If there’s anything that I’ve learned from running in obstacle course races, it’s that the training–the preparation and hard work–must be unique and it must be applicable to various courses. Here are five training tips that will help in almost all obstacle courses.
- Sprint Uphill: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to run uphill. Find a hill or put your treadmill on a steep incline and perform multiple sets of sprints (if possible) or walk the hills until you’ve built up enough strength and stamina to run.
- Perform Upper Body Pulling Exercises: You’re going to have to pull yourself up a rope, over a wall, and both up and over cargo nets, so get used to pulling your body weight around. Perform as many pull-ups as you can in preparation. What if you can’t do a pull-up? Try assisted pull-ups (with a machine or bands) or practice negatives (hold the pull-up position at the top and hang for as long as you can.) Practice lat pull downs, chin ups, rows, and anything else that requires you to pull something heavy towards your body.
- Learn to crawl: As my friend Terri once said, “Butt up and head down.” Most people crawl under nets, wires and through tubes on all fours. That’s slow and tears up your knees. Army crawl by using your forearms, your toes, and keep your butt just slightly elevated (this keeps the netting or wires off of the rest of you so that you can speed through.) Army crawling requires total body strength so start practicing now! And let me repeat: crawl on your toes and forearms, not your knees! Some races will let you roll underneath barbed wire instead of crawl, but seriously, what fun is rolling your body over jagged rocks?! (And the rocks always seem to be razor sharp!)
- Carry Heavy Objects: You never know what you’ll be asked to carry–sandbags, buckets, tires, your teammate–start lifting awkward heavy objects and carry them as far as you can. Have a kettlebell or two? Carry it over your head, by your side, out in front of you, it doesn’t matter. Just carry heavy things.
- Learn to Run Downhill: One element of racing completely new to me was the downhill glide. I had no problem beating anyone to the top of a hill but I never once passed a soul on the way down. In fact, I got passed by every person whom I breezed by on the way up. The secret? I’m told to just “open your hips and let momentum carry you.” Maybe it’s because I have tight hips (and maybe I should be doing more yoga), but I’m horrible at this part. I think confidence is a big key for me–letting momentum take me is a scary thought. That’s FAST! Of course I’m in every race to win it so it’s time to go hard or go….HOME!
What now? Practice, practice, practice. And when you feel strong, come back for more tips, and then keep practicing these. They’ll never get old.