What's involved in obstacle course fitness events?
There is a rising tide of back-to-basics fitness contests involving mud runs, obstacle courses, Spartan activities and warrior workouts.
The idea is to overcome a variety of physical challenges while running a course, such as crawling through mud, climbing walls and ropes, carry heavy objects, wading through water and jumping over hurdles.
The military influence started with boot camps, but has now extended to intense outdoor adventure courses. They are guaranteed to push your body and mind to the limit, and offer a competitive environment to test your fitness levels.
How to train for an obstacle course event
1. Vary your training
Obstacle course events will test many aspects of your physical fitness, including strength, speed, agility, endurance, balance, flexibility and core stability.
This makes it important to including a wide variety of different activities and training methods in your exercise routine.
It helps to ensure all your various muscles and energy systems are challenged, and it makes training more interesting. The better your preparation, the better you'll perform, and the more you'll enjoy the experience.
Make sure to include both leg (cycling, running) and arm (boxing, paddling) based cardio, along with outdoor training, body weight exercises, sprints and shuttle runs.
2. Train like you're competing
You'll need more than a few laps around the block to get in shape for a challenging fitness event. You may not even know what type of obstacles you'll be facing till race day, so your body should be prepared for anything!
Aim for 2-3 training sessions a week where you imitate different elements of obstacle course racing and make them part of your workouts. This could include repeated efforts of pure speed and strength, of power and agility to fatigue, and even failure. Think high effort jump squats, box jumps, push ups, sit ups and crawling along the ground using your forearms and knees.
Running is also a key component, so include everything from 100 metre sprints, and 4 kilometre time trials
3. Include rest and recovery days
Because high-intensity training is required to prepare for an obstacle course event, it's important to give your body time to rest between workouts.
Aim for at least 1-2 days off each week, and experiment to see what methods help you recover best, such as massage, warm baths, stretching, yoga or a light walk.
Prioritise sleep, and take a rest day (or at least lighten the intensity of your workouts) if you start to see any of the signs of overtraining- think fatigue, drop in performance, sore muscles and joints.
4. Include nutrition and hydration as part of your training
Pushing your body to its limits when both training and competing places importance on both diet and hydration.
Quality, minimally processed carbohydrates are a key source of energy, especially slow release foods such as pasta, oats, brown rice, rye bread and vegetables.
Fluid should also be consumed before, during and after your activity, especially if it’s a hot day, or if you tend to sweat a lot.
Use your training to experiment with different foods, and the timing of meals and drinks to see what helps you perform at your best.
5. Have fun!
Obstacle course races are about pushing your boundaries and conquering the unknown, however, don't set unrealistic expectations.
Aim for improvement in your fitness and performance, but the very nature of obstacles is that you will not find everything easy. Don't be disheartened if you can't complete every hurdle or challenge that you come across.
By all means, push yourself hard, but it's more than likely you'll be crawling along the ground and covered in mud at some stage. Make sure to laugh along and enjoy the ride, and embrace the craziness of it all!