Training Plan for Your First Spartan


So you’ve signed up for your first Spartan Race and are now scrambling to determine the course of action in preparation. First and foremost, let me congratulate you, you have already taken the most important step in making the decision to register. None of the obstacles you’ll find on course have even dreamed of stopping as many participants as the anxiety of committing. You have just displayed the dominant Spartan characteristic, mental toughness, so welcome to Sparta! Aroo!

For the purpose of this article, we will assume you registered for a Sprint (between 3.1 and 5.5 miles). Any suggestions can be easily adjusted accordingly for longer distance events.

Step One – Build Endurance

Are you a runner? That’s great!…but you’re still not safe & sound. Even if you can run a 5k in under 30 minutes, your local route doesn’t include obstacles, lifting, and burpees. The Spartan Sprints take anywhere from 45 minutes (for the VERY fast competitors) to over 2 hours for the “slow and steady” pack. You need to get comfortable at an increased heart rate for long periods.

  • Start implementing a long run  or two each week
  • Progressively work up the distance by 10% a week (i.e. week 1=2miles, week 2=2.2miles)

Step Two – Get Outdoors, Get Dirty

You’re not going to be faced with roads or even perfectly groomed trails. The event will be rugged and you should be too. Treadmills have their purpose but will not prepare you for uneven the surfaces, rivers, dirt, and mud.

  • Find a hiking trail, enviromental center, or even a mountain bike path (watch out for bikers!) and do some of your weekly runs there.
  • If there’s standing water on the ground, aim for it. If it’s muddy, it’s better!
  • Wade through a river if at all possible

Step Three – Build Strength

You will have to call upon every muscle in your body at some point or another along the course. The powerful muscles in the legs will be needed to tame the terrain of hills and lift objects off the ground (think sandbags and atlas stones). While your upper body will be needed to climb, crawl, pull, and hang. Luckily, all the strength you need can be gained without gym equipment using nothing more than your body weight.

  • The elevation changes at these races is the “unlisted obstacle,” ask participants coming off the course what was the hardest and the majority will reply with “the hills.” Don’t neglect their challenge. Find a hill and race to the top.
  • If you live on flatland, adopt a regiment of squats and lunges to build the strength
  • Work on push-ups and pull-ups. If you need to start out planking and hanging, that’s fine. The goal, as always, is progress.

Step Four – Rest

For most people your training will be the more intensive activity your body has ever experienced. Even if you already workout, few people are as well rounded as you’ll now be aiming. Your body will need rest to make necessary adaptations and repairs. It is non-negotiable for a first timer!

  • Take a day off each week

Example Week

Monday – Strength training (total body)

Tuesday – Hill Workout

Wednesday – Upper Body

Thursday – Hike

Friday – Upper Body

Saturday – Long Run

Sunday – Rest