Three years ago, a few of my clients came to me talking about a crazy outdoor adventure involving mud, carrying heavy shit up mountains, and barbed wire. As they were explaining it to me my mind started to race a million miles an hour. Thoughts of doing something competitive again at nearly 40 years old was very intriguing.
I was hooked on Obstacle Course Racing from day one. My first attempt at training for a race came in October of 2014 as I was preparing for the Spartan Sprint at Miller Park. Yes, I was a trainer, but I was no runner. I was a college wrestler and although running was important, it was never practiced nor did I ever engage in running over the last 20 years. My first mile was about a 12:00 minute pace that resulted in heaving into a garbage can and feeling like I did an hour of wind sprints chained to Usain Bolt’s back.
Over the last three years, our gym and the endurance clients I have trained have spent a great deal of energy on Obstacle Course Racing. Having classes, building obstacles, and generating a buzz in the community has propelled us onto to this stage. In a sport that has grown faster than any other sport in recent years, Obstacle Course Racing is poised to be an Olympic Sport.
There are many different brands of OCR: Tougher Mudder, Warrior Dash, Abominable Snow Race,Savage Race, and Spartan. All with different characteristics and differentiators, but generally the same culture. Personally, I have sunken my roots into Spartan Racing because of its competitiveness and the opportunity to travel all over to compete. I have received my certification to be a SGX coach and have invested more time in the last three years into learning and coaching endurance athletes then I have the previous 15 years of my coaching career.
For all the achievements we have had for ourselves and for our clients, nothing has given me more satisfaction than sitting on the bank of a mountain with nothing left, body completely spent from absolute glycogen depletion, yet still finding a path forward to finish strong in a race.
Now I know many of you may or may not find solace in running up the side of mountain or crawling through mud and barbed wire, or being penalized for failing an obstacle, but isn’t that the point? Embracing the things that are challenging and creating adventure in our life?
It is widely noted that people want and need to be challenged. For some, a comfortable life of sitting by the ocean and playing on Facebook seems like an ideal retirement pattern, but for so many others, digging into the depths of our soul in a soul crushing competition is just what the doctor ordered. Whatever your reason for living life outside your comfort zone, here are my top 5 reasons why I think you should put Obstacle Course Racing on your to-do list:
Training for an obstacle course race gets you outside. It allows you to focus in on your fears, limitations, and weaknesses. You will run, climb walls, do grip work, run trails, lift heavy shit, and smash your legs while training for a race. Depending on the distance of the race it may take up to 8-12 weeks to get race ready. Learning something new will also include different movement patterns as many workouts are strictly unilateral. Training for new run distances, doing hill work, and performing grip work are often new tools in the tool box that you can add to further competitions outside of OCR. The overall process of training for many can be just as important to them then the race itself.
This may not be true for everyone but for many, preparing for or competing in OCR will allow them to take a look at their current health status. Personally, I have invested years in time and treasure preparing for my races and I want to perform my best. With that comes nutritional changes in my daily life that keep me focused on eating for performance. I also spend a good deal of time in rest and recovery and make sure I am getting enough sleep to manage my training volume. In general, when we have an athletic goal we want to achieve, our thought patterns begin to change to be more conscientious of our health.
Become part of larger community
Whether you are doing a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder for the first time or the hundredth time, you get sucked into the culture of OCR. There are hundreds, if not thousands of Facebook groups, Community Running Groups, Training Groups, and just about any type of group known to man out there that carry the banner for OCR. Getting involved often times means meeting people in other states or even countries you would have never met. I have met thousands of people from all over the globe that have become both clients of mine and life long friends in this community. We all share a love of the sport and a wiliness to go out and do things that for many, seem impossible.
You get to write your own story
When I started racing in 2014, I was not very good, typically finishing in the middle of the pack. In 2016 I finished 5th in my age and 16th overall at Spartan World Championships. Each year and each race has allowed me to feed my competitive juices and allow my to set forth goals that are personal to me. I race for myself and my family and I get to do it on my terms. Many of the clients I work with initially want to set the bar very high. I often have to bring them down to earth and let them know that this is a slow process, but if you train hard and focus on one race at a time, your story will be written. You will have successes and failures and setbacks, but you get to learn from each of those experiences and move on to be a better version of yourself the next race.
You develop a new athletic set point
Before OCR, I was a decent athlete. I could do a few things great, some things well, and many others things pretty crappy. I hated extreme cold or heat. I absolutely hated running. I never trained legs nor did I want to pick up anything heavy that wasn’t a barbell. You could bet that if I was going to compete at some sort of competition, I was going to be decent. Not great, but decent.
I have had decent cardio. I am moderately strong for my size and I was always a little rough around the edges with grit. Since participating in OCR for the last three years, I have risen to another level, athletic level x10. Even at the age of 42 I can say without a doubt, I am in better shape and health then I was in college wrestling. OCR has destroyed every limit I thought I had. It has forced me to change my frame of reference on the things I thought I couldn’t do and totally obliterate them. I no longer have those barriers of self doubt and anxiety about the things I can achieve athletically. I get to spread that feeling and training to my clients I train with our race training plans. Your only limit is you.