So maybe you just signed up for your first obstacle course race or you’re at least thinking about it.
For a lot of people this might be the most physically challenging thing they do all year, hell, maybe
in their whole life. The majority of people that sign up to run, are not in it to compete or race but to
simply challenge themselves physically and have a blast while they’re at it. By implementing a few of
the tips I go over below you’ll be ready to rip come race day.
It’s a Running Race
This is easily the most forgotten aspect, sure you can walk and most of us will at some point,
depending on the terrain and obstacles, but at the end of the day it’s a running race. This means you
should be running leading up to the event! Unsurprisingly the best way to prepare for a running race is to run. I’d suggest trying to get off the treadmill and footpath and onto some trails with a mixture of terrain and elevations. Most races will involve some hills, so prepare by training on some figuring out when it’s too steep to run and practising your desired technique for going downhill. The mixed terrain will also ensure your feet and knees are at least partially conditioned for what’s to come.
Can You Hang?
After running the place where most become literally unstuck is in their inability to hold their own
bodyweight. Now granted this can take some time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not improving. A mixture of pull ups, or assisted pull ups, bodyweight hangs and rope climbs should definitely be in the training mix. Learn to climb use your feet when you climb ropes as this is a life saver for tired and weary arms. For those of you who aren’t too good at pull ups, use assistance and don’t be afraid to do them very frequently (everyday) to build strength and confidence. For those that can do pullups I’ve used the following protocol successfully:
Day 1= 3 x 10 or build to it, once able max out last set.
Day 2 = 5 x 5 with max weight, add weight to progress
Day 3 = 5 pullups EMOM for 8 mins, add weight or minutes to progress.
Without having too much knowledge of obstacle specifics this on can be a bit tricky to replicate in
training. Just know that you will have to get yourself up and over things. So, added to the ability to hold your own bodyweight we want to improve our hip mobility and lower body strength to make
sure we can manoeuvre ourselves throughout the various climbing tasks. I would suggest adding
high, like very high, box step ups, and step downs for that matter, to your regular strength program.
As a lot of races include loaded carries as obstacles it pays to include them in your training. Adding a
mix of Farmers Walks, Medicine Balls Carries, Sandbag Carries and Weighted Vests walk/run will all be useful tools to implement into your training regime. For most I wouldn’t sacrifice running for
these exercises I’d rather attempt to place them smartly around your strength training, maybe
supersetting your loaded carries with your traditional strength exercises or as a finisher to each
training session. Whatever the case, you want to get used to holding awkward things and covering
Know Your Limit But Always Send It
So you’re pumped up, ready to go and you go sprinting as fast as you can up the first hill. What now? You quads are jacked, fatigue accumulating and heart rate through the roof. The race only just
started! Whilst you’re there to push yourself it’s important you know your limitations and don’t go
overboard on any one hill or obstacle, try to maintain a steady heart rate you can manage, because
whilst it might seem like a good idea to smash through a certain obstacle or charge up a hill, it’s no good if you are then in a heap a minute later. So, through training, start to understand your limitations, figure out when you should walk instead of run up hills and maintain a steady tempo instead of creating spikes and lows. Control your breathing during obstacles and hill climbs and don’t be tempted to match others people’s pace.
Now with that said, there is nothing like absolutely backing yourself to complete an obstacle that
you never thought you could, or maybe one that’s defeated you before. That means when the time
comes to go, you go! You forget about that previous paragraph and you dig deep, use everything you
have physically and mentally to get that obstacle done so you can bathe in the glory of accomplishment. After all, that’s what it’s all about. Embrace the send.
There you have it. Now go sign up for the next mud run.