Run your fastest obstacle course race ever
Obstacle course races, or OCR as they're referred to in the business, are growing in popularity at lighting speed, and for good reason. High intensity, technically challenging and far more entertaining than your standard bro-sesh, you won't get over OCRs easily.
If you’ve been roped in by a friend and are worried you’ll turn up on race day unprepared, don’t panic.
Here at MH we’re all about marginal gains, so to give you a head start on the competition, we’ve enlisted the help of OCR aficionado and founder ofRace Fitness Kieron Ross. With the training and course tips you need to know, whether you’re completing your first OCR or looking to smash your personal best, you won't get stuck in the mud.
Men's Health: Why are obstacle course races such a good test of fitness?
Kieron Ross:Training for an OCR is great fun and extremely effective if you’re inventive and willing to push yourself. It’s a full-body fitness challenge like nothing else. Marathons or a 10k are great, but it’s all about the running, so training can sometimes feel monotonous. With OCR, it encompasses everything. You need full body strength, as well as endurance, so in training you need to prepare every muscle in your body which keeps it interesting and varied.
MH: What can I do in the gym to prepare for the obstacles?
KR:OCR is 80 per cent trail running, so the majority of your training should be done outside. Your running shouldn’t be on pavements if you can help it, but instead on unstable ground in the park or up and down hills. Workouts should be as specific as possible to mirror the race. In the gym, I focus on developing my pull-up strength, so I can overcome the walls, which are a huge factor in OCR. Also try and improve your grip strength with dead-hangs from a bar. To condition my grip, I sometimes even hold dumbbells on my run and keep hold of them while performing different exercises like press-ups.
MH: What about if you can barely do a pull-up? Is an OCR not for me?
KR:Don’t let the pull-ups scare you off signing up. If you do struggle with them, a great exercise you can do in the gym is using a box or bench, lift yourself up to start with your chin above the bar, then as slowly as you can lower your body down so you finish with your arms fully extended. Try 3 sets of 6-8 reps. This will help you get so much stronger in your back.
(Related: These steps will help you nail the pull-up)
MH: What about preparation for running outdoors?
KR:Build exercises into your run. The obstacles on the course are designed to interrupt your running rhythm. In a 10k OCR you may stop every 3-5 minutes. Find a park with varied terrain and run hard for 3 minutes, stop, perform 20 burpees, run again, then do 30 sit-ups, run again, perform a low crawl. Even try picking up a heavy object along the way if you see one and carry it for a bit. This way there’s no real rest, your heart and lungs will be working flat out just like in OCR.
MH: What should you eat before the race and in training?
KR:My diet is high carb, high protein. Don’t avoid carbs, they’re crucial to your recovery and giving you enough energy for training. One of my simple staple meals is a bowl of whole wheat pasta, a chicken breast and loads of vegetables or salad. I don’t cut anything out, although I do try to avoid processed foods.
Before a race I don’t carb load as such. Remember, this isn’t a marathon. The night before just make sure you have a good dinner like a pasta meal… with a pint of Guinness, of course. Three hours before the race I’ll have porridge and add in a banana, raisins, honey and have a coffee with that. Then, just before the race I might have a quick energy gel for a hit of glucose.
MH: What one tip would you give for an OCR race?
KR:Change your mind-set regarding hills. Instead of slowing down when you get to an incline, speed up and attack it. Then use the downhills to recover. Don’t get me wrong, this is tough when your body is telling you to slow down, but it will give you the edge over the competition.
Take on Ross's full-body gym workout, below, to prepare you for what lies ahead. Good luck.
Kieron Ross is an ambassador for inov-8, the official shoe partner of Total Warrior.
Video: The world's hardest obstacle race - Spartan Race Sydney 2013
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