How To Train For An Obstacle Course Race
Obstacle course races (OCRs) are completely different than road races. You’ll be challenged in all new ways, both mentally and physically. So it’s important to make adjustments to your training. I’ve heard that racers either love OCRs or hate them with no in between, but you’ll know when you cross the finish line. However, in the 5 years I’ve been recruiting new racers, I’ve yet to hear one I’ve personally invited to join my team say they wouldn’t do another one. It’s an addiction.
Train For The Terrain
Many obstacle course races are up mountains, and none are on flat pavement. Unless you’ve got a nearby mountain, I recommend finding the steepest hill possible and run a series of repeats. Or if that’s not an option, get on a treadmill and set it at a high elevation. Obstacle course races can range anywhere from 3-15 miles, so go for sustainability over speed. Don’t expect to be running the whole way through.
Train For The Discomfort
You’re going to get wet. Your shoes will be covered in mud. Your hands will get dirty. Don’t let that throw off your game. Instead, prepare yourself for it. I like to start newbie obstacle course racers by having them put on their shoes, soak them down with water, and then head outside for a run. If you have access to a beach, try a sugar cookie (this type isn’t edible.) Jump in the water real quick, roll around in the sand, and head off. Especially since many races aren’t cancelled due to inclement weather, doing some runs in the rain is a good idea too.
Take your surroundings into account as well. If you’ve opted for a race in one of the cooler months, you need to train for the cold. Don’t assume that just because it’s cold outside you won’t be hopping in the water at some point. Warm weather races come with their own set of challenges, one of which is figuring out how to avoid the brunt of the heat.
Train To Build Strength
Expect to carry heavy things like logs and buckets of rocks, pull things like sandbags, climb ropes, and more, so strength training is vital. A local playground can become your best friend when it comes to this type of training. It’s the only place you’ll find monkey bars, which is coincidentally a popular obstacle at a race, so get swinging. Holding yourself up for a few seconds is the best way to begin practicing for a rope climb, and the poles you’ll find at a playground a great starting off point. Some of my other go-tos include sprinting across with a heavy backpack and holding it while doing walking lunges as you head back to the starting point.
Train With The Right Gear
Put yourself at an advantage race day with the right clothes and accessories. The wrong sneakers for example, can make or break you (trust me, I learned the hard way.) To avoid things like heavy, mud-laden shoes and blisters, pay attention to what’s actually on your feet, then do some practice runs. You want lightweight sneakers with grips on the bottom that drain water easily.
Other must-haves include moisture wicking clothes, calf compressions (you’ll thank me when you’re 8 miles in and climbing up an elevation of 1,500 feet), and a good hydration pack. There are a lot of great packs out there, but I suggest looking for one that can hold at least 1.5 liters and has pockets for your nutrition. Practice running with all of it.
Obstacle course races may sound intimidating, but many people find them incredibly rewarding. You can learn things about yourself on the course that you may not have necessarily figured out otherwise. You’ll test your limits and then some. And you may just find yourself talking up the sport and searching for new recruits.