This week we're taking a step outside the norm and planning a workout around one of the fastest growing trends in sports, obstacle course racing. Whether you've done one or not theres no doubt you've seen or looked into a Spartan Race, Tough Mudder or any of the other numerous options. OCR offers a fun and challenging atmosphere for athletes of all levels. Elite athletes can push themselves in the longer distance races while a novice can stick to the shorter distances and still enjoy the challenge.
I recently completed my first OCR in Asheville, North Carolina tackling the Spartan Beast. The beast consisted of 8 Miles, 25ish obstacles and 2.000ft of elevation change. I did not place highly but was able to keep up with many veteran spartans. I attribute much of this to my training and personal approach to fitness. I established a strong aerobic base with trail and road running with grip focused strength work 3 - 4 days a week. The Asheville course was notably full of climbs so I planned for this by running up hills, truly state of the art training.
I found myself wanting to run more than I was able to during the "race." This is where the OCR world is facing a problem. Events are growing but the obstacles and trails can only accommodate so many athletes at once. The sport is destined for more growing pains from law suits around obstacle safety and the over crowding of events. That being said, I had a great time and signed up for two more races this year to go ahead and complete the "Trifecta."
In order to improve for the next two races I've taken what I learned in my first race and tweaked my training. I've combined this with what I've picked up from athletes such as Hunter McIntyre and Joe DI about OCR training to create a new plan moving forward. I'll share some of that plan with you today.
I picked up a few cool tools and made a few others to help with my training.
1. Metolious Rock Rings - Awesome for pull ups and working grip strength
2. DIY Bucket Carry - Fill a bucket with rocks
3. Giant Tire - Easy to find and cheap
4. DIY Sandbag - Medium Canvas duffel bag with 10lb bags of sand to adjust weight
I incorporated other weighted carries with a trap bar or kettlebell as well as a lot of time on gymnastic rings for hangs and pull-ups.
You could easily spend too much money building an elaborate rig in your back yard but I found having a few extra things in my garage gym helped me a ton on the course.
I incorporated dead hangs and pull ups on the rock rings 2 - 3 times a week.
4 finger holes - 6-8 Pull Ups
3 finger holes - 6-8 Pull Ups
3/4 off set - 3 each (Bonus if you switch holes without touching the ground)
Finish up with 4 finger dead hang and 3 finger dead hang to failure.
I also worked a weighted carry into my workouts 2 times a week. Either a suitcase carry or farmers carry. 2 x The length of my driveway.
One day a week I put everything together for Spartan Saturdays.
An example of a saturday workout.
General Warm Up and Movement prep
1 Mile Warm Up
Tire Flips - 100 feet (down and back across my backyard)
Farmers Carry - 100 feet
Bucket Carry - 150 feet (Around the lawn into the garage)
Rock Ring or Ring Pull Ups - 10
400m Run or 1 Hill
As an extra incentive I awarded myself 10 burpees anytime I set down the weights in a carry or hesitated too long on a flip or pull.
Set a timer for 60-90 minutes and get through as many rounds as possible.
Alongside incorporating more carries and hangs I focused a lot on trail running. Sometimes trail runs with a twist.
Tuesday - 3-4 mile trail run with 500 - 600 feet elevation (Sharps Ridge)
Thursday - 6 mile road run - Mid Tempo
Sunday - 8 + mile trail run (Ijams south loop or Haw Ridge perimeter loop)
Spice it up - If you're running a trail add in some bodyweight movements anytime you come upon a wooden structure. For me this meant 10 burpees anytime I crossed a bridge, picnic table, platform, or other wooden structure.
I roughly followed this plan and felt great on race day. I struggled on a few obstacles but that is to be expected. Overall my biggest advice is to have fun with your training and make yourself do burpees, lots and lots of burpees.