Somewhere along the way, the world decided running marathons wasn’t enough of a challenge.
“Let’s add some log carrying and fire leaping to that,” the world said. “And mud. Just endless mud.”
So in a world of Tough Mudders, Spartan Races and Bonefrog Challenges (note: real name), we stand and wonder: How did we get here? And, more importantly, how do we prepare?
To find out, we hit up the premier obstacle-course-race training facility: EPIC Hybrid Training, a nationwide center built for OCR enthusiasts. Founder Alex Nicholas, head coach Cassidy Watton and general manager Paul Buijs then walked us through a 30-minute workout.
“This is very different from training for a marathon,” says Nicholas, who suggests you’ll need about three months to get in proper shape for an obstacle-course run. “At an obstacle race, you don’t know the mileage. And you could run two miles and not see an obstacle, then hit 10 obstacles at once. You really have to be a hybrid athlete with a lot of mentalities to compete at a high level on these.”
To that end, Nicholas and his staff have devised a series of rotating workouts that offer both endurance and high-intensity circuit training, with exercises that mimic what you would see on assorted Tough Mudders and Spartan Races (note: Nicholas and Watton both have Spartan Race Pro affiliations).
(While talking, Nicholas also gave us the best quick diet we’ve ever heard: “Eat less food than what you’re eating. Ninety percent whole foods, ten percent processed. And one in every seven meals you can cheat. But it’s all a mind game: whatever you need to do to get your mind and body to tune in.”)
Below, an obstacle course workout designed and performed by the EPIC Hybrid team. Do each set for 40 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of rest. Five rounds, six stations, thirty minutes, no mercy. (They also have a cool app if you want more workouts.)
Monkey Bars: A can't-miss obstacle at any race. You can increase your grip through a number of methods, but nothing beats actually getting on a succession of bars. Start with regrips, progressing to traversing with two hands on each bar and then, finally, hand-over-hand, monkey-style traversing.
Power Wheel Crawl: This is an excellent tool for building an unbreakable core. In addition, these exercises will strengthen your shoulders and make any crawl at a race seem like child's play.
Jumping Muscle Ups: When working out in a gym, nothing beats simulating actual wall scales with this manuever. Start with a very tall box to assist you in getting over the bar and then subtract boxes as you get stronger. Rebounding right off the box and stringing these together will spike your heart rate while challenging your strength. This is obstacle racing in a nutshell.
Rope Climbs: It's necessary to have lots of reps on a rope before you encounter a muddy one in a race. This movement can be performed from a supine rope climb to a hook grip climb all the way to a legless shimmy.
Wreck Bag Lunges: Throw a wreck bag on your back over a single shoulder and do walking lunges to strengthen your legs, simulating carrying a bag up a hill.
Banded Agility Drills: The nature of obstacle racing is the unknown. You may turn a corner and see a quarter-mile climb ahead of you ... or some of the most technical downhill terrain you've ever encountered. Doing agility training with some resistance will prepare your legs and reaction speed for the unknown.