How to beat a super tough challenge
Athlete exercising push-ups in a gym.

The bounce back begins. There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis curtailed fitness routines for millions, as competitions were cancelled, training programmes postponed and events put on hold. But as 2021 looms into view, the time has come to find your fitness peak once more by signing up to challenges that will test your stamina, mental strength and physical abilities to the hilt. Get yourself in the best possible shape by following these tips from Sam Stauffer, director of training at Spartan Race

Plan ahead

‘Have a programme or routine already laid out for at least 30 days before the race. This will help to hold you accountable and keep you on track. To add to this, make sure that your training leading up to the race (about one week out) is tapered back. It should be less intense so your body has a chance to recover fully for the big event.’

Move motion muscles

‘For athletic events, such as a Spartan Race, your body needs to be able to move well; otherwise, you may find yourself struggling on the course. This means training movement patterns such as the lunge, pull-up, and deadlift rather than “show muscles” like the biceps curl.’

Cardio with care

‘If you haven’t run in a while, start with a walk. A one-mile-plus walk is a great way to begin a cardio programme and will help you to avoid any potential injuries. Jumping right into running if you haven’t for a while is usually a recipe for disaster.’

Take a HIIT

‘Doing HIIT (high-Intensity interval training) once per week will keep you sharp. However, HIIT shouldn’t be the main course; rather a side dish.’

Get a grip

Kettlebells are a great way to keep your grip working constantly. Grip is typically a limiting factor in a race so you want to make sure you’re training the major grip types: hook grip (pull-up grip), crush grip (for rope climbs), and pinch grip (for climbing walls). You not only want to build grip strength, but muscular endurance too.’

Go overhead

‘Practising traversing obstacles such as monkey bars will go a long way. But they require a baseline level of upper body and core strength. Mixing in dead hangs, pull-ups, rope climbs, and hanging knee tucks are a great way to train the upper body for what’s to come.’

Bodyweight benefits

‘Most people jump right into strength training and this is when injuries can occur. Bodyweight training is undervalued and typically written off as too easy. I assure you, it’s plenty hard! The payoff for learning how to master simple bodyweight movement patterns is huge. You’ll create a synergy between your mind and body.’

Photograph: iStock by Getty Images

For more inspiration on how to make 2021 your fittest year ever, read the full article in the current issue of Healthy For Men, on sale now in Holland & Barrett stores and online at

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