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Obstacle Course Race Training: Getting Started

What do you need to survive an obstacle course race? How fit do you need to be?

Obstacle Racing: Sprint or Run?

Before you answer these questions, you need to answer one question first: are you aiming for a sprint or a run?

The difference between the two is mileage: sprints are usually no longer than five miles, while runs are over five miles.

Both have numerous challenges along the way like climbing walls, crawling under barbed wires, lifting heavy things, etc. Sprints include the Warrior Dash, Spartan Sprint, Rugged Maniac, and Ruckus Challenge.

Runs include the Spartan Beast, Spartan Super, and Tough Mudder.

This directory of obstacle course races lists the distance and number of obstacles for each race.

For all mud runs, there are some basic physical fitness requirements you’ll need, including the ability to run/jog/walk/crawl 3-5 miles for a sprint or up to 12 miles for a run. You also need to be a team player and be able to carry your own weight (figuratively and literally).


Obstacle Race Training: Program Requirements

Training for an obstacle course race requires a unique sports-specific exercise program. If you’ve already googled related training workouts, you’ve probably found thousands of tips and routines.

If you’re in good shape and familiar with training for an event, you probably know what would work best for you.

But if you are training for an obstacle course race for the first time, build up your running fitness and try the following obstacle race workouts.

Square One: Basic Conditioning for Obstacle Racing

This workout is an introduction to basic circuit training using dumbbells and your own bodyweight. You’ll complete some of the staples of training for most sports, including obstacle racing: squats, push-ups, lunges, rows, and planks. This routine will help you build up to the rigorous challenge of a more advanced workout, which will simulate the challenges you’ll face on obstacle race day.

Beginner-Intermediate Level OCR Routine

This workout builds upon square one. You’ll complete bouts of strength and core exercises with segments of running, simulating the challenges of a mud run and obstacle course race.

Intermediate Level Obstacle Race Workout

This workout is similar to the preceding one, but customizable if you are short on time. You can complete this intermediate level workout in 20-25 minutes.

OCR Training with Running

Your hard work with beginner and intermediate-level workouts are preparing you to take on a rigorous session like this circuit training routine with running. This long, super circuit routine (15+ exercises) can also function as a good test for a sprint.

OCR Training without Running (A Home Workout)

No treadmill? Can’t get to the gym? Or maybe the weather doesn’t allow for an outdoor workout? No problem. This workout is a long, super circuit you can complete at home.

Active Recovery

Not every obstacle race workout needs to be a highly intense one. Every now and then, you’ll need to scale back to restore flexibility and mobility to your hard-working muscles. Also, keep in mind that recovery is something you’ll want to do regularly with a week of lighter training sessions with flexibility work scheduled after every 3-4 weeks of intense training.


OCR Nutrition: The Missing Piece

With all your hard work, you’ll need to fuel properly. Use these articles for guidelines on training and pre-race nutrition.

Now you should be ready to start a training program for the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and other popular mud runs and obstacle races.


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