in Munich and Berlin and finished both successfully with outstanding performance on the obstacles.  When she crossed the finish line in Berlin her thoughts were: „That’s it?? Really?“.
We are collaborating on training and nutrition since late November 2018, measuring her body composition and updating her training on a monthly basis.
So how did her training for the Spartan events look like?


To crush the obstacles and also to protect your joints and bones from the impacts of the race building decent levels of strength is necessary.
The further ahead of the event the more you can focus on building strength as building strength takes a lot longer than building stamina.
In Eva’s case we absolutely hammered on the basics. We focused on building a good Squat (by now she can squat more than her own bodyweight), a good bench press and strong hip mainly with variations of the deadlift. Most important though, we improved her chinup a lot. This exercise has a huge carryover as a lot of obstacles require overhead (pulling-) strength. Since we started working together her chinups went from 0  to 7 while her bodyweight almost stayed the same(- 1,2kg). Being able to do 7 chinups helped a lot with rope climbing, monkey bars, reverse walls etc. In Berlin, her only burpee penalty was a missed spear throw. All the other, physically and technically demanding, obstacles she conquered successfully.


Let’s face it. Spartan Races are endurance events and the main part is trail running. Doing exclusively strength training won’t cut it (I tried that before…). Now, interesting enough, doing only steady state long distance running is not enough either (I tried that as well…). Regarding my own experience and also training clients it doesn’t have too much of a carryover to the races. Since it’s more a stop and go event alternating running and obstacles, plus hills as part of the scenery, a lot of lactic acid is in the game. For me and clients that I prepared for their first races, interval type conditioning helped a lot. I prefer a blend of shorter and longer hill dashes and, for obvious reasons, lots of burpees. A secret weapon with a lot of „bang for your buck“ I found here is boxing. Boxing helped me build crazy stamina with a surprising carryover to all kinds of other „Cardio“- activities such as running and was my main source of conditioning getting ready for my Spartan Ultra.
See below one of Eva’s Upper body/Lower body split- training plans leading up to her second Spartan Race:
Lower Body
A  Deadlift, mid grip                3×3          5050     120s
B  Deadlift, mid grip                3×5          3010     120s
C  Lying Leg Curl                      4×6-8     4010     120s
    unilat., ne, dorsifl.
Upper Body
A1 DB- bench, ne                       4×4-6     4010      90s
A2 Bentover row,                       4×4-6     3011      90s
      unilat, on bench
B1 85° DB- Shoulderpress       3×6-8     4010     90s
B2 85° DB- Curls, ne                 3×6-8     4010     90s
C   Chinups, close, ne                1x max   2010      –
      Challenge set
D   Burpees                                    1×100    x0x0      –
On top of that she also did intervalls outside and worked on obstacle specific skills.
You see strength and conditioning build the basis for success in obstacle course racing but on top you also have a skill-part. Climbing ropes, various monkey bars etc. are very technical and of course it helps a lot practicing those when having the possibility to do so.
It goes without saying that proper nutrition, good body composition and the mind play key roles for success as well, but this article’s scope is the training part and I hope it gives you some good insights.
If you want to learn more and are interested in doing Spartan Races just send me a message using the contact form below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.