4 Things I Learned From the Spartan Race

by Allen Gil May 29, 2015

4 Things I Learned From the Spartan Race

Photo Credit: spartan.com/

It was Saturday, May 9, 2015 at Citi Field Stadium. I was breathless, sore, and overwhelmed with excitement. Crossing that finish line, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins. It was official; I was now a Spartan.

That day, I completed one of the three Spartan Races, the Spartan Sprint, and it was exhilarating. This was not my first race, but it was definitely a life-changing experience. I finished in a little over an hour, and came in at 446th place out of the 1,368 women that competed.

The time I spent prepping for this race didn’t only test me physically, it tested me mentally. Looking back, I realize there are four lessons that training for the Spartan Sprint taught me that will stay with me as I pursue other goals, both in athletics and in life. 

1. Just Because You Train Doesn’t Mean You’re Training Correctly

spartan race rope climb spartan.com/

I knew when I signed up for the race that it was something I would have to train for. This was not something that you can “just do” without any type of proper skill training. Despite the fact that I train on a daily basis, I had to change some of my regular training programming so that it was Spartan-specific.

I prepared for the race over the course of five months with the help of my athletic coach, Joel Diaz. Drills after drills after drills. My coach and I would dedicate two days a week to just Spartan drills in addition to my usual cycling and lifting.

I also realized that you have to have the proper training equipment. My coach suggested that training with a backpack I could put weight in for stair and sprint drills would be helpful, and boy was he right. A majority of the race was dedicated to running up and down stairs, and at one point we even had to carry sandbags and water jugs. When this happened, I didn’t feel surprised, I felt prepared.

Some of the other drills and circuits that my coach had me practice were:

  • Burpees
  • Medicine Ball Slams
  • Battle Ropes
  • Rope Climbs
  • Bear Crawls
  • Box/Step Jumps
  • Powerlifting (to better my strength for any heavy objects I would encounter)
Everything I had done with my coach was applied to all the obstacles in the race, which made me even more excited to do them. I felt confident taking on each challenge, but I realized that if I had not gone out of my way to train differently than I usually did, I may have dreaded those obstacles instead of embracing them.

2. The Spartan Race is the Toughest Obstacle Course Around

obstacle course spartan.com/

There were many people at the race that I could tell were not prepared for the challenges that they would have to face. The Spartan Race forces you to push yourself and make your body go beyond its limits. To me, this is why the race is considered one of the toughest obstacle course-style races around.

The obstacle course is built to have you constantly moving, unlike many other races with obstacle courses that have you stop at each station, waiting in a long line until it's your turn. Each obstacle within the Spartan course makes you use your body in different ways and increases your strength, endurance, and range of motion. Imagine one giant boot camp that is three miles long and peppered with 15+ obstacles that are all total body—now that’s what I call tough.

3. Racing Allows Me to Test My Limits

spartan-finisher-featured spartan.com/

As an athlete, it is natural for me to rise to a challenge and constantly push myself, which is why I decided to do the Spartan Race. I am always testing my limits and working to increase my strength. In doing this race, I knew that it would be a perfect opportunity for me to challenge myself and see how far I could take my abilities.

I remember there was a two-part obstacle where you have to first pull on a rope to bring up a heavy sandbag by squatting and then complete 25 ball slams. When I saw that the ladies’ ball weight was 15 lbs, I knew that was way too easy for me. I decided to make a bold choice and ball slam with the men at 25 lbs. This was closer to the weight I normally slam so I went for a challenge and took on the extra weight.

More importantly, I learned that when I want something bad enough, I fight for it and my competitive side comes out.

4. The Body Must Adapt to Proper Training, Sleep and Nutrition for Success

mud runners spartan.com/

Part of the reason I was able to complete the Spartan Race was because my body adapted and to a certain type of training for some time now. I was completely used to running up and down stairs, jumping onto objects, carrying and lifting heavy weight. Additionally, I was always well rested by getting six to eight hours of sleep every night and eating properly.

I normally live by the 90% to 10% rule, which is 90% eating clean and the other 10% a little dirty. What you eat always affects the way you perform. In essence, I eat well to perform well. The Spartan Sprint showed me that this is an integral part of succeeding at any athletic competition.

These are all elements that helped me power through this challenge. In the end, the Spartan Race enhanced my athletic abilities in more ways than I could have imagined because I worked hard and it all paid off. I always wanted to do this race and I finally did it.

One Spartan down, two to go.

Allen Gil
Allen Gil


Leave a comment