6 Training Tips for Your Next Obstacle Race

Who in their right mind would want to run for miles, jump over obstacles, crawl through mud pits, plunge into ice cold water, and jump through fire, and pay to do it?   Surprisingly, the answer is ‘many’.
Designed to challenge participant’s endurance, strength and mental ‘grit’, outdoor obstacle races have exploded in popularity in the past few years.   The increase in popularity is with good reason.  They are fun (if you enjoy running through mud) and challenging, they promote camaraderie and team spirit, and are a great way to get into shape, or stay in shape.
If this is the year you’re going check ‘mud race’ off your bucket list, or loved your last Mud trialsevent so much that you’re going back for more, it’s time to think about training.  Yes, I said ‘training’.  While there are a few (unwise) people who struggle through a course on little to no training, you’ll enjoy your event more, and lower your risk of injuring yourself if you do some prep work ahead of time.
Tips for Training for an Obstacle Course
1.    Ease into it.  One of the goals of training is to prevent injuries- not to get injured before race day by doing too much too soon. Be honest with yourself: if the last run you did was in high school gym class (and you can legally drink beer), or it’s been a while since you’ve hit the gym, progress slowly into your training program.  Give yourself at least 2-3 months to build up to be race ready.   For strength training, start with lighter weights, or body weight exercises with no impact (no jumping!).
2.    Build functional strength.  The law of specificity says that to get better in any activity, you must precisely practice the skill that you wish to develop.  Isolated biceps curls, or pumping out reps on the seated hip machine are not going to improve your performance on the course.  Instead focus on strength exercises that have a better carry over to the actual movements you’ll be doing on the course.  Include regular ‘gym’ exercises such as pull ups (assisted or regular), squats, lunges, squats with a shoulder press, and Burpees, as well as more specific exercises such as crawling on the floor and jumping.
3.    Don’t forget about cardio.  If you’re doing an obstacle course, you’ll be running… a lot.  While strength training will help you with the obstacles, endurance training will be necessary for the other 80% of your time on the course, which will be spent running.  During Ascend’s Tough Mudder Training Camp, we increase our runs to a 10-12K distance.  Even though the event itself is longer, the participants get ‘rest’ during the event while overcoming obstacles.  The law of specificity also applies to cardiovascular training.  If there are hills in your event, include hills in your training.   At Ascend, we include hill training, and end our training with a hike/run up Elk Mountain.
4.    Rest days.  Training is important, but we only get stronger when we recover from a training session.  Be sure to schedule at least 1-2 rest days per week.
5.    Have a dress rehearsal.  Race day isn’t the best time to learn that your legs chafe when your pants get wet, or your shoes don’t stay on when running in mud.    When prepping for the event, include a ‘dress rehearsal’.  Put your clothes on, go jump in a lake, and do your workout.  Same goes for fuel and water.  If your event is long, you may want to carry some food on the course, or ensure that food and water is offered on the course.  Again, do a ‘dry run’.  You may find that a certain food or energy gel doesn’t sit well with you, and it’s best to learn that ahead of time.
6.    Have fun.  Obstacle races are supposed to be fun.  Enjoy the camaraderie of having training partners, the thrill of running through fire, the childish joy of being covered in mud, and the feeling of accomplishment when you’re done.
If you’re ready to start training for your next obstacle race, or just want to build lean muscle, enhance your endurance and be ‘Tour Mudder’ Ready (even if you don’t actually want to do the race) be sure to claim one of the 20 spots in our Tough Mudder Training Camp.  Report for Training on April 23rd at 9:00AM!
Sample Workout to Get Tough Mudder Ready

Warm up (light running, dynamic flexibility)
Set 1:
15 Burpees
Pull Ups- Assisted, unassisted or with extra weight (aim for 8-10 reps)
Rest 30 seconds and repeat for 3 rounds.
Set 2:
Low plank crawl (approx 1 min)
Squat + Shoulder Press (aim for 8-10 reps)
Rest 30 seconds and repeat for 3 rounds.
Set 3:
10-15 Box Jumps or Squat Jumps
Cable Push (aim for 8-10 reps)
Rest 30 seconds and repeat for 3 rounds.
Set 4:
45 sec sprint
15 walking lunges with weight
End: Mobility exercises

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