Training for Obstacle Course Races: Part I

Part 1: Building the Base
Obstacle course races such as the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, and Tough Mudder are getting more and more popular with the general population. As a personal trainer, weightlifting coach, and track and field coach, it is my opinion that the 5K versions of these races are exactly the kind of fitness most of us need for everyday activities: upper and lower body strength, core strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory fitness. More importantly, these races are fun and help maintain that sense of play that is so important for all of us. If you can train for and complete a 5k obstacle course race, you have the kind of fitness that is going to keep you going strong for a long time. For my clients who don’t play a sport or have a specific fitness goal, I encourage them to consider one of these races as a fun and reasonable goal to train for. I recently completed the Tough Mudder, an 11 mile, 25 obstacle, challenge with a group of friends as a training challenge.

Training for Obstacle Course Races: Part II

Part II: Event Specific Training
Transmutation
Once you have your base in place, its time to enter the Transmutation phase. The time it takes to get through this and the level of difficulty you’ll want to include will depend entirely on your fitness level and the degree of difficulty of the race. For the Tough Mudder, we wanted to be able to cover a distance close to the eleven mile distance of the race combined with obstacle stations that would specifically improve our skills for the race. Notice I said skills and not strength. During the Transmutation phase, you are not going to get appreciably stronger. You will however, get much better at the skills you practice. For example, when we started our 8 week Transmutation phase for the Tough Mudder, I could climb the rope with someone holding the bottom of it and I could get over the six foot wall with a little help. By the end of the eight weeks, I could go up and down the rope easily and climb the eight foot wall by myself. Its not because I got stronger, its because I got more coordinated. Practice makes perfect.

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