The following workout & article is from current BattleFrog Series point leader – no, not Ryan Atkins – his fiancée Lindsay Webster. Reprint courtesy of Icebug Footwear

My muscles scream in pain, my lungs seem to have a crushing weight bearing down on them, and my body begs me to move from this uncomfortable position it’s in, but I can’t. Or rather, I won’t. Nope, I’m not dying, just in the middle of a workout.

Most athletes are familiar with this feeling as we push our bodies to their aerobic thresholds, doing it optionally and using the word “fun” to describe it afterwards. Why do we do it? Lots of reasons; a feeling of accomplishment, the rewards we reap from it afterwards (for me it means I deserve a bowl of iced cream afterwards!). The word “competitive” also comes to mind. When I have a big race coming up and doing my very best means the world to me, knowing that pushing myself through this painful workout may give me the upper hand over my competitors, I’m willing to push myself through all sorts of crazy things.

Many of us in the Obstacle Course Racing community share a common goal right now: getting through Spartan World Championships to the best of our ability. There’s one workout I’ve been doing that I know will benefit and prepare me the most for Spartan Worlds – I call it “The Ascent AMRAP”. My Fiancée, Ryan Atkins, who is arguably one of the top OCR racers in the world right now, put this workout together for me. He has years of training experience and what equates to a library’s worth of knowledge on the subject. “AMRAP” is a crossfit term meaning “As many reps as possible,” which we’ve jokingly applied here, since the workout essentially alternates between running up a mountain and carrying a heavy load up the mountain as many times as your legs can handle. So without further ado, here is the workout:

  • 30 minute running warm-up
  • Hill interval, accumulating 200 meters of vertical ascent as fast as you can withstand for the entire hill
  • Sandbag carry, 100 meters of vertical ascent on a steep uphill, and back down
  • Hill interval, 200 meters of vertical ascent
  • Bucket Carry, 100 meters of vertical ascent on a steep uphill, and back down
  • Hill interval, 200 meters of vertical ascent
  • Jerry Can Carry, 100 meters of vertical ascent on a steep uphill, and back down
  • Hill interval, 200 meters of vertical ascent
  • Sandbag carry, 200 meters of vertical ascent on a steep uphill, and back down

Why is this workout so beneficial? Well, we know how much Spartan Race loves sending us up a steep mountain as many times as they can in any given race. They’re also infamous for placing heavy carries, whether it is a log, a sandbag, or a bucket full of rocks, in the steepest part of the course when your legs are exhausted. This workout teaches your body to get used to performing at threshold, which is the speed most people will be racing at. This is typically around a heart rate of between 160-175 beats per minute. It also teaches your body to become used to those hills we will be running up during the race, since you accumulate so much ascent during this workout, and get used to the feeling of having to carry a heavy weight up a steep hill when our legs are at a point of exhaustion. To use some big words, this workout creates a ton of aerobic physiological adaptations, including increased capillarization (aka your veins and arteries become more plentiful and efficient at transporting blood), increased stroke volume (your cardiac capacity is greater), and mitochondrial density increases (your muscles’ powerhouses get stronger and faster, as well as bigger.)

I completed this workout in around two hours, but that depends on the length of the hill, how steep it is, and several other variables. Of course, some of us may be able to make this workout longer by adding more hill intervals and alternating with a carry. My goal was to accumulate over 1000 meters of vertical ascent. If you’re Ryan Atkins, repeat this twice (you know, no big deal). His goal in this workout is to accumulate 2000 meters of vertical ascent.

unbfeatedTo clarify on a few other points, vertical ascent refers to how many vertical meters you’ve traveled upwards. If the hill is extremely steep, you will reach 100 meters of vertical ascent faster than you would if the hill was long and gradual. The sandbags we use are fifty pounds. A bucket carry refers to a bucket approximately five gallons in size (based on what Spartan Race uses in their races), full of gravel. These usually end up weighing around sixty to eighty pounds, and have to be carried in front of your body, not on your shoulder. The jerry cans we use are filled with sand, and weigh about forty pounds each, also to be carried my your side. Another point of clarification, putting the weights down to take a break is allowed!

Hopefully my lovely description at the start of this article, describing the state I was in while in the midst of this workout, won’t deter you from trying it. It really is beneficial, just consider it a warning! Best of luck to all my fellow competitors out there, and see you on the Spartan World Championships course!

  • Lindsay Webster, Team OCR Gear/ICEBUG Athlete

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