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Spartan Race rookie? Get this gear to train and race

All the training and race day essentials for any first responder’s first time on the course

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“Train like you’re going to run.” That’s the advice from Dan McDonald, Spartan Races chief of staff.

If you’ve run 5Ks or even marathons before, you’re probably familiar with that advice, but if not, it’s an essential mantra for successful racers at all types of events. After all, you don’t want to show up at the course with new gear that’s not broken in and gives you blisters 5 minutes into the event.

This applies to Spartan Races as well. If you’re looking to ramp up your race challenge, consider entering a Spartan obstacle course race – a positivity-packed, camaraderie-driven event designed for a wide range of participants.

At the novice level, the focus is centered on getting anyone and everyone, regardless of physical fitness level, outside and having a blast. The shortest race, the Spartan Sprint, consists of a 3-mile course featuring 20-plus obstacles. The obstacles vary from race to race, but the spear throw, wall and rope climbs, heavy object carries, monkey bars, mud crawling and slip walls make frequent appearances.

So, if you’re looking for a new adrenaline boost and a great community of racers, here’s some gear you’ll need to train and compete.

Spartan-specific gear

Spartan itself offers some great products to help first-time racers. Check out Spartan-branded products. Here’s one to get you started:

Spartan in a bucket: Use this kit to hone various obstacle-related skills. Plus, once you start tossing your homemade spear in your backyard, you are certain to make nosy neighbors jealous. Other items, such as the Spartan Pancake and the 5-gallon bucket, help build strength and skills for weight-carry obstacles. Also included are training cones, a gym towel and a limited-edition training flag.

Training requisites

You don’t need to limit yourself to the Spartan store, particularly if there are specific brands you prefer or unique accessories to add to your training and competition cache. Here are some products you can find on Amazon.

Hydration: Staying hydrated isn’t just a race day concern. Be sure to stay hydrated during training because dehydration can impair your motor skills and lead to nausea, muscle cramps, impaired motor skills, poor decision-making and dizziness. Everyone has their favorite style of water bottles, but one in the half-gallon realm could cover your daily water intake in one jug – and you also get a nice little bonus workout from carrying it around.

Training rope: The rope climb is a common obstacle in Spartan races, so you are going to want to purchase a reliable rope for training. A rope that is easy to grip is a bonus, and one that is water-resistant will ensure years of climbing sessions, even if you keep it outside.

  • Available in 6 different lengths
  • Can be attached to any fixed point

Wall ball: The wall ball has become a fixture in most fitness facilities for a good reason – every rep targets a wide array of muscles which include your chest, core, quads and triceps. The standard wall ball routine finds the participant standing at arms-length from a strong wall, squatting and then throwing the ball toward a spot 8 to 10 feet up the wall. The individual then rebounds the ball, squats again and repeats the process. Wall balls come in a variety of different weights, so if you are just starting, you will want to focus more on the 6 lb. (as opposed to 30 lb.) variety.

  • Options range from 6 to 30 pounds
  • Finger loops and non-slip cover for firm grip

Grip-strengthener pack: One aspect of the Spartan Race that may intimidate first-timers is that many of the obstacles (rope climb/monkey bars/ traversal wall) will require ample upper-body and arm and hand strength. In order to gear up for getting a better grip, grab yourself various grip strengtheners. The best thing about these workouts is that you can knock them out on your couch.

  • Reduces joint pain and stiffness
  • Includes adjustable hand gripper, 3 finger stretchers, finger exerciser, hand strengthener grip ring, and stress relief grip ball

Monkey bar training: One tricky aspect of the monkey bars on a Spartan course is that they are generally 2-3 inches in diameter. This is a grip size that makes hanging from them for any extended period more tiring than the monkey bars you would find at the local kids’ playground – those rungs are typically around 1.25 inches in diameter. To train for the larger rungs, get some climbing holds training sets that will help you hang out at the bars for a longer duration of time.

  • Good for home gyms or on-the-go
  • Made of wood and stainless steel

Stair-climber: If you really want to prepare your legs for obstacles like the steep mud climbs, and you don’t have stairs nearby, go for the gold and invest in a stair-stepping machine. Besides prepping you for the Spartan Race, stair-stepping machines also improve cardiovascular health, burn calories, and improve balance and coordination. Target a unit that includes a fitness tracker that will allow you to monitor your progress, includes a water bottle holder, and has a maximum load that will handle your weight.

  • 15 levels of intensity
  • Features water bottle holder and reading rack

Massage gun: Kudos to you for taking the plunge, but don’t expect this journey to be pain free. Help your body recover by investing in a quality massage gun to reduce tension and swelling and relieve stiffness after your workouts. Find a unit that charges fast and features multiple speeds. A variety of different heads is optimal, and finding one with a head that can both cool and heat is sure to deliver relief to your aching muscles.

  • Includes one heating/cooling head, and 4 standard massage heads
  • 5 speeds

Race-day essentials

Once it’s race day, you’re going to need some gear to get you through the race.

Hydration packets: Staying hydrated should be a priority. It will keep you focused as you navigate the numerous obstacles you are attempting to complete, and it may even (literally) keep you from passing out. Look for a mix that includes ingredients such as potassium citrate, mined salt, vitamins B and C, and mined salt. Zero in on a mix that works best for your specific needs as well. For example, if you’re a heavy salt sweater, target a mix that’s high in sodium.

  • 13 flavors
  • Includes triple the amount of electrolytes in popular sports drinks

Shoes: The shoes you select may be the most important decision. If the event is outdoors and looking to be very muddy, a solid trail shoe with a large tread and excellent drainage is the best call. If the race is outdoors and the conditions are pretty dry, or if the race is in a stadium, a dedicated OCR running shoe will probably be your best bet. The dedicated OCR shoes are known for having extremely grippy soles that will help you conquer the obstacles in which steady foot placement is crucial.

  • Trail shoe designed for longer distances
  • Strengthened rubber toe-cap and full length Rock Plate in the sole protects from sharp rocks and sticks

Runner’s pack: Just like you wouldn’t be caught dead without your trusty fanny pack while on a museum tour, the running belt is essential for keeping all your belongings securely attached to you. The first priority is to find a belt that has enough storage space for you to cram everything you need on race day into it – hydration packets, band-aids and more. It may be better to think bigger in this department as well since you are bound to consider taking an extra protein bar or pair of sunglasses along with at the last minute. If you want to carry water bottles, search out a belt that has reliable bottle compartments.

  • Designed to prevent chafing/rubbing during use
  • Room for all personal essentials: watter bottles, keys, phone, credit cards/cash

Compression socks: Compression socks have been steadily gaining popularity for their benefits such as decreasing swelling and boosting circulation. If you do decide to use compression socks for an outdoor Spartan Race, make sure to purchase a pair that are moisture-wicking so they don’t retain water in wetter and muddier areas of the course. Socks constructed with premium yarns are a good call in this department.

Wide receiver gloves: They’re not just for the football field! In a world filled with repurposed objects, wide receiver gloves have been embraced by the OCR community for their helpfulness with climbing obstacles. In short, they give you better grip. They can also serve to keep your hands warmer on a cooler race day and reduce your likelihood of blisters or hand abrasions. An added bonus is that you can still catch that screen pass down near your ankles and run it in for a touchdown at the end of the course.

Bluetooth earbuds: How blessed are we to be living in an era in which you can have all your favorite music pumped into your ears via a slim cell phone that can fit easily in a pocket? And not only that, thanks to Bluetooth, we don’t even have to worry about wires. Now all you have to worry about is not losing an earbud in the midst of a Spartan Race. So, if you are considering pumping high-octane tunes into your noggin to propel you through race day, consider some waterproof over-ear earbuds. The key with these is the secure-fit ear hook so you don’t lose valuable time digging through mud for an ear bud.

With these products, you’ll be ready for race day in no time, so what are you waiting for? Happy trails!

Dryw Keltz is a freelance writer living in San Diego County. He has written hundreds of news features, human interest profiles, and film and music reviews over the course of his 20-plus-year career. Keltz has a bachelor’s degree in English writing with an emphasis on creative non-fiction from the University of Pittsburgh.