There are few things more motivating for a mother to work out than that pesky baby weight still hugging those hips. Yet, as frustrating as the mirror reflection looking back at you can be, it can be hard to find the daily motivation to put aside just a half hour to work out when there are babies crying, families to feed, and homes to manage. If you’re looking for a tried-and-true motivator, consider paying to act like a kid on a jungle gym and sign up for a Spartan race.
A Spartan race involves numerous obstacles that include everything from climbing up a 20-foot cargo net to swinging across monkey bars, all while gritting your teeth and pushing the limits of what you thought your body could do. Are you in?
The commitment of paying right up front will serve as the motivation to ramp up your workouts and boost your strength training. Check out Spartan’s official site and look for races in your area. There are numerous locations, offering races throughout the year, so you have a good chance of finding a race within a few hours’ drive. Most race venues are out in more remote, wide open areas.
There are three different Spartan races to choose from Sprint, Super, and Beast.
The Sprint consists of about 20+ obstacles. Every course is a little bit different, but a competitor can expect the average race to be about 4 miles long with about 24 obstacles. Conquering the Super distance means you will finish at least 8 miles and more than 25 obstacles. And finally, think of the Beast as a really, really hard half-marathon. With 30+ obstacles and a distance of more than 12 miles (often more like 14), the Beast is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Think Like a Spartan
As Spartan race organizers have put it: These races are inspired to “rip 100 million people off the couch.” And be assured that you will definitely need to get off the couch to prepare for this race, even if you’re doing the shortest one, the Sprint.
If you’ve never done an obstacle race before, the Sprint is a great place to start. Think of it as getting your feet wet. You’ll leave with an expectation of what future obstacle courses could look like and how you can manage them.
So how do you prepare for a race that will test the strength of every muscle in your body? If you are a military spouse, take advantage of the gym amenities on your installation. There is likely a rope for you to practice climbing up, as well as monkey bars, and these two obstacles are a given for each race, no matter the location or type of race you choose.
Train Like a Spartan
A key element to your training should be HIIT workouts (high-intensity interval training). HIIT workouts consist of short periods of intense exercise alternated with short recovery periods. This strategy of exercise will boost your endurance levels and begin teaching your body to keep working even when the muscles are tired.
This could look like performing 45 seconds each of jumping jacks, squats, and lunges, and then resting for 30 seconds before doing another round. Perhaps throw in a set of burpees in there because for each obstacle you fail throughout the race, the penalty is to perform 30 burpees before moving forward.
Running is also a great way to train, but don’t rely on this kind of training alone. While cardio will definitely help you keep the heart rate steady throughout the race, if you only train by running, you’ll end up without any upper body strength to complete some of the obstacles and find yourself in the burpee zone way too often.
If you don’t like to think up your own workouts, you can go to the Spartan website and sign up for a weekly email that sends workouts of the day. Or, find someone who has done a race before, and workout with them.
A few days prior to the race, you will get an email with a map that shows an outline of the entire course, as well as a guide revealing each obstacle and at what spot in the race you will do them.
For those of you who have already calculated the number of burpees a Sprint race could possibly involve — rest easy. Several of the obstacles are fail-safe, like mud pits that you just have to plow through. Another involves jumping over hay bales. And then there are the trademark Spartan walls. While they may look daunting, there will always be at least one other person going over the obstacle with you, and, even if they’re strangers, they will likely give you a little boost.
Yes, these races are a competitive battle — but it is not against anyone but yourself. You will find support in complete strangers, and you’ll find yourself cheering on that guy huffing and puffing up the slope while white-knuckling his 5-gallon gravel bucket, even though you will likely never see him again.
A Spartan race is an addictive challenge, so beware. It may sound like a daunting ordeal if you are a rookie, but don’t let the nerves take away from the experience. Your limits will be tested, your hatred of burpees increased, and your limbs turned to useless appendages by nightfall — and you will want to do it again. Perhaps not right away, but it’ll happen when your heart rate evens out, and you think back on what you accomplished. Before you know it, you’ll be signing up for another and encouraging your friend to join you.
Think your PCS is going to interfere with your Spartan race training? You need some PCS Workouts to Keep You on Track when you’re between installation obstacle courses.
Photo credits: Matt Sesslin, Rob Trunkey