If you are on social media, you have probably scrolled past an ad or post from someone telling you to sign up for the next closest Tough Mudder, Spartan Race or Warrior Dash. The ads might show people covered in mud attempting to run over fire, crawl through barb wire or carry heavy objects. While those photos can either appeal to you or not, there is something to be said about the consistency and variety of training that does into preparing for an obstacle course race.
If you have heard my story, humor me by allowing me to introduce it to those who have not. I finished my first obstacle course race in 2012. It was a Warrior Dash. While I loved it, I didn’t put much thought into it again until after the birth of my second daughter. I was in a rut. Two kids in seventeen months had left my body feeling broken, tired, soft. Something I had never experienced. After much complaining to my husband about plateauing and not seeing any changes, he suggested that I sign up to do a competitive Spartan Race that he planned to participate in. The thought of trying something new and very much out of my comfort zone left me feeling anxious.
Upon researching various obstacles I might encounter and what type of terrain that I would be running on, I changed my entire outlook on training. Long gone were the days of way too much cardio and low weight/high rep lifting. I began to be intentional about my workouts. You see, the ideal obstacle course racer can run efficiently, climb (when terrain gets very steep), hang for long periods of time, while also being able to carry heavy objects up and down significant inclines and declines. It’s really a fine line of balancing not being too strong, yet not being too skinny. You can’t sacrifice one thing or it will slow you down somewhere else.
You can’t just practice upper body and strength, you also must practice running, mobility, and time OFF your feet. What does a typical obstacle race training program that I would build look like?
- One long run a week. Depending on the distance you are training for, you are working for time on feet (not necessarily mileage). I want you to build endurance for the duration of time that you think your race might last.
- One interval running workout per week. Let’s get some mileage in by pushing our paces to threshold then recovering. Let’s practice hill training, running speed on grass and perform running form drills.
- Two Strength Days per week. Strength days are solid. Not much running at all. This is not the workout you can expect to build mileage. I want you working grip strength, picking up heavier things than you are used to and building that tight core that makes everything easier.
- One Easy Run/Ride per week. The purpose of that easy run/ride is to build muscle endurance without wearing you out. That’s it. Enjoy it.
- One Strength/Run workout per week. Let’s drop our weight a little bit and focus on running in between strength exercises. How do you keep your heart rate controlled moving from a run/row to a strength exercise and not lose bad form?
- One rest day. That’s right. Take a day OFF!
The constant variation of not knowing what is coming next keeps your mind and body challenged. Engaged. Right where it needs to be to continue to see results. Not to mention, allowing yourself to set a goal will also give you a benchmark in which you can celebrate success. Success is what drives us to be better versions of ourselves. Through this simple programming, I have watched people change their perception in themselves and exercise by challenging themselves in ways they never thought possible.
I find so many people have so many options they need direction of which way to go to get the most benefit out of everything they could be doing. There is absolutely no reason for people to be plateauing and bored in our current fitness environment. I am currently working with people specifically building out calendars of what to do on what day of the week to make the most out of their training, social life and work balance. If you are stuck in a rut, you may just need to do something way out of your comfort zone!
Jen Dufresne owns Cross Conditioning, a program that offers individuals the tools they need to increase their fitness and/or train for an obstacle or running race. SweatNET members receive exclusive discounts to Cross Conditioning. Not yet a member? Sign up here.