Skirts, Dirt, and OBC Race Training

Everything you need to know about your first obstacle course race is HERE. 

I recently read Margaret Schlachter’s book, “Obstacle Race Training.” Margaret is a professional in the sport of obstacle races and has been writing about the sport since 1

“My aim is to help ease the worries going into a race, as well as give insider tips and tricks for obstacles and more.”

And this is exactly what Margaret accomplishes in her book: she prepares the newbie for his or her first experience on a course of uncertainties. And she does it well.

If you are a regular on Strong Figure then you know our blog has posted several pieces on obstacle course races and training.  I’ve competed in several, have scored some wins, and my staff of writers and ambassadors are crazy-Spartan-GoRuck-Tough Mudder people — so I was excited to read Martha’s book.  (Not to mention that I was hoping to get some cool training ideas for my bootcamp classes that I teach.) :)

What I didn’t expect

was to be completely drawn in to the first couple of chapters. Let’s be real: I thought I knew enough already to skip around the book and be satisfied. But man was I wrong! Margaret’s story of how she hit a really low point in her life and OBC racing bringing her out of her depths, is so inspiring that I started reading from page one and ended up reading the entire book, word for word.

The second chapter might have even been my favorite: A Brief History of the Sport. I literally had just finished listening to the Barbell Shrugged Podcast interview with Joe De Sana, founder of the Spartan Race. And here’s Margaret–a participant in the first ever Spartan Race and also a participant in the BIGGEST Spartan Race–the Death Race. After listening to the podcast, I realized I would NEVER be tough enough for a Death Race. The name, by the way, isn’t a joke. The race lasts for days and is only stopped after most of the participants (usually military-tough) drop out. But Margaret? She’s the real deal. She’s a pro-racer, knows her sh*t, trains hard, and she WINS.

Whenever you have time, you really need to listen/watch this podcast. It’s remarkable.
What’s more to love? photo 2

  • The book is real. Real, meaning that Margaret doesn’t sugar coat anything. She talks about bouts of hypothermia, gives several first-hand accounts about the realities of OBC races, and even includes stories from those she has met along her racing journey. Some of the stories are scary and some inspiring, but at the end of the book, you will 100% KNOW whether or not this is the sport for you. I like that. She leaves nothing out. It’s dirty, ugly, and a crapload of hard work. But the experience is life-changing, and THAT, no one can deny.
  • There are some great workouts in the book! Margaret gives four weeks worth of training prep, a packing list that is beyond accurate, and the appendix is full checklists, training logs, and methods to help you reach your goals–in racing or in life. It’s got what you need.
  • She has reviewed every shoe imaginable for the sport. Maybe it’s just me, that’s a MAJOR plus. Chapter 10 seems the most beneficial of all.
  • Not only does she outline HOW to tackle any obstacle the runner may face, but she also tells you what exercises in the gym to do to best prepare for each type of obstacle. That’s going above and beyond right there.
  • Margaret’s book is FULL of color pictures–races, muddy people, obstacles, and the exercises needed for training! The book has GREAT info, but the abundance of pictures is what really makes it.

Who is the book for? 

The newbie. If you’re not new to the sport of OCR racing, there’s a lot of information that you already know. I love reading about the background of the sport, various training methods, and ways to scale walls. But if you’ve done a few races, unless you want some extra insight into the sport–maybe you’re training to go pro–I’d say you can probably figure out what you need to know based on your previous experiences and the information from the website on which race you’ve signed up for next.

But if you haven’t raced before? Or if you’re only just now considering trying? READ the book. The difference between mud runs and obstacle course races are highlighted, the various race distances are discussed, random training methods for all types of races are outlined, and there’s even a whole section on how to perform the different types of burpees and why you even need to be concerned with burpees in the first place!

For the newbie, there’s really a LOT to consider. Much more than I ever thought about with my first race. In fact, I made a lot of rookie errors my first race and I wish I had known more info like this. From what to pack and wear, how to roll and crawl, and how to jump and climb, Margaret has the novice covered.

I wish 

  • there was more nutrition covered in the book. Margaret’s chapter on nutrition is beyond correct in all that she says (it’s not often that I agree with people on nutrition) but Margaret’s is good. That said, I wish she wrote more about it! I personally have battled severe cramps due to not properly fueling up pre-race. I’ve had to learn to start loading potassium days in advance as well as being cautious that I don’t deplete much needed minerals by drinking TOO much water in preparation! That’s right, I’ve been over-hydrated before. I’ve pinpointed my fuel almost down to a science in the week before a race. Maybe it has been simple for Margaret, but for me, race-day fueling took a LOT of trial and error. In the link above, I list 5 ways to prep for a race, one week out. When I stick to my list above, I have much better results!
  • I also wish there were more workouts in the book. Yeah, there are four weeks’ worth of awesomeness, even a 100-day burpee challenge, but looking at the workouts, they don’t seem to quite match up (at least in my head) with the target audience. The audience is clearly newbies. I don’t know many people new to a sport like this who can pop out 100 pull-ups or 150 lunges. Well, at least not do that and then do 10 sprint intervals the following day. That’s a lot of wear and tear on a body–especially new to exercise. Maybe Margaret intended the workouts for those who are new to the sport but NOT new to fitness? That would make more sense. Still, I think it would be cool to see a true novice prep program, and intermediate program, and a kick ass hardcore training prep 3


The book is better than I anticipated it being. I have a much bigger appreciation for the bigger races out there that I haven’t found the nerve to conquer yet. I have a HUGE appreciation for Margaret and her ability to do what she has done: not just compete, finish, and win some of the toughest races in the world, but she quit her job to pursue the sport full time! That takes guts.

(Editor’s note: if you are planning on doing an awesome obstacle race PLEASE register through Strong Figure — just click this banner below or the same picture on our home page — THANKS)
Experience the World's Best Obstacle Race Series! Sign up for a Reebok Spartan Race Today!

Make sure you follow Margaret on Facebook and that you subscribe to her website!

And of course, don’t forget to grab her book!

Who’s listening? What races have you competed in and what are some of the tips you’d give a new racer? What would you ask Margaret if you had the chance? 



  1. says

    Great post! I am reading this book as well. I agree with wanting more nutrition info, I also have cramping issues during OCRs. I have raced in Warrior Dash, Spartan, Tough Mudder, Gladiator Rock N Run, plus some local OCRs. I am running the inaugural Battlefrog 15K OCR this weekend and I am super excited!! The biggest tip I would give a new racer is to not be afraid to run these races. There are always plenty of people to help you if you get “stuck” at an obstacle. Plus the excitement and feeling of bada$$ery is electrifying. Do one and you will be addicted!!