This May North London’s Allianz Park stadium will become the site of my first Spartan Race. Feeling equally thrilled and terrified, I was easily talked into doing the SGX bootcamp there as a warm up to the big race.
The bootcamp was a three-hour event on a sunny Saturday including some of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever been in a room with. Things kicked off with a nutrition workshop. Its aim was to stress the importance of maintaining your ‘Spartan’ form for the whole year and not just in the few months leading up to a race. This workshop covered the basics of a healthy, balanced diet and touched on race prep and recovery. More entertaining than the content however, was the pair of coaches
cracking up the audience leading the session. I was told about the legendary Spartan camaraderie before joining in, and it was great to finally experience this inclusiveness.
By the time you get to the race location, you should have already drunk 500-1000ml water
Amid the laughs, I did note down three useful takeaways:
- What to eat the evening before the race? The coaches recommended pasta, rice or potatoes with some lean protein. Nothing too fatty.
- Water intake! By the time you get to the race location, you should have already drunk 500-1000ml water. Both coaches were also staunch advocates of drinking a pint of water first thing in the morning.
- Your recovery meal should consist of 4 cups carbohydrates to 1 cup protein. Drinking green tea is also recommended because it’s antioxidant-rich. This helps fight the harmful free radicals released during exercise. (I would also recommend teas with hibiscus which don’t get enough love but have way more antioxidants than green tea + generally taste better.)
Given that most people in the room, including myself, will have already been aware of a lot of the content covered in the workshop, as acknowledged by the coaches themselves, perhaps it would have been even more helpful if this had been set up as a shorter presentation followed by lots of Q&A.
Next up was the actual exercise. Oh boy! Spread out on the football pitch, we were guided through a range of bodyweight exercises over the next 40 or so minutes. These included 4x 20sec push-ups, squats, burpees, core exercises, and others. Of course, just at that point where you want a break, we would switch from bodyweight stuff to sprints and sprinting bear walks (much harder than I’d have guessed!). Oh and did I mention that during this whole time we weren’t allowed to stop moving (except for a few 2-minute breaks) under the threat of doing 30 burpees?
Last on the agenda was a run. We could choose to join one of three groups – beginners who will run + walk, joggers running a 5k at a steady pace and the toughest group which would be maintaining the same fast pace for the whole run.
Of course this wasn’t just my typical, after-hours central-Londonish 5k. We ran on asphalt, over fields with slightly overgrown grass, through fresh mud (I was practically sliding at this point in my non-grippy, city-girl trainers) and through the woods. Halfway through, we stopped for another quick set of lunges and burpees then back towards the stadium. I was pretty damn tired at this point.
However, my relief was short-lived as the run ended at the bottom of a small slope. We were told to ‘bear walk’ up the slope as quickly as possible, do squats then come back down. Another set of backward sprints up the slope followed by 10 burpees and the bootcamp was over. Phew!
Although it cemented the fact that I’m not yet ready for the real race, I was happy I’d done the bootcamp. I was shown how to train so that, come May, I get my ‘Finisher’ T-shirt too. Bodyweight exercises are useless unless you intersperse them with intense sprints. I also still have a lot of work to do on my upper body strength.
Having never done an obstacle race course, I would’ve found it helpful if there had been at least a couple of obstacles to try. Even so, soreness and all, for me this was a fantastic initiation into the Spartan Race culture. Hopefully by May’s race the ‘aroo’s will feel less awkward on my tongue too.