If you’re a novice at this fast growing sport, you’re in the same boat as I am. My first Obstacle Race is scheduled for 12 September, when I’m planning on competing in the Spartan Race – Ultra Beast event. Having never completed an Obstacle Race, this may seem somewhat ambitious. According to the website, the “Ultra Beast is considered and exorcism,” and “will be too much for you.” Those choice words make me feel rather uneasy about this challenge, yet at the same time motivate me to play hard, train smart and get to the start line with an adequate amount of confidence.
With distances ranging from 5km to 45km, there’s an Obstacle Race out there for any level of ability. The thrill of testing your strength and fitness over a course filled with challenging obstacles is obviously very appealing – there’s been a massive increase in participation over the past few years. Team work is strongly encouraged with a lot of events promoting it as a corporate team building experience, or as a “fun” day out with a group of friends.
There are 4 steps to preparing for any Obstacle Race…
- Commit to the event
- Develop a base level of fitness and conditioning
- Focus on your goal
- Get to the start line healthy
Allow me to elaborate…
Commit to the Event
This can be done in 3 easy steps…
- Diarise the date in your calendar and lock it in. Be sure to let your wife/husband/partner know the date to make sure there is absolutely nothing else planned on the day – and also so that they know what you are committing to which may motivate them to join you, or simply support your training towards the event.
- Make a financial commitment by entering the event as early as possible. This is another way of securing the date in your calendar. It also makes it feel that much more “real.” By doing this you have cemented in the date that you plan to achieve your goal – this sets up a time frame for you to be able to start scheduling in the necessary training. Most of the Obstacle Race event organisers reward you for an early commitment to the race by offering an “early bird entry” fee.
- Tell everyone! There’s nothing like being accountable to a goal than by telling everyone about it. Start by calling your mum to let her know and assure her that it is a legitimate thing that lots of people are doing to have fun. Word up your circle of friends and be sure to let them know that you may be a “party pooper” over the next several weeks because of your early morning training sessions. Open it up to your acquaintances and wider audience on your chosen social networks. Be sure to track and post your progress by utilizing training hardware and software such as a fitbit, garmin vivofit, mapmyrun.com, strava.com, myfitnesspal app, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Develop a Base Level of Fitness & Conditioning
Everyone has a different starting point in terms of their own fitness and strength. Think of it this way… what is your training age? How long have you been engaging in exercises/workouts/training that is specific to an Obstacle Race? From 2001 until 2012 I was mainly focused on endurance training for long course triathlons (swim, bike and run). From 2012 to date I have been mixing up my training a lot more to include high intensity cardio and strength training. This is more adept to the training required for an Obstacle Race. So I would conclude that my training age is 3 years. What is your training age? As a result of my overall fitness, strength, endurance and conditioning I have a pretty good starting point. I can get stuck in straight away with specific training to mimic the challenges that I will be faced with on race day. Lets stick to the rule of 3’s…
- Master your own body weight. The best piece of gym equipment that you’ll ever own is your body. Until you have mastered your own body weight through functional movement (i.e. exercises that mimic combinations of your everyday activities), don’t bother trying to add more resistance by throwing weights around. Become proficient in these exercises… push-ups, pull-ups, triceps dips (seated and vertical), squats, single leg dead-lifts, pistol squats, running. The training video below will give you an idea of what I’m alluding to.
- Functional loaded resistance. This is your next progression – add resistance to your exercises by including dumbbells, barbells, kettelbells, battle ropes, medicine balls, slam balls, power bands, agility band, vipr, suspension trainer (RIP60/TRX), weight vest, power sled.
- Mix it up. Combine your body weight movements together with the functional loaded resistance exercises into a circuit style format (either using time or repetitions for each exercise – e.g. 10x exercises at 1min/20 reps per exercise, 200m run between each exercise, repeat for 10x rounds). This is your “sport specific” training that is going to simulate the exact demands of your energy systems required to successfully complete (and compete) in your Obstacle Race.
Focus on your Goal
I stress again how important it is to start with committing to the event. Without locking in a date, time, location, etc for your goal it’s like setting sail without having a destination in mind – i.e. recipe for disaster. You’ve diarised the date, now it’s time to get a clearer focus of what your goal is going to look like. There’s no need to have sleepless nights over it though. Practice a few minutes of mindful meditation each night to get a vivid picture of yourself doing the training for the event (we all love a good training montage – click here to check out this one). What is it going to feel like and look like when you cross that finish line? It’s also a great idea to physically write down your goal and place that in a spot that your are likely to see it every day (e.g. fridge door, bathroom mirror, car dashboard) – you’re 7 times more likely to succeed by simply writing down your goals.
Get to the Start Line Healthy
Niggles, aches and pains are very common when starting out with any new form of exercise and training (and this also goes for increasing the duration or intensity of the workouts). There is a period of conditioning that your musculoskeletal system needs to go through in order to adapt and get stronger/fitter. During this period (4-6 weeks), it’s imperative that you treat your body like a formula one motor car. Any signs of fatigue or breakdown need to be addressed as soon as possible – get your body and engine checked up to ensure you’re performing at optimal function (click here to book in a session). It’s easy to get carried away with your training, with a desire to advance as quickly as possible with your strength and fitness gains. You’re better off turning up for the event healthy and slightly underdone with your training, rather than injured, sick, tired and overtrained.
Ensure that you are fuelling your body with the right foods and fluids for sustained energy and weight management. The “rules” of nutrition can be confusing with so many sources of information available (friends, tabloid magazines, celebrity diets, medical recommendations, food company marketing, dr google, etc). Get the right individualised advice for your current situation delivered by a nutrition specialist with the most up to date knowledge (click here to find out more).
Join me on this Obstacle Race journey for more blogs and training videos to keep you motivated and on track to smash your goal!