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Running Basics for Obstacle Race Training: 2 More Running Workouts

8 Apr 2013

GoRunning. It’s the cornerstone for obstacle race training. If you want to finish an obstacle race, you should be able to run your race distance before the big day.

A little while ago, I wrote an article for AskTheTrainer.com (ATT) on four running workouts helpful for obstacle racing. These four workouts will all help build your endurance (and maybe even tolerance!) for running, while infusing a little variety into your mud run training workouts.

Here’s a quick summary of my ATT article: 4 Key Obstacle Race Training Running Workouts. You can check out the article for more on how to get started with each.

1. The Distance Run

The distance run is the building block for beginners. If you’re new to obstacle racing and running, build up to running three miles or 30 minutes without stopping for rest.

Starting out, this may mean several walk-run or walk-jog workouts before you can reach your goal distance by running alone.

2. Intervals

With running intervals, you’ll alternate bouts of hard running with rest or walk. Rest can vary depending on your fitness level, but overall, you’ll be completing multiple sets of running and rest or walk bouts.

Intervals will enhance your anaerobic capacity and running endurance.

3. Hills

Hill running is exactly what it sounds! You run a series of inclines interspersed with segments of recovery.

Hill training boosts your overall fitness, leg strength, and leg power.

4. Trails

With trails, you take your running outdoors.Gather a few friends, pick a trail, preferably one similar to the trek for you obstacle race, and get out and run.

These are four great running workouts to help you build your running fitness, each of which I cover more in depth in the ATT article. Here are a couple more to keep you improving your obstacle race readiness.

5. Tempo

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What’s a Tempo Run?

A tempo run is a run at a steady pace, either faster or slower than your race day speed. Aim for a pace 10-45 seconds slower or faster than your race speed.

You’ll often see a tempo run defined as a run slower than your 5k or 10k speed. But if you are a beginner, you may not have a 5k or 10k pace yet. So for your tempo run, use the pace you aim for in your long distance runs as a starting point.

Although the traditional tempo run is a run at a pace SLOWER than your race day speed, tempos can also be done at a pace FASTER than what you’re used to. That’s once you’ve built a foundation for running.

Try tempo running workouts once you’re able to run 3 miles or 30 minutes without rest.

The Benefits of a Tempo Run

Like hills, the tempo run improves lactate threshold and VO2Max.

This essentially means that tempo runs can help with delaying leg fatigue and improve your body’s ability to convert oxygen into energy for your muscles.

The main drawback of a tempo run is that it can be a little more time-consuming than your typical distance run, especially if you are running at a pace slower than your race day speed.

Tempo Run: How To Start

If you’re new to a tempo run, start with a pace slower than your 5k speed.

Warm-up with a walk or an easy jog for 10 min, then run at a pace 10-30 seconds slower than your race day speed. Run for at least 20 minutes, and work up to 40 minutes total.

Then cool-down with a walk or easy jog for 5-10 minutes followed by some leg stretches.

If you can run up to 4 or 5 miles without rest on your distance days, you can try a tempo run at a faster pace.

Your warm-up and cool-down may be similar to a tempo run performed at a slower pace. But instead of running up to 40 minutes, try a shorter, more intense run of 15-25 minutes.

There are many other types of tempo runs, but these two examples will get you started on this effective running workout.



What are Circuits?

Applied to running, circuits are short bouts of 3-5 minute or 400-700m runs followed by exercises.

The exercises of choice will vary depending on your goals: they can be strength, core, flexibility, agility, balance, etc., or a combination of different types of exercises.


In terms of overall fitness, circuits help you target both cardio and other fitness goals. You can combine bursts of running with just about any other exercise or series of exercises. Circuit training is a very efficient technique as you can work on multiple goals in one single session.

For obstacle racing, circuits are a must to include in your training. Circuits can simulate the challenges you’ll face on race day. You’ll encounter bouts of running with various obstacles along the way to challenge your strength, balance, flexibility, core, and mental toughness.

How To Circuit Train for Mud Runs and Obstacle Course Races

If you’ve visited my blog before, you may have noticed that several of the obstacle race training workouts here consist of circuits blended with running.

Beginner-Intermediate Mud Run Obstacle Race Training Workout

This beginner-intermediate workout combines 4-minute bursts of running with flexibility and strength exercises using your own bodyweight and dumbbells.

Intermediate Mud Run Obstacle Race Training Workout

This intermediate mud run workout combines 5-minute bouts of running with kettlebell and bodyweight exercises to improve strength, coordination, and flexibility.

Advanced Mud Run Obstacle Race Training Workout

This is a super circuit of 15 challenges, including bouts of hill and speed running with strength, power, and core exercises.

Running Basics: Putting it Altogether


So there are six running workouts that will prepare you for an obstacle race. How do you start?

The long distance run is your foundation for running endurance. Once you’re able to run 30 minutes or 3 miles without rest, you can try the intervals, hills, or tempos.

As an obstacle athlete, you can integrate circuit training at just about any fitness level, beginner or advanced. Just be sure to take the time to master the form for the exercises before including them in circuits.

Best of luck with your training!


Image credits: Run, treble, circuits

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