Have you been training for an obstacle race? Are you sure you know what you're doing? Truth is, there's no black and white with obstacle race training. There's just a whole lot of grey.
Part is because obstacle racing is still evolving. It hasn’t been around long. So the “training” aspect of obstacle course racing is still a mystery for many participants.
Being a certified fitness professional for nearly a decade, I decided to jump into this whole obstacle race training endeavor and provide my knowledge in physiology and practical programming to help racers of any level.
From the first time Spartan Racer to the OCR World Championship competitor, I've had the privilege of playing a role in performances ranging from all types of fitness levels.
Along the way I've picked up some obstacle race training mistakes you need to avoid.
Sometimes the most helpful information is to tell you what NOT to do so you can continue doing the things that will make you successful come race day.
So if your goal is to dominate your next obstacle race… To not only complete the course, but cross the finish line with your pride and body physically intact, then keep reading because at the end of this training I have my complete Short Course Crushers Program you can download free.
Yet if you're okay with going out there and “winging it”, I wish you good-luck and an AROO!
I'm telling you, avoid these 5 obstacle race training mistakes and you'll be ready come race day.
You're Running Way Too Much
I get it.
You're afraid of the running distance of an obstacle course. I'd be lying if I said it was easy. It's not your average jog around the park. But you already know that I'm sure…
I've seen a common trend with my obstacle race training clients when they first reach out to me. About 99% have a fear of completing the race in its entirety. So they spend hours of their week running.
And while tons of unnecessary hours are spent running, the OCR trainee is missing out on valuable strength training and practical obstacle simulation drills that will help them finish a race near the front of the pack.
I remember a group of 5 clients of mine who 100% committed to completing an obstacle course race in only 6 weeks. They hadn't been active in years but when I mentioned the challenge to them there was a reluctant and fearful “yes”. None the less, it was a yes.
I had each of them share their fears with me about the race. The greatest fear? You guessed it. Finishing the entire race. Having enough juice to cross the finish line.
They were surprised when I only had one day of distance running planned for them each week and workouts lasting no more than 24 minutes…
They probably all thought I was setting them up to fail. However, on race day, they were pleasantly surprised with the results. I personally watched each one of them run through the finish line of their very first obstacle course race.
They weren't the same people they were 6-weeks before we started. And they accomplished something they thought was impossible. One of the tools they used? You guessed it. The Short Course Crusher Guide.
One of my clients even lost 22 lbs. in the 6-weeks. Crazy, I know. But the guy had the heart of a lion and committed to crossing the finish line in 6-weeks. I'm hoping to catch a race with him sometime this year. All the “props” go to him.
Point is. We spent less time focusing on running and more time hammering out some body strengthening and obstacle simulating training sessions. The end result. Victory.
Neglecting Upper Body Strength
Piggy-backing off the “you're running too much” mistake. You're not training your upper body enough.
As you know… one failed obstacle = 30 unpleasant burpees (at a Spartan).
And for you with the weak upper body, this is not good news. I'm not saying this to scare you but to empower you with direction for your training so you can cross the finish line with your head held high.
A few Spartan Race obstacles to note: Rope climb, wall climb, Atlas stone carry, and bucket carry… all obstacles which require an insane amount of upper body endurance and strength.
You won't be able to get by any of these obstacles without being able to pull or press yourself up. Major muscle groups like your back and shoulders will be called on for massive action. Even the most over-looked muscles like your biceps, triceps, and forearms (which we'll get into later) will require a serious amount of attention.
What are you doing to grow your upper body strength right now? Are you preparing for some of OCR’s toughest obstacles? If not, it's burpee time.
Some helpful movements include: Push-ups, Pull-ups, Pike Push-ups, Bodyweight Bicep Curls, and Dips… just to name a few.
Not Practicing Burpees
Burpees… you can't practice them enough.
Truth is, the more burpees you add to your obstacle race training the better. It's important your body gets acclimated to this intense exercise, just in-case you fail an obstacle during your Spartan. And they are a great exercise to build mental and physical grit for any race.
I'll tell you the truth. Burpees are never fun. But they can get easier over time and the more you practice them the better you discover how to efficiently perform the movement to conserve as much energy as possible.
The burpee-zone doesn't have to be a complete energy dump, does it? The answer is no. However, you need to put in the burpee practice for this move to not drain you on race day.
There's one more key reason I prescribe burpees for my OCR training clients. It's the ultimate full-body, plyometric exercise.
Between the push-up off the ground, into a catapulting squat jump-like movement… you're working your body strength from head to toe and tackling your vertical leap training and body coordination training all in one. The burpee is one of those rare “all-in-one” movements where you kill multiple tasks in one movement.
And hey, it gets your cardiovascular system running high which is fantastic for fat burning if you're one of those racers who needs to drop a few pounds before race day.
Winging The “Skill” Obstacles
There's a few obstacles that are like “fail” magnets. You'll see the burpee-zone flooded with racers or the time penalties really racking up on these obstacles.
One of the most failed Spartan Race obstacles (for example) is the spear throw. You only get one shot. Launch a spear from 10-yards away and strike a bale of hay. Think you can do it?
If you haven't practiced this obstacle, I highly recommend setting up a cardboard box or tire on top of a garbage can, (which will be harder than the actual hay bale itself) and practice throwing a homemade spear.
I'll make a recommendation per a story from one of my clients. Don't practice your spear throws near any glass tables or windows. Sometimes you may miss the target by a few yards and find yourself paying for another house fixture.
Commit, Commit, Commit…
What separates my OCR training clients from any clients I've worked with in the past is their dedication to commit to a plan.
I've worked with individuals who just wanted to cross the finish line of their first race and competitors competing in OCR World Championships and all attitudes have been the same. They will do whatever it takes to complete their goal.
They commit. There's no surrender.
Sure. There's fear. There's questions at times… “can I do this?”
“Joe, do you think I'll be ready?”
Despite the questions and the fear of failing they train hard and eventually they accomplish their goal on race day.
If you can commit to a plan and see it through to race day… failure is not in your future.
So I'll ask… do you have a plan and are you sticking to it?
Are you just going to “wing-it” on race day or will you step up to the finish line and conquer the course?
The choice is yours. You can start by avoiding these 5 obstacle race training mistakes.
If you're lost and fearful of finishing your next obstacle race then start here and download this free Short Course Crusher Guide. Don’t ever let fear hold you back. I promise you completing a race will have you feeling on top of the world.