How to Train for an Obstacle Course That's Right for You

Have you ever done a 5K? For many people, this 3-mile run has served several purposes besides just running a race. It has been a fundraising event uniting communities, a test of fitness among friends, and a training goal for first-time runners.

More recently, obstacle races and mud runs have supplanted the 5K as the must-try fitness challenge. With names that reference Spartan Warriors, and a reputation as a grueling test of endurance, you may have convinced yourself that these types of races are beyond your ability.

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But, you might be surprised to know that obstacle races or mud runs come in various distances and levels of difficulty.

Consider this, a first-time runner may choose to take on a 5K or a half-marathon before taking on the full 26.2-mile marathon. This holds true for first-time obstacle racers; you can pick a race that suits your ability level and enjoy a new and exciting challenge.

What's an Obstacle Race?

Think trail run meets military-challenge course. Obstacle races like the Tough Mudder and Spartan Race feature a cross-country running course that takes you over hills and through mud. Plus it challenges you with several rope climbs, water hazards and army crawls obstacles.

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Where Do I start?

First, choose a race that fits your fitness level. Races vary with respect to distance, difficulty and level of competition. Whether you're looking for a good time or a challenging workout, you can choose from a party-like atmosphere or an intense course that tests your of physical abilities.  

Spend some time looking into the various races. Before you complete your registration, become familiar with the course, various obstacles and components of the event.  

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How Should I Train?

First-time racers can get their feet wet—or muddy—by choosing a sprint-distance race. This type of race ranges from 3 to 5 miles and includes 5 to 15 different obstacles. When training for this type of race, aim for total-body fitness and cardiovascular conditioning. Create an obstacle race training program made up of 3 to 4 workouts each week.

Throughout the week be sure to include total-body strength-based movements and 30- to 40- minute cardio efforts to build a well-rounded base of fitness. It's also a good idea to become acquainted with burpees—or squat thrusts. A burpee is where you combining a push-up and a jump squat into one move; this type of movement pops up in almost every obstacle race.

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