He’ s covered in thick mud from head toe. He has been repeatedly baptized by the mud pits on the arduous trail. Fatigue begins to creep into his being, mentally and physically. Doubt begins to whisper in his ear, “What did you get yourself into?” He wipes the sweat from his brow, not even certain if it is actually his sweat or water from the pond he just swam across. The burn in his legs from the uphill portions of the trail begins to make itself known as does the bruises he sustained from the previous obstacles in the race. Suddenly, he is faced with a choice, a crossroads of sorts, the the age old question that we always ask ourselves when the going gets tough: To quit, or to push through and keep going…
These days Obstacle Course Racing is a popular but important feature of the fitness world and has played an integral role in motivating people to become active. In this article we will discuss everything there is to know about Obstacle Course Racing including, what to expect from an obstacle race, do’s and don’ts, training methods, nutrition importance, and most importantly how to push through adversity and Finish your race victoriously!
What Should I Expect From An Obstacle Course Race?
Obstacle races come in all shapes and sizes. They can range from 1 to 3 miles, 7 to 10 miles, even half and full marathons. There are some races with few obstacles and some with so many it can be unbearable. Some races people run for fun and some are fiercely competitive. A very common obstacle that you will face in almost any obstacle course is to climb over a wall. Whether the wall is 2 ft, 10 ft, or 20 ft (I’ve seen them all), you must be able to effectively climb over them to continue the race. The taller walls will likely have a rope to help you scale them, however, there are some walls which will require you to jump up and pull yourself over, and for this you must definitely have good upper body strength. If you don’t have good upper body strength, your workouts should be tailored to address that, specifically, at least 3X a week, in conjunction with your normal training *see Obstacle Race training plans*.
Another important facet of obstacle courses is the water factor and getting wet, soggy and muddy. You must be able to be comfortable with swimming across ponds of muddy water, trudging through deep pools of mud and generally be able to handle being covered in mud the entire race. You will never know what to expect when running in an obstacle race, expect the unexpected. These are not your typical 5k runs, or half marathons. These are grueling endurance events designed to push you mentally and physically further than you’ve ever been pushed before. If you have previously ran a 5k or higher, don’t compare that race experience to your upcoming obstacle race, it is a totally different beast. Give it all you’ve got, run hard, have fun and I guarantee, you will want to do another one.
Do’s and Don’ts of Obstacle Racing
1. Wear shoes that have great traction and grip and avoid shoes that can potentially become slippery if the shoe gets wet or caked with mud. Opt for lightweight shoes with good ventilation points so the water can make its way out of the shoe as you run.
2. Bring a towel and change of clothes, a trash bag for your muddy wear, suntan lotion, some kind of energy gummy snack or drink, particularly for long races
3. Make sure you aren’t racing with with anything valuable in your pockets like car keys, jewelry etc
4. Wear fast drying clothing, preferably some type of compression gear. This type of clothing will not get soggy and hold you back
5. Get a good nights rest and refrain from alcohol the night before. Wake up early and eat a balanced meal about 4 hours before your race heat.
1. Don’t wear loose fitting cotton clothing. You will be crawling under barbed wire and jumping over walls, you don’t want your clothing to snag on anything
2. Make sure your shoes fit tightly, don’t wear loose fitting slip on shoes or your favorite sneaker. The mud pits can be quite deep and thick, the last thing you want to happen is losing your footwear in the mud.
3. Don’t go out drinking and get drunk before your race. Having a hangover before a physically demanding obstacle race is probably not a great idea.
4. Do not carb overload the night before your race. Some carb intake is good but don’t go overboard or you may find yourself feeling bloated and sluggish at the start line the next day.
5. Why so serious? Have fun! Don’t take your race and training so seriously that you forget to have fun and enjoy the experience.
One very important aspect of conquering an obstacle race is adhering to a good training program. 8 weeks is an ideal time frame to mold your body into race shape. Design a program that fits your needs, strengthening your weak areas and further improving upon your strong areas. Understand that obstacle races are no walk in the park, they are very demanding and they will test your physical and mental determination. You do not want to hit a wall physically during the race. With that being said your cardiovascular endurance will play a key role in your training and in your race outcome. Learning to ignore the fatigue and doubt that may creep up on you in the heat of the race is very important in succeeding in an endurance race. Contact me for more tips and information on training for an obstacle race.
A good nutrition plan leading up to your Obstacle Race can be the difference between you performing horribly, hitting a wall and not finishing the race, to you outperforming your own expectations and finishing the race victoriously. A good nutrition plan is an integral part of maintaining your endurance levels, energy stores and recovery from tough workouts. Here are 5 tips to adhere to in your nutrition plan:
1. Consume raw veggies whenever possible. This is a great source of fiber to your diet and will ultimately help your body to absorb all of the nutrients it needs, it also helps to cleanse your body of everything it doesn’t need.
2. Consumption of good carbohydrate sources is paramount. Carbs provide energy for your workout and also help replenish your glycogen stores post workout. Carb rich post workout meal will definitely help you recover, 50% of your total caloric intake should come from carbs. A 3:1 carbs:protein ratio is optimal when training for a rigorous obstacle race. Focus on carbs such as whole grains, fruit and veggies and non-processed starches.
3. Protein intake is also a very important factor of your nutrition as it helps your body to build and maintain muscle. Opt for lean sources of protein such as chicken, turkey and fish.
4. Be aware of your daily water consumption. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty, drink water at all times of the day. For intense training days make sure you are consuming electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Potassium is a key electrolyte as well as sodium.
5. Remember, on race day it is important not to consume food within at least 2 hours before the event. Eat a good meal the night before your race but don’t overdose on carbohydrates. What you don’t want is an upset stomach right before your race. During longer races (7-10 miles, half-full marathons) you will want to bring an alternative energy source with you to consume during the race. This is imperative in preventing your glycogen stores from bottoming out, and keeping you feeling energized the entire race. Opt for energy sources with a caffeine boost. Hydration during the race depends on you. Some races have hydration stations and some do not. Your best bet is to bring a water pack to run with. This way, whenever you start to feel the need to hydrate you can do so on the spot.
The most important advice I could ever give anyone about an obstacle race is this: Never give up on yourself. Never quit. Some obstacle races may be so overbearing that you may want to give in, however, this is what obstacle racing is all about. Mental toughness, physical fortitude, pushing yourself to your extreme, breaking your barriers and limitations, ignoring the pain and fatigue, shutting out the doubt. This is why we race, to challenge ourselves and not only that but to succeed and be victorious.
Want to know more? write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, concerns and feedback.
Trey Smith is a NASM certified fitness professional with numerous obstacle race accomplishments and experience. Trey is an avid fitness blogger and a fitness entrepreneur, owner-operator of Smith Advanced Nutritional Enterprise (SANE) and also a certified Crossfit Level One and Basic Olympic Weightlifting Movements Osteoblast Training™. Follow Trey’s blog at www.saneweight.com and also be on the lookout for Obsacle Race Bootcamps coming to an area near you.