You know when you’re snuggled up with your boyfriend on the sofa several seasons deep in a boxset, snacking on something calorifically devilish whilst wearing your favourite comfy clothes and scrolling social media… then the Spartan race suddenly pops up on your feed and you squeal to your gladiator-esque other half “We should totally take part in this!” Well, what a great idea that was!
You see, I’d never done a Spartan Race before, but my boyfriend Freddy took part with a group of family and friends a few years back and has literally used his bragging rights to inform me of how epic it was ever since. “I hauled buckets of rocks for fifty metres, sprinted across the hillside and leapt through flames to the finish line!” What a conversation starter for every party!
I have to admit, the pure determination and strength of such an event left me speechless and totally in awe of him. In awe enough to actually want to take part myself and have the very same bragging rights which I plan to use on my children and future grandchildren alike. My historical knowledge reminds me that the Spartan army were so dedicated, strong and brave that they fought and won battles against armies far bigger than them in size. And let’s face it, in the movie 300 when Gerard Butler screams “THIS IS SPARTA!” we all get stoked and want to be a part of his gang.
Having competed in natural bodybuilding as a vegan mother of two, I earned my PRO card with the federation Pure Elite which saw me switch my previous training routine from being an absolute cardio bunny to weights and resistance training 5-6 days a week at the gym. This in turn has transformed me from a slim and weedy runner into a curvy woman with thick strong legs and a muscular upper body – the epitome of fitness in 2019.
As a fit couple, Freddy and I thrive on taking part in challenges both for and against what we’re used to in order to increase our personal strengths and overcome our weaknesses. It’s also very grounding to take part in different fitness activities from a male and female perspective, to work as a team and to support one another so that the only boundaries are our mindset and not gender, stereotypes or starting ability – after all, even the most acclaimed athletes began their careers as newbies.
With Freddy having already taken part in a Spartan Race he was totally prepared for what to expect and did a great job at filling me in on training plans and preparations in the lead up to the Spartan Race South East Super Weekend in Kent. Across 13km and 25 obstacles this event is the ideal blend of distance, agility, strength and speed and is tailored to varying abilities with the option of medium or heavier weights at some of there obstacles.
If you’re looking to take part in a Spartan Race near you then here are our top five tips that may just help you on your way:
1.Form a group of Spartans to go at it together – They say sharing is caring and it’s incredibly motivating to have somebody close to you to experience such an epic event with. Whether you hit the gym together after work, plan to wear fun matching outfits, decide to raise money for a charity close to your heart or just need somebody to laugh along with as you scale hillsides and hurls sandbags, the more the merrier! Fitness has always been such a positive and uplifting activity that Freddy and I adore.
2. Focus more on outdoor cardio – Running on a treadmill may be clean and convenient at the gym, and it’s certainly an easy way to measure your cardiovascular ability and progress on the screen, but the best way to prepare for uneven terrain, inclines and hills is to actually get outside and get dirty. The reality of running in high winds, bracing unpredictable weather and going from hard to soft ground underfoot whilst keeping pace is something that has to be earned the hard way and there are plenty of apps out there and fitness tech which can chart your progress accurately.
3. Do at least one session of HIIT per week – The Spartan Race recognises that not every athlete will be able to complete the obstacles and challenges that they are faced with, so they very kindly offer a forfeit if you should skip or fail an event which is thirty burpees! To do this you must begin in a standing position, squat down with your hands on the ground, kick your feet back into a plank and then jump back up to standing as you clap above your head. Burpees are a full body exercise perfect for training in preparation for the race anyway and with plenty of practise in advance they’ll make any forfeits on the day an absolute breeze.
4. Pack high energy snacks – Some fitness events provide snacks from sponsors at water stations and food stops throughout the course whilst others don’t. It’s always helpful to keep a compact high-protein snack in your pocket to keep you going when energy reserves start to run low before the finish line.
4. Dress for all weather conditions and bring a spare change of clothes – Upon arrival for the start of the race (first thing in the morning) the weather was overcast and the wind was bitter cold so we wrapped up warm in lightweight leggings, compression tops and hoodies. An hour in it became scorching hot and we tied our excess garments around our waists as we continued to run, only to be treated to a downpour of rain and then hail which left us damp and dirty from crawling under barbed wire and manoeuvring over muddy obstacles. Whilst the weather is unpredictable, there are thankfully clothes stalls with official merchandise which make a nice keepsake and excellent training gear, as well as a Spartan t-shirt, free beer, a healthy snack, professional photos throughout and a medal for every athlete at the finish line. After taking a shower on-site our victory t-shirts proved the perfect outfit to wear to the food court where we celebrated with a (vegan) burger and a beer!
From the moment we entered the induction pen with hundreds of other entrees the energy levels were ridiculously infectious and so motivational. We were warmed up by a rippling six-packed Spartan with a wicked sense of humour and a penchant for burpees which broke the ice and gave us a flavour for the fun to come.
Running in mud and water, climbing hills, dashing through forests, rolling under barbed wire and jumping through fire; through the blood, sweat and tears we bonded as a couple, as well a family team with our in-laws and made friends with complete strangers sharing in the same hilariously challenging and uplifting experiences along the way. Those stopping to give us a hand or a boost up over high walls and obstacles throughout restored our faith in humanity with their pure kindness and selflessness, and the mud that embellished our bodies united us all as equals regardless of age or ability.
Having cheering members of the public lining our path clapping and holding signs as we heaved our exhausted bodies along the final kilometre of the course gave us the sheer strength and determination to continue as super-humans, something that even the best of our very best gym workouts could never ever come close to. Leaping through the flames of the finish line was one of the most cathartic moments of my life, a true victory and genuine sense of achievement that makes me wholeheartedly understanding of the words ‘human potential’ – something we all need to feel and appreciate just once in our lives.
Our epic Spartan medals now hang with pride in the hallway, our Spartan t-shirts an upgrade to our former his and hers matching pyjamas as we snuggle up on the sofa at the end of a long day, the TV switched off in favour of telling the children a bedtime story of the time that Freddy and I joined thousands of brave Spartans on the adventure of a lifetime.