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!