Obstacle course racing has taken not only the nation, but also the world by storm. Practically any active person you ask will have done, or know someone that has finished, a Spartan Race, Tough Mudder or Warrior Dash. Just because these races are fun, it doesn't mean that you don't need to train properly. Training not only prepares your body, but it also helps to avoid injuries.
If you've ever been to one of these events, or watched YouTube videos online, you've probably seen the crowds enjoying the bands and celebratory beers at the post-race party. This may lead you to believe that it's just one big party and that anyone can do it, but this certainly isn't true. Both Spartan and Tough Mudder races generally are 8 to 12 miles with numerous challenging obstacles. So if you want to conquer one of these demanding events and stay injury-free, then you better train accordingly to avoid common mishaps.
1. Cardiovascular Conditioning
These events are close to a half-mile distance. If the only training you do is running a few miles randomly with your friends to get ready, chances are you're going to bonk along the way. To get ready for an obstacle race, my clients generally train using a half-marathon training program to build up their mileage and endurance so they can reach the finish line strong, and still smiling. Put in the time and miles beforehand and you'll make it to the finish line before all the beer is gone.
2. Strength Training
During many of these events you'll encounter obstacles where you have to carry or drag heavy objects, climb over walls, up ladders and even ropes, plus much more. If all you've been doing is running, chances are you might have some difficulty with these obstacles. You don't need to sign up for an expensive gym membership to strength train.
My clients train using the same objects they might find on the course like old car tires and buckets of sand or water. You can get a used car tire for free from almost any tire shop and pick up a 5-gallon bucket and 50-pound bag of sand from Home Depot. Grab your friends 2 to 3 times a week for a couple hours of carrying, pressing and dragging these objects around. Come race day, you'll be ahead of the game.
3. Injury Prevention
Two of the most common training mishaps are knee and/or ankle injury. The majority of these events are on rugged, uneven terrain, which makes them unique but certainly more unstable. I've asked many people who've been injured over the years what their training program entailed. They usually say that they trained by running on the road. This will help with your cardio, but certainly doesn't help prepare you for the terrain you'll be running on. If you want to get ready for rugged terrain, you need to train on it periodically. Not only does this help to get accustomed to it, but it also helps to mentally prepare you for the challenge.
If your goal is to complete one of these obstacle races, make sure that you train properly to avoid common mishaps. This way you can cross the finish line strong and enjoy that celebratory beer with your friends.