How I Got Ready for the Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge

Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena has wanted to turn his extreme obstacle challenge into an engaging reality show for years, and his dream is finally hitting NBC. If the trailer’s any indicator, the “primal” relay looks like a painful test of endurance and partnership. In advance of Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge premiering on June 13, we spoke with Spartan pro Kevin Donoghue, who tells us competing on the team was like being at summer camp (one where you get really, really ripped). Kevin's one of the original Spartan pro team members chosen as a coach and captain for the TV show, which takes place on a farm outside Atlanta, Georgia. A former semi-professional football player, the extreme adventurer is currently building an obstacle race training center on an organic farm in upstate New York. Here, Donoghue doles out seven workout tips that helped him prep for the show that any aspirational Spartan can use to crush their next race.

Pace Your Running

Want to run fast at a Spartan event? First, make sure your longer runs are slow, within your aerobic target heart rate, and encompass 70–80% of your weekly miles (so your long runs should be close to 70–80% of the total miles you run in a week). The other 20–30% should consist of a variety of intense interval runs and include hill work.

Take Cold Showers

Experts say spending as little as five minutes in cold water a day can reap benefits like a revved up metabolism, better mood, improved immunity, and healthier hair. It also builds the mental toughness for those races when it's 40 degrees, windy, and you're going through water.

Expect the Unexpected

A strategic approach will only take you so far. Mistakes, twisted ankles, slips, falls, and Murphy’s Law are bound to rear their ugly heads. So anticipate hurdles, keep your poise, and focus on ways to quickly and efficiently troubleshoot. A daily practice of meditation has shown health benefits from helping with sleep to reducing stress, so even though Spartan warriors have a fierce and militant reputation, this ritual promotes tough-mindedness, too. 

Carry On

Your ability to carry heavy and awkward objects is a valuable asset. Practice with multiple variations of sandbags, buckets, dumbbells, logs, or anything punishing you can get your arms around. Pull, push, drag, and carry them on as many different kinds of terrain (urban, suburban, and rural) as you can find. Nonstop sandbag workout, anyone?

Grip and Pull

You can run, but your arms can't hide. If you can't support your own body weight in a Spartan Race, you better be good at burpees — you're going to be doing a ton of them. This makes grip and pull strength critical to success. Find a Spartan SGX Certified workout facility (they're nationwide) and progressively improve on rope-climbing skills, monkey bars, traversing, and pull-ups. Bouldering and rock climbing (many indoor gyms offer walls) are other great ways to get a similar full-body workout.

Set Your Nutrition

The best Spartans eat large amounts of nutrient-dense food — lots of healthy fats, lean proteins, and a large variety of fruits and vegetables. To fuel up, add morning and pre-workout protein shakes to round out your nutrition between meals. Donoghue prefers Boku Superfoods as his plant-based protein powder, but there are plenty of solid picks on the market. Be sure to look for ones with no added sugars, artificial ingredients, and free of growth hormones (organic, grass-fed dairy is best if you are opting for whey protein).

Build Your Team

On Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge, it's all about the team. The importance of camaraderie and the support of each other (even with family, friends, or community) can't be understated. Be honest with each other’s strengths and weakness. When teammates can consistently bring out the best in everyone, obstacle success, morale, and fun will rule the day.