• 9 months ago

Obstacle course gym vs trail running, how you should prepare for a Spartan Race.

Obstacle course gym vs trail running
spartan race vs tough mudder
Obstacle course gym vs trail running

You sign up for a Spartan Race, it is some months further away, but now you need you are in need of some obstacle course workout ideas.

How to choose between an obstacle course gym or a trail running plan?​

What is best for you?​

An indoor obstacle course gym like this one?​

Or simply go out there and running?

Well, no one know you better than yourself. Which is your weakness? Endurance? Lifting weights?

Before you choose, read this post and see which are the benefits of trail running and which are the ones of a gym.​


Running surrounded by nature is an experience that the road cannot offer.

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The benefits of trail running are not only physical but mental too. You'll find yourself avoiding rocks, sticks, and logs. Or running uphill or downhill.

Doing so, not only your body will become stronger, but more agile too (a great ability to have in an obstacle course).

You are training for a Spartan Race, that's mean running on a trail, so the best you can do is train on the same kind of terrain!

Running on the trail impact your legs in completely different manner than running on pavement. A trail can be also a park, anything off pavement counts.

Going up and/or downhill will build your cardiovascular engine, it will strengthen your core, glutes, calves and quads.

It will improve your balance and proprioception, which is the ability to know where your body is in the space.

If you are a beginner don't push, start with smooth, flat trails. With time, you'll be able to address way to more "technical" terrains.

With each step, your muscles seek for balance, strengthening your core.

Due to the constant need to stabilize, your ligaments and tendons become stronger.

Downhill your quads act as brakes, building strength and defining your quadriceps. The uphill, instead, engage your glute muscles.

On trails, every step requires stability, and that works your calves.

Ankles, knees, shins, and hips will be thankful to you just to be avoiding the "hard" pavement.

Running on trails can burn up to 10% calories than running on the road.

Mix the running with plyometrics exercises, at the end of the post you'll find some with video tutorials.

Tips to stay alive

Remember that you'll be in the "wildness", so prepare for the worst.

You could not find water so bring it with you, same goes for food, bandages, etc.

A hydration pack is essential, and pack also a lightweight jacket in case the weather change.


Ok, you live and work in Manhattan and you don't have time to out there running.

Obstacle course gyms are spreading on the continent and if you are lucky, there will be one near you.

A first distinction should be made between indoors and outdoors gyms. My personal tip is to choose an outdoor gym, you may get better results, especially if you are planning on participating in a Spartan Race.

The pros for a gym is that they have a lot of obstacles, so you can train specifically for them. This will give you more confidence during the race and probably you'll avoid a lot of burpees.

But don't forget that a Spartan Race is still a race. You must incorporate running in your training plan, you should be comfortable running a longer distance than the overall distance of the race you signed up.


Push-ups: this body weight resistance exercise works your forearms, wrists, triceps, shoulders and chest.

Though in reality, you must engage your entire body from your feet to your hands to properly perform a push-up.

Squats: another body weight resistance exercise that engages all of the major muscle groups in your body.

They help improve balance and strengthen your core, legs, and butt. And contrary to popular belief, squats are not bad for your knees.

A proper squat engages the quadriceps, the hamstrings, and the gastrocnemius, thus strengthens bone and connective tissue around the knee joint. Now, squats are an easy one to perform incorrectly.

For an added challenge: squat with something heavy. Kettlebells, dumbells, sandbags...they are all great. They are also expensive. So grab a log, or a rock...or a toddler.

Burpees: The exercise everyone loves to hate (or hates to love). Burpees are a killer, full body resistance, and cardio exercise.

As with any exercise, there are a number of ways to perform a burpee, and every trainer may argue why their version is best.

Whatever style you choose to do, be sure to maintain a tight, engaged core at all times.

Planks: Sure they look easy, but I promise you, they aren't. Unlike a crunch or sit-up, planks engage your entire core: the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis that form your outer and inner abs, as well as the obliques and lower back.

Further, the isometric contraction of a plank utilizes your stabilizing muscles: upper-body stabilizers include the pectoral and serratus muscles, and lower-body stabilizers include the quadriceps, sartorius and tensor fasciae latae. Again, there are numerous variations of the plank.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are keeping your core engaged, and not allowing the hips to sag, nor your butt to stick up in the air.

Lunges: Another exercise that engages the core as well as the lower body, lunges are great for balance as well as lower body strength.

Again, numerous versions of the lunge are available: forward, backward, sideways.


So the big difference is that in a gym you have a replication of the obstacles. If this is your weakness, you should try a gym.On the contrary, if your weakness is endurance then you should go for a trail running plan.

But maybe, you don't have a choice.

If there aren't gyms near you don't beat yourself up! You can use a branch to do pull-ups or to strengthen your grip, or lift a log or a rock. Use your fantasy!

Many people have built up obstacles in their backyard!

Or you can even build your own Spear Throw obstacle.

If you live in a city, instead, I am sure you can find a park or something similar, so you can mix the gym with a good running program.​

My final tip, if you can, is to mix both things.

I really want to know what you think in the comments and if you like the article, share it!!​

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