Can training for a Spartan race simultaneously prepare you for the likes of a sprint triathlon, a road race or an ultra trail run?
Yes. Spartan training can prepare you for anything. From the company boardroom to the valleys of a trail running ultra, Spartan training is one of the best preparations out there today to make you a better version of you, both mentally and physically. Today there are dozens of online programs available from Spartan as well as hundreds of Spartan training professionals who can help you prepare for challenges on and off the course. This is to help you realize a better version of you. Part of becoming a Spartan is the intoxication you feel when you become a better version of yourself, and that can lead to taking on bigger challenges. Some of these come in the form of new sports like running ultras, half and full marathons, and triathlons. The question is, does Spartan racing get you ready for those challenges? The answer is yes!
Trail Runs, Ultras, and Marathons
Some of the advanced runners who want to push their limits can opt to cross-train in other sporting events while preparing for the upcoming Spartan race season. Many racers want to venture out of their comfort zones and try different things, and 2019 is the year to do it. Spartan just expanded its portfolio with two distances of trail races: a 10K or a half-marathon. Or you could choose something outside of the Spartan racing portfolio, like a local half-marathon or triathlon. Maybe you aspire to become an Ironman. Good news: if you are already racing Spartan races or training to do so, you are ahead of the game by leaps and bounds.
I’ll use my own personal experiences as an example in this article. As I was training to get better at Spartan Beasts, I was using half-marathons and 25K trail races to develop the endurance and pace I wanted out on the Spartan course. For cross-training and active recovery, I found myself on the bike more often and got excited about trying my first duathlon. These are some of examples to show you that this can be a natural progression for a Spartan racer.
The programming you use to build and develop your way from sprint to super to beast (the basic Spartan Trifecta) is pretty significant. For example, you would start from couch to sprint and continue to push your limits until you were able to handle the distance, elevation, elements, and obstacles of a beast course. Basic programming would take you through a series of exercises and strategies to develop your cardio, overall strength, endurance, and flexibility.
Unsure about the obstacles when running a Spartan for the first time? Get through the first obstacle, which is the course distance, by doing a Spartan trail race. This may be a good way to work up to doing a sprint or a super when you are ready.
Sprint Triathlon, Ironman, Duathlon & More
Many have heard of triathlon, from the sprint triathlon on up, but for those who are new to this event, a typical triathlon includes three events: a swim, a bike ride, and then a run. These events come in all sizes and shapes, from a 100-meter swim, 10-mile bike ride, and a three- to five-mile run (sprint triathlon) to an Olympic triathlon event like the Chicago Triathlon, all the way to the Ironman distance, where you end your event with a marathon having just concluded a 112-mile bike race and a 2.4-mile swim. A good frame of reference to understand the nature of the event is the amount of time it will take to complete. If you’re in reasonably good shape, you’ll finish a sprint triathlon in an hour or less. In an Ironman, top competitors finish in the zone of eight to nine hours and the rest of the field trickles in up to 17 hours after the start.
Keeping things simple, just remember the point that if you are training for a Spartan Beast or Ultra, you can already run these distances so you would only need to master the bike and swim. For a sprint triathlon, if you can ride a bike and know how to swim, you’re probably good to go.
In my case I did exactly what was considered best practice for preparing for a triathlon: I started to develop the other areas of my body and consider how to train those specific areas. Being a Spartan, I was already ahead of the pack starting without any experience. The great news for many Spartans is that you may already be doing some of these activities. Swimming is great active recovery for Spartan races, so you may already be developing your swimming ability with your current training program. You may be doing light bike rides to stretch out your legs or develop cardio without the impact on your knees.
The common questions that come up are: “What if I want to do a sprint triathlon, but I am not a good swimmer?” Can’t swim? You can do a triathlon without the swim! Do a duathlon, which is biking and running only. Hate the bike but love to swim? Do an aquathlon event, which allows you to swim and run with no bike ride. The point here is that you are able to transition back and forth between events like sprint triathlons and duathlons and Spartan races, as they can use the same training program with small changes. You still need to develop full-body flexibility and fitness, and your nutrition needs to be on point. All of these can be considered endurance events to those who are new to them because it requires a deep commitment to your diet and training to complete them, and many of these events take some time to complete.
Others: Skiing, Snowboarding, Rucking, Bike Touring, etc.
If you are a Spartan racer, you are already doing what it takes to be involved in other activities like bike races, snowboarding, martial arts, rucking, and anything else your heart desires to do. The key is to be active, follow a dedicated plan to staying fit—making slight adjustments based on what you will be doing next—and make sure you are always considering how your activity affects what you need to put into your body to fuel it correctly.
Although you want to do more, remember . . . do not overtrain. Listen to your body, fuel it correctly, rest appropriately, and heal injuries if you get them. “Doing more” can come to a screeching halt if you bonk or sustain an injury.
The secret sauce here is this: keep moving, and keep training. Do not overtrain but fill in the gaps with activities that fuel your passion while they develop you in other ways. This in turn will also prepare you to do other active lifestyle sports and activities that are exciting just like a Spartan race. If you race to be competitive, every one of these activities mentioned in this article offers opportunities to compete all the way to the elite level. Being a Spartan, you have already started your journey, now whether you decide to become an ultrarunner, endurance rucker, or competitive snowboarder, you have already STFU! It’s a leg up on your competition!