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A Guide to Obstacle Course Racing

February 18, 2016 by HealthyFamiliesBC

How to train and prepare for obstacle course races.

Have your friends been participating in events like Tougher Mudder™, Spartan Race™, or Mudderella™? A few of mine have. Obstacle course races have been rising in popularity. They bring an exciting (and sometimes strange) way to challenge your body and mind.

As the name implies, obstacle course races are a series of obstacles (5-20) that are spread over a distance (2-10 km) which you run or walk between, individually or as a team.

Types of Obstacle Races:

  • Themed: mud runs, foam-filled courses, warrior inspired and zombie apocalypse races are just some of the themes, let alone costumes, participants can tackle.
  • Extreme: very challenging obstacles over greater distances (some up to 40 km!)
  • Women: created for female-only participation
  • Kids: designed with kids in mind, with a focus on fun, confidence building and physical activity

Preparation and Training

If you’re signing up for an obstacle race here are some tips:

  • Start training at least two-three months in advance. Aim, at a minimum, to meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (150 minutes of vigorous to moderate physical activity every week). More training per week will bring better benefits.
  • Do regular aerobic activities to build your stamina. This will help you get from obstacle to obstacle. Jogging, hiking and cycling are good conditioning activities.
  • Do upper and lower body resistance exercises to help you jump, pull yourself up, and conquer other challenges.
  • Practise balance exercises. Having good balance will help you navigate uneven and narrow elements (such as balance beams). It may also help keep you from falling and getting injured.

Safety and Suggestions

Like any physical activity, obstacle courses have an inherent risk of injury. Stay safe with this advice:

  • Choose a race with a reputation of safety. Races that have run for a few years should be more experienced with risk management.
  • Start within your ability level. Don’t push yourself to a point that causes injury.
  • Don’t rush through obstacles. Take your time and skip the ones you’re not comfortable doing (there may be a less intense, substitution task you can do instead). After all, this should be for fun!

If your gym routine is getting, well, routine, set yourself a goal of an obstacle race; when you’re doing pull ups in the gym, you can envision how you are going to pull yourself over that 10’ high wall. And if you are participating as a team, train as a team – it’s way more fun!

Related blogs

Triathlon Training: A Starters Guide To a Sprint
Running Race Preparation

Recommended resources

American College of Sports Medicine: A Muddied Industry: Growth, Injuries, and Legal Issues Associated With Mud Runs



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