21 Obstacle Race Training Tips For Beginners

You’ve been contemplating signing up for your first Obstacle Course Race for a while now, haven’t you? 

C’mon, be honest now. You’re always seeing photos on Facebook of your old friends from college…

Hoisting themselves over walls, crawling through mud, swinging across cold steel bars and jumping over fire to the finish line…

It’s that ONE THING that everyone is crossing off their bucket list.

And not just the “fitness freaks”… 

I’m talking about EVERYONE.

Why?

Because crushing an obstacle course race with a bunch of other savage mud runners (both recreational and competitive) is one of the greatest physical and mental accomplishments you’ll have in a long time.

You can’t help but pull up your first obstacle course race sign up form on the website, swirling the white arrow around the submit button… 

Everything in you wants to join in on the fun. All 206 bones in your body are dying to get down and dirty and experience the fitness adventure of a lifetime…

However, that small voice in the back of your head whispers… 

“What if I sign up and completely embarrass myself…”

“What if I don’t finish…”

“How the heck do I even start training for this thing?”

The only GOOD question of the 3 is the last one. The first two questions you’re thinking are driven by fear… the last question is a voice of preparation and commitment, regardless of the unknown…

Great news is, I’m going to give you 21 tips you have to do before your first obstacle course race. Afterall, I want you to experience the one thing that everyone else is crossing off of their bucket lists as a “must-do” before they die.

I’m not going to allow you to “contemplate” anymore.

After following this list, you’ll be more than ready to dominate your first obstacle course race:

 

1 Become The Burpee Champ

Obstacle course races (in this case, the Spartan Race) is known for it’s burpees. Throughout the course, if you happen to “fail” an obstacle, it’s off to the burpee zone for 30 burpees.

The good news is, you don’t have to spend your entire race trying to complete every obstacle… If you fail one, then drop down and give Sparta 30. Bad news… Burpees suck!

You’ll learn that on your first day of training. Listen, no one likes burpees… We all hate em’. And the last thing you want to do on mile 3 is a set of burpees… even more incentive to prepare for obstacle success come race day.

 

2 Forget Bodybuilding Exercises

Just going to the gym and doing some bench press, bicep curls and a few sets of squats are not going to get you ready for your first obstacle course race. In fact, training for “hypertrophy” (strictly muscle size) will set you back BIG time.

Hypertrophy training will limit your mobility, flexibility, and let’s face it… you just won’t be able to maneuver quickly through the course. 

Packing on tons of extra weight to your frame will make an obstacle race more challenging. 

With that said, if you think bodybuilding is the only way to “look good” then take a look at most of the obstacle course racers out there and tell me they don’t have the bodies of a Greek God…

 

3 Get Weird With It

I don’t want to give you a “don’t do this” and not follow it up with a “do this” tip for your training. 

Plain and simple, get creative with your training… 

Obstacle course racing is unlike any fitness event you will ever participate in… To be honest, that’s one of the big reasons why OCR is the fastest growing sport in the world. Training is a freaking blast. Yea… it’s challenging. But I can promise you it’s never boring.

Bodyweight exercises will become a staple to your training. You can also use sandbags, tires, kettlebells, dumbbells, heavy buckets, monkey bars, battle ropes… you name it and you can use it for training.

 

4 Become A Master Of Your Body

When gearing up for your first obstacle course race I recommend you focus primarily on body weight movements… 

You want to become a master of your own body weight. Learn how to control and balance yourself against gravity. 

An obstacle course race is going to test your physical strength, muscular endurance, balance, and stability. Prepare yourself for those variations of exertion with a high intensity bodyweight workout plan.

 

5 You Don’t Have To Be A Runner…

This one may create some controversy… 

Unless you plan on racing with the elite obstacle course racers and making a run for the podium – you DO NOT have to sell your soul and become a “runner” to crush an obstacle course race. 

With that said, no running at all would be a mistake. When I’m asked, “How much running do I need to do before my first race?” The answer is simple. Commit to one long distance trail run per week and crush it. That’s right, just one day per week and you’re good!

 

6 Become A Beast

Get off the pavement! As far as you’re concerned, pavement is nothing 

but hot lava from here on out. If you are going to run once per week it has to be “off trail.” 

I’ll tell you, no obstacle course race is going to be on a smoothly paved road without a hill in sight. Actually, you can expect the opposite. 

Expect rough terrain and hills for days. With that said, your long distance run during the week should be pumped up with inclines and be a bit “rough” around the edges.

 

7 Don’t Do It Alone

Bring your friends, family, and co-workers along for the journey with you. Recruit 1-4 people to sign up for an obstacle race with you. No need to hog all of the fun for yourself. 

I can promise you that completing an obstacle course race is going to be a memory you’ll share with all of the people around you… heck, you’ll form bonds with complete strangers running along the course with you.

So add to the fun. Bring your friends along with you. Train together… keep each other motivated… and help each other finish.

 

8 Get Your Hammer Strength Apparel Gear On

Prepare for battle between you, mud, and obstacles. You need to equip yourself with the best apparel. Be sure to wear moisture management gear up top and underneath your shorts… Hammer Strength Apparel is the most advanced sweat and moisture management technology for incredible race day performance. 

Here's what some of the world's top obstacle course racers are saying about it:

"I've never experienced a shirt that wicks moisture like Hammer Strength Apparel. Whether sweat or water... I'm feeling dry 99% of the entire race. Best shirts to race in by a long shot."

"Hammer Strength Apparel has hit it out of the park with this fabric.  I recently race in a Battlefrog  Elite race and this shirt rocked, finishing 1st in my AG. The compression was perfect and it kept me warm for the early start and kept me cool as the sun came out.  Unreal!! You gotta try this out!"

Hammer Strength Apparel will go above and beyond for you... even in the most extreme conditions.

 

9 Clock Some Cold Shower Minutes

You want something to build massive amounts of mental toughness? Cold showers. 

Hands down, this is one of the best mental toughness tricks you can start implementing TODAY to build up your mental grit. Let’s face it – no one likes a cold shower. However… forcing yourself to take a cold shower for 5 minutes a day will definitely take your mental game to the next level. 

So the next time you find yourself submerging under a cold water hole at your first obstacle course race… it’ll just feel like you’re taking a morning shower… 

 

10 The Amplified EPOX Effect

This is one of those training secrets that I usually keep within my “tribe” but I’ll explain it a little bit just so you can get an idea (It’ll take me an entire blog post or 2… or 3 to give you true superhuman effects from this one).

Let’s just say the Amplified EPOX Effect is a “blood building” trick that you add at the end (or during) your workouts to increase your oxygenated blood levels… AKA makes you an endurance machine without having to run any extra minutes throughout the week.

Add the Amplified EPOX Effect to your training >>>

 

11 Stretch It Out

Limber up while you can. You don’t want to walk up to the starting line of your race with tight muscles. You’re going to be jumping, pulling, crawling, hoisting, carrying, reaching… that’s a whole lot of muscle lengthening and shortening.

You want to be as loose as possible. 

Think about it… do you want to feel like a rubber band that’s been sitting in the freezer for the past 24 hours or do you want to feel comfortable, loose, and ready to dominate? 

Yea… I’ll take the ladder, too.

 

12 Hill Sprints… And More Hill Sprints

Just because I recommend only one long distance run per week does not mean that’s the ONLY day you should run. 

Hill sprints are one of the most effect exercises to develop cardiovascular endurance… You can actually develop 3x the results in only a third of the time.

Go find a hill near you, start at the bottom and sprint up to the top. Give your absolute best effort. 

Proceed by walking down the hill until you reach the bottom… Turn around and do it all over again. This high intensity interval relationship is going to massively increase your cardiovascular performance
without spending hours and hours of your week running.

 

13 Got Grip?

This is the most underestimated part of obstacle course racing… Grip strength. 

You think it’s just one of those minor skillsets, right? Hah! You’ll hate yourself for not training your forearms and finger grip before the race. In fact, you’ll probably find that out on just the first few obstacles.

So how can you go about training your grip? Let’s not over complicate it… Exercises like dead hangs, farmers walks, and bucket carries are great practice for developing a mighty grip come race day.

 

14 Dial In Your Nutrition

Nutrition is a staple for your recovery, performance, and if need be, for your weight loss. 

Following a well put together training plan is going to go a long way… However if your nutrition has not changed from the time you signed up for your first race to the day you step up to the starting line… Chances are you left some insane results on the table. 

If you want to crush your first obstacle race, get your nutrition together. Choose whole, nutrient rich foods that will help you lose some “baggage” around the waist and improve your recovery time between workouts. 

Do this and you won’t lack an ounce of results.

 

15 Have Accountability Partners

Whether you have people running your mud run with you, or not… you NEED to have an accountability partner or two. 

Accountability partners will keep you going when the going gets tough… 

Here’s some good advice… Find one or two awesome people in your life who you can trust to support you. Tell them what you want to accomplish and invite them to come into your world to help you crush your first obstacle course race… 

Again, they don’t have to be racing with you to be a massive support system. They just have to be there when you need someone to whip your butt into working out for the day.

 

16 Include The Miscellaneous Stuff…

What do I mean by that? Spartan Racing has some obstacles that will require a bit of practice and skill. The one that comes to mind immediately is the spear throw. You can easily put a homemade Spartan spear together and practice your throws out in the back yard. 

It’s one of those obstacles that may not be physically exhausting but they sure can send you right to the burpee station if you’re not careful.

Another misc option includes balance resistant obstacles such as log crossing or thin beam crossing (don’t worry, it’s only elevated about 8 inches off the ground).

 

17 Find A Balance

Gearing up for your first mud run does not mean dismissing your priorities. Keep your family #1, keep focus at your job, have a social life… 

If you choose the BEST training strategy then you won’t miss out on any of those things. 

Don’t exhaust yourself mentally. Being a true obstacle course dominator a lifestyle. Don’t let training for an obstacle course race control you. You control it. All you need is a dominant training plan.

 

18 Realize What Fear Is…

This one is a bit deep… In my life I’ve realized this to be true EVERY time. 

Fear is the one thing that will keep you from experiencing the great opportunities and adventures life has to offer. Fear will creep in when you are on the verge of doing something great 100% of the time. Never fails. 

Finishing an obstacle course race… that is something great… 

It’s admirable, it’s challenging, it’s rewarding and exciting… 

Fear is nothing but vampire that wants to suck the thrill right out of your life. 

The question is… Will you let it? I sure as heck pray you don’t.

 

19 Never Train “Just To Finish”

Always aim high… If you train with the attitude of, “well, I just want to finish…” then you’ll be doing yourself a huge disservice. 

Train to dominate. Train to be unstoppable. Train to conquer this race. 

Don’t settle for “just crossing the finish line.” I can promise you that if you train with that attitude, the race will be exceedingly harder.

 

20 The Secret Weapon

Everything I’ve shared with you… All 19 previous training, nutrition, and mental toughness strategies are packed together for you in the 6 Week Obstacle Overtake System.

It’s the one training program that is turning “average” Joe and Joanne’s into weekend obstacle dominators.
Go see for yourself >>>

Even the Elite OCR athletes say this is the best plan for beginner/intermediate obstacle course racers… (not kidding – check it out)

21 What Are You Waiting For?

Well, you’ve made it to #21. That means you are legitimately serious about running conquering your next mud run. 

So I’m going to leave you with this… YOU CAN FREAKING DO IT!!! 

Don’t wait any longer, give the middle finger to fear, it’s go-time, baby! Time to become an obstacle course racer.

If you’ve decided to run your first obstacle race… then I want to give you a great big muddy “slow clap”… YOU are about to have the time of your life.

You ready to crush your first obstacle course race? 

I know you are.

Way to choose adventure over average.


Joe LoGalbo
Contributing Writer for Hammer Strength Apparel
www.obstacleracerevolution.com
Obstacle Race Trainer & Athlete

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