Just like any fitness or endurance event, your first Spartan race or OCR event can be daunting. With a little planning and preparation, you can become unbreakable in no time.
Heart rate training is an incredibly effective way of preparing yourself for events such as Spartan races. Even if you’ve taken part in obstacle course events or mud runs before, this is what to expect on your first Spartan race.
My first OCR: Understanding Spartan races
Obstacle course racing is on a meteoric rise in popularity, with Spartan and Tough Mudder taking a stronghold. My only past experience of OCR had been walking past a Rat Race Dirty Weekend striking camp a couple of years beforehand, so I didn’t know what to expect when I was first introduced into the world of Spartan through Myzone.
For the majority, Spartan races are split into three distances, with varying numbers of obstacles in each. Whichever you choose, just take a look at your training app afterwards for an utter MEP-fest.
Spartan Sprint is 5k and 20 obstacles. It’s a great opener to the world of OCR, and is perfect for your first Spartan race.
Spartan Super is 10km long, with 25 obstacles. If you’re familiar with distance running or other OCR events, this is perfect for your first Spartan.
Spartan Beast is a 21km course, with 30 obstacles to overcome. If you get FOMO from others after you’ve run a Sprint or Super, why not just go all in and take on a Beast next time?
There’s also the Spartan Kids race, and I thoroughly recommend getting the younger generation involved in whenever you can. Character building stuff, to say the least.
@_benhw Here's to a place where you can do all the things you used to get told off for doing as a kid - climbing on things, rushing around, and getting muddy. #spartan #spartankids #outdoors #ocr ♬ Exercise - Vin Music
What’s stopping you getting on the Spartan start line?
Strength training, endurance, flexibility… First of all, let’s just ditch the “I can’t” straight off the bat. We’ve all achieved something that we thought we couldn’t do.
I’d worked my way up to running and jogging decent distances, but that wasn’t something that had concerned me. I’d seen people on these obstacle course races in combinations of running, walking, climbing and crawling before. Whatever suits you, you find a way to get around.
What worried me was upper body ability, or my perceived lack of. Somewhere between a strength issue and a weight issue, the only pull-ups I’d had anything to do with for years had been regularly filled by my son soon after he was born – a very similar metaphorical situation that I faced at the thought of climbing a rope in front of people come race day. I wasn’t quite bricking it, but I was certainly out of my comfort zone.
My search for strength, however, gave me new gains beyond muscle alone, with a little help from the people around me.
Using the MZ-Switch to track every workout as part of a routine full of variety, the community support I felt in the lead-up got my mind race ready.
Training for success: How to overcome any obstacle
The mental barriers that keep you from the start line are the biggest achievements you should focus on. Luckily, both from a headspace and a physical training regimen, there’s a lot of help out there in the Spartan and Myzone community.
Few people know more about the world of OCR than Myzone partnerships manager, Emma Waring. On more than one occasion, she’d advised me that Spartan is often much more about technique than it is strength. It was time I turned to the professionals to get a better idea of these Spartan secrets.
Then there are the excellent trainers. Mark Logan is a Spartan SGX L2 Coach and Spartan Obstacle Specialist CrossFit L1 Coach. More than your run-of-the-mill personal trainer, Mark and the community at Obstacle Playpark offer a space to train specific rigs for Spartan and many other OCR events.
The obstacle techniques he regularly shares will get you through races, no doubt. This race preparation, even just in your mind when accompanied with your usual training and workouts, will make your first Spartan race all the more achievable.
Race preparation: My first Spartan experience
Spartan Sprint: Like most people, I felt a little nervous on the Sprint start line for my first Spartan. I assumed everyone else was a Spartan veteran and knew exactly what they were doing. Of course, as soon as you get moving, it doesn’t take long to get swept up by the experience and understand that we’re all in it together.
My biggest Sprint completion concerns were around the monkey bars and the rope climb. I completed both (thanks to seeking out advice prior) and made my way around the undulating course with Myzone colleague Darren.
One thing I would say from someone who hasn’t climbed anything properly since being a kid… Get comfortable with having your feet above you, so to speak. Not necessarily in being upside down, but in transitioning yourself so that you can heel lock your way over a variety of walls. Sounds daunting? It’s all doable, just do plenty of research beforehand. It’s fun!
@_benhw What a weekend! London South East @spartan European Championships. My first Spartan Sprint. Loads of Spartans racing using Myzone and so many great performances by the Team Myzone squad. #myzone #ocr #spartan #spartanrace #obstaclecourse #obstaclecourses #obstaclecourseracing ♬ Legends Are Made - Sam Tinnesz
Spartan Beast: I’d thoroughly recommend jumping in head first and going full-beans Beast mode. Even if you can’t do some of the obstacles – yet – getting the experience of the course and surprising yourself on what you can achieve is incredible. Taking in the full Beast experience, this time with Myzone colleague Alan, we ran, balanced, climbed, swang, slid, and jumped out way to the finish.
Better never stops… I dropped off the Olympic rings on the multi-rig in my first Sprint and was determined to do better after seeking out more advice from coach Mark (FYI… “you don’t swing with your arms, you swing with your hips,” which makes sense).
Other highlights from the Beast, both good and challenging:
- As basic as it sounds, I still can’t master the Atlas carry
- Rolling Mud is a true test of will
- I really enjoyed Ape Hanger (yes, including falling off into water from height)
- Exploring the course is incredible
In all honesty, I’d love to spend a day with no time limits, no pressure, and no holding anyone else up, just playing on the obstacles. Every move is a lesson, understanding more about your body and what you’re capable of.
When you’re not an elite, racing for the podium, if ever there was the definition of “it’s the taking part that counts,” this is it.
You can’t spell mediocre without OCR
Spartan is billed as being the best of the best, being hardcore, and being tough as nails. Truth is, that’s completely relative. Getting on the start line is an achievement, and taking part in each race made me feel incredible.
You don’t have to get on the podium. You don’t have to be elite. You don’t have to be ripped, with boulder shoulders and uprooted tree trunk legs.
@myzonemoves This weekend, we go again! @spartan @SpartanRaceEurope #spartan #spartanrace #wallclimb #wallclimbing #ocr #obstaclecourse #race #goodtime ♬ original sound - Hutraj Shrestha
The people at the top of their game in obstacle course racing and Spartan events are incredible. They train relentlessly and battle it out through mud, sweat, and tears to reach the top.
However, taking part in a Spartan race is about you being the best that you can be, regardless of where that leaves you compared with the rest of the field.
Get out there, meet new people, and learn what you’re capable of. It will be more than you think.
My favourite things about Spartan races
It’s doing all the things you got told off for as a kid. You’ll get covered in mud. You’ll crawl under barbed wire. You’ll scale things you wouldn’t normally dream of climbing, and you’ll proudly jump over fire as you achieve what you thought wasn’t possible.
The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you finish, surrounded by people who have shared the experience, is something that you’ll carry with you forever. No more “can’t,” get yourself on the start line and the rest will take care of yourself.
Get in touch on social to share your Spartan race day experiences, OCR training, or advice for newbies.
If you’ve never experienced a Sprint, Super, or Beast before, find your next challenge and get on the start line.
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