19 Apr Melissa: “Being fit is a privilege”
Using CrossFit to prepare for a Spartan Ultra race
Time to explain a little bit about the ‘crazy stuff’. Hi! My name is Melissa. As some of you might know
I run Obstacle Course Races (OCR) as my main sport. Simply explained: it’s a course of an X amount of
kilometers, with a lot of different kind of obstacles. The more, the merrier I will be. This can be rope
climbs, tall walls, technical grip based obstacles, sandbag carries or for example combined with a
barbed wire crawl. I have seen all these obstacles implemented in OCR since 2014. You can run with
friends, family, your CrossFit community or as competing individual. I have done all kinds of
competitions in a large verity of obstacle races in The Netherlands. In 2017 I decided to look for new
destinations so I could keep pushing my boundaries. That is how I came in contact with Spartan
A little side info about the set-up of a Spartan Race:
– Sprint (5km)
– Super (10km)
– Beast (21km)
– Ultra (50+km)
– Trifecta (Sprint + super + beast)
Did you know that every year Spartan Race organizes “the Spartan Games”? It’s much like the CrossFit Games, but more extreme (Really? Really.) and all kinds of athletes can participate. OCR athletes, CrossFit Games athletes, triathletes, marathon runners, mountain bikers, Deka fit champions (comparable to Hyrox) and so on. They compete against each other in all sorts of sports events and I have to admit: CrossFitters are doing really well overall! The winners of the Spartan Games are mostly the obstacle runners themselves, but guess what? They all do CrossFit!
For me it started in Poland, where I ran my first Trifecta weekend. I was generally fit, but had some
trouble with 3 races in a single weekend since there were a lot of slopes we have to run up and
down, and up and down again. From the moment I started doing CrossFit in 2018 I noticed a different
in my results during these Spartan Races. I became stronger, faster and my stamina became a lot
better. After doing a few Trifecta weekends and more single distances it was time for a new
challenge: the Spartan Ultra. My first one in 2018 did not go as planned but it became an addiction
anyway. I really enjoyed being in the mountains all day long, running 50+ km and doing 30 burpees
every time I failed an obstacle. So far I did 5 Ultra’s and I’m still looking for new ones at new
How does CrossFit help while running an Ultra, you ask?
Yes, the gap between CrossFit and running an ultra-marathon is pretty big. While CrossFit is focussed
on getting all-round fit, running ultra-marathons asks a bit more of a specialization. And that is
exactly the power of CrossFit. If you train regularly, you will quickly see the benefits of CrossFit. It
improves your overall fitness. The 30 burpees you have to do every time you fail an obstacle, won’t
be a big deal anymore. The strength in your lower body, created by CrossFit, will help you immensely
while climbing the mountains. The stamina you’ve build during the never ending AMRAP’s will help
you get through the uneven and rough terrain. It’s like a workout for time, but then the XXL ultra
version with a maximum timecap of 15 hours. Sounds fun, right!?
Curious about Spartan Race? There is a Spartan Trifecta weekend in Zandvoort the 28 th and 29 th of
May and I promise: it’s going to be epic! You can sign up with discount if you use the code Melissa10.
Okay, but what does your training schedule look like while preparing for another Ultra?
When I’m preparing for an Ultra I definitely have to run. Quite a lot. 3 times a week, approx. 150 km
each month to be precise. Don’t worry, you won’t have to do that on day 1. You gradually build up to
that. But the 50+ km isn’t going to run itself, that’s up to you. Since it’s more than just running, I have
to increase training on every other level too. Strength in my upper- and lower body for the
mountains, grip strength and technique for the obstacles.
Usually I take around 16 weeks to prepare for my Ultra, assuming my fitness level on that point is
already acceptable. This means I start with 10 km runs and build it up to somewhere around the 25-
30 km, interspersed with interval, technique and trail training. Beside 3 times running a week, I
participate in WOD’s approx. 2 times a week and 1 more training which I can decide in the week
itself. That can be a survival run training, but also bouldering, swimming, yoga or just another WOD.
That makes a total of training 6 times a week; something that works for me.
Back to the point: is CrossFit a good way to get fit for a Spartan Race?
CrossFit gives you the diversity to perform well in all areas. This is what CrossFit stands for. Being one
of the best overall. So YES! CrossFit is definitely a good way to get fit for Spartan Races! You will
absolutely be fine during a Sprint, Super and maybe even a Beast if you’re a well-trained CrossFitter,
but always be aware of the impact of running when you’re not used to it. With a basis of CrossFit and
a bit of running, you should get through the Spartan Races without any problems. In fact: you’ll have
a lot of fun, especially when you take the CF-community with you 😉