Winter Training for OCR

Whether you are an experienced Obstacle Course Racer (OCR) or just thinking of conquering your first in 2017, the time to start training is now! As we struggle with motivation and the cold and darkness of the winter, it’s time to assess your strengths and weaknesses and to create a training plan.

If you’ve run an obstacle course race (Spartan, Savage, Tough Mudder) before, what were your toughest challenges? Was it the wall or the run? Can you make the rope climb? Did you fall off the monkey bars? Also, what are your goals for 2017? Do you want to finish your first or perhaps complete a Spartan Trifecta?

1.  Keep Running – or start running now!: People always ask me: what’s the number one obstacle that I should prepare? The answer is running! Think about it, in a nine-mile race, you will need to RUN 9 Miles! The walls, crawls and swings are short-term skills-based movements that you can learn and perfect in some of our clinics but running has to be done on your own- you can’t “burpee” out of the run! So the time to start is now! May and June are the times to pound out your longer miles and high-intensity run sessions but to perform effectively and injury free in those sessions and ultimately your race, you need a good base of mileage. I coach my athletes to do some running 3 days a week over the winter. These don’t need to be long or high-intensity sessions but rather just to build the leg strength and endurance that you will need for the tougher runs ahead. Find a treadmill or an outdoor course of 2,3 or 4 miles and hit this several times a week.

2. Build your core strength: Every obstacle requires a strong core! Pulling your body over a wall or up a rope requires not only good technique but more importantly core strength. Try to incorporate some core work into every training session: perhaps sets of sit-ups or planks after your run. CrossFit training sessions incorporate some element of core strength into almost every workout so if you can CrossFit 2-3 days a week, this will quickly address your core-strength needs.

3. Improve grip-strength: Obstacles require grip strength and there are many things that you can do to increase yours. Farmer carries and pull ups or dead hangs with switch grips are each exercises that you can incorporate easily to work on grip strength. It’s important to remember that in many races the walls, ropes, and bars will all be slick from water and mud, which makes focusing on grip strength even higher of a priority! Again, CrossFit is a great way to improve grip. Almost all barbell and kettle-bell training will improve your ability in this area.

4. Do Intervals: High-intensity interval training alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity or even complete rest. The simplest form of High-Intensity training is a combination of cardio and lifting weights. In our training programs, we will do sprint or short distance runs, followed by short sets of lifts or perhaps a skill, like a rope climb. This type of training has proven to be the most efficient for improving fitness and it replicates obstacle course racing when you have to run/obstacle/run/obstacle for an extended period of time.

5. Personal Race Preparation: Winter is also the time to plan your race calendar for the year. Start to look on-line for Obstacle Course Races- do you want to do a shorter or longer distance? Do you want to do team or individual? Is the Spartan for you or how about the Savage Race? Investigate- look at the obstacles (youtube is a great place to watch footage of actual races). Also, where should you focus your training- is running your weakness or how about the 9-foot wall? Check out tutorials and on-line thoughts about techniques. Start to address those weaknesses now so it won’t be a panic a week before the event!

Still not sure?

When we watch the Spartan races or Ninja Warrior show on TV, the effort seems daunting- the skills seem impossible and training for them can be varied and difficult- so how do you get there? At CrossFit Lake Forest, we offer training programs specifically to train you for the endurance as well as the skills and strengths required to meet your goals and succeed at you OCR goals!

About the Author: Marty Phelps Marty is a Certified Spartan SGX trainer as well as a Spartan Obstacle Course Specialist. He’s also a Road Runners Club of American Coach and Level 1 CrossFit trainer. He works out of CrossFit Lake Forest in Lake Forest, Ill. CrossFit lake Forest offers Spartan Training Programs beginning in March 2017. We use our 8,000 Sq.Foot facility along with an 8-foot climbing wall, monkey bars, climbing ropes and lots of other tools and techniques to help you conquer any Obstacle Course Race. Contact for more information.

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