Some background info: I am 28 years old, about 177 cm tall and my weight fluctuates between 92-96 kg. Despite the unfavorable height/weight ratio, I am pretty heavy built, with wide shoulders and a broad chest. While I would not consider myself really fit or strong, I am also not really out of shape.

I spend a lot of time in front of a PC at work and at home. That being said I try to train at least twice a week; primarily playing football (indoors or outdoors) and try to work out at the gym on a regular basis (even though I cannot claim to have good discipline). I recently got introduced to the idea of obstacle races such as (Tough Viking, Warrior Dash, Spartan Race...) and come to like the idea. Especially setting the goal to finish such a race before I turn 30 in two years.

I do realize that these competitions are tough, and that they are aimed primarily at training-enthusiasts that invest much more time and money to their training than I do. However considering that I don't care about the racing aspect of it (i.e. I dont care my "time", but only to actually make it to the end without giving up), I think it's still a reasonable goal.

My specific questions are as follows:

  • Is 12 months too little time to train for such an event, assuming I do not drop focus on my work and social life? I like training, but I cannot allow training to take over my life altogether.

  • I am concerned about my shoulders and lower back due to previous injuries, while I do not have any limitations in my daily life, I wonder if participating in such a race would be too much of a risk. What are good exercises for shoulders and lower back, considering the type of wear they will face during such a race?

  • How important is condition in such an event? I usually get tired after running straight after 20 mins, but in interval training (e.g. football, squash etc) I can keep going at it for more than 1h without any trouble at all. Would this be an issue?

EDIT: I have mentioned that I have had several injuries without explaining what they are... I have had serious problems with my shoulders, as both have been dislocated more than once. I have been operated on one shoulder and have some rotation limitation (about 5-10 degrees on outwards rotation). With my weight it gets pretty painful in both shoulders, very quickly, when I attempt to do proper dips and pull-ups

With my lower back, I have had less but still painful problems, due to relatively sedentary life as well as some weird movement I did on the football pitch at some point. I have some sort of minor issue with discs but they doc said it wasn't serious enough for a surgery. I pay more attention to stretching and try to be more active during the day (at work that is) in order to help with that. Hope that helps to give a better picture of my physical situation.

  • 1
    I can't comment on these races specifically, but the best thing I did for protecting my lower back has been heavy deadlifts and somewhat heavy Romanian deadlifts. For shoulders it's been dips and pull-ups. I consider these to be essential exercises for health. Jun 25, 2013 at 18:11
  • @DaveLiepmann I cant do proper dips or pullups, likewise deadlifts, due to pretty nasty injuries that have plagued me for years. That's essentially why I asked that particular question. It's hard to find good workouts that I "should be" doing, to make the muscles around those joints stronger
    – posdef
    Jun 25, 2013 at 20:14
  • I would then say that physical therapy, surgeries, or abbreviated variations of those exercises that would lead to pull-ups and deadlifts would be ideal. Jun 25, 2013 at 20:25
  • @DaveLiepmann precisely, would you care to elaborate on the abbreviated variations you speak of, in an answer below?
    – posdef
    Jun 25, 2013 at 20:36
  • @DaveLiepmann question updated with more info
    – posdef
    Jun 25, 2013 at 20:52

1 Answer 1


I've been an avid Spartan Race competitor myself. By experience I can certainly say some people doing the obstacle race are not in shape. One of my buddies completed the race at 270lbs (30% bodyfat) in a couple hours.

Speaking for me, I am a natural bodybuilder and doing such races are pretty rough for me. Despite having an awesome physique, my legs become gased and pumped after just a few minutes of running uphill. So here's a few tips on training for an obstacle race:

Is 12 months too little time to train for such an event, assuming I do not drop focus on my work and social life?

12 months is plenty of time, I started doing cardio 1 month before (but don't do like I did!). Conditioning is important, you will need your shoulders for the obstacles (you need to be able to pull yourself up above obstacles, if not, prepare for burpees!). You'll need cardio to keep going after every obstacle, going uphill, crawling in mud, carrying a variety of heavy objects.

What are good exercises for shoulders and lower back, considering the type of wear they will face during such a race?

  1. Crossfit training
  2. Extensive leg endurance training (no more 3 sets of 8 reps, go up to 20-25+)
  3. Hyperextensions

Hyperextensions are great for endurance, take it from me... It really sucks when your lower back starts giving out after just 1km of going uphill!

How important is condition in such an event?

Spartan Sprint

A 5-7km race with 12 obstacles can take between 1-2 hours with average conditioning.

Super Spartan

A 12-15km race with 20 obstacles can take about 2-4 hours with average conditioning.

It all depends on what kind of results you're expecting for the race ... Do you wish to finish first or simply finish for the sake of completing the race? The people who finish first in these races are very well conditioned with multiple years of training for this specific type of race.

In any case, good luck on the race, AROO!

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