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5 tips to thrive in an Obstacle Course Race

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My most recent obstacle course race was a grueling one with a distance of over 13 km, comprised of over 20 obstacles, and seemingly never-ending ski hills; it also didn't help that it was a scorching hot day. Nonetheless I was able to finish this run, successfully complete over 90% of the obstacles, but most importantly, showed up for work the next day.

I've done a handful of these runs, and very much enjoy them since they allow me to utilize the fruits of my labour that I've harvested in the gym, and also challenges almost all aspects of my physical capabilities. But although mud runs can be challenging and fun, they can be a complete nightmare if you fail to properly prepare for them.

Months/Weeks Leading up to the race

It goes without saying that you should dedicate an ample amount of time to train for them. Even though you are a frequent gym-goer, you most likely will have to adjust your workouts leading up to the race.

1. Don't Skip Leg Day
Matter of fact, if there's one piece of training advice I can give, it's to make training legs your top priority. Although obstacles will challenge your upper body in many ways, you need to keep in mind that this is still a run. You will be using your legs from the very beginning to the very end (many obstacles will also test your legs), so you will need them to be both strong and durable, especially if you're contending against ski hills.

Start running outside ideally in parks and grassy areas. Forgo the treadmill since they provide a smooth, stable, and symmetrical surface that you will never encounter in your run. To truly acclimatize yourself to the conditions you will face, start practicing hill runs at a park. Also you'll want to train in the shoes you plan on wearing at the race. By doing this you not only get use to them, but you can make any necessary adjustments prior to, and most importantly you reduce the chances of injuring your feet with incompatible footwear.

During the run

You've trained hard and now it's the day of your race. You're not in the clear yet. Here are some more key tips to help you thrive (and not merely survive) in your run:

2. Pre-race meal
I suggest loading up on some good carbs such as sweet potatoes, bananas, brown rice, oatmeal, etc. You will definitely need to properly fuel yourself. Try to avoid fats since there's a good chance it will make you feel lethargic throughout the race.

3. Proper Attire
For clothing, dry fit is your best bet since they're breathable and don't hold on to much moisture. Whatever you do, DON'T wear cotton! It's not breathable and it's notorious for holding on to mud, which can feel exceptionally heavy as you try to push through the course. On top of wearing proper clothing, you'll want to bring gloves. There are ropes, cables, barb wire, etc out there just waiting to rip apart your hands. If you fall victim to one of these menacing foes, it will make many obstacles very painful and harder to accomplish. A good set of gloves will protect you along the way.

4. Stay Hydrated
Bringing a small backpack with some fluids is a great way to stay hydrated, and prevent headaches or cramps that can result from dehydration. Along with water, it could be worthwhile to carry a couple energy gel packets to keep yourself fueled.

5. Have a Game Plan
Upon seeing an obstacle you may get excited and immediately rush to conquer it. I suggest otherwise. First, get your composure. You may be winded from that last ski hill you just ascended, and don't have the energy at the moment to engage it. While you're catching your breath, think how you're going to tackle this obstacle. Once you've caught your breath and have a plan, then go right ahead.These are just some of the tips that I've discovered from my experiences, and I welcome you to discover your own. Whatever run you decide to participate in, embrace the challenge and have fun.

Bonus Tip: keep your eyes out for the camera operators, do something spectacular when they take your picture, because those pictures will make wonderful memories.

Happy Running,

John

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