Updated: May 21, 2020
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 blog 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 CRUSHING it!
With that in mind, I'd like to take a few moments to go over 5 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 Orange Theory 5 days per week can definitely get you into some great shape, but you very likely won't be prepared for Spartan Supers+, a Tough Mudder Classic, or a Bone Frog Tier 1+.
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 (Terrain Race, Rugged Maniac, City Challenge, etc.) are all preparing by at least doing a base-level of running. However, what I'd love to believe and what reality shows are often quite different. OCR participants often make it public on social media that they are heading into a race with little-to-no running done in preparation. Not surprisingly, they are often asking 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.
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.
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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 my brain, 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.
Fix: Begin incorporating strength training into your program. Start with 2 days per week. Spend 30-45 minutes on a 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 in OCR facebook groups is...astounding. Here's the simple answer: There is nothing magical about mustard or pickle juice. Sure, it MAY help (studies really haven't shown any true validation for these things), but it's really not necessary, and there are a lot of things you can do instead.
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 Tailwin, Gatorade, or Liquid I.V. in it. Simple nutrition will do it. Skip the Gimmicks. AND stop leaving trash on the course!
MISTAKE #5: Following A Training Program Written For Someone Else
Look, there are some super duper awesome workout programs out there. However, not all of them are right for YOU. I'd argue (and I'd be correct) that MOST aren't right for you. For example, if you gave me the workout program of a skilled Crossfit athlete and told me to start following it right now, I would end up injured very quickly. I don't incorporate lifts like barbell cleans and snatches into my workouts, and if I jumped right in on them at any real level of volume, it'd go poorly for me.
On the flip side, if you gave a skilled Crossfit athlete the running volume that I currently do, it could very well end with them being injured. It's not a knock on them if they aren't doing the amount of running I am, and it's not a knock on me if I'm not doing the cleans and snatches that they are. It's training specificity. Do what you want to be good at. If you aren't doing something, don't pick up a program for someone who is already doing it very well. I'd need to start with the foundations of Crossfit programming, and a Crossfit athlete would need to gradually build up their running volume over an appropriate span of time.
Fix: Every single person is different. Every single person has a unique physical background. Treat yourself like the individual you are by getting a program that caters to your individuality.
There you have it! I hope that knowing these common mistakes helps to steer you in the right direction for your training! There are few feelings like the one you get after you work your butt off, execute, and finish strong! Have loads of fun in your training, and hopefully I'll see you out on OCR course soon!
Trio Fitness OCR is the best place you can go for OCR coaching and training. We meet YOUR specific goals and needs. We don't do templates and we don't start you off at someone else's fitness level. Every workout is designed for you, the equipment you have access to, the amount of time you're able to commit, and to make you the best athlete you can be. You're always able to reach out to us with questions, thoughts, and feedback, and we want our athletes to learn as they train. Whether you are a beginner, or a seasoned participant in the sport, having experienced coaches will make you a better athlete. Head over to our Training Programs page and get signed up now.
Author: Joel SP Hayes