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Race Readiness Lesson #4: Race Day Equipment - What to Wear and What to Bring

Happy Race Week! In our previous lessons, we’ve covered general nutrition, workout nutrition and race day mental and physical prep. Now it’s time to focus on the final component of race preparation - and that’s your gear. Specifically, recommendations on what to wear and what you should bring with you.

I’m going to treat this lesson like a checklist. I’m going to go through the items and then talk a bit about them.

WHAT TO WEAR

Clothes: for the best race experience, AVOID COTTON. You will likely get wet, and cotton doesn’t dry easily. It will get heavy and you don’t want that when you’re going through obstacles. If there’s any sort of cold weather, cotton will get uncomfortable pretty quickly once it’s wet. Instead, choose synthetic fabrics. 100% polyester, moisture wicking, dry-fit items are best. This goes for your clothes all the way down to your socks.

If you expect cold weather or any significant weather changes, you may want to bring a backpack with layers. For example, for the Beast in Tahoe, where I anticipated a cold water swim, I wore a pair of tight shorts under a pair of compression leggings. On top, I had a short sleeve base layer and a tank top, and packed a long sleeve cold weather shirt, windbreaker, gloves and a beanie. I had ziploc freezer bags for the extra clothes and sealed them to keep them dry even if the backpack got wet. I anticipated stripping down to my shorts and a sports bra for the swim, and then putting dry clothes on after. They ended up closing the swim obstacle before I got there due to cold weather, but I did end up getting wet at a different obstacle. I ended up using all the layers that I brought by the end of the race. So layers are something to consider for a long race and a cold race.

Socks: I recommend wearing synthetic, thick knee high compression socks. It’s helpful to have long socks to prevent rope burns for the rope climb. The compression socks can also help reduce the likelihood of calf cramping. My favorite brand of socks for Spartan Race is Mudgear. Their socks are pricey, but perfect for obstacle racing, and a worthwhile investment. They’re thick and super tight, so no rocks or big chunks of dirt are getting in there.

Shoes: a good trail shoe is recommended for Spartan Race. You’ll be running hills, uneven terrain and possibly even through water and mud. You want a shoe that will grab the ground as much as possible and is less likely to slip in the mud. I personally use the Reebok All Terrain as it is a shoe designed specifically for Spartan Race. Not only is it a good trail shoe, but it is great in water. It’s designed to drain quickly and not get heavy. It also grabs on to rope really well. Other brands I see recommended include Inov-8 and Solomon.

Optional stuff: some people wear compression arm sleeves. I have worn them in a few races and like how they protect my arms from getting too cut up on obstacles like walls and barb wire. But on a warm day, it can get hot when you’re that covered up. So it really comes down to personal preference. I usually wear at least one to cover my FitBit and sometimes I just scrunch it down if I’m hot.

Some people also choose to wear gloves. I’m a big fan of my Madgrip gloves for certain obstacles like the Bucket Carry and pretty much anything where I have to grab a rope. But I don’t like them for monkey bars and multi-rigs. So I end up having to take them on and off quite a bit. Ultimately, you’ll learn whether or not you like them and when and where to put them on and take them off. I usually at least wear some sort of waist pack that I can stuff my gloves into when I’m not using them.

In the event of a long race or a race at a colder location or at elevation: I recommend getting a good quality small backpack that can also hold a hydration bladder. Bring layers in ziploc bags as I previously mentioned. Bring hand and foot warmers - those cheap $1 hand warmers saved me from hypothermia in Tahoe more than any expensive gear I brought. Also pack any race fuel you may need to get through a long race.

WHAT TO BRING

So that pretty much covers what to wear during a race. Now we’re going to talk about what to bring in your pre/post race backpack or bag.

There is always a bag check available at Spartan Race, so I usually bring a backpack to hold my phone and wallet, and that has stuff I may want or need before or after the race. Here is what I usually bring:

Change of clothes for after the race - something comfortable - clean bra and underpants, sweats and usually a pair of flip flops so my feet can be free after being in wet compression socks. You don’t necessarily need to bring a shirt because you’ll get your finisher’s shirt right after the race. I don’t always change clothes after a race, but I do love having the option.

Towel - the changing tents aren’t super private, so it’s nice to have a towel not just to wipe dirt and mud off your body, but to keep things modest when you’re changing (if that’s something that matters to you.) If you don’t end up changing clothes, you may want to use that towel to keep your car seat from getting gross when you drive home.

Trash bag - bring something to put your dirty race clothes in.

Cleansing wipe of some kind - if you want to feel a little less grody for the post race beer and drive home, a cleansing wipe may be helpful. I’m a big fan of Showerpill wipes - they clean you off and leave you smelling nice and fresh.

Pre/post race food - Spartan recommends that you get out there at least 90 minutes before your start time. So if you want to eat a little something before the race, you may want to bring it in your bag. After the race, they’ll give you a banana. But if you want something else right after the race, bring it in your bag.

Jacket or sweatshirt if it’s cold - stay warm and comfy both before and after the race if it’s that kind of day.

That’s pretty much what my race bag looks like, with small changes depending on the location and type of race.

Week 4: Time to Revisit the Benchmarks

In the next week, I'd like you to do your Spartan Benchmark Testing again. This will let you see how you've progressed over the course of the four weeks. You don't necessarily have to do this before the race. If you do it after the race, wait 2-3 days so you can be recovered and then complete these. Here's a reminder of your Benchmarks:

1. Running Benchmark - run on a treadmill or outside for three minutes at the fastest speed you are able to maintain for the entire three minutes. At the end of the three minutes, make note of your final distance. That will be your running benchmark. If you use a mechanized (non-Woodway) treadmill, also make note of the speed you ran at for the benchmark. If you run outside, make note of the exact route.

2. Burpee Benchmark - do burpees for five minutes straight! (YAY!) At the end, make note of how many burpees you were able to do.

3. Strength Endurance Benchmark - set a timer and hold a high plank (on your hands) for as long as possible. Make note of the time when you need to come down.

4. Grip Strength Benchmark - set a timer and do a dead hang for as long as possible. Make note of the time when you have to let go of the bar.

You can do your benchmarks in any order. Let me know how your scores compare from Week 1!

Race Readiness Lesson #3: Physical and Mental Prep for Race Day

RACE DAY PHYSICAL AND MENTAL PREPARATION

Today’s lesson is all about how to prepare physically and mentally for the day of the race, including the following:

  • Creating a race plan

  • Practicing visualization and mantras to use on the day of the race

  • Race day nutrition

Let’s start with the race plan. In order to maximize your success on race day, it’s recommended that you write a formal race plan for yourself. This plan does not need to be a huge novel - a simple list of bullet points can suffice. But these bullet points should include things like: your individualized carbohydrate/nutrition needs (which we addressed in the last presentation and will talk more about today), your projected race pace based on the pace you’ve been running, but also accounting for delays that can be caused by failed obstacles or hills, the amount of time you expect it to take you to do burpee penalties (based on your burpee benchmark but also factoring in delays from fatigue), any daily affirmations or race mantras that you have been practicing or will want to remember on race day (we will also address that today), fluids - how much and what types you plan on bringing and a gear checklist. (We’ll talk more about gear in next week’s lesson).

Why should you create a race plan? Essentially - the more mentally prepared you are going into the race, the less stressful the day of the race will be. This is a major component of mental preparation.

You’ll also likely find that once you complete a race, your original projections may have been off a bit. That’s ok. You will learn more about the length of time it really takes you to run these races each time you complete a race, and as a result, you’ll likely get better at making race plans. No matter what - it’s always better to be prepared.

PRACTICING VISUALIZATION AND DAILY AFFIRMATIONS/MANTRAS

As a Spartan Race approaches, it can be easy to start thinking that you are in over your head and that you couldn’t possibly be ready to do what you’re about to do. This is why mental training is just as important as physical training. We all know that if you want to get stronger physically, you have to train physically. And you have to train regularly - at least three times a week if not more on a consistent basis. The same applies for mental training. You need to practice things like visualizing yourself completing obstacles, for example. Taking some time to remind yourself of the technique and seeing yourself being successful at it. It also helps to come up with some sort of mantra that you can use on race day when you are struggling or when things are starting to suck so that you can push yourself to the other side.

I’ll use an example that worked really well for me. When I did the SoCal Sprint last January, it turned out to be a really cold, windy and rainy day. The weather straight up sucked and my race partner and I could tell right away that it was going to be a pretty miserable slog of an experience. So right out of the gate, I started proclaiming that it was the BEST DAY EVER! Obviously, I was being sarcastic, but that mantra soon became incredibly effective at taking our minds off of how awful everything felt at the time. So I stuck with it. During the race, if the wind picked up or it started pouring out of nowhere, or if we were struggling to get up a muddy mountain, one or both of us would yell out “BEST DAY EVER!”. And that would make us laugh and put us back in a positive mindset.

As a result, when we both went to Lake Tahoe to run the Spartan World Championship Beast course - 15 miles at elevation with massive temperature drops as we inched ever higher up the mountain - we took the BEST DAY EVER mantra with us. We even found sweatshirts that said BEST DAY EVER and wore them to the after party. This continues to be my race day mantra to this day.

Everyone’s mantra or mental reset may be different, so you have to find what’s right for you. I also find merely taking a moment to soak in the beauty of my surroundings to be a good mental reset during a race. Whatever it is for you, it’s something you should practice regularly so that you’ll be ready on race day.

RACE DAY NUTRITION

Alright - now let’s get into the nitty gritty of what you will need to get fueled up and ready to attack the course on race day and how to maximize recovery afterward.

First of all, let’s talk about your pre-race meal.

About 3-4 hours before your race, you should eat a pre-competition meal. This meal should contain 3-5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. (Remember - divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms). Even if you don’t normally eat a meal before working out, I highly recommend eating one before you race - especially for a longer race. Your body will be working hard and will absorb nutrients quickly - so you’ll want to give it the fuel it needs so you don’t hit a wall during the race.

Since Spartan Race recommends that you get to the race at least 90 minutes in advance, be sure to get up early enough to get this meal in. Include this in your race plan so you’ll be ready to go and not have to think too much about this on the day of the race.

One hour before your race, consume an easily digestible carbohydrate just for an extra boost of fuel for the race. This could be in the form of a sports drink or a runner’s gel. I often bring no sugar added applesauce squeezer packs. This generally boils down to preference but is still an important part of race day fueling.

If you anticipate your race taking more than a couple hours, it is also recommended that you bring some sort of fuel with you on the race. In the event of a long and strenuous race, you should ingest close to 60 grams per hour of carbohydrate. This is often in the form of a sports drink and/or gels that you can easily bring with you. Here’s what I have done for the races I’ve participated in:

Spartan Sprint: I only used the water stations on the course for hydration. I will bring one Clif Gel with me but I usually don’t end up using it.

Spartan Super: I usually use a waist belt hydration pack, and I fill the bottles with slightly watered down Gatorade. I refill them at the water station. That tends to be enough carbohydrate/elecrolytes to get me through, and then I can continue hydrating once I refill the bottles. I’ll bring one or two Clif Gels on the course.

Spartan Beast: I bring a hydration backpack filled with slightly watered down Gatorade. Mine is 1.5 liters and that worked in combination with the water stations on the course. I brought a bunch of Clif Gels and ate a few of them on the course. I probably could have done with more substantial food, to be honest - but that was a particularly long and brutal race.

It may also be helpful to bring either salt tablets or mustard packs. These will come in handy in the event that you cramp up during the race. This can commonly happen, especially on the hillier courses. Getting some salt into your system quickly can help your muscles start firing correctly again. I have not had any major cramping issues on races, but I think that may have to do with the fact that I bring sports drink and am getting a steady stream of sodium throughout the day.

After the race, it’s time to eat! make sure you get at least 1-1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight along with some protein at a ratio of 3:1 carbohydrates to protein. If you can have something in your bag or car that you can eat immediately afterward, that’s ideal. And then one hour later, eat again. I’m sure that won’t be a problem - there’s nothing better after the race than a satisfying post-race meal! You worked your ass off - you deserve it!

Week 3 Workout!

For this workout, we're going to simulate race day life with a mix of running and exercise. The goal is to push you toward your fatigue threshold and build your ability to get past it and keep working. I call this workout:

Grit Gains

Run 200 meters
10 dumbbell squats (as heavy as possible)
Run 200 meters
20 dumbbell step ups
Run 200 meters
1 minute plank hold
Run 200 meters
15 push-ups
Run 200 meters
20 burpees

Repeat for 2-3 rounds

Race Readiness Lesson #1: Pre, During and Post Workout Nutrition

PRE, DURING, POST WORKOUT NUTRITION & HYDRATION

In our last video, we talked about nutrition in a general sense. Now we’re going to get specific when it comes to making sure our bodies get the fuel they need to train for a Spartan Race.

So why is it important to be thoughtful about what we eat before and after a workout, and possibly what kinds of nutrients we ingest during a workout?

What we eat prior to a workout can contribute to whether or not you have the energy to make it through a tough training session. It can boost performance during a training session. It can help you stay hydrated, preserve your muscle mass and aid in recovery.

Here’s how you can go about doing that:

  1. Eat some lean protein - protein helps increase muscle mass which will contribute to performance increases. It also can help prevent muscle damage, which can help with recovery. Also - protein before a workout is helpful and important, but speed of digestion isn’t as important here - so you don’t need to have a quick-digesting protein shake. Protein in any form works here.

  2. Eat some carbs - carbs are your friend if you’re training for a race! Carbs give you the energy you need to do the work required in a tough training session. Carbs break down into muscle and liver glycogen, which is often called upon in a workout, especially a workout where you’re not doing sustained uninterrupted work (e.g. lifting, short intervals, power training).

  3. Eat some healthy fats - although fats don’t appear to do anything connected with performance, fats help slow digestion, which can help prevent insulin spikes or crashes. Fats also provide vitamins and minerals.

So when and what should you eat before a workout? It really depends on when you work out, how much time you have available before a workout, and what your tolerance is for food before a workout. Here are a couple practical options:

#1 - 2-3 hours before a workout

This is most practical if you’re not exercising first thing in the morning, unless you enjoy getting up three hours before an early morning workout. But if you have the time: have a portion of protein, nutrient dense carbs, veggies and a small amount of fat. What’s a portion, you may ask? The easiest way to figure that out is to use your hand. A palm size of protein. A fist of nutrient dense carbs like brown rice. A fist of vegetables. And a thumb size portion of a healthy fat. You can increase or decrease depending on the length/intensity of your workout, and if you’re currently working on losing weight and therefore trying to stay in an energy defecit (which we covered in the last lesson).

#2 - 60 minutes or less before your workout

If you don’t have as much time or if your tolerance for food before a workout is not so great, do a smaller meal within an hour of your workout. An easy way to do this is to make a smoothie that includes a scoop of protein powder, a fist of veggies, one or two cupped handfuls of fruit and almond milk. Many people have a greater tolerance for food in liquid form than solid form right before a workout.

Whatever the case, it’s better to have something than nothing. Beyond that, tailor the time and the ingredients based on what you like or can tolerate.

So let’s talk about what you need during exercise.

The point of replenishing your nutrition during exercise is to keep you hydrated while you lose water through sweat, boost your performance and prevent you from running out of gas before the workout is over and preserve muscle.

If you’re doing an intense workout that includes strength work as well as cardio, it will be helpful to consume some protein and carbohydrates during the workout. A scoop of protein powder with a carbohydrate drink (like a sports drink) will help give you both.

By the way, if you really follow the guidelines above, you won’t likely need a sports drink for a workout that’s less than 2 hours, unless it’s in intense heat. But if you don’t end up getting an ideal pre-workout meal or if you can’t tolerate it, a sports drink can definitely come in handy to make sure you’re getting the carbs you need to maintain your energy and boost performance.

Ultimately, the #1 consideration for a workout less than 2 hours long is hydration. You should be drinking water often. A bit of trivia - when your thirst reflex kicks in, you’re already starting to dehydrate. So drink water every chance you get.

If you are exercising in the heat or for more than 2 hours, be sure to drink an electrolyte drink. If you only drink water in these conditions, your blood sodium levels can get too low (since you sweat it out at such a high level), and that can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. This condition causes your heart and muscles to contract erratically, and in extreme cases could lead to death. On a less serious level, the low blood sodium could lead to muscle cramping, which is common on a Spartan Race course. So sports drinks can really come in handy in these situations.

Now let’s talk about post workout nutrition. What are the benefits?

Recovery

Rehydration

Refueling

Muscle building

Future performance improvements

So post-workout nutrition plays a huge role in those gains that you’re looking to achieve.

Eating protein after a workout helps repair your muscles and stimulate muscle growth. So if you’re looking for a PR in your lifts or even want to improve your running speed, protein will help.

Carbohydrates help replenish the muscle glycogen used in your workout, and helps prep you for future workouts.

Fats don’t diminish the benefits of protein and carbohydrates, and as I mentioned above, provide some vitamins and minerals. So a small dose of healthy fats can be ok after a workout.

So when should you eat this meal? It really depends on what your pre-workout meal looked like.

If your pre-workout meal was small - or didn’t happen at all - get your post-workout meal as soon as possible after your workout.

If you had a larger pre-workout meal, then you have a 1-2 hour window to get that post workout meal and see the best benefits from it.

The measurement rules are pretty much the same as the pre-workout meal. A palm size of protein, a fist of carbohydrates, a fist of veggies or fruit, and a thumb sized portion of fats.

If you’re not super hungry for whole foods after a workout, a smoothie may then be the best way to get this nutrition in.

And, of course, the portions can be fudged, especially if you just did a longer workout or endurance event. In that case, definitely increase.

So these were some general pre, during and post workout recommendations and guidelines. In our next lesson, we’ll get into some of the specifics on some ways to prep for and on race day!

Week 2 Workout!

Today's workout is all about grip building. So I shall call it the Grip Builder Workout

200 meter HEAVY farmer's carry (if at Pink Iron, do the 200 meter route on the La Cienega hill)

20 dumbbell thrusters - as heavy as possible. If you need to take a break in reps, hold on to the dumbbells at your side. Avoid putting them down if possible.

30 second dead hang - if you can't do the entire time without dropping, take a quick break and then finish. 

Repeat 3-5x!

 

Race Readiness Lesson #1: Everyday Fueling & Race Training

Race Readiness Lesson #1: Everyday Fueling & Race Training

Two main points in this lesson: everyday nutrition as it relates to OCR and training as it relates to OCR/Spartan Racing.

Spartan Race’s Four Main Nutrition Recommendations

1. For a truly balanced approach to eating, food should come from a variety of food sources. Different types of plants, proteins, etc. Another thing you can learn by increasing variety is also learning what DOESN’T work for you, and if that’s the case, cutting it out. Create your own individualized nutrition plan.

2. Eat more than the RDA for vegetables and fruits. Veggies and fruits are a good, healthy source of carbohydrates (which fuel muscles), a good source of fiber and chock full of vitamins and minerals. Veggies and fruits also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce inflammation. If you could go over 5 cups a day of fruits and veggies, you’ll be golden.

3. Eat nutrient dense foods- as in not processed foods. For example, let’s take two choices here, both 100 calorie foods. One is a cookie. The other is an apple. Same calories, but the apple is also packed with nutrients. The obvious choice here would be to choose the apple.

Generally, this is smart nutrition for life, but especially when training for a race, try to avoid processed foods - as in anything that comes in a can, package, or box - whenever possible. The easiest way to do that is to shop the perimeters of the grocery store and avoid all these aisles in between. In the perimeters, that’s where you’ll find the produce, the meat, eggs, dairy, etc. You can also hit up local farmer’s markets for local and all-natural options.

(In the video - I said the above was the fourth thing. That was an oopsie. Obviously, the processed foods part ties in with the nutrient density part. The real fourth recommendation is below, and also talked about in the video...)

4. Stay in energy balance in the weeks leading up to the race. Even if your primary goal is weight loss - if you’re getting close to a race, give your body the fuel it needs to train and make the necessary strength gains to help you on race day.

Macronutrient Recommendations

Carbohydrates - are the fuel for our body. When broken down, carbohydrates give our muscles to do the energy they need to work, whether that’s in a workout, a race or in daily life. If you find yourself hitting a wall in a workout or running out of gas during a race, it’s likely because you haven’t eaten enough carbs before or haven’t replenished enough during. It is generally recommended that active people get anywhere from 5 grams to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight (weight in pounds divided by 2.2). 10 grams would be on the super super high end if you were participating in two a days or super intense activity as well as an active job.

Protein - helps build our muscles and make us stronger. It is generally recommended that physically active people get 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. (weight in pounds divided by 2.2).

Fat - is a necessary component of good health. Another source of energy, and it makes up components of our bodies and our organs. It is generally recommended that 20-35% of our food intake comes from fat sources, and primarily unsaturated, healthy fats.

Easy way to help you through this stuff:

http://www.active.com/fitness/calculators/calories

Training Prep for Race Day

General race training considerations:

Running - hit the trails! You can run on a treadmill or on the street as much as you want, but nothing will prepare you for the terrain in a Spartan Race quite like trail running and hiking. The terrain is uneven, constantly changing, with uphills and downhills of different grades. For some races, elevation is a consideration and if you are going to run a race at high elevation like Tahoe o Big Bear, it may help to drive somewhere to train at elevation, which is fairly easy to do in LA. (talk about training at Big Bear for Tahoe).

Strength Endurance: in a Spartan Race, you are often required to carry something heavy over a sometimes considerable distance. So practice doing that. Run or hike with weights or a sandbag or sandbell. Go to Home Depot and get a bucket, fill it with anything heavy and carry it around. Do Farmer’s Carries with heavy dumbbells. Carry big bags of kitty litter up and down your stairs if you have to (especially helpful if you have a cat).

Grip strength - this is HUGE. Practice hanging from things. Pull up bars, rings, monkey bars, anything you can hold on to and hang from. Practice engaging your shoulders as you hang, and work on increasing the time you hang. Once you get more comfortable, introduce single arm hangs, and work on switching from hand to hand. If you are able, wrap a towels over a pull up bar and practice holding on to the towels and hanging. This practice can do wonders for you on the monkey bars and rigs on the Spartan Race course.

Strength and power training: pick up heavy things and put them down. Really push to increase the amount of weight you can lift, squat, lunge, and press overhead. Include plyometric training like squat jumps and box jumps.

Training through fatigue: as you get stronger, practice doing these things even when you’re tired. After finishing a tough workout, add some dead hangs or pull ups or rope climbs. The Spartan Race designers LOVE making you do work when you’re tired, so train yourself to do work when you’re tired, too. Finish a hard workout and then go for a hilly run. You’ll thank yourself for it on race day.

Spartan Benchmark Testing

In the next week, I'd like you to complete your Spartan Benchmark Testing. This will give you a baseline of where you're currently at, and will allow you to see how far you've come at the end of the program. There are four benchmarks we will be testing:

1. Running Benchmark - run on a treadmill or outside for three minutes at the fastest speed you are able to maintain for the entire three minutes. At the end of the three minutes, make note of your final distance. That will be your running benchmark. If you use a mechanized (non-Woodway) treadmill, also make note of the speed you ran at for the benchmark. If you run outside, make note of the exact route.

2. Burpee Benchmark - do burpees for five minutes straight! (YAY!) At the end, make note of how many burpees you were able to do.

3. Strength Endurance Benchmark - set a timer and hold a high plank (on your hands) for as long as possible. Make note of the time when you need to come down.

4. Grip Strength Benchmark - set a timer and do a dead hang for as long as possible. Make note of the time when you have to let go of the bar.

You can do your benchmarks in any order. Post your results in the comments so they are on record and we can refer back to them in a few weeks.

Welcome to the Race Ramp-up Challenge!

It's go time!

Welcome to the 30 Day Race Ramp-up Challenge! 

This is where you will find your workouts, your benchmarks and your Race Readiness Lessons. Be sure to check back here weekly!

You will receive an email about your individual goal and will hear from me directly regarding your goal homework.

Details about the Spartan SGX workshops on January 7th and January 21st will be posted soon!

If you have any questions at any point, feel free to reach out to me at robin@robinlegat.com.

Now let's go get Spartan Strong!

Robin 

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