Spring Challenge Training - Where do we Start?

The #1 piece of advice* from previous competitors on training for Spring Challenge is to … start with a PLAN! *Based on Make it Dirt survey April 2018.

Pencil in some dates between now and Spring Challenge where you can all head out as a team for longer adventures on foot, on bikes, or both. This could be a weekend day out of town, or maybe an adventure during a weekday when the kids are at school. I would recommend proposing as many potential dates as possible because other things always come up. Sometimes only 2 of you can make it and that’s still beneficial - this is a biggy. Don’t scratch a session just because one of you can’t make it. As long as it’s not the same person that’s missing all the sessions, it will all balance out in the end.

Do your best to commit and make it happen. These adventures are the times where you truly learn about each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and quirks so that there are no surprises on race day. You can also try to get out together regularly during the week for shorter sessions if you live in the same area. It’s certainly harder to get out the door in winter but with a headlight, a few warm layers, and top notch company you can still achieve a lot.

Any training session is better with coffee!


But how do I even find the time to train? It’s something we all struggle with so I asked the wonderful Make it Dirt audience for their tips on how they fit training in around a hectic life schedule. Keep an eye out for this later in the week!

Recently I’ve come to learn myself is that some is usually better than none. Sometimes life just gets in the way, despite our best-laid plans and intentions. Occasionally this means missing a full training session, trading in a few minutes on the foam roller instead. It doesn’t have to be a tough session to be beneficial. Of course, the idea is to commit to a programme, and you don’t want to cop out on every session like this. But it’s OK - every little bit counts.


You don’t need to be a pro. As the name suggests, Spring Challenge is all about a new *challenge* - learning new skills, having a blast with friends, and pushing boundaries. The beauty of the event is that it’s designed to challenge competitors of all levels. There are training guidelines on the Spring Challenge website www.springchallenge.co.nz under 'TRAINING'.

These are put together by race organiser and demigod of adventure racing himself, Nathan Fa’avae, so you can rest assured they’ll get you in good shape for the event. Note that these are simply guidelines, an indication of the fitness level you want to be working towards. Another good indication is to take a look at the distances and expected times for the stages from previous events (found on the Spring Challenge Facebook page if you scroll back far enough).

Expected distances and times for Spring Challenge Geraldine 2017. Note: 'Ori' = orienteering.


Now is the time to think about the holes you might have in areas of your fitness and skills required for Spring Challenge. A few suggestions are navigation, mountain biking, off trail hiking, carrying a backpack with all your gear, or simply just moving for 3, 6 or 9 hours straight. Once you’ve identified where your weaknesses lie you can get to work in making improvements. This could involve attending a Spring Challenge navigation clinic, signing up to a mountain bike skills course, or simply spending more time on one discipline to bring yourself up to speed.

Sometimes I get an overwhelming feeling where I just want to be better at everything! But of course, this is unrealistic. So I like to break it down by focusing on one skill at a time, where each activity has priority for a month. This generally brings more improvement overall instead of trying to focus on everything at once (yes, an oxymoron and impossible for normal humans!).


If you want a training plan that’s tailored to you it can be worth considering investing in some coaching. A coach can guide you in the right direction, fill in the gaps of your knowledge - including things you don’t know that you don’t know, and can often connect you with other people who are at a similar level to you. It’s even more helpful when they have done the event themselves!

The day I went riding with coach Karen and my legs almost fell off!

I call my coach when I have an important event in mind and she puts together a programme that fits around my other commitments and whips me into shape! It takes the hassle out of making my own plans, holds me accountable, and she has a wealth of experience I can draw upon. It can take some trial and error to find a coach that’s right for you, but once you’ve found a good fit it’s a relationship that is truly invaluable.

Happy adventuring!

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