When it comes to training for a Death Race, it’s extraordinarily important to remember that nothing you do will prepare you for the Death Race. Seriously, nothing. There is no way you can ever adequately prepare yourself for this race. It’s just the reality of this unusual human experiment. The most important thing you need to prepare is your mind. Your mind will try to make you quit a hundred times before your body needs to. Make sure you go into this with an, “I won’t quit, and I can” attitude and you’ll be golden. No matter what they throw your way, smile (like Mark Webb in this photo), and proceed. That’s it.
With that in mind, there is still a need to physically show up prepared, because if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s this, by toeing the line at the Death Race, you are setting yourself up for anywhere from 48-72 hours of relentless physical exertion. From the moment you start the race, to the bitter end when the Race Directors finally tell you those magical words, “Congratulations you’ve finished the Death Race,” — which by the way, if you didn’t know it already, is the only way you know it is over, as there is no traditional finish line — you will exert more effort than you ever have in your life.
So without further adieu, let’s dive into some of the best workouts for the Death Race as you train up to your Death Race experience.
- Get some time in on your feet. This is where you should start if you’re only just getting started with putting in miles. If you’re used to doing a lot of miles, whether it be walking, running, hiking, or rucking, you shouldn’t skip this step, rather keep it a part of your weekly routine.
- Grab your pack; if you don’t already have a solid ruck like an Osprey, Eberlestock, or similar, you’re doing it wrong (and you should read this post about the best rucks for Death Race), and load it up with some weight. If this is your first time, don’t drop 60 lbs in it, let’s work to build up to that kind of weight gradually. Now, get some miles in. Start with a few and work your way up into the double digits. You’ll be on your feet a lot, and you’ll probably have your pack with you some 70-90% of the time, so you’ll want to be used to carrying ALL the gear. Whether you load it up with dead weight like a sandbag or your actual race-gear for the race is up to you. Personally, I think it is smarter to start with your actual equipment so you can begin to learn how to pack and sort and get acquainted with your life source for this event.
- Burpees. Do LOTS of Burpees. If you’re new to the burpee, start with doing something like 30-50 per day and increase from there. If you’re already used to doing a substantial amount of burpees, starting putting in some serious work, do 100-300 at least 2-3x a week, and leading up to the event, it may be useful to do a solid session of 1000 burpees. You’re probably thinking, “are you fucking crazy? A 1000 burpees?” Yes, I’m serious. Yes, 1000 burpees. It is highly likely you’ll do anywhere from 1000-5000 burpees at a Death Race, maybe not all at once, perhaps all at once, who knows what they will make you do, but at the 2019 Death Race, they made racers to 3000 burpees for 8 or 9 hours. Anything can happen, you better know what at least 500-1000 burpees feel like or you’re going to be in for a world of hurt.
- Go for a Trail Run, then find a rock or log. It’s a given you’ll be on trails during the Death Race, so it is wise to know how to navigate that type of terrain, but more often than not, you’ll have to carry something, whether it’s with or without your pack. The easy way to prepare for is to find a rock or log, something substantial – at a minimum of 10lbs and up to at least 50lbs – then, carry your rock or log around for a mile or two. Doing this will get you ready for the crazy things you’re bound to carry up and down, “Joe’s Mountain.”
- Chop Wood. It’s my favorite way to train; it heats you twice! Whether or not wood chopping will happen at a Death Race is a mystery; in years past, it was a staple. There was a period where it disappeared for a while; nevertheless, it’s one of the best workouts you can do for yourself. When you do it right, it can quickly become a fully body workout. Make sure you practice swinging using both sides as your lead. If it does make an appearance, you can bet your ass you’ll probably be swinging for hours on end, and you don’t want to overwork one side of your body and neglect the other. Trust me. Looking for a great ax? Here are some suggestions.
- Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable with Hot Yoga. You may or may not be surprised to see this on the list, depending on how much you’ve read or heard about the Death Race. In the early 2010s, during Winter Death Race variations, there were a few hot yoga sessions that lasted for hours. In 2014, there was a section of the race that involved up to 9-hours of yoga for some participants, including myself. Yoga is probably the most crucial element in my training today, and it should be for you as well. Yoga heals and strengthens and is perhaps the best thing we can do for the longevity of a healthy, well-balanced life.
- Start Taking Plenty of Cold Showers. You may be thinking, wait, how is a cold shower a workout. Well, it isn’t, technically, but the art of being comfortable with being uncomfortable is paramount for a Death Race, and that’s why you need to become increasingly familiar with putting yourself into difficult situations, such as taking a cold shower. Almost every Death Race has placed racers in the icy waters of White River or, better yet, the infamous Chittenden Reservoir. Not only is this proper training, but it’s a remarkable form of recovery for all the training you’ll be subjecting yourself to in preparation for this event.
- Find New Ways to Cross-Train. Given the nature of the Death Race, you never know what you might face during an event, so its a great idea to incorporate some cross-training into your schedule. It could be a day at the local rock climbing gym, pumping some iron, mountain biking, practicing your balance skills on a slackline, or competing in an obstacle race. All of these are ways keep you moving in new ways and will have you prepared should the devious minds behind the Death Race decide to throw you a curveball.
There’s plenty more you can do to prepare yourself, but this gives you a good idea of the types of workouts to do individually to prepare yourself for the Death Race. You can also tune into the Legend of the Death Race Podcast weekly for tips from other Death Racers.
If you’re looking for even more ideas, feel free to peruse some of my old training and workouts from the early 2010s when I prepared for my first Death Race experience.
Do you have a Death Race inspired workout you want to share with us? Drop your Death Race workout in the comments below.