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Demystifying Obstacle Course Races

One of the goals of my business is to make obstacle course racing less intimidating. In this post I'll cover three questions I often get:

  1. What IS obstacle course racing?

  2. Do I need to be in crazy good shape to run one?

  3. Will I get hurt if I do one?

What IS obstacle course racing?

I consider obstacle course racing a giant game with lots of things to climb, swing from and traverse. Some obstacle course races are certainly more intense than others. For example, if you miss an obstacle in a Spartan race, you need to do 30 burpees before moving on. But this is the exception. Many obstacle course races focus on fun, teamwork and challenging yourself. Most races post a list of their obstacles on their sites, even if they don't always post the obstacles that will be at a race. Furthermore, many also post videos with tips on how to conquer an obstacle.

Do I need to be in amazing shape to run one?

Nope, although I think it's more fun if you've put in some training time because the more obstacles you can do, the more fun it is. Also, I was extremely out of shape for my very first 5k when I was in college and it was not fun because I was huffing and puffing so hard. I've never forgotten that feeling. But I have seen people of all ages, shapes and sizes successfully complete obstacles. Spartan recently posted a great article that outlines the bare minimum needed to complete a race.

Will I get hurt?

Not necessarily, but you can if you're not careful. If you know me, you know I'm accident prone. If you don't know me--I'm accident prone. For example, right now I'm nursing a skinned shin because my foot missed a plyo box during a training session a few weeks ago. I do have a matching scrape on my other shin--that IS from a race--because I came off an obstacle too fast and my foot slipped.

While I AM accident prone, I also tend to go all out during obstacle course races. So, yes, I come home with scraped elbows, shins and knees (see previous paragraph). But I also come home sore because I gave it my all and pushed my body to its limits. That's the whole point.

That being said, there are obstacles that can involve fire, electricity and water (though not all together). None of these are insurmountable, and as I've mentioned in a past post, I'm not a fan of every obstacle. But that is more of a mental game than anything else.

So what kind of training do you need to do to prepare for an obstacle course race? You'll have to come back next week to find out!

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