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Surviving Your First Obstacle Course Race

Surviving Your First Obstacle Course Race

by Janette Janero

I bet your friend talked you into signing up for your first obstacle course race. Congratulations!

But perhaps apprehension is starting to overtake your excitement by now? No fear, I’m here to help! You’re probably not worried about crushing the competition and just want to make it out in one piece, right? So here are some survival steps:

Strengthen your ankles

These races are done on relatively smooth surfaces, whether it’s a 5K or a half marathon. However, you can count on quite a few bumps in the road. Plus, you may be jumping down after climbing over a wall, for example.

You’re going to need strong footing to securely land or to run across an uneven path. So I suggest you add exercises to strengthen your ankle muscles. Place two Bosu balls next to each other and jump from one to the other. For a simpler exercise, do three sets of 20 ankle circles in both directions.

Put in the time

On average, it takes about two hours to complete a beginner obstacle course race. Don't let the first time you exercise for two hours be the day of the race!

Start by taking an hour cardio group fitness class, such a kickboxing or dance. Follow this with bodyweight exercises, such as walking lunges, push-ups or modified push-ups. Begin with three sets of 15 reps for each exercise. Then add exercises with medicine (weighted) balls, such as wall ball throws, to adjust to carrying weight while moving.

Get a grip

You don’t need to be able to perform a pull-up for beginner and intermediate levels of these races. However, you do need to be able to hold your body weight while hanging.

Practice hanging and shifting your weight from side to side and back and forth. This develops a stronger grip for those obstacles where you hang from a wall and have to climb over or swing your leg so someone on the wall can help you over.

Also during hanging practice, raise your knees together and toward each side to strengthen your core in a functional way. Do three sets repeating the pattern two or three times.

Put in the work, but remember these races are meant to be fun and sometimes function as a team. Listen to your body on race day. Only push yourself on obstacles that you feel in control and move cautiously on the ones you don’t. It’s all challenging but not impossible.

Now go get dirty and have fun!