Obstacle Course Racing: How to Train & Succeed

Obstacle course racing (OCR) is taking the world by storm and the sports popularity is catching on like wildfire. What’s the appeal? It requires the best of both ‘fitness’ worlds: strength and endurance. Not much of a runner? That’s quite alright. There are strength testing obstacles along the way to give you a competitive advantage. Not as strong as you’d like to be? Don’t worry, if you can run you’ll be more than competitive with others in the field. The range of athletes OCR draws covers the full spectrum of participants: distance runners, weightlifters, hikers, bikers, and fitness enthusiasts looking for a new challenge. And WHAT a challenge OCR is!


Obstacle Race TrainingThe first thing people realize when they compete in their first OCR is that these races are no joke. The physical demand of running while simultaneously conquering strength-blasting obstacles catches people by surprise. I often hear “…that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done’” by first-time participants. The odd thing? They can’t wait to do it again. Something about the event hits people just right: the challenge, the excitement, the comradery with other athletes, and the general energy these events instill in you. Point being? OCR is cool. Really cool! Thus why it’s growing so quickly. The next question? How do you prepare for such events?


My personal quest is to qualify and compete in the Spartan Race World Championships in Lake Tahoe in October. Spartan racing takes place all over the world and is known for their punishing obstacles, lots of mud, and challenging terrain. To compete with the best in the world (or at any OCR) you need to be prepared by working both avenues OCR requires: strength and endurance. If you can work on the combination of both, you’ll no doubt set yourself up for success when you toe the starting line. Here are the key components of OCR training:


1) Run. You’ll want to build up your run endurance.

2) Strength. You’ll want to be strong enough to take on the obstacles

3) Grip Strength. Many of the obstacles require carrying objects, climbing rope, traversing ‘rigs’ and holding your own body weight. Grip strength is imperative.


With the above components in mind we want to make sure to work on all three of the things mentioned above. Here is an example of weekly breakdown of workouts.


M- Strength work (upper body, core, and grip strength focus)

T- Run (medium distance)

W- Interval Run day (HARD interval workout for the week)

R- Strength work (upper & lower body)

F- OCR Workout (combining carries, lifts, burpees, climbs, etc amidst a circuit style running workout)

S- Run (medium distance)

S- Long Run

unnamed-7In total you’re looking at 4 running-only days, 2 strength days, and 1 day that combines both (the OCR workout). This balanced schedule will improve your aerobic capacity, strength, and adjust your body to the endurance/strength combination during your weekly OCR workout. There are numerous specific workouts to follow through this weekly format but the most important thing to remember is that preparing for both the endurance and strength components OCR demands is the key to success.


If you’re looking to challenge yourself to an OCR event and aren’t sure of the right program for you I am absolutely here to help. OCR workouts, strength, and endurance training are all included in my personal training packages and online coaching services. Don’t hesitate to reach out on my contact page for more information!


Extreme Couch Workout

If you’re laying on the couch and thinking “I should really get up and head to the gym” major props to you. Getting off the couch is definitely a good start, but not so fast!  Let’s enjoy the comfort of your own home, and turn your couch into a muscle building, butt-busting piece of workout equipment. Let’s get in a well-rounded and effective workout… all from your couch. All you need is a yourself, a couch, two milk jugs (or something comparable), and a get it done attitude! Here are 5 exercises that will work virtually every muscle in your body, leaving your “I didn’t make it to the gym today” ego in tact!


1) Plank w/ Reverse Fly


With feet up on the couch, hold your body up in the ‘push up’ position. While holding your body up with one arm, grab the milk jug with your free hand and go through the reverse fly motion. Goal is 3 sets of 12 reps each side.

Muscled worked: Core, Back, Chest, Front and Rear Deltoids (shoulders).

Twin Cities Live (TCL)

2) Lunge Pass Through


With one foot up on the couch, hold the lunge position at 90 degrees. Grab your milk jug, and pass it through your legs raising it up over your head keeping your arms as straight as possible. Goal is 10 pass-throughs on each leg- going the opposite direction with your pass-through when you switch legs.


Muscles worked: Glutes, Quads, Deltoids, Core

3) Plyometric Push-Up Pop-Ups


Your hands are on one arm rest, your feet are on the other. Explode through the push-up motion and have both your feet and hands leave the arm rests of the couch. Clap your hands-mid air with time to land properly back on the arm rests. Goal is 3 sets of push ups to failure.


Muscles worked: Chest, Triceps, Core

Twin Cities Live (TCL)

4) V-Sit Curls


Sitting on the edge of the couch (either on the cushions or arm rest) lift your legs up off the ground so you’re sitting in a balanced position. Grab your milk jugs and curl both at the same time while holding the v-sit position. Goal should be 3 sets of 15-20


Muscles worked: Biceps, Core


5) Dead Lift


Yep. Simply lift your couch. In a proper squat position, grab the underside of the couch and drive upwards with your legs- keeping your back in a straight, stable position. To add resistance have your mom, dog, or girlfriend(s) sit on the couch. Goal is 3 sets of 12 reps.


Muscles worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Core