So with an influx of new OCRs popping up everywhere, the common questions seem to be “Which shall I run?” and “How do I prepare?” Well lucky for you, I have run a few different kinds and am going to give you a rundown of how to prepare as best I can. Now there are roughly 3 types of OCRs that I have personally come across. You have the hardcore races such as Spartan Race and Battlefrog Series (which I haven’t run but am signing up for the one in March of 2015). Next you have what I would call the Fan Favorites which include Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder. Finally, I bring you the Fun Runs like Insane Inflatable 5k and Foam Fest 5k (recently shut down). Let’s see what race catagory you fall into!
As stated, in what I described as the “Hardcore races”, you have Spartan and Battlefrog. In a race like Spartan, one thing you need for sure is upper body strength. With obstacles like the rope climb and Hercules hoist, upper body strength really comes into play. There are other obstacles that require full body explosiveness as well. You can count on some sort of dragging obstacle, that pits your explosiveness against a large tire or concrete block that needs dragging. In my opinion, the more overlooked areas need for a race of this caliber would be balance and grip strength. Balance is put to use in log hopping obstacles and the traverse wall. The traverse wall is, believe it or not, a KILLER on the grip strength. Rope climb, Hercules hoist, object drags, all of these play on your grip little by little. Be sure you are really working on that area of fitness before one of these races. Endurance would be the last thing I want to mention. These races tend to run longer then they normally portray, so be prepared to run a 5 mile “5k”. Also, if you are not already, get to doing some burpees. These are the “punishment” for not successfully completing an obstacle. Yes I said “punishment”. What did you expect from a Hardcore series race?? A thanks for trying? Ha not here! You will be rewarded in your shortcomings by the great equalizer, burpees!
So, how do you prepare for these style races? Well as I mentioned, you need to focus on 5 key areas: Upper body strength, full body explosiveness, grip strength, endurance and balance. As far as upper body goes, you could hit the gym and do the typical exercises: bench press, curls, flys. That type of stuff. Push ups and pull ups are fantastic for this. (pull ups also give you the edge of working grip as well) Burpees are a great workout for all of these categories. Full body explosiveness (FBE) can come in pieces, or if you have the right equipment, can be done in a single exercise. As far as piecing together FBE, you can do circuits that involve thrusters to deadlifts for instance. If you have one available, a pull sled works wonders. I currently have a 250 lbs tires rigged with a homemade harness that I use to drag. Tire flipping is also a phenomenal exercise for FBE. You can get a large truck tire from most any heavy equipment shop. They normally have a tire graveyard in the back full of large tires. Give them a call and see if you can snag one. Grip strength is a tough one. You can do the old “squeeze a medicine ball 1,000 times a day” technique. Beyond pull ups and towel pull ups (holding the pull up bar in one hand a a towels draped over the bar in another) I don’t have much help to offer. If you have one, you can climb a rope, as that will work the muscles you would need for that obstacle. Mud & Obstacle Magazine has a phenomenal article on developing grip strength. (If you have never grabbed a copy of their magazine you are missing out!) Balance is another tough one to truly work on. You can stand on one foot and toss a ball around. I have noticed that during my plyometrics, box jumps work on my balance. Endurance, well get out and run! But running is not the only thing you can do. Try High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. This is an all out effort for 20 seconds followed by an immediate 10 second rest. That is done for a series of 8 rounds, make sure you do 4 sets! That covers what you should be doing to prepare for a Hardcore Series race!
Now, on to Fan Favorites! Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder seem to be the two biggies in this category! Many people that I have talked to, in regards to how they started in OCRs, usually tell me one of these was their starter race. You may remember in my first blog, The Maiden Voyage, that even my own first race was a Warrior Dash! This style of race has become fan favorites for a number of reasons. Costumes, no punishments, great festival areas…combine all of those with the actual mud run and you have a fan favorite for all ages and skill levels! In my opinion, not saying anything against either races, but these races are not nearly as hard as the Hardcore Series races, and for good reason. I know many people that feel threatened by the thought of a Spartan race and having to do burpees simply because of a failed obstacle. So they sign up for a less intimidating race. The Fan Favorite series seems to focus more on balance and very little physical strength. I noticed in Warrior Dash, and especially in Tough Mudder, that there is a mental aspect to this race. In Warrior Dash in particular, a 30 foot wall stood between you and finishing the race. Physical? No. Hard? Not really. Mentally taxing? When you hit the top it sure was! Tough Mudder has a platform that you must jump off and a cargo bin full of ice water to swim through! Nothing screams NO!!! to a person then a fear of heights and an ice bath!
So is there a special way to prepare ourselves mentally? I believe so. As far as the physical game goes, follow the advice I gave for the hardcore series. Push ups, pull ups, burpees, all that jazz. I would really focus on the balance aspect of these races. It is so overlooked in our everyday, sit at a desk or couch, culture. We are no longer as limber and swift as when we were kids. Find a balance beam and walk it, walk on the curb, do something to regain that balance. Now mentally, that comes down to the individual. I personally like pushing my workouts to an extreme, which pushes my mind outside of my comfort zone. Now that could be as simple as getting out and saying “I am going for a 2 mile walk”. Or it could be, for the more advanced, “I am going to go for a 12 mile run”. Either way leave what you “think” you can do at your door on the way out, and forge new expectations through the fire in your legs and lungs! Add burpees at the end of your next workout, when you are exhausted and ready to quit. Push past the wobbles and hit that new personal record push ups! Find your limit….then blow it away! Then, when you see a 30 foot wall to climb, and your mind is telling you “It’s too high” you can push that thought aside and conquer that which you feared!
Last but not least, The Fun Runs! Fun Runs are just that…FUN! No competition…no punishments…no hard challenging obstacles…just lots of fun anyone-can-do-these kind of obstacles! I have enjoyed a few of these so far, and have to say that if anyone is on the fence about running a race, take them to one of these! Again with no real obstacles to speak of, just get ready to go out and enjoy yourself. I do have one teeny tiny disclaimer. Be careful which race you sign up for in this series. Unfortunately, with so many races going on in the country there are a lot of sling together races. Be careful and try to find a reputable company, perhaps one that has held an event there before? Also, be careful as some of even the reputable companies seem to go under in this category. Foam Fest 5k just shut its doors not 3 weeks after I ran in it. But enough of the doom and gloom, get out there and have a great time!! You may be wondering how to prepare for such an event? Well that is easy… 1) Research a good company and a cool race to run. 2) Get friends to agree to run as well. 3) Find your wallet/purse. 4) Fill out your registration form. 5) Pay for that bad boy! There you have it! You are all ready to run in a Fun Run! HAHA! Now get the heck out there and find the one that suites you the best, and blow it up! Leave me a comment telling me how you did, which one you did, or just to say hey! Have fun out there no matter which one you choose! Stay strong friends!