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6 Weeks To An Obstacle Challenge

19 Jun 2015

I was recently emailed a question on how to structure your exercise program for a Tough Mudder when you’re 6 weeks away from the event. With hundreds, maybe thousands, of obstacle events worldwide now, chances are many of you may be about 6 weeks away from a race.

If this is you, you should have built a foundation of strength and endurance by now. If you have, here’s what you can do 6 weeks leading up to a Mudder-like challenge. It doesn’t have to be TM, it can be any other 9+ mile challenge like a longer Spartan Super or Spartan Beast.

Obstacle Race Training 6 days a Week

At this point, you should probably be working out around 5-6 days a week. It may sound intense for a beginner, but that’s why you work up to it. Now’s the time to get as much work and progress done in prep for your race.

If you’re working on endurance and overall readiness for an obstacle challenge, here’s what your workout-week will look like. (If you want to focus on building strength or power, make sure one of the workouts on Day 3 or 5 are focused on strength or power training.)

Day 1: Long Run

running-in mudEndurance is an absolute must for an obstacle course race, and if you need to improve on it, it’s a good idea to start your week with a long run to test and increase your mileage.

Adhere to the no more than 10% rule: increase your distance by no more than 10% each week.

If you find yourself a week or two away from your obstacle challenge, and you can’t run the same distance as your race, it’s okay. Marathoners don’t always run the full 26.2 miles during the course of training.

Try your best to get to at least 80% of your OCR’s distance.

Day 2: Circuit Training/Hybrid Workout

You’ve probably seen thousands of them online: WODs, OCR-specific circuits, and other routines.

Circuit training sessions are hybrid workouts: they work your strength, power, agility, core, and balance.

Looking for more exercise ideas? Tough Mudder’s obstacle pages suggest exercises you can integrate to specifically prepare you for their challenges.

Day 3: Active Recovery or Yoga

Recovery plays just as an important role in your training as your running and hybrid workouts. Rest helps your body adapt and muscles repair from all your hard work.

But active recovery involves more than just rest. On an off-day, you can stretch out and even mildly work out your sore muscles to keep them flexible, prevent injury, and even minimize tightness.

On an active recovery day, try a mobility and flexibility workout or yoga session.

Day 4: Running Hills or Intervals

To build on your running fitness for obstacle racing, you’ll need to mix up distance with other running workouts.

Running Hills

For obstacle racing, hills are a must. By now, you should be able to run at least 3 miles so you have a foundation for challenging running workouts.

With hills, you alternate 30-60 seconds of steep incline running bouts with rest, working with a 1:3 work:rest ratio. Aim for 6-10 sets.

As with any running workout, warm up first with an easy run/jog (1/2 – 1 mile depending on fitness level) and dynamic flexibility. And remember to cool down at the end by stretching out.

Running Intervals

You can also work with intervals on some weeks to help build endurance and anaerobic conditioning. A running bout can be 200m-400m (or about ⅛ – ¼ mile) with the lower end usually a starting point for beginners.

The work:rest ratio often starts at 1:3 or 1:4 with beginners, while fit runners can do a 1:1 or 1:2 work-rest combo. Most interval workouts consist of 3-8 sets.

Day 5: Circuit Training/Hybrid Workout

Bodybuilding man and woman holding dumbbells in plank position a
Here’s another day to work on the other physical fitness components you’ll need to develop for race day.

Try a workout that will target some of the things you may have missed circuit training earlier in the week. So if you focused on strength and power a few days ago, try to get in some core, balance, and agility exercises.

You can also work in one or two-minute bursts of running on a treadmill or outdoors if you are training outside.

Day 6: Obstacle-Specific Skill Day

Six weeks away from your race, you need to work on techniques specific to overcoming obstacles. That means swinging through monkey bars, climbing ropes, scaling walls, flipping tires, and all the other stuff that make obstacle challenges fun.

Find an OCR gym, right-sized playground, or other outdoor space with obstacle-like equipment. (Or create your own if you have the space and resources.) Practice.

In a perfect world, you’d be training at an OCR location every weekend, but if that’s not feasible, try to get out there a few times before your race. Ask the coaches there for tips on how you can simulate obstacle-specific training at home.

Day 7: Rest

If you’re up for it, you can try an active recovery day here, but it’s not absolutely necessary. And if you are feeling beat up from a hard training week, a day of nothing may be critical for repair, recovery, and injury prevention.

One week from your event, you can scale back so you focus on easy runs and active recovery workouts with some light core, bodyweight, and dynamic flexibility work.

What’s your training program like 6 weeks from an obstacle challenge?

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