5 Top Tips when training for an obstacle run!
Obstacle runs, mud races, obstacle courses: all these are events where running is being combined with the overcoming of obstacles to test your physical as well as mental boundaries.
In the US this has been a huge trend already for years, and also in The Netherlands you can participate in such events almost every weekend. The most popular ones these days are: MudMasters, StrongVikingRun, StrongmanRun, HarbourRun and Stormloop. As for me, I have participated at least once in 4 out of these 5. On Sunday 25th of October I am tackling the next one: the Brother edition of the StrongVikingRun, together with PT client Bryan (with whom I once did a legendary jump off a tall tower. It's on YouTube!) and a bootcamp mate.
It is a known fact that most runs are between 6 – 42 kms long. Whichever distance you chose, you need to be able to run at least that distance. Thus prepare yourself to run at least once a week a distance which is close to the one that you strive to run in the event.
The exception here are distances which are longer than 15 km. In this case you need to go running 2-3 times per week and you cover the full distance in these runs. For example you want to run 42 km: in training you run 3 x 12-15 km to reach a total of 36 – 45 km.
2. Pulling up
With a lot of obstacles in the run you need to climb onto something or climb over something. The most important point here is to be able to pull yourself up, which you do with a pull up.
Now, I do know that not everybody is good at doing pull ups, thus when you go to the gym you could start with a lat pull down and/or TRX low rows (I use these a lot in my Bootcamp trainings). Be careful to not create a momentum whilst doing any of these 2 exercises, because it does not help you get stronger. You want your back muscles to do the work, and not the smaller muscle groups such as your shoulders, biceps and triceps. These participate but shouldn’t do the bulk of the exercise.
More on training pull ups in our dedicated blog on that: Why you can't do a pull-up? 7 answers!
3.Stability and Balance
During the runs you often need to walk over tree trunks or small bars, and this is where you need your balance. We work on this during the bootcamp sessions as well as the PT sessions which I do with my clients. It is the basis for every exercise and as such comes back in every phase of the preparation.
You can do these in order to get yourself ready: single leg squats, single leg deadlift, single arm shoulder press, these first without any extra weights and when you feel ready you can add weights. Ultimately you can try some more explosive variations, such as the single arm power snatch.
4. More explosive full body excercises
During this sort of events it is very important that you control your whole body well whilst overcoming the obstacles. Sometimes you need to carry a tree trunk, you need to pull up a heavy object, climb up a rope or glide down a fireman’s pole. To prepare for these I use more complex exercises: that means that you use a lot of joints while doing these exercises.
The most popular and can-do-everywhere-exercise is the beloved (not!) BURPEE, whereby you use your fingers, wrists, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle and toes. Some might even say you use your neck, because your head needs to stay aligned with your body. But there are also other exercises, such as the manmakers, thrusters, clean en jerk.
Beside the fact that you are using all sorts of joints during the exercises you can also see in these examples that you move your whole body downwards and get it up in a more explosive movement. Your heartbeat will go up higher with a thruster, say, than with simple squats or push presses done separately. Whilst the combination of these 2 is the thruster.
5. Jumping and Crawling
STrenches full with mud, Jumping on a wall or entrenchment, or crawling under barbed wire, nets and beams are also favourites at these events. At the wall you need a combination of jumping power followed by the pull up / muscle up movement (see point 2). The jumping power I get through squat jumps, boxjumps en broadjumps. In order to train for the crawling I use exercises such as the lizard walks in combination with mountain climbers to keep my heartbeat up and strengthen my hip flexors. For the last 2 exercises it is important that you don’t feel the front of your upper legs but instead work from your hip flexors and your bottom most abs. Also focus on working from your core, see point 3.
Bonus Tip: Have Fun!
Last but not least: make sure you enjoy your performance, during the event as well as during the training. I have “Hurray!¨” moments every time when I can overcome an obstacle finally which I couldn’t do the time before.
Furthermore obstacle runs are perfect for doing it together with a friend or a group of people. With the HealthCreators (formerly Health Get Thing Done) team we did a number of small and large events over the past few years. That was always incredibly fun, and full of personal victories for everybody in the team, true team spirit! Fortunately we still have the pictures!