Chris Judy, founder of the RFT Coaching Pro OCR Team, has taken a circuitous sporting path to obstacle course racing. Having first started as an endurance athlete, then serving in the military for 10 years, he found his desire for strength conditioning and a willingness to instruct. Here are his 6 tips for obstacle course racing that only a veteran could deliver.
1- Build your endurance base. Get outside and run, walk, and hike. Using a bike, rower or swimming can be good if you have a history of injuries, but getting outside and using your legs will be paramount. Try to build your time up to at least 90 min of running/walking at one time.
Add intervals as you are able to handle the 90 min. Adding in speed work will increase your ability to run more efficiently over terrain. Start with fartlek runs (random speed increases, random rest) to keep you more interested and then add more dedicated time intervals (2, 5, 10, 20 min) as your abilities improve.
2- Increase your grip strength. Test how long you can hang from a pull up bar, hang as long as possible and note the time. Train both dead hangs and active hangs (arms remaining bent). Start at 6-8 rounds 25% your max hang and add time as you get better. Retest every month to see improvement.
3- Improve upper and lower body strength and muscular endurance. Use push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges etc. Vary up the rest time, reps, intensity and variations of these movements. You don’t need to be able to lift 500 lbs., you just need to be able to lift your bodyweight many times with limited rest.
If using weights, keep it simple. There is no need to get fancy with balls and balance boards, your improvements will be minimal at best and has a high rate of injury. Master the basics and then add more advanced movements as you improve.
4- Obstacle preparation. Find weird shaped items that have weight and carry them for a distance. Go to playgrounds and play on monkey bars, climb over fences and walls. Jump into cold lakes, then run, and then crawl on all fours. Pretty much go play, like when we were kids. Have fun with it, that’s the essence of OCR.
5- Fuel properly. If you eat properly you won’t need gimmicks to finish the race. Eating a little something every 60 min on the course will be all you need. Test out different fuel sources in training to make sure your stomach can handle it before race day. There’s nothing worse than needing to find a port-a-potty in the middle of a race. Water is continuous, but to a point. Be sure to alternate between something with electrolytes and plain water. The hotter it is the more you will need electrolytes.
6- Take care of your body. Grind down calluses so they don’t rip, super glue cuts together to make sure you don’t get an infection afterwards. Protect your feet from blisters, wear long socks to avoid rope burns, if you’re prone to cramps wear compression gear. Learn to conduct self massage on legs, arms, back, etc. Treat your body like it’s a fine piece of equipment (because it is) and it will be ready and will work well when called upon on race day.
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