How to Train for an Obstacle Course Race – Getting Started in OCR Series Part 4 of 12

How you train depends on where you are starting…

The how to train for a Spartan Race, how to train for a Tough Mudder, how to train for a Warrior Dash, etc. questions all fall under the umbrella of how to train for an obstacle course race. While the question is simple, the answer isn’t quite as simple. It isn’t super complex either. Let’s take a look.

The first things we must take a look at is your current level of fitness. If you are a beast in the weight room, I’m guessing you are going to be fairly strong on the obstacles, especially the ones that require lifting, pushing, pulling, and carrying heavy shit, but you may struggle a bit on the run. If, on the other hand, you are a light and fast runner, you may struggle a bit on the obstacles. Then there are the people in the middle who are literally just getting off the couch, or more likely out from behind their computer. I know you… I used to commute over 2.5 hours every day in bumper to bumper traffic of the Northeast to and from my desk job where I had 4 computer towers and 4 large computer screens for my work alone.

monkey bar trainingIf you fall into one of the first two categories, the first thing you need to do is start working on your weakness. Either lifters start running more or runners, start lifting. More details on that later.

If you are truly just getting started, my biggest piece of advice is to really listen to your body. If it has been years since your arms have been in any position other than right in front of you, hanging your entire body weight from them on monkey bars will not get you strong. It will get you hurt.

Free Resources

Race organization resources. Nearly all of the large race organizations out there have some sort of free training resource available. Sign up on their email list and you will be surprised at how much super valuable free information they share. Some also offer free workout tours where you can get a workout in, connect with other racers, and meet some of the local trainers if you choose to pursue paid coaching/training. 

Podcasts just like this one! You can listen to endless hours of strength training technique, endurance training principles, nutrition information, success stories, etc. Let’s just say I put my commuting time to good use between podcasts and audsan diego hikingiobooks.

Local running and hiking clubs. If you need to get some miles in, but have a hard time doing it on your own, check out a local running, hiking, or even triathlon club. is a great place to get started.

Recruit friends, family, and co-workers to train with you. The benefit of team building you get from training for and competing in these races together beats any mandatory fun prescribed by employers.

Paid Coaches and Trainers

Not all trainers and coaches are created equal. Prior to hiring someone to train you for an obstacle course race, I highly recommend that trainer/coach be experienced in OCR. I know it sounds silly to have to point this out, but there are trainers out there who will happily take your money even if they have never done what you are getting ready to do.

How do you find an obstacle course race trainer? Check with the organization you are going to be racing with. For example, Stephanie is Spartan SGX certified and Stephen is certified in both Spartan SGX and Spartan Obstacle Speciality.

Maybe you live in an area where there aren’t any OCR certified trainers/coaches. In that case, just make sure you find someone who has done some races and understands the different demands it places on the body.

The Fundamentals of Training for an Obstacle Race

We started this lesson by describing three types of people. Those who excel in strength, those who excel in endurance, and those who are just getting started. For those of you who rock in both, congratulations. The best part about OCR is there are so many measures for success and areas for improvement.

Regardless of where you are starting, these courses are going to test your every part of your mind, body, and soul.

Let’s start by taking a look at the most limiting factor. Distance and terrain. I tell my potential and brand new clients the minimum requirement in an obstacle course race is to be able to cover the required distance and navigate the terrain while enduring the climate. We get into course selection in Part 8 of the Getting Started in OCR Series.

So if going the distance is step 1, find out what the distance, terrain, and climate is going to be for your race and see if you can successfully complete it. Hiking/walk is totally acceptable. Remember, you will be adding obstacles into this mix so make sure you feel comfortable with the distance.

Adding in obstacle training is the second step. Sure, you will be training by carrying heavy things such as sandbags and buckets, but you will also want to work on your flexibility and agility.

You will also need to train your mental toughness. Our recommendation is to read or listen to the audiobook of Spartan Up and Spartan Fit. There is also a documentary titled, Rise of the Sufferfests.

Going it alone.

We give a lot of credit to the obstacle course racer who wants to forego short-cuts, hacks, and the information technology places at our fingertips. We all enter into this sport for a reason and for some of us, that reason is to get back to nature. DIS-connect. Remember what it feels like to have to figure things out without YouTube. The beauty of this sport is that we are all the same kind of (good) crazy.

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