This article is for everyone who doesn't have regular access to a gym, but still wants to improve their training for OCR. It's also for those who may be budget-sensitive and don't have the resources to buy lots of training equipment for their home.
Before I start, I'd like to contradict all of the advertising you've ever seen over your entire lifetime and tell you that having a brand-name, fancy, colorful, cool-looking, cleverly-marketed, expensive training tool doesn't make you a good athlete. Further, having old, worn-down, handed-down, rugged, hand-made training equipment doesn't make you a bad athlete. How you use the tools that you have, no matter how "great" or "mediocre", is what makes an athlete.
Now that we have that out of the way, here are 10 ways you can train effectively, and very inexpensively for OCR.
1: "Build" Your Own Heavy Bucket
I put the word build in quotations above because this method is so very simple. You can buy a bucket at Home Depot (Bleed Orange! Sorry, I used to work there) or most other home improvement stores for less than $5.00. Then, you can either buy sand, rocks, or dirt to fill your bucket with while at the store ($5-$10 more), or you can fill it up with rocks, gravel, or dirt you find by where you live...just, you know, don't steal it from anyone.
Once you have your heavy bucket, you can do flat carries, hill carries, downhill carries, front carries, shoulder carries, stair carries, and MORE!
2: Find a Playground
Most gyms don't yet have the type of monkey bar setups needed for OPTIMAL OCR training. However, we're here to deal with what we have, not what's optimal. What we have is, in many cases, access to some type of playground nearby. You should get on google and search for parks and schools around you. Specifically, you are looking for a playground with a set of monkey bars. Occasionally you'll find a playground that's the jack pot with huge sets of monkey bars, rock climbing portions, pull up bars, and more. However, if all you have is one single set of monkey bars, it's still enough.
Go up and down the monkey bars. Try it forward and backwards. Try skipping bars sometimes and other times try holding onto each rung for a few seconds before switching. Do Pullups, Chinups, Deadhangs, Scapula Pullups, Hand Releases, Grip Switches, and anything else you can think of that helps build that upper body and grip strength. You can even take your bucket or "sand bag" to the park and do intervals of running, heavy carry, and grip work on the monkey bars.
3: "Build" Your Own "Sand Bag"
As Alex Trebek would say on the show "Jeopardy", "Notice the quotations." If you have a back pack or a duffel bag at home, you can make your own version of a sandbag. Just throw some heavy items in the bag. It could be big books (we hope you still have books), water jugs or bottles, tools, or really anything that has some weight to it and won't get damaged. For most intents and purposes, you now have your own sandbag! Again, squats and carries of all kinds are available to you. If it's a duffel bag, you may be able to do some Cleans and Presses along with Romanian Deadlifts, Rucking, added weight during a Plank, and more!
4: Run, Hike, Walk, Skip, Jump
If you said, "DUH" when you read the headline for this section, then I hope you are actually doing all of the things listed and not just running or walking. As long as you are physically capable, running, hiking, walking, skipping, and jumping will all be beneficial exercises for developing lower body strength for race-specific goals! Walking is good for recovery and staying generally active.
Running is running and running for running by running so run. Skipping is great, when done for longer bouts of time, for developing single leg explosiveness and strength. Jumping is also a great exercise for strengthening your lower body. It doesn't matter if it's Squat Jumps or Box Jumps or Stair Jumps or any other kind of jump (don't do anything unsafe) because they are all helpful for your training.
5: "Create" Your Own "Foam" Roller
Again, the quotation marks play a big role here. First, you're going to need $6-$8. Second, you're going to need to go to a home improvement store. Third, you're going to buy a piece of PVC pipe that's 6 inches in diameter, and about 1-2 feet long.
That's it. Now, I warn you, rolling with a PVC pipe will be much harsher than using a softer foam roll...believe me, I've done it. However, it is very efficient. A traditional foam rollers will cost anywhere from $15-$60.
6: Use Water Jugs As Dumbbells
I'm serious. Make do with what you have because your goals and fitness are more important than what anyone else thinks or even what YOU think would be weird. With 1 gallon water jugs, you have an 8.34lb item to do Front Squats, Hammer Curls, Thrusters, Weighted Lunges, Weighted Reverse Lunges, Weighted Lateral Lunges, Front Raises, Bench Rows, Standing Rows, and more! If you're thinking to yourself, "This is ridiculous" then I have just one question for you: Would you rather be stronger, or weaker?
7: Use A Hand Towel
You have a hand towel at home, I'm sure. If you've ever used those little slider disks they have in gyms, a hand towel can be used the same way on a smooth surface like a wood floor. With this wonderful "hack" you can do Mountain Climbers, Knee Tucks, Buzz-saws, and more! Further, if you have a pullup bar, or have access to a pullup bar, or even a nice strong tree branch, you can do many different grip strengthening exercises using a hand towel that's been thrown over the bar/branch/whatever. If you can grip a towel and successfully complete different exercises, you'll have really great grip strength for OCR.
8: Take A Cold Shower Or Bath
I know it's not as cool as a Cryotherapy Chamber, and although it may not do exactly the same thing, it still has its benefits. However, use this method the right way. There are many studies that suggest that cold water immersion could marginally limit muscle growth after training - at the least, it won't help in that aspect.
However, a cold water session may give you some of the health benefits long-term that Cryotherapy seems to. It'll also help you adjust to being in cold conditions if you have a cold race on your schedule.
9: Train Outside
While using almost every gym almost everywhere, you'll be indoors in a climate controlled environment. One benefit of not having gym access is that it forces you outside more for your training.
This allows our gym-less athlete the ability to adapt to the cold, heat, rain, ice, snow, wind, sun, and every other weather condition conceivable. They'll know how they should dress for a race because they'll have practiced in their training outside already.
10: Get A Rope
Many years before OCR became popular, and while my brother Luke and I were still young kids, we made our own Hercules Hoist. How'd we do it? Well, we had an old rope that we'd found left at a construction site. We tied one end of the rope around a big rock in our back yard, and we threw the other end over the branch of a pine tree. From there, we struggled (pretty unsuccessfully) to lift the rock up to the branch. I mean, we may have gotten it there, but it was a ton of work. The friction of the rope rubbing on the branch didn't help us at all.
But that's the point! It's hard! With a rope, you can practice Rope Climbs, dragging big rocks or water jugs or big logs like a Sled Drag, the Hercules Hoist, hanging from the rope as if using the grips that many OCR companies have, and more! Just get creative with it.
If you can't find a rope the way we did, you can pick one up at Home Depot (Bleed Orange! Ugh, sorry) for like $20-$25.
There you have it! You all just need to think like Luke and myself when we were kids and you'll have all the innovation you need to train for OCR without a gym, and on a low budget! If you can't think like us, you can always train with us!
At Trio Fitness OCR, we program training based on the resources our clients have access to. Whether you live in a gym, or have never been to a gym, we'll be able to program effective workouts for you. Check out our Training Programs.
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Joel Hayes (Coach & Article Author)
Luke Hayes (Coach)