Obstacle Course Races: How to Prepare for Them

Covered in mud and in the best shape of their lives, you’ve seen your friends do obstacle course races (OCR) and you’re thinking about joining in. It’s a great goal to work toward and totally achievable. But where to start with the preparations?

Today, we’re going over the essential preparation steps. Read on.

Sign Up

This may seem obvious, but the hardest part of doing anything is often simply starting. If you’ve decided in your mind that you want to complete an OCR, signing up makes that goal real.

Sign up for the non-elite heat which is for amateurs. Once your name is on the list, it’ll be even more motivation to get going on your training.

Get the Gear

Once you’ve signed up, it’s time to get the appropriate gear.

Compression shirts and bottoms are your best bet. They won’t absorb water like cotton, so they won’t weigh you down or cause chafing.

Since OCRs are often full of rough terrain and well… obstacles, you’ll want to protect your skin from any damage. For your first race, you might consider gloves, and lightweight knee and elbow pads.

The right shoes are also important. Get sneakers that will drain out water (versus waterproof shoes that hold water in). They’re the ones that have gripped, rugged bottoms made for uneven surfaces. Your ankles will thank you later.

Diversify Your Training

To mimic the OCR, mixing circuit training and strength training will be ideal. You might switch up your training routine between:

  • Medium-distance runs (5-10km)
  • Short runs with functional workouts every half mile
  • Weightlifting
  • Functional exercise circuits that combine cardio and strength. Exercise examples are burpees, box jumps, squats, and presses

For the best results, it’s smart to get personal training that focuses on OCR workouts.

Endurance is Key

Cardio endurance is different from muscular endurance and it’s important not to focus on one over the other. People often focus on the run and overlook the muscular endurance needed for the obstacles.

To increase your muscular endurance, compound exercises for reps are best. Examples are:

  • Deadlifts
  • Bench presses
  • Squats

Additionally, getting your legs, biceps, and back stronger will do you the most good. Legs get your over those tough uphill slopes and back & biceps will help you scale a wall or climb a rope.

Be intelligent about your training.

Improve Your Grip

Grip strength is about more than the palms of your hands. It’s about the muscles in your hands, wrists, and forearms that contribute to your ability to hold on.

In an OCR, you need to complete rope climbs, cross monkey bars and rigs. Then there’s something called crush grip. It’s a measure of how long you can hold things other than bars like sandbags and blocks.

So, improving your grip will be essential to your success in a race.

Example exercises to improve your grip are:

  • dead hangs (hanging from a pull-up bar)
  • Farmer’s walks
  • Suitcase carries
  • Deadlifts

Invite a Buddy

Whether you’re racing as a team or you have a friend supporting you, friends are the best motivation.

Team racing gives you accountability. You don’t want to be the one that let the others down. It’s also a great bonding experience. Having cheerleaders encourage you to follow through and make them proud. It’s always a good idea to get your community involved.

Eat Clean

Usually, training to meet a goal leads to cleaning up your diet, too. It’s difficult to train at the appropriate level after eating fries and a chocolate shake.

Clean eating will help you lose weight, have more energy, and train better. Everything is more achievable when you’re getting the right nutrients and drinking plenty of water.

Write a Packing List

Before a big race, the last thing you’re thinking about is what to bring with you. Still, you don’t want to be stressed out on the day. It’ll only make your performance suffer.

So, make a packing list with the following items:

  • Waiver for the race, signed
  • Plan for parking (bring cash, give yourself extra time)
  • Photo ID
  • Change of clothes
  • Bag for muddy clothes you wore during the race
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Energy gels

Knowing that you’ll have everything you need will make for a smooth race day.
You’ve trained hard for this so have fun with it. Bring a positive attitude and remember why you signed up in the first place.

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