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Outlasting the Spartan Race: An OT’s Top Tips

The Spartan Race can seem like an enigma and only for the most elite athletes, but the obstacle races hosted around the world at different distances and levels of difficult embrace a philosophy of community. The Spartan reputation carries a challenge and tenacity both physical and mental, but one that anyone can accomplish through dedicated training and nutrition. 

Meredith Bumgarner, MS, OTR-L, is an occupational therapist at OrthoCarolina Hickory and is also an SGX-certified Spartan trainer. She trains Spartan hopefuls of all levels, and says one of the most important elements of training is team comradery. There are three tiers of Spartan racing:

  • Sprint – Spartan’s shortest course, at 3+ miles and around 20 obstacles
  • Super – 8+ miles, around 24 obstacles and a tougher terrain
  • Beast – 12+ miles, 30+ obstacles and many…many challenges

For each race, Meredith’s clients join her team and participate in Spartan-style high intensity interval training (HIIT). They may carry heavy objects like stones, logs, and cinder blocks, learn proper form to climb ropes and walls effectively, and work on cardiovascular endurance with bear crawls, running, and burpees. Trail running is a must for training to promote ankle stability. As a medical provider Meredith knows that injury prevention is paramount.

“Most of the injuries that I encounter while completing obstacle course races are rotator cuff injuries and ankle injuries. We work on prevention techniques in our training to encourage balance and coordination. We also incorporate rotator cuff strengthening.”  –Meredith Bumgarner

  

Dominating the Spartan Race can be done for anyone willing to put in the work, according to Meredith, but it takes a dedicated training regimen…and an element of team comradery doesn’t hurt, either. Here are Meredith’s top tips for beginning your journey toward becoming a Spartan:

  1. Allow adequate time to train for your race. Finding a trainer or coach that specializes in obstacle course racing is a must-do.
  2. If obstacle course racing is new to you, start with a easier terrain – I would not do the mountain races first.
  3. Get on the trails and get your body used to running on uneven ground! This is very important to build up ankle stability.
  4. Work with essential bodyweight exercises (push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups) and pick-up carry things, like rocks and logs.
  5. Practice your burpees -- If you cannot complete an obstacle there is a 30 burpee penalty.
  6. Consider your clothes. Wear something lightweight, close to the skin and water-resistant or synthetic. You don’t want to wear cotton that will soak up moisture when you get wet, or loose clothing that can snag on the terrain or obstacles.
  7. Some folks will either “runner tie” their shoes or wrap their shoes in duct tape. It is no fun when you lose a shoe in the mud!
  8. VERY IMPORTANT: Bring mustard packets (or pickle juice) to treat cramps. It never fails, that I will run out of packets because I end up handing them out during the race to racers on the sidelines trying to rub out cramps.

Meredith Bumgarner, MS, OTR-L is an occupational therapist with OrthoCarolina Hickory an SGX-certified Spartan trainer with HardBodies Fitness in Granite Falls, N.C. 

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