Have you taken on a 5k, half-marathon or even a marathon only to find yourself asking, “What’s next?”
The answer to that question combines mud, military style obstacles and even fire on a race course that will test your fitness and willpower. Obstacle course races like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race have created a recreational revolution by combining running and adventure racing in a fun atmosphere. Instead of choosing to take on a road race or triathlon, weekend warriors, general fitness seekers and former athletes are turning to obstacle racing for their fitness and amusement fix.
Once you determine the time has come for your mud run initiation, use this guide to Get After It and DO WORK.
What to expect
More of an adventure race than a traditional running race; an obstacle course race can include elements of climbing, swimming, jumping, and crawling up, over, around and through various challenges.
Choosing a Race
You do not have to be a superstar athlete to take on an obstacle course race. There is a race out there for you, just take some time to research the distance of the race, difficulty of the obstacles and competition level of the event. Depending on your goal and fitness level, it is possible to find a race that is a party among friends or another that is a grueling test of physical and mental toughness.
How to Train
A successful training program for obstacle course racing should include running and strength training, while addressing skills specific to the race.
Improve general fitness and conditioning by focusing on functional, total body movements. Start with bodyweight exercises like push-ups, triceps dips, pull-ups and squats to create a foundation of strength. Once you are ready, be prepared to move your own bodyweight over, under, around or through obstacles. This is done by incorporating dynamic and explosive exercises into your routine. Look to kettlebell swings and explosive movements like jump squats, burpees and box jumps.
The cardiovascular training for an obstacle race is not like that of a road race. It’s not about straight line, steady heart rate, long distance endurance. Instead, the running here is start and stop with short bursts between obstacles and uphill climbs. Model your training after what to expect from the race by working resisted sprints, hill climbs, or stadium stair climbs into the plan. Additionally, speed intervals and fast paced tempo runs will help improve cardio conditioning.
Baseline fitness will carry you to an obstacle. But it’s the race-specific skills that will take you over, around, or through them. Balance, core strength, and a strong grip will all be essential parts of your training and success. Train lateral movements and single leg exercises to improve balance and core strength. Then, work grip strength with sandbag carries, tire flips, farmers walk and rope climbs. Next, combine strength and cardio training into one hybrid workout to mimic the start and stop nature of the race.
Race Day Essentials
When race day rolls around, we don’t want you forgetting anything. Use this checklist to make sure you have everything you need to dominate your race.
What to Wear
- You are going to get dirty and probably trash your clothes. Wear clothing, shoes, and gear that you wouldn’t mind discarding after the race.
- Dress like an athlete to compete like one. Consider compression shorts, tights, tops, and/or socks. Cotton and baggy clothing is a bad choice. It will slow you down and get snagged on obstacles.
- Race in something you have trained in. Don’t wear something straight out of the box.
- Opt for trail running or off-road shoes.
- Consider athletic or weight lifting gloves to help with grip and to protect your hands.
What to Bring
- Hydration pack
- Knee, elbow, or leg protection, pads, or compression sleeves
- Athletic or medical tape
- Watch and/or heart rate monitor
- Bring a change of clothes, towel, and toiletries to be warm and dry for the post race party
- Have some extra cash on hand for food and merchandise
- Enjoy the race and post-race activities
Obstacle Race Workout:
Dynamic Warm Up Movements @ 10 minutes
40x Step-up (each leg, add weight vest or resistance if possible)
50yrd Bear Crawl
50yrd Lunge Walk
20 Bodyweight Squats
Rest @ 60 Seconds
Joe is a writer, trainer and fitness entrepreneur who co-founded Hybrid Athlete LLC, Kettlebell Cardio™ and Race Day Domination. Currently building @fittinsider, a platform for founders, executives, & investors redefining fitness/wellness. Investing in health/fitness companies