Looking for a new fitness challenge which is as fun as it is tough? Obstacle course racing is one of the most trying tasks you can throw yourself into – much harsher and demanding than your average race, but thoroughly rewarding nonetheless. Paul Vandyken, a personal trainer and professional nutritionist, is on board to offer his insightful comprehensive guide to prepping for this style of event!
Preparing for a straightforward race is way different from the preparations you need to do for an obstacle course race. In a typical race, the main points that you need to prioritise are stamina and leg strength. In an obstacle course race, on the other hand, there are a lot more aspects that you’ll need to focus on.
The tasks that you will tackle within an obstacle course race are designed to test every part of your body and utilise every bit of energy in them. The preparation time required to chisel your body into the best condition takes a lot longer for an obstacle course. You need to strengthen your whole body which takes a lot of work, and you also need to allow time for recovery in between training sessions. As much as you would like to train your body as quickly as possible, it is very important not to overdo it. In other words, there are no shortcuts you can take to have a body ready for an obstacle course race.
There are plenty of training routines to perform in order to prepare yourself for race day, but one of the most important goals of these routines is to increase your stamina. A strong cardiovascular system is needed to endure all of the challenges that you encounter throughout the race. To improve your stamina and cardiovascular strength, running and jogging are great exercises to get started with.
You do not necessarily have to run long distances right away. You can aim for a short distance and then increase it each time until you meet your target. Doing these exercises will build a strong foundation for a successful run in an obstacle course.
A lot of challenges in obstacle course require you to have strength in your legs. You need to be ready to leap, hop, and jump. You need to develop a strong lower body to help you jump higher and absorb the force when you land. Leg exercises such as squats, lunges, and single leg training routines are great for developing leg strength. These will not only improve your leaping ability but will also improve your speed.
Here are more specific leg exercises you should include in your training program:
- Squats – Squats are the most popular exercises when you talk about improving leg strength. They can be done with or without weights, so there are more opportunities for you to do them throughout your day. However, if squats are done incorrectly, they can lead to serious injuries. Never go all the way down because that puts too much strain on your knees.
- Lunges – Leg lunges is another workout that can be done with or without weights. The basic lunge is done by stepping forward and bending your knees down without touching the floor while your arms are at your side, parallel to your body. The weight of the body will be supported by the bent leg. When you feel that you are more comfortable, you can increase the reps or weights that you use.
- Leg/Thigh Machines – If you are in a gym, thigh machines can definitely help you with your leg strength. These machines can help you develop the muscles in your calves, hamstrings, and the back of your legs and thighs.
Grip and Arm Strength
There will be times when you will need a strong grip combined with strong arms during an obstacle course, such as when you have to climb rope ladders, go through monkey bars, and scale walls. That is why a combination of arm and grip strength training routines is imperative to your routine. Include the following exercises in your fitness program:
- Push Ups – Push-ups are considered as a classic workout exercise. It is a staple for most people’s training programme because they are easy and effective. This exercise can help strengthen your arms as well as your cardiovascular system. It also protects your arms and shoulders from injury because it will develop the strength to absorb more pressure. The best thing about this exercise is that you can virtually do it anywhere.
- Pull Ups – For an obstacle course runner, this is essential. You will need to have enough grip and arm strength to be able to carry yourself through obstacles such as monkey bars, rope ladders and other tasks that will require you to carry your own weight. There are a lot of different variations of pull ups and can be done with or without weights. Either way, they all aim to make you stronger, or at least strong enough for you to carry yourself across different obstacles.
- Weightlifting – There are a lot of exercises that you can do with different types of weights. Target your biceps with dumbbells and bicep curls, and home into your triceps with tricep extensions – you’ll certainly need these in prime condition for the race! This simultaneously strengthens your grip which will rise with additional weight.
If you master these exercises, then you will be more than ready to take on an obstacle course race. You can also add swimming to your training program since it improves your breathing and overall muscle strength in your body. Weightlifting can also help develop the strength of your core muscles and back muscles. However, training is just one side of the preparation. Another important thing to remember is to improve your lifestyle. Sleep early, drink a lot of water and eat healthy to ensure that your body can cope with the increase in your activities.
With discipline and determination, you can definitely get your body in top form so that you can perform during your race. You will unleash the beast within you, and no obstacle will stop you.
Paul Vandyken is a personal trainer, nutrition coach. His blog has articles, videos, and pictures with tips, tricks about fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle. If you are on the journey to your healthy and happy lifestyle, visiting his blog may worth a look or even help you enhance your process!