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Adventure Race Training: Weeks 4-5

Mark purchases a spear to work on his throwing technique.
Man throwing Javelin

I'm officially one month away from the Citi Field Spartan Race, and the past two weeks of training have helped me prepare on multiple levels. Most importantly, I practiced the monkey bars and spear throw and now I know where I'm at with those obstacles. I never threw javelin for sport, so I taught myself a throwing technique that would get the spear closest to the target. For people looking to do their first obstacle course race or mud run, such attention to detail is unnecessary, unless you really hate burpees. For me, the rest of my training will target obstacles I'm weak in and acclimate me to running outdoors. My strength has been increasing every workout. Here is a look at the workouts in weeks four and five of Spartan Race training. Spoiler alert: I tried to sprint outdoors and failed miserably. 


WORKOUT A: OPTION 2
1000-meter sprint
Rest: 2 min.
800-meter sprint
Rest: 60 sec.
600-meter sprint
Rest: 60 sec.
400-meter sprint
Rest: 30 sec. 
200-meter sprint

HOW IT FELT
This workout was performed indoors on a treadmill. My margin of error for the rest periods this time around was longer than usual. I probably rested two minutes between each sprint. A quick conditioning workout, A2 is a great way to start or end the day. As per usual, the treadmill was set at 9 mph with a 2 percent incline. During this workout, I truly feel like I’m getting conditioned.

WORKOUT B OPTION 2

TOTAL WORK TIME: 30 Minutes
Barbell Thrusters (105 pounds)
Reps: 5
Pullups
Reps: 5
Rest: 30-45 sec 

HOW IT FELT
I increased my weight from 95 pounds to 105 pounds on this workout and I was able to complete the session on point. I think I’ll increase the weight to 115 pounds next session because it’s not the weight being lifted that’s tough; it’s the minimal rest period between exercises. I wouldn’t say I did as many reps as possible within the 30 minutes, but I definitely did enough rounds to feel sore in my shoulder and back the next day. The barbell thruster is an underrated metabolic exercise and my pullup form started to break down towards the end of the 30 minutes. This workout would be even more killer if it were 10 pullups instead of five.

WORKOUT C OPTION 1
CROSSFIT HELEN WOD

3 Rounds AMRAP
400-meter sprint
21 Kettlebell Swings (50 pounds)
12 Pullups

HOW IT FELT
Here’s the thing with this WOD: I have to wait for the treadmill to turn on, adjust the speed and incline and start sprinting, a process that takes at least a minute or two. On the kettlebell swing, the weight reaches eye level and the pullups are strict. With that said, my time was a little over 14 minutes, I wonder how CrossFit athletes who train indoors take into account the treadmill startup time in their fitness tracking. This workout is short and sweet.

WORKOUT A OPTION 1
6 rounds
400-meter jog
10 burpees

HOW IT FELT
At last, I finally brought my workouts outdoors, but the result was poor. I am so inexperienced with sprinting that I can’t even sprint 400 meters all out on a track. I know I can sprint 40 yards, but 400 meters? Not quite. I opted to jog the 400 meters around the track instead of sprint. This resulted in six rounds completed, compared to the usual eight I do on the treadmill for this workout. I was also unable to complete the lunge portion of the workout because my body simply isn’t used to actually sprinting. By the time I was done with the sixth round of burpees and sprints, I was completely spent and just wanted to go home. The lunges were not even a possibility. 

WORKOUT B OPTION 1

Squat (pounds): 135, 225, 255, 275, 285

Push Press:135, 155, 165, 175, 185

Deadlift: 135, 225, 275, 315, 355 (3+2)

THOUGHTS ON GAINS
I increased my numbers in all three lifts compared to the last session. I’m getting stronger, but  that isn’t translating into my capability to sprint around a track. For the deadlift, I broke up the last set into a triple and a double. The 285-pound squat for five reps was a real milestone for me, since that is “high school” weight for me. If I could squat more than that for five reps next workout, I would feel pretty strong. My rest periods are as needed between these exercise and sets, and I’ve found that deadlifting without shoes feels more comfortable than expected. 

WORKOUT C OPTION 2
500-meter row
Bench Press (bodyweight: 195 pounds) 
Reps: 10, 10, 10, 9, 8

HOW IT FELT
I must have used a different type of rower or read the numbers incorrectly last workout because this time I used a Concept 2 indoor rower and the 500 meters only took about two minutes, not 10. Using the Concept 2 helped me get a better cardiovascular response, and the 195-bench press was actually challenging. In fact, I couldn’t even do 10 reps for five sets; I had to do nine reps on set four, then eight reps on the final set. I also didn’t have a spotter, which is a reps killer when benching. 

Rowing is an amazing workout and a great compliment to the bench press. Sometimes I forget that throughout this training plan, I’m still benching and making hypertrophic gains. These five sets of rowing and bench don’t go as quickly as you would think. Try this workout and you’ll see that by set five, you’re almost afraid to bench without a spotter.

FITNESS CLASSES
A popular fitness trend, I took a “Broga” class at Crunch Gym on 83rd Street in New York City and my hip joints were extremely loose and open by the end of the class. That’s a good thing. Broga isn’t your typical vinyasa, “flowy,” yoga; it mixes core exercises like mountain climbers, pushups and forearm planks with yoga poses for a  more high intensity stretching session. Other examples of what I would consider Broga are DDP Yoga and Athletic Yoga at New York Health & Racquet Club. All three of these yoga classes had male instructors and some male participants. I took the class (and like stretching) because of the preventative effects of these poses on the body. Opening your shoulders and hips enables you to move weight and your body more freely, so I try to incorporate yoga into my routine every few weeks. 

OBSTACLE TRAINING
I finally started obstacle-specific training. First, I purchased a spear online, similar to those that are actually thrown during the Spartan Race. Then, I bought a haystack, some burlap, and made a target similar to what might be used in race. Next, I journeyed to a local park, hoping to hang the haystack target from a tree and throw the spear at it. Unfortunately, two problems arose: securing the haystack to the tree at the proper height proved too difficult and I lost the tip of the spear in the woods after one of my throws. The end result was throwing a tipless spear at a tree, which did no damage to the tree whatsoever when I did connect with it. Overall, I feel like I developed one way to throw the spear. Only time will tell if it’s the correct way.

I also practiced climbing across monkey bars. My usual monkey bar technique is to slowly move across the bars while my legs are hanging with knees bent. Basically, staying in the up position of a hanging knee raise and I use my arms to climb. However, I tried climbing the bars as fast as possible using my legs for momentum and moving my arms quickly, and this technique worked. It got me climbing the monkey bars faster and with less of an emphasis on grip strength and more importance placed on momentum. I’m not sure which technique I’ll use during the race, but I know that my body can handle some monkey bars now.

WEEK 6 GOALS
In week six of the Ultimate Mud Run Training Plan, I will practice my dumbbell farmer’s walks (mimics the water jug carry,) do box jumps, another Spartan Race obstacle, and start bear crawling more. Bear crawls and stair climbs are understated tasks in the Spartan Race. There are a lot of both! Tune in next week to see if I can make it through an outdoor workout as my body yells “No, stop, you’re not a runner.” 

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