The work you put into obstacle course racing doesn’t begin when you’re at the starting line. It takes a lot of practice and training to get your heart, lungs, muscles, and mind ready to see the entire race through. These five workouts will help you get in the best shape to overcome every obstacle in your path.
Cardio is essential to OCR since the only way to get from one obstacle to the next is by jogging or running. It’s important to get your blood pumping and heart racing regularly before the big day. You can hop on the treadmill for cardio, but running outdoors will give you a much better idea of what to expect at the actual OCR event.
Don’t let the name of this workout deceive you. All you need to get started is your running shoes, an enthusiastic attitude, and a hill with a short sprint path. Stretch first, then position yo
urself at the bottom of the hill. Sprint uphill, driving your knees upward with every stride. At the end of the path, turn around and run back down. This part, which takes much less effort, is your recovery period. When you reach the bottom, start over. You can start with three rounds a day and add one more every time you do the Mountain.
If you really want to work on your stamina, try the Punisher challenge. Run at a comfortable pace for ten minutes. Sound easy? The catch is that every 25 seconds, you have to stop, drop to the ground, and do some push-ups – three to five are enough. Be conscious of your form, even when you start to get tired. Tracking your push-ups every workout is both satisfying and helpful. The next time you do the Punisher, try more push-ups or running farther.
When you think about how we crawl before we can walk, crawling seems easy enough. But that’s only until you actually have to do it, especially with mud everywhere and barbed wire hanging inches above your head. Getting a lot of practice will give you a huge edge on race day. Additionally, crawling is a great full-body workout.
If you’re unfamiliar to crawling and nervous about striking out, start with the Baby Crawl. Get down on your hands and knees, making sure they’re aligned with your shoulders and hips respectively. Step your right hand and left knee forward at the same time, and then move your left hand and right knee. Make your movements small and tight while you’re getting used to crawling. This will keep your core fully engaged. Make it a regular part of your routine until you feel confident enough to progress to the Bear Crawl.
Like with the Baby Crawl, begin on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Push your butt backward and then up in the air. Your arms and legs should now be stretched out straight. Move your left hand forward and right foot forward together. Plant your left hand and right foot, then step forward your right hand and left foot. As you take more steps, keep your butt in the air. Do the same when you bear crawl backwards. No matter which direction you’re going, go slow and focus on maintaining your balance. This will also help keep you safe from injuries.
Planking is a simple yet fantastic exercise. It strengthens and tightens your deepest core muscles. When you start to love the burn of planks like many fitness buffs do, you can improve your time by doing them several times a day. Challenge yourself by holding the pose a little longer every time.
Also called the “front hold”, the “hover”, and the “abdominal bridge”, the plank is an intense static exercise. Get on the floor and use your arms to raise up your body. Your toes should support you, as do your elbows and forearms. Hold your whole body straight and rigid. If you don’t feel confident about your form, try it out in front of a mirror. If your body is straight like a plank of wood, then you know that you’re doing it right.
Plank with Hip Circles
This variation on the basic plank is a perfect workout for your core. First, get into basic plank position. Next, rotate your hips to a full 360 degrees. Then extend your body fully by dropping your hips down – but don’t touch the floor. Stretch out again as you move your hips to the left, then bring them back to the basic plank position. Do the same on the right side, then drop your hips down again to full extension. Repeat this a few times, changing the direction of rotation with each rep.
Adding sandbags to your regular workout is a great way to boost your strength, stamina, and overall athleticism. The odd shape of the sandbag (compared to a dumbbell or kettlebell, for example) adds instability to your lifting. This means that your muscles constantly struggle to balance the weight as you keep lifting them, so your body keeps working harder with every rep.
Place a sandbag on your shoulder, or on your upper back if it’s too big. Then do 30 step-ups onto a raised platform. If you’re not at the gym, a sidewalk or the first step of a staircase will do. Alternate your legs so that it comes out to 15 reps each. When you step up, lift your other knee to hip height, then put both feet back on the ground before beginning the next one. Four sets with 15 reps for each leg will have you sweating plenty.
Sandbag Squat and Burden Run
For this workout, pick up a sandbag and carry it on your upper back. Do a total of 20 squats like this, keeping your chest up all the while. Right after your last squat, explosively run for a distance of 30 yards. As you can probably guess, the sandbag is the “burden” part of the run. Once you hit 30 yards, immediately start the next set, and then the next one again, until you finish three sets. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can take it all the way up to five sets.
5. Monkey bars
Working out on the monkey bars can help you build your upper body strength, endurance, and grip – all of which are vital in getting through an OCR event. Although workouts on the monkey bar are pretty tiring, you might not notice because they’re also a lot of fun.
Toe-to-bar and Pull-up Pair
Hang from a bar with an overhand grip. This means your palms should be facing front, away from you. Then bend your waist and your shoulders. Slowly lift your legs until your toes touch the bar, and then go back to your starting position. Take about three seconds to lower yourself after each rep. Do three sets of ten, and then take a well-deserved break.
Pull-up and Bar Hang
Use your overhand grip with your hands just slightly wider than shoulder width. Do a pull-up, keeping your core tight. Instead of lowering your body down right away, just hang on the bar for ten counts. Try to do three sets of ten reps each. You might feel your grip weakening as you finish each set, but hang in there – it will get easier and a little less painful every time you do it.
From lifting your own weight on the monkey bars to getting down on the ground and crawling, your pre-obstacle course racing workout has to engage every part of your body. The smartest way to prepare for an OCR event is by practicing with some exercises and equipment that will give you a similar experience to what you’ll encounter on race day. With consistent, disciplined training, you’ll be ready to cross the finish line with flying colors.