How To Train For Your First Adventure Race

The thrilling sport of adventure racing has become very popular, according to the U.S. Adventure Racing Association (USARA). People want to do more than just run, bike or swim, even if these disciplines are in the same event.

Participants have to handle unusual obstacles such as mud, walls, and ropes, to name a few. This is just another reason the sport has attracted elite and amateur runners, cyclists and swimmers alike.

Adventure races vary in time, hurdles, skill level and disciplines. How you prepare depends a lot on the event.

How long before the race

Some races are 1-2 hours long while others can last for 7-8 hours. For the latter you need a "pretty good fitness level," Troy Farrar, president of USARA, says.

The least difficult events require a training period between 6-8 weeks if you are not a physically active person, he adds. "And this is just to get the base in." You may want to start with jogging or walking for 20-25 minutes four times a week and build that up to 40 minutes of running five days a week.

Then you have to work some exercises in, depending on what is going to be required of you. You may have to paddle a canoe, for example.

Training mistakes

Overtraining, lack of rest, bad diet, and not staying hydrated are some of the most common mistake Farrar sees people do when they get ready for a race.

"You have to slowly build up your training regimen," especially if you don't usually work out, he says.

"Make sure you practice the same disciplines as in the race," Farrar adds. That means ride a bike, swim, climb walls, or sprint, if you have to.


"You're not going to out-train your diet," Farrar says. "If you're not eating good, nothing will matter."

When you start training for an adventure race, "your body will go into shock at first," he adds. You have to fuel it right.

Avoid as much as you can foods that are high in refined sugar, processed foods, fast food and items that have a lot of salt.

"Don't take food to a race that you haven't tried before," Farrar says. "This is very important." Your body may not work well on it.

Nuts, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, protein bars – these are the standard foods you can usually count on, according to Farrar.


It's easy to underestimate an adventure race because some are short. "It's not an uncommon mistake," Farrar says.

The best way to avoid any misconceptions is by volunteering at a race so you can get a realistic view of what you'll be going through, according to Farrar.

Adventure races teach people team work but they also expand their limits. You're training to finish something you likely never thought you could do. It won't be easy, so learn about it as much as you can. This is a "know your enemy" kind of concept.

Learn to read a map

Depending on how old you are, you may be surprised to find out that many people don't know how to use a map. Many races require navigation and GPS devices are not allowed. "Even if they were, they probably won't work well anyway," Farrar says.

An easy way to learn to read a map is to join an orienteering club and go to meets. "It's an awesome and fun skill to have," he adds.


Keep it simple, Farrar says. You can get ready by working out at home. Do push-ups to build your upper body strength, he adds. Sit-ups and crunches are good for a strong core. It is really important because a lot of the moves you'll be doing come from the core. A strong core means avoided injuries, he adds.

The Spartan races are very popular. The organization has published several sample workouts that can help you prepare:

Complete all exercises in each circuit with little rest between exercises (30 seconds, or less) and complete 2-3 rounds of each circuit. Complete one circuit before going to the next. Consider adding 15 burpees between each circuit for added difficulty.

Strength Circuit #1

10+ push-ups

Max rep pull-ups (weighted if pull-ups are easy for you. Inverted rows if pull-ups aren't available to you yet)

15 box jumps

Strength Circuit #2

10 DB/Barbell/KB clean-and-press

8 Step-up to balance, each leg

30s plank crawl (move forward/backward and side-to-side)

Strength Circuit #3

10 hanging knee/leg raises or toes-to-bar

10 cable chops, each side

15 KB swings

(Optional: 15 burpees)

4. Stretch

Sample Spartan Race Workout Schedule:

Monday – Strength Circuits

Tuesday – Hill Workout

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – Sprints/Intervals

Friday – Strength Circuits

Saturday – Endurance Run

Sunday – Rest

More readings: 

Best Adventure Races This Summer

Ultimate Staircase Races

The Best Endurance Events to Do in 2016