Obstacle Course Racing, Where To Start
As many of you already know I love obstacle course racing. I love the challenge of it and the fact that it will take you out of your comfort zone. I also love the strength aspect of the sport.
I have people approach me all the time and tell me they want to get better at obstacle course racing, or even take on their first race. Starting out I think an explanation of what obstacle course racing (OCR) is.
OCR is a sport that mixes both strength and conditioning into one event. You do need a certain amount of strength to complete obstacles. Some them it is core strength to balance, some you will need a strong grip, others your legs need to be powerful and explosive. When you get to the core of OCR, it is a race and a running event.
With OCR being a running event this means the first and best place to start is with your running. You need to focus on trail running or hiking. I would even say trail riding on your mountain bike is very beneficial. Most OCR events take place in the woods, mountains, and forests. There are a few that take place in professional stadiums and on the metro streets. I would still say you need the conditioning and leg strength that a trail runner has.
This shows that the absolute first place to start as an OCR athlete is running or hiking nature trails. They should be dirt and in the woods with lots of hills. This will help you build the lung capacity and leg strength you will need for an OCR. Aside from the fact that being on the trails and outside is super healthy for you. The biggest benefit you will get from trail running is you will learn how to navigate a trail system.
It is pretty easy to slip and fall on trails. Trust me I have fallen a million times and still fall all the time. When out on trails you will learn how and where to step. You will also learn to spot safe vs unsafe places.
The next best place to start is to simply do strength training if you are not. This can be as simple as taking a group exercise class at the local gym. We want to do something that will increase our strength. Those of us more serious about our races will want a more dialed in program geared to make us a better athlete. You might need to think about hiring a coach to help with this step.
This last point is the one everyone should follow and never does. Start small and start local. Everyone wants to start with a Spartan Beast. This is a 13 mile race with over 30 obstacles. You should always support your local races first. Your local OCR's will be short, typically 3-4 miles, and they will have obstacles everyone can do and complete. Also the money you spend on the race will go back into your community.
After you have dipped your toes into OCR and you want more. This is the point where you may want to look into a more corporate race. Keep in mind these races are much harder and more competitive with less people likely to help you out. If you are like me and you enjoy running races solo, you will mostly be doing obstacles on your own.
Whether you keep your races local or feel the need to step out to a bigger race series. Trail running, some strength training, and local races are the best places to start on your obstacle course race journey.