Spartan training secrets: Heart rate zones and Haribo race fuel

5 min read
Friday, 6 October 2023

Team Myzone member, personal trainer, and incredible athlete, Aileen McCann, shares her Spartan training secrets, from starting new to elite AROO!

If we break down a spartan race, it consists of running, grip strength, carries, and gymnastic skills such as the rope climb, traverse wall, or monkey bars.

Below you’ll find Aileen’s advice to help with every aspect of a Spartan race, from how you move to what you much before and during the event.

If you're completely new to OCR, you can also check out the guide to your first Spartan race.

Nutrition for training and recovery

I fuel for training with complex carbs before my runs – things like a bagel with jam and peanut butter. I’ll also have a black coffee and make sure I have electrolytes in plenty of water.

If it’s nutrition for a strength session, I’ll always have a bigger meal two hours before training.


@myzonemoves Sound advice from Aileen McCann... "The efficiency of movement refers to the effectiveness and economy of physical actions or motions. It is a measure of how well energy, time, or resources are utilized in performing a specific task, such as walking, running, or any other form of physical activity. Efficiency of movement can be influenced by factors like biomechanics, technique, and conditioning. DM @aileenmccann_moves on Insta for more info. MOVE. LEARN. GROW. KEEP IT REAL. #movement #physicalactivity #energy #gym #exercise #workout #outdoors #effort ♬ It Makes You Forget (Itgehane) - Edit - Peggy Gou


When it comes to recovery after each training session, replenishing your body with good nutrition is so important as well. Make sure you are well hydrated.

Don’t forget to stretch after workouts so your muscles don’t get too tight and hinder your next training session, and finally… Sleep!

Make sure you are getting adequate sleep in order for your body to repair and recover.

Nutrition leading up to a Spartan race

Adjust your diet and nutrition in the final few days leading up to competing. I would reduce my fibre intake and focus on my complex carbohydrates, starches, and a little protein.

On Spartan race day itself, it depends on the time that I’m racing but my go-to options would be:

  • Porridge with jam, fruit or honey (super early on the day, plus a bigger meal the night before).
  • Scrambled eggs, bagel, some yoghurt and fruit (If racing mid-morning/lunch, I would have the two breakfast option here… This is religious for me).
  • Snacks: TREK bars, or Haribo sweets.

What food and nutrition do you take on a Spartan race course?

On a Spartan course I would bring an energy gel, Haribo sweets, or peach rings.

I have recently been using ENDUO energy pouches on my long runs when training, which are easy on the stomach and not too sweet.

I will most likely add these to my next Spartan race and see how they fit with the course.

Training leading up to a Spartan race

You can still train in the final few days before the race, but reduce the intensity and let your body rest to prepare itself.

Make sure you’re on top of hydration, that you’re well fed, and that you’re getting enough sleep.

The hard work is done and there’s not much in the way of marginal gains that you’d get in your final week.



Race week, I will prepare myself with a massage or deep stretch/mobilising and then stay resting one or two days before the race.

If I feel like I need to move I will just go out for a nice long walk.

What to do on Spartan race day

In terms of what kit to bring to race day, obviously your Myzone device. Also a fanny pack, trail shoes, compression socks, compression vest, sports bra, shorts, a bag for dirty clothes after the race, comfy clothes for after the race, and sliders or spare trainers.

Around 30 minutes from the start of your race, start warming up by mobilising your joints with some dynamic stretches.

Warm up your legs with some running warm-up drills such as leg swings, high knees, or butt kicks, and do a few laps up and down the green.

Don’t forget to activate your glutes and core, too.

Throughout the race, take your time coming up to the obstacle and go when you are ready; be confident and just have run.

Do what your body is capable of doing when running and doing the obstacles. Lastly, always be mindful on the terrains If you are not used to trail running.


Spartan training routine

Here’s an eight-week training guide to follow in the lead-up to a Spartan race.

Remember that if you miss a couple of sessions due to a holiday or other commitment, don’t worry. Continue with the plan below and speak to your coach to make any adjustments where necessary.

Here is a breakdown of the days and the heart rate zones.

  • Monday - Zone 1-2
  • Tuesday - Zone 3-4
  • Wednesday - Zone 4-5
  • Thursday - Zone 2-4
  • Friday - REST
  • Saturday - Zone 3-5
  • Sunday - Zone 2

Start training eight weeks out from your Spartan race, and adjust progressions according to your ability and confidence.

Strength and conditioning – Leg day

Easy run
Skill work
Long easy run (race week)

S&C – Upper body
Light skills, mobilise, stretching (race week)

Skill work – push, pull, carry
Rest day (race week)

Rest day

Alternating Spartan race simulation and Trail run

Zone two (blue zone – recovery)
Optional rest day (week five onwards)

Spartan training notes

S&C – Leg day: This will consist of a resistance-based workout targeting the lower limb muscle groups. Week 1-4 will focus on building strength then from 5-8 we will transition to muscular endurance. Lower weights, more repetition. Also focus on core and unilateral exercises to help improve running form and make you a strong runner.

Easy run/Skill work: After a big session on Monday, your legs will be slightly fatigued but an easy run on Tuesday will help you flush out any tension built up and train the body to run on tired legs.

Skill work will consist of grip strength/balance exercises to help you on the obstacles.

Intervals/S&C – Upper body: Running intervals to help improve speed. Upper Body Strength based workout to help you on those obstacles as the majority of them are upper body focused.

Skill Work – Push/Pull/Carry: This will consist of a grunt workout that replicates the obstacles you will experience on-course. These workouts are functional based movements that we also do in every day life.

Spartan simulations: Programme these dependant on the course you will be doing – Sprint, Super, or Beast. I highly recommend that you get out on some trail runs at the weekend as the technique is completely different to road running.

Zone 2 work – This is optional but recommended. Let the mind relax.

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