Four years ago, I ran what was my first real OCR. I thought I was so well prepared for it – completely cool and confident. I started the race and did poorly. I did so poorly that I became who I am today because my performance caused me to critique everything I did to figure out what went wrong.
For starters, I broke a few of the rules that I wrote about in my last blog
Some of my no-no’s included (Feel free to cringe – I did when I was writing it!):
- When it got too hot or rainy outside, I jogged on a treadmill in the gym.
- Regardless of the weather, I ran outside on the pavement.
- In the gym, I lifted only using machines.
- On race day, I ate differently than I was used too (I ate a pulled pork sandwich just before the race)
- On race day, I wore shoes that I’d never worn before.
- I never once mixed exercises with my running.
Honestly, I was passed by people a few waves behind me. I was embarrassed about my performance.
Now you may not have done quite THAT bad, you may have even finished in the top 20. Regardless of how well or poor you did, critically evaluating yourself afterward will propel you forward. It can make the difference of being able to run the whole race instead of walking, the difference between not being able to walk for five days and feeling ok the next day, or the difference between a top 20 finish and a podium finish. No matter who you are or what your goals are, identifying and correcting weaknesses will put you on a whole other level in any sport.
Using my experience as an example, running on dirt and mud was my main weakness so I added trail running using these methods.
Why did I pick trail running to work on? I’ve ran marathons, but flat surfaces do not prepare you for the terrain used in a mud run. Trail running provides a total body workout that you can’t get anywhere else. To top it off, adding body weight movements to some of your trail runs really helps to prepare your body for the rigors of running through a course, jumping over walls, and doing strongman obstacles – like carrying atlas stones.
Here are some obstacles you may face when running OCRs and the exercises you can do to master them.
Wall Climb/Inverted Wall Climb: These obstacles require you to climb/jump up onto a wall and over. Walls are between six and eight feet.
SGX Training Tip. Practicing these aren’t enough. You need to be able to do these while you are fatigued to simulate the conditions you will face during an actual race. If this was a struggle for you, then the things you need the most work on are pull-ups, dips, bodyweight rows, jump squats, mountain climbers, kettlebell swings, and thrusters. Each of these movements go into climbing the wall. Chances are if you need help getting over the wall, you’re weak in one or all of the exercises described above. Make them your focus. Remember, you’ll be jumping up and then over the wall so don’t be afraid to practice jumping pull-ups and dips.
Rope Climb/Tyrolean Traverse: These can be a struggle all on their own. Many people who can climb the rope under normal circumstances, fail during the race due to being extremely fatigued. The Tyrolean traverse is like climbing a rope upside down. Do watch videos of how it’s done. If you can’t get it at all, practice at a minimum, the holds with your feet. Yep, literally just hang there, get the…hang..of..it…(see what I did there?).
SGX Training Tip. A good place to start practicing for these is to practice your foot wrap technique do pull ups, body rows, and core work. Additionally, you’re often extremely fatigued during the race when you reach these obstacles. Be aware that cramping here is common. Once you get good at climbing the rope, start practicing it tired. Examples include 10 burpees right into one rope climb – try 5-10 sets. Grip work could also be an issue so wrapping a towel around a pullup bar and knocking out some chin ups will greatly improve both pulling strength and grip.
Traverse Wall: This is something even the pros have trouble with sometimes. It takes a lot of core and grip strength to perform this. One of the best ways to train for this is practicing on a wall until you “get it” or going rock climbing (real or in a gym)
SGX Training Tip: Not everyone has access to a wall but some of the exercises that be beneficial to you are, bodyweight rows, farmers carry with kettlebells or dumbbells, and planks.
Hercules Hoist: This one seems simple enough until you actually grab the rope and attempt to do it. If you weigh less than 150, even harder! You could try things like jumping and hanging for dear life to pull it down, or lie down on the ground and perform it like a row.
SGX Training Tip. Getting strong enough for this is much like training for the rope climb. Pull-ups especially with a towel around the bar will work your grip strength and pulling power. If you’re super light, weighted pullups will work wonders. A weight vest works, if you don’t have access to that, a weight belt. If no access to that, hang a dumbbell or kettlebell from your feet, if you don’t have that, pick up any small child and do AMRAP (as many reps as possible) until they stop screaming (kidding!).
Body weight rows also help, especially for when you’re lying down, it’s a little different than the pull-up.
Bucket Carry/ Atlas Stone/Sandbag: All relatable “strongman” obstacles. These combine a little bit of both strength and endurance. The good thing about these are that they are do it yourself pieces of equipment that you can make or buy to practice. Then it’s just a matter of finding a big hill.
SGX Training Tip. In the absence of a big hill, either having a sandbag held in front or on your back, lunge. It’s the closest way of simulating hill climbing. With that, deadlifts, ab wheel, planks, goblet squats, and front squats will help with strength. Remember it is about endurance as well, so weighted holds like farmers carry and the many variations need to be utilized. It is an absolute must. You’ll see many people doubled over throughout the bag and bucket carry. Practice these and you won’t be one of them. You’ll gain a lot of time. Plus it is so much harder to stop and then start again. Sure you get to catch your breath, but it takes longer and it’s just a bit harder each time you start.
All of these things will go a long way to help you correct any minor deficiency or huge gaping holes in your training. This isn’t meant to replace your training, it is meant to complement it. If I had pick one major place for most to start, it is to run on trails and include exercises along the way. You can bring equipment with you or even knock out sets of burpees or pushups every 5-10 minutes. Remember the race combines both elements of strength and endurance. So, if you’re only good in one area, you’re going to have a lot of trouble that you weren’t expecting when they’re combined.