Updated: Jan 18, 2019
If you’ve run an OCR, chances are, you’ve run two OCR’s. Really, you’ve probably run 3+. The sports is addicting! Individuals from all walks of life are running these races all over the country (and world) for fun, as a hobby, for group bonding, and for some, for competition.
Some of us want to step up and become one of the best in the sport. Some of us want to conquer the course and stand on a podium with a gold medal around our neck and a check in our hands. I’m in this camp, and I’ve been arranging my entire life around this goal for the past two years.
So what does it take to be an Elite OCR Athlete?
1: Know the Race Company
Each race company is a little different. Each one has different obstacles. Spartan Race uses burpees as penalties. Savage Race uses unlimited tries as long as you complete the obstacle. Bone Frog Challenge throws in different penalties for different obstacles. Each race has their own obstacles even if many are similar to others. They are all priced differently and offer different amenities.
2: Know the Terrain
You have to look at topographical maps before your race. Will it be mostly flat? Will it be mostly hills? Are the hills long and gradual, or short and steep? Is it likely to be hot or warm or cool? Will it be muddy? Is it a rocky course or a smooth course? Will there be water crossings? All of these factors will impact your race. Just remember, when you’re competing with elite athletes, everything is significant.
3: Decide What TYPE of Athlete You Want To Be
Ever heard of Ryan Atkins? If not, he is one of the best OCR Athletes in the world (some say he is the best). He sometimes loses short, and mid-length races, but he is unmatched at long races (30+ miles). He constantly wins Spartan Race’s Ultra World Championship as well as World’s Toughest Mudder with over 100 miles completed in 24 hours. Do you want to compete with the likes of Atkins on super long races?
Do you want to be the master of mid-distance races? You’d be competing between 7-25 miles. This is where you’re going to be matching up with the majority of the best: Jonathon Albon, Robert Killian, Cody Moat, Ryan Atkins, Hunter McIntyre, Holby Call, or many more, you’ll have to learn to compete with these athletes.
Maybe you’re a sprinter. You love the short distances with the all-out effort! There are a plethora of short course races you can fly through! You’ll run into a lot of the athletes from the mid-distance courses in these races. Turns out they aren’t just amazing endurance athletes, they are also very fast. But if this is the area you want to specialize in, go for it!
Then again, maybe you want to do it all. That’s something you’ll have to decide.
4: Your Training Needs to Match Your Racing
If you have decided on short courses, and you think Spartan Race is where you want to specialize, you need to become an expert at Spartan obstacles. You need to practice Atlas Carries, Hercules Hoists, the Bucket Brigade, Barbwire Crawls, etc. If you do the Stadium Series you’ll need to work on your ball slams, stair running, box jumps, and more. If you want to be good at ALL short courses, you’ll have to master every company’s obstacles and keep up-to-date as they introduce new ones. You’ll train more speed and less long runs. You’ll want more power and explosive training than long-range endurance.
If you want to do Ultra or Enduro events, you’ll have to train LONG. You’ll need to learn how to plan nutrition and hydration during the race and you’ll likely need a support team (friends, family, whoever!). You’ll need to get the right gear and plan out how and when you’ll use it. Keep in mind, this could (and potentially should) take several years to work up to. Your sprints and power lifts will be infrequent.
5: Your Nutrition Needs to Be On Point
If you are slacking on your nutrition, you won’t be NEARLY the athlete you could be. If you stick strictly to your diet during the week but slack on the weekend, you won’t be NEARLY the athlete you could be. A “cheat” meal every now and then (every few weeks) or a little unhealthy food every once in a LONG while is fine, but if you expect to be a top athlete and don’t eat like a top athlete, good luck. I am by no means saying that you need to eat really healthy all the time. What I am saying is that you HAVE TO EAT SUPER HEALTHY ALL THE TIME.
6: Take Phenomenal Care of Your Body
You need to get enough sleep. You need to foam roll. You need to stretch, and practice proper form when exercising. If you can afford it, go to a massage therapist or a chiropractor (or both). Move through all ranges of motion, not just the same ones all the time. Don’t skip rest days. Stay hydrated at all times. Relax your muscles in the sauna or a hot tub.
7: Get a Coach or Mentor
The OCR community is a great one. If you ask people for help, they will almost always give it. That’s true of for-fun racers and competitive ones as well. If you don’t know many racers, reach out to a coach. Having an objective professional teaching you ways you can improve will do wonders for any athlete.
Keep working. Don’t stop working. Even when everyone else stops working. Especially when everyone else stops working. Keep working.