A fitness newbie takes on her first Spartan Race.
ANN KWAN began training with CBD-based, private training gym Ultimate Performance (UP) Singapore a year and a half ago after experiencing some health scares in her family.
“It’s really scary when someone in your family falls sick and no one can tell you what contributed to it, whether it was genetics, lifestyle, environment or bad luck,” she says. “So, I decided to take control of the factors that I could actively change, including my lifestyle. At least, this way, I know I’m doing what I can to keep healthy.
Since starting with UP, Ann has tried loads of different kinds of fitness, thanks to her newly adopted active lifestyle.
“It’s amazing how many different options open up once you get active and realise how much your body is capable of,” she says. “Over the last year or so, I’ve tried Les Mills classes (Body Pump and Body Combat), Muay Thai, callisthenics, yoga, spin and, after about six months of exploration, I discovered CrossFit, which I’m still doing.”
Taking on new challenges
This more active lifestyle also led Ann to push herself in ways she had never imagined. In fact, she and her UP trainer, DAN DUBOIS, both decided to challenge themselves with the globally popular Spartan Races.
“It had always been something I wanted to try, as it looked like a lot of fun,” says Dan, who entered his first Spartan Race at the end of 2018, then encouraged Ann to give it a go.
“About six months into training with Dan, we were setting goals and I mentioned that I had always wanted to try out an obstacle race. I’d never really thought I would be able to do it, because I really don’t like running, and because I had no idea how to climb a rope or get my short self over a seven-foot wall. But, Dan said ‘Why not?’, and encouraged me to start running on a regular basis and give it a shot,” says Ann.
To train, Dan had Ann mimic many of the movement patterns that would help with the obstacles, and also build more work capacity into her routines.
“Exercises like pull-ups, dips and a lot of prowler-pushing and sled-dragging were added into the routine,” he says. “We also focused on adding in more core work to make doing the obstacles much easier.”
Ann participated in her first Spartan Race – the Stadion Sprint, which entailed 20 obstacle courses in a five-kilometre run – in January 2019 and loved it.
“I had a great time running with a varied bunch of trainers and other UP clients. As most clients train with different trainers and at different times at UP, we don’t really get to meet people outside our usual schedules. So, the race was an awesome chance to meet more likeminded people, and also just to try out obstacle-course racing,” says Ann.
From then, she was hooked, and couldn’t wait to try another Spartan – only, this time, she wanted to do an outdoor version with “traditional” (think muddy!) terrain. The Spartan Sprint on 27 April was her opportunity.
“Since I train with Dan three times a week, I didn’t really do anything special to prepare for the race specifically. My weekly training schedule has CrossFit interspersed between my sessions at UP, so the combination works on both strength and conditioning,” Ann says.
So, how did she and Dan fare at the recent Spartan Sprint?
“Looking back at my running pace, attempts at each obstacle and the crazy ‘mud soup’ we were wading through, I’m happy with how I did,” she says. “I loved the people I ran with. For me, this was both the UP team, as well as the people I met along the way who didn’t hesitate to yell encouragement or commiserate about the extra pounds of mud we were carrying in our shoes!”
Dan adds, “Team UP did fantastically, and I’m very proud of every single person on the team. Many exceeded their own expectations and conquered obstacles they thought were impossible.”
Just do it!
So, what’s their advice to people who are debating whether to give something like Spartan a go?
“Go for it. Get a few friends together and sign up and enjoy the mud, the laughs and the well-deserved banana at the end! Yes, it might seem scary and intimidating at times, but every Spartan racer is there to help you through your journey around the course. Out of all my fitness adventures, this has to be the most fun,” says Dan, who will participate in the 50K Ultra Spartan Race in July and another Spartan in August.
Ann, who is planning to do the Bukit Timah Sprint this August, agrees that anyone considering a race should just “sign up and do it”.
“Don’t stress over the obstacles and burpees; just plan to go in on race day and have fun,” she says. “Take the first race as a learning experience and figure out what you need to learn for future races! Besides, if you’ve never tried getting over a six-foot wall or you haven’t played on monkey bars since you were a kid, you may surprise yourself with how far you get!”
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