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36 Weeks To A Spartan Super

19 Jan 2015

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Recently, a reader left a comment on this blog asking how to train for a Spartan Super in 40 weeks. Specifically:

“I am looking for a 40 week training plan for someone over weight and out of shape but wants to run a super spartan race in 48 weeks from now.”

I figured that if one person asked this question, then maybe at least one other person has this same goal this year.

So with this inspiration, here’s how I would train for a Super Spartan this year. Based on the outline below, you may be able to get ready in 36 weeks.

What is a Spartan Super (or Super Spartan)?

You may already be familiar with the entire Spartan race series, but for those who aren’t, the Spartan Super is Level 2 of the three most common tiers of races organized by Spartan.

A Spartan Super is 8-12 miles long with at least 20 obstacles. It’s a step beyond the Sprint, a 3-5 mile OCR with a minimum of 15 obstacles. If you’ve done a few Sprints or similar-length obstacle races, the Super is a great way to level up your obstacle fitness!

Here’s a video recap of a Spartan Super in Virginia:

Spartan Super events in 2015

There are 21 total Supers in 2015. You can see them all at spartan.com.

January 24 in SoCal
April 18 in Vegas
May 9 in Austin, TX
May 17 in Montreal
May 17 in Austin, TX
June 6 in Monterey, CA
June 20-21 in Boston, MA
June 27 in Salt Lake City
July 11 in PA
July 19 in Toronto
August 1 in Ottawa
August 22 in VA
August 29 NC
Sept 12 Red Deer Canada
Sept 12 NJ
Sept 26 Chicago
Oct 17 Seattle
Oct 17 Alabama
Oct 24 Atlanta
Oct 31 Sacramento
Nov 8 SC

36 weeks would take us to around late September (Chicago or later).

Of course if you have some experience already, you may be able to sign up earlier.

If you are a 5k-length OCR veteran or a repeat Spartan Sprint participant and already have a shorter event planned over the next couple months, you may be able to start your training from week 14 below. In that case, you’d be aiming for the June 20 event or later (so Boston or later).

Now that you know the basics, you can get started.

Month 1 (Weeks 1-4): Set Your Foundation

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Start moving

First of all, if you’ve been in a post-holiday funk, it’s time to develop good habits by exercising regularly. Aim for activity most days of the week. In your calendar, set aside one-hour time slots up to 5 days a week for training.

Sign Up for an Obstacle Race

To get yourself going, sign up for a shorter (3-5 miles in length) OCR 8-12 weeks from now, depending on your fitness and activity level.

If it’s your first race, you may want to think twice about doing a Spartan Sprint, unless it’s a stadium one. Not all 5k-length OCRs are created equal. Sometimes Spartan Sprints can stretch to 5 miles with very challenging obstacles that may overwhelm the first-time racer.

No stadium sprint nearby? You can try a local 5k OCR or one organized by another solid provider like Rugged Maniac or Battlefrog Bullfrog 5k. Sign up with a friend to hold yourself accountable.

While you’re at it, since you have the Super in mind, sign up for that, too.

Choose an Exercise Program

Once you have a race picked out, choose an exercise program to keep you focused on regular exercise and get you in shape for your first obstacle race.

I developed a beginner’s obstacle race training program with these two goals in mind. It’s a 12-week plan that combines strength, core, running, mobility, and endurance to get you ready for your first obstacle race.

Some other training options:

1. Keep it simple: focus on a running program.

If you’ve never been a good runner or lack endurance, then a few days a week of running may be all you need for the first several weeks of your training. The couch to 5k program may be a good fit.

2. Commit to a bodyweight training class at your local gym 3x a week and run on your own one or two days a week.

I’ve written a couple articles on running workouts for obstacle racing. You can try the best fit for you:

Obstacle Race Training Running Workouts (on Askthetrainer.com)

2 More Running Workouts (on Myexercisecoach.net)

3. Have some experience with functional training? Try CrossFit.

If you’re a beginner or are overweight, it may be best to build up to CrossFit. Make sure you have mastered proper form for basic body weight and strength training exercises.  

But if you really want to try CrossFit at the start of your training, I recommend working with a personal trainer that has a background in CrossFit & OCR Training this month. This way, you can build a base level customized to your individual needs and injury history.

4. Try a home fitness program if you’re intimidated by a gym of any kind. Beachbody’s Insanity and MAX:30 are both body weight only programs that can help you build a base level of fitness. You can also sign up for Spartan’s WOD and focus on the Sprint-level workouts.

Month 2 (Weeks 5-8): Focus on Nutrition

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If you haven’t already, read and get educated on proper nutrition. Consider subscribing to Spartan’s FOD.

This could easily be the first step, even before starting an exercise program, or a simultaneous step.

For beginners, sometimes it’s too much to try to do both at once. Once you’ve developed either the regular exercise or eating healthy habit, you can move on to the other one. Click here for some obstacle race nutrition tips.

In the meantime, keep exercising. Keep up with the program you started with in week 1.

Month 3 (Weeks 9-12): Your First OCR of the Season (Maybe Ever)

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Participate in an obstacle race.

This is likely your first obstacle race of the season, maybe ever, if you are new to the sport. Use this race as a stepping stone for the Super and self-evaluation to see what you need to improve on.

Sign up for another obstacle race and/or traditional run.

In all, try to plan at least three or four obstacle races, including your first race, leading up to the Super. If you’ve read ahead, you can probably schedule your second race during your first month of training.

If your first obstacle race of the season left you sore, bruised, and scraped up, try to give yourself at least a few weeks to recover and get some training done. Focus on any areas of weakness you discovered in race 1.

You may be able to fit in two races over the next several weeks if you are up for it and recovered well. If it’s an OCR, try to make it longer or choose a more challenging one than the one you just did. If it’s a traditional run, aim for a 4-5-miler.

Keep training.

By now, you may or may not have finished the program you started your first month of training. If you have, continue to balance running a couple times a week with strength and obstacle-specific training. You can check out this in-season obstacle race training calendar for ideas.

At this point, you may also be ready to include a couple of CrossFIt-style workouts or other WODs a week since you have built a base level of fitness.

Week 13: Rest

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You’ve been working out several days a week and have done at least one obstacle race. Recovery is just as important as train-until-you drop workouts. Take it easy this week and try a few active recovery workouts to ensure you maintain mobility and flexibility.

In fact, you should try to devote a day every week or two to active recovery, yoga, or similar exercise.

Sign up for another race (or two).

You should be able to fit in up to two additional races before your Spartan Super. Aim for races between 4-6 miles if you can. A Spartan Sprint would fit the bill here. So would a Savage Race.

Look around for OCR training gyms or locations.

Unless you have backyard space to create at-home obstacles, you should consider using an OCR training gym or location equipped with common obstacles.

You can search on Mud and Adventure for obstacle course training locations or check out the amenities offered by your local gyms and training studios.

Month 3 (Weeks 14-17): Get Back to Work!

Crossfit group trains different exercises

Now that you’ve had a week to rest up, get back to work!

Join or start regularly using an OCR gym, training studio, or group.

In a perfect world, you’d be training at an OCR location every weekend, but if that’s not feasible, try to get out there a couple times a month. Ask the coaches there for tips on how you can simulate obstacle-specific training at home.

When you’re not at your OCR training site, keep up your balanced training at home.

It may be following the Spartan WOD series. Or a combination of CrossFit and running.

You may also decide to just stick with your in-season training calendar: running a couple times a week and doing WODs or metabolic circuits on other days.

Don’t like WODs?

Fair enough. Sometimes when you are a beginner, it’s good to follow a set program so you can master form and let your body adapt to the new stressors of exercise.

But once you’ve perfected form and gotten used to an exercise program, it’s important to shake things up, especially if you want to crush an obstacle race. I would encourage you to include one WOD every week or so in order to train your body and mind to get used to the unexpected, which is all too common in an OCR.

These are some of my favorite WODs.

Months 4 & 5 (Weeks 18-25): Build on Your Strengths, Overcome Your Weaknesses

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Focus training at your OCR location on obstacles you struggle with.

On your other days, keep training. Focus on your weaknesses and make sure you don’t lose your strengths.

What can you work out on your own without the setting of an obstacle course? Strength — including grip strength, upper body strength, brute strength — mobility, flexibility, balance, core, endurance, and running.

Do another race.

This is a great time to get another race in to see how far you’ve come along, especially in terms of overcoming your weaknesses. Can you make it past the monkey bars without falling? Run up hill without your legs burning? Climb a rope without losing your grip?

Week 26: Rest

This week of recovery can be identical to week 13. Take it easy. Get in some active recovery.

Months 6 & 7 (Weeks 27-34): Peak at the Right Time

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If you have any remaining races before the Super, try to do them by the end of week 28. Give yourself enough time to recover and do any additional training for the 8+ mile obstacle challenge.

Again, continue training obstacle-specific skills without losing running endurance and strength. Try to focus your training on any race-specific skills and physical fitness components that need improvement.

Weeks 35-36: Scale Back

You can still work out the week or two leading up to your race, but reduce the intensity. Most of the progress that you can make should be done and over with by the start of week 35.

Instead of training several days a week, try 3-4 days instead. You can still run, you can still do WODs, but scale back the intensity. And pay special attention to mobility and flexibility for injury prevention purposes.

End of Week 36: Spartan Super

Go get it and enjoy the race!

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