By Erin Grubbs
We’ve talked tall-girl problems before on the blog, so this week we’re tackling some short girl problems and how to overcome them. At just over 5 feet, my short legs struggle to keep up on a good day, let alone adding in obstacles that often tower over me. Here are a few of the common complaints I’ve heard, and some ideas on how to overcome them if you’re like me and struggle in the height department, and even if you’re looking for some techniques to just do better on some obstacles.
I have short legs so I can’t run as fast – I cannot tell you the amount of times I have used this excuse, and it seems to make sense at first, but its simply NOT TRUE. Shorter runners can actually run faster than taller runners if they have proper form. “A shorter runner who’s trained to use proper form may smoothly run more strides in less time than the taller competitor.” There are tips all over the internet on proper form, but its about using the force behind those little legs to go faster and become a more efficient runner.
There is no way I can get over that wall. When I first saw the Spartan walls, I was like no way, its not happening, and that is even with my husband on the course with me. He has helped me over more walls than I can count, but now its about getting over these walls on my own. Since joining Yancy Camp, I can tell my strength increased, in particular with all the different back exercises. Of all the different techniques out there, the one I have seen work the best is a running start that leads to jumping up and grabbing the top of the wall, and then pulling yourself up as much as possible with your feet basically running up the wall. This website gives some details about how to train on your own, but at the end of the video, you can see the technique I just mentioned for getting over that wall. It might feel silly at first, but it works. Trust me! I have been able to get over most of the walls I have tried lately during training and can’t wait to try it out on the course in June!
Much like the walls, the hurdles or fences I think are hard for short girls too. And in this case, maybe even harder, since you lose the ability to use your feet to climb and help. This off season I really focused some of my training on push-ups and tri dips. These two exercises will get your arms ready to propel our body over these hurdles. And like the wall, a good running start so you can explode up also helps.
I can’t get over the fire jump. The fire jump and I have a love hate relationship. My husband always makes fun of me because all of my fire jump pictures look like I am about to jump in the fire and not over it. Some of those fires get high and as the last obstacle in Spartan Races, I’m usually exhausted. So while this doesn’t take too much training, I think there is still a necessary focus on leg strength. Some good squat jumps and lunges will give your legs the extra strength they need to help you jump over the fire when your little legs don’t have much left in them.
The blocks on the traverse wall are too far apart for my short legs. Looking at the traverse wall, the thought immediately goes to how you’re going to get from one block to the next. In 2015, Spartan interviewed some of its racers to see what tips they could give on conquering the traverse wall. Kate Cramer I think has some good thoughts on the wall that lend themselves to short girls:
“For the Z-Wall you must have body control, which begins with a good sense of balance, and how well you control your balance on the wall. Your center of balance is the middle of your body. When traversing the wall, you need to be aware of this as you move your hands and feet left to right or right to left. You should also keep your body close to the wall (leaning away from the wall is necessary to make those turns on the Z-Wall to see the next grip.)”
Taller people have more body to worry about, so we really do have an advantage when it comes to being small on the wall. After that, its more about training grip strength. Kate goes on to say, “To conquer the Z-Wall, you need to have strong fingertips, hands and forearms. Good strengthening exercises for this include pull-ups, bar hangs, rope climbing, and of course, wall and rock climbing. You do NOT need to have big hands, just a big grip!”
People of all shapes and sizes succeed when it comes to Spartan Racing. It’s a matter of taking the excuses that we all have, whether they are related to body size, shape or disability and using the power behind these excuses. Short girls have advantages in Spartan obstacles, it’s a matter of training the right way and using these advantages. And if you’re not sure where to start with training, there are so many sources out there online to help you develop techniques and training plans for specific obstacles you may struggle with. Get out there and embrace your shortness!