By Joe Vennare
Are you looking for a new fitness challenge? Maybe you’ve grown tired of your workout routine. You’ve hit a training rut and need to bust through a plateau. Or, are you in search of a competition that will put your physical and mental training to the test?
If that’s the case, look no further than an obstacle course race.
Obstacles races like Tough Mudder marry adventure racing with a military-style challenge course, delivering a one-of-a kind fitness experience. Think trail running meets CrossFit WOD. To succeed, you’ll need a combination of strength, endurance and athleticism. That means you will have to create an obstacle race training plan that helps you become fit, fast and explosive. These five tips will make for a triumphant race day performance.
Top 5 Obstacle Race Training Tips
Do your homework – Do a little research before signing up for a race. Look into the length of the course, types of obstacles and overall competitiveness of the event. Then, pick the race that fits your fitness and recreation goals. Some races are more competitive than others. Depending on the race, you could be headed for an intense endurance event or an event that is more party than race. Figure out what you’re in for before you commit.
Build a base – Races vary in terms of distance and difficulty. But no matter which race you choose, expect it to be a test of strength and stamina. With that in mind, include strength and cardio workouts in your weekly routine.
When it comes to cardio, running three to five miles without stopping is a solid starting point. On the strength side, bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, triceps dips, squats and lunges are the first steps. Because you will be expected to maneuver your own bodyweight up, over, around, and through various obstacles a 300-pound bench is not essential for an obstacle race; strength–to-weight ratio is the goal.
Get specific – With the foundation in place, turn your attention to the specific challenges that make up an obstacle race. You can expect to encounter barrier walls, monkey bars, rope climbs, water hazards and more. Although the obstacles will vary, the skill set you’ll need stays the same. A strong grip, balance, agility and explosive strength will help you dominate every obstacle.
Kettlebell swings, pull-ups and the famer’s carry are keys to building a vice grip. Athleticism and agility can be had by incorporating plyometric and single-leg exercises into training mix. Then, become more explosive by making compound movements like the back squat, deadlift, and power clean a mainstay in your workout routine.
All-in-one – Most fitness routines separate strength and cardio workouts. That’s a bad idea for any obstacle racer in training. Obstacle races mix periods of running with feats of strength scattered along the way. You’re workouts should, too.
Complete training sessions that pair cardio with strength-based exercises. Combining sprinting or interval training with strength exercises like kettlebell swings or tire flips is the perfect way to improve hybrid fitness – mixture speed and strength. It’s exactly what you’ll need for a solid performance on race day.
Dress for Success – How you train is important, but so is what you wear. Obstacle races consist of mud, water and off-road conditions. Dress for these elements by choosing comfortable athletic clothing and fabrics that wick moisture and dry quickly. Compression shorts, tight fitting tops and trail shoes are a must. It’s also a good idea to choose clothing, shoes and gear that you wouldn’t mind discarding after the race. Pack a change of clothes, a towel and plastic bag to stow dirty clothes after the race.
Start Training Today
Use this week of workouts to create your own obstacle race training plan:
Monday – Strength
– Or –
10x Suspended row/lat pull-down
5 Rounds – As Fast As Possible
10x Bench Press @ Bodyweight
10x Back Squat @ Bodyweight
10x Deadlift @ Bodyweight
Tuesday – Conditioning
Run 3 at a comfortable pace
Wednesday – Strength
3x Front Squat every minute, on the minute (increase load as needed until 3x is challenging with perfect form)
Rest 3-5 minutes, then
Thursday – Cardio
Find a steep hill that takes 60-90 seconds to climb. Sprint to the top of the hill, and then walk or job back down. Repeat for 8-12 rounds.
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Hybrid Workout
Run 100 meters
Run 200 meters
25 Air Squats
Run 400 meters
Run 200 meters
25 Kettlebell Swings
Run 100 meters
Sunday – Rest
Photos Courtesy of Joe Vennare
Race Day Domination
Kettlebell Cardio Fitness