Are you actually doing the best types of workouts for your races, or are you just doing the workouts you KNOW already, hoping they translate to the course? The purpose of this post is to make athletes aware of a few common training mistakes so they can better prepare for their races. I want everyone who steps on the course to feel the accomplishment of pushing your body to the limit and killing that course every race!
With that in mind, I’d like to take a few moments to go over some common mistakes that athletes are making in their preparation for Obstacle Course Racing. These mistakes are listed in no particular order.
MISTAKE #1: Doing Too Much High Intensity Work
HIIT Training, Circuit Training, and Intervals all have AMAZING benefits for improving your fitness level and making you a better overall athlete. However, if you are planning on taking on your first OCR, there is only so much that High Intensity Work can do for you during a race that lasts 60+ minutes. Short courses (30 minutes or less to complete) lend themselves much better to High Intensity Work, but no matter how much of that work you do, it won’t prepare you for the endurance it takes for strenuous physical activity that lasts for extended periods. This is especially true the longer it takes you to complete a race. Doing HIIT workouts 5 days per week can definitely get you into some great shape, but you very likely won’t be prepared for Spartan Supers/Beasts/Ultras, a Tough Mudder Classic, or a Bone Frog Tier 1/Trident.
How to Fix: Incorporate workouts that require continuous work for extended periods of time at lower/moderate levels of effort/intensity.
MISTAKE #2: Not Running (Barely Running)
I’d love to believe that the athletes participating in OCR events (Spartan Race, ToughMudder, Bone Frog, etc.) are all preparing by at least doing a base-level of running. However, what I’d love to believe and reality are often quite different. OCR participants often head into a race with little-to-no running done in preparation. Not surprisingly, they often ask for last-minute advice to save them. Reality check: There is nothing that can save you. Your lack of preparation doomed you from reaching your full potential on race day. It doesn’t mean you won’t finish the race, but you certainly won’t do as well as you could have done had you trained well.
How to Fix: Start running. Gradually (over the course of several months ideally) build up your distance or time. Don’t rush it unless you enjoy injuries and setbacks. Starting a well designed running plan is always a smart move.
MISTAKE #3: Only Running
The majority of OCR courses are made up of terrain that can be run on. The best runners will almost always finish ahead of the slower runners. However, if you are running and not incorporating strength training and obstacle training into your routine, you may find yourself stuck at an obstacle wasting minute after minute trying to complete it. If you don’t do some strength training, you may also find yourself getting exhausted during heavy carries. What makes OCR fun, at least to me, is the fact that it incorporates running endurance, running speed, technical running, strength obstacles, technical obstacles, and strategy! The best athletes will train for all of it. The athletes who want to reach their potential will put training effort into each aspect, not just one.
How to Fix: Begin incorporating strength training into your program. Start with 3 days per week. Spend at least 30-45 minutes per resistance training session. Use weights that are challenging, but doable with PROPER FORM.
MISTAKE #4: Carrying “Gimmick” Nutrition Products On The Course
The number of times questions about on-course nutrition are asked to me personally or in OCR facebook groups is…astounding. Here’s the simple answer: There is nothing magical about mustard or pickle juice. Sure, they MAY help temporarily, but with proper nutrition and training they’re really not necessary, and there are plenty of things you can do instead.
How to Fix: If you have trained…if you have TRULY trained…your muscles will be prepared for a significant portion of the stresses they will encounter during a race. Muscles that aren’t prepared for this are not going to react well. Period. If you want to avoid cramping then train, train, and train some more. Another thing you can do if you’re going to be on the course for a long time is to have a hydration pack with a product like Tailwind, Gatorade, or Maurten in it. Simple nutrition will do it. Skip the Gimmicks!