How I trained for my first Obstacle Course Race

Last weekend I completed a Reebok Spartan Sprint in Charlotte, NC. There are three different types of spartan races. The Sprint is 3-5 miles in length and has 20-24 obstacles throughout the course. The Super is 9-11 miles with 25-28 obstacles and the Beast is 12+ miles and 30+ obstacles. Since this was my first obstacles course race and I am not much of an endurance runner, I stuck with the sprint. For this post, I am going to focus on what I did to train for the race. My race experiences and tips for race day will come later 🙂

SPARTAN RACE TRAINING has great training resources. They post workouts of the day (WOD) and have nutrition tips and recipes to try. I did not follow the workouts from the website, but they are great for getting ideas of things to add to your workouts.

What I focused on was weight training with cardio bursts in between exercises. My goal was to improve cardiovascular endurance and increase overall strength. I did high intensity 45 minute workouts, 4-5 times per week. My workouts were mainly composed of circuit training, with HIIT (high-intensity-interval-training) in between sets. I kept my heart rate at or above 75% of my HR max (220-age) throughout the entire workout and increased it to 85-95% during the intervals.

I did a variation of body weight exercises, free weights, battle ropes, sliders, TRX bands, kettle bells, medicine balls and agility training. The variety of exercises worked every muscle in my body and constantly kept my body guessing. This improves strength and stamina much better then doing the same types of exercises over and over again. It also gets you mentally prepared for things you will face in an OCR.

Battle ropes clipartSlamball

In addition to the HIIT, I also ran 1-3 miles once per week. I would have liked to incorporate more running into my training, but the HIIT was enough to get my cardiovascular endurance to where it needed to be. One month before my race, I did outdoor “endurance runs” one day per week. I set my timer for 45 minutes and tried to run the whole time. I had to walk for a couple minutes the first few times, but with practice I was able to run the whole 45 minutes. The Monday before race weekend, I did 50 minutes! Like I said before, I am by no means a runner, so this was good mental training as well as physical.


Which leads me into the next aspect of training: mental toughness. Before going into a spartan race, you have to be able to push yourself mentally. The obstacles are difficult and you will be fatigued and you have to just push yourself through that. The same mental pushing should happen during training. When your muscles are shaking and you want to quit, DON’T do it! Tell yourself you will push through and finish the workout. Trust me, you will need that mental fuel on race day. The more you push yourself through hard workouts, the stronger you will become, both mentally and physically.

So that is a summary of what I did to train for my first Spartan Race. I felt great during race day and was definitely ready 🙂 Here are my top 12 exercises to focus on to get spartan


  1. Burpee’s! Make friends with these. You will be doing at least 30-90 of them on race day. The penalty for any failed obstacle is 30 burpees.
  2. Pull-up training
  3. Rock climbing
  4. Tricep Dips
  5. Elbow plank- mountain climbers with sliders
  6. Dead-lifts
  7. Sprints
  8. Tabata exercises
  9. Trail running
  10. Squat to press with dumbells
  11. Bear crawls
  12. Rope Climb/ Battle Rope exercises spartan-race-logo


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