2016 is here, and before we know it the obstacle racing season will be blooming with the Spring flowers (and mud). So if you’ve made it past the first step of New Year fitness Resolutions and signed up for your first OCR, congrats! Whether it’s a competitive BattleFrog or Spartan Race, or a more fun and party focused Tough Mudder or Warrior Dash, you probably have all kinds of jitters already on how to get ready for those miles of mud and obstacles. Of course, there are lots of hours and dollars to spend getting ready, but have no fear- here’s a simple list of “free” things you can do, to be ready physically and mentally for that starting line.
If you haven’t joined the other thousands of new January gym goers (which honestly, might be the place to avoid this month!), know that running outside has and always will be free of charge! OCR’s are still races, and no matter how competitive you want to be, you’re looking at a minimum of 3 miles to cover in addition to all the other obstacle tasks. Even if you’re in colder climates, you’ll be glad if you had stuck to a minimum of 2 days a week running all winter. And of course, you’ll need to build up mileage to match the distance of that race coming up. But do so gradually, maybe by an extra 10% each week, so as not to burn yourself out or face some overuse injuries.
Besides running, the other half of obstacle races are in fact, the obstacles! Being prepared for the unexpected is the name of the game, as we never know what crazy loops the races will throw at us in 2016. Though it’s a bit of a gut check, working on any of your known weaknesses is key, whether that’s cardio (aka running), strength (lifting, carrying, pulling), agility (balance, focus), or other faces of fitness that you struggle with. What better time than a New Year Resolution to commit to building a better you, if you’ve been honest to assess where those weaknesses lie. If you don’t belong to a CrossFit gym or bootcamp, or have subscribed to any online training programs, my earlier article on outdoor workouts will give you some great ideas on how to get started at a local park or in your own backyard.
The questions I get asked most often from rookie obstacle racers are something like “do
you really think I can do ABC race?” or “what if I can’t do XYZ obstacle”. My answer generally starts by saying that if you have already pysched yourself out, it’s going to be harder to get in good training and ever believe you are actually ready. There is a huge mental factor to obstacle racing, so you need to understand a few things:
1. Yes, EVERYONE can do these races. I have literally seen folks from age 9 to 90 do some of the toughest events out there. There are racers with all kinds of setbacks and disabilities, but it sure doesn’t stop them. Thinking you can’t do ANYTHING is really just making an excuse. Take inspiration from the millions of people who have done these races, and get excited to soon be one of them!
2. OCRs are supposed to be hard, as is training for them. Don’t get intimidated by the look of brutal planned workout or the look of a nasty mountain to climb in a race. Those things are meant to test you and every other competitor alongside you. Embrace that challenge and it will make the finish line so much more satisfying!
3. Remember to compete with yourself and not to get too wrapped up in the timing chip or standings. This race is hopefully your stepping stone into much more of this awesome sport and community. Enjoy the camaraderie of fellow racers, appreciate the wonders of nature around you, and respect the plan that has been set up for you to enjoy a great day out with like-minded people, many of whom are just like you and doing their first race too.
Before you know it, you’ll be one of the diehards pulling others in and giving the advice to OCR newbies!