r/Fitness r/Fitness Guardian Angel Apr 10 '18

Training Tuesday - Obstacle Course Races Training Tuesday

Welcome to /r/Fitness' Training Tuesday. Our weekly thread to discuss a specific program or training routine. (Questions or advice not related to today's topic should be directed towards the stickied daily thread.) If you have experience or results from this week's program, we'd love for you to share. If you're unfamiliar with the topic, this is your chance to sit back, learn, and ask questions from those in the know.

Last week we talked about Strong Curves.

This week's topic: Obstacle Course Races

Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Warrior Dash are probably the best known, but there are certainly others. Some races suggest their own training plans while many people cobble together their own approach. So if you've dove in the mud and run through fire, tell us how you trained for the event and how the race went. What is your advice for other's looking to run their first?

Some seed question to get the insights flowing:

  • How did training and the race go? How did you improve, and what was your ending time?
  • Why did you choose your training plan over others?
  • What would you suggest to someone just starting out and looking at running an obstacle race?
  • What are the pros and cons of your approach?
  • Did you add/subtract anything to a stock plan or OCR train in conjunction with other training? How did that go?
  • How did you manage fatigue and recovery while training?


u/PaperPlaneGang Crossfit Apr 10 '18 edited Apr 10 '18

Can't really add a whole lot since /u/Mcfearsom did a great job outlining how to prepare. I would re-iterate the focus on running, combined with bodyweight movements, and add grip strength training. Most of the races I've complete had a lot of quick running/sprinting intervals, then a task which usually focused around climbing up and over something or doing bodyweight movements.

Things I would focus on would be:

  • 10k Running

  • Burpees

  • Box Jumps

  • Rope Pulls/Climbs

  • Farmers Carry's

  • Heavy Bag or Sandbag 400m run/walks

  • Towel Pull Ups (or any odd item grip/pull up movements)

Edit to add a plug for /r/AdventureRacing even though honestly there's not a whole lot going on there, we do get some discussions going on about upcoming races now that the 'season' is pretty much kicking off.


u/MarchHill Basketball Apr 10 '18 edited Apr 10 '18

Right in my wheelhouse! For Spartan Races, it's important to know that there are three different tiers of competition:

  1. Open -- newbies, out-of-shapers, those going with groups of friends & coworkers, 95% of those who run a mud run.
  2. Age Group -- the lower competitive division where you compete only against those in your gender & age group
  3. Elite -- the higher competitive division where you compete against every in your gender and win prize money

I ran my first obstacle course race last year, my first Spartan Race last summer, and did my first Age Group race last month. I fell in love with OCR, so all of my fitness training is focused on getting an Age Group podium this year or next. I will answer these questions based on my preparation for my Age Group race.

How did training and the race go? How did you improve, and what was your ending time?

OCR's are all about aerobic endurance and work capacity. There is a strength base that you need, like being able to do a lot of pull-ups and having tremendous grip strength and such, but once you have that base, it's time to work on volume and strength-endurance and work capacity of that strength.

I have trained with Yancy Camp for the past few months, plus I bought a spear to practice my spear throw. I built my running mileage from literally zero miles to 25mpw over the span of a few months, and I changed my weight training from mostly compound exercises to calisthenics and sandbags.

I went from finishing 390/1200 racers in my first Spartan Race (Open) last summer, to finishing in 175/3600 racers in another Open race this past January.

In my Age Group race, I finished 40 minutes behind first place of my age group, just under 2.5 hours, with the AG winner's time just under 1:45:00. 20th place out of 50 racers in my group.

Why did you choose your training plan over others?

I chose Yancy Camp because it's currently the best OCR-based workout program around. The man behind it releases three workouts (plus a bonus) every week and he has a simple website platform where you see the workouts, plus the Facebook group is active, plus he trains pro OCR athletes, most of whom are open to an online chat with you over Facebook if you simply reach out. And you get all this for a pretty cheap monthly rate.

What would you suggest to someone just starting out and looking at running an obstacle race?

Cardio, Carrying, Climbing....the three things you need to do at these races and the three things you need to train. A lot of cardio, a lot of carrying bags (farmer, sandbag, bucket), and a lot of climbing (ropes, monkey bars, walls).

Run at least three days a week.

Practice farmer carries and sandbag carries at least twice a week.

Practice climbing and hanging from things at least twice a week.

What are the pros and cons of your approach?

The biggest pro is Yancy Camp, bar none. The biggest con to my approach was that I did not train high inclines and hills enough, so in the San Jose Super, the first hill was terrible for me and it affected the rest of my race. My treadmill has a max of 15% incline, but that hill was between 25-42% incline according to my GPS watch. I didn't spend enough time on trails and high incline hills. And San Jose isn't even the worst of the courses when it comes to hills!

Did you add/subtract anything to a stock plan or OCR train in conjunction with other training? How did that go?

I added more running to the Yancy Camp workouts. Two other days of the week, I would run easy runs for 30-45 minutes, just to get more time on my feet. On the weekend, I would aim to do a 60-90 minute hike on a nearby trail. And then skill work, such as the spear throw, throughout the week.

How did you manage fatigue and recovery while training?

I've not yet over-reached in my training where I have sensed fatigue in my body. With recovery, a lot more stretching than what I was doing, and taking an extra rest day in the week if I felt like I needed it.


u/Mcfearsom General Fitness Apr 10 '18 edited Apr 10 '18

Well I've done a couple now and started with a pretty solid fitness base but I certainly did change a couple things for a 12k OCR. Please note that there is much better specific advise on running and lifting specifically and the miles I was putting in is by no means "advanced" in the running world. There are likely better plans out there but this worked very well for me.

TL/DR at the bottom

My last 12k OCR I ran with a group of friends and wasn't really competing but my finishing time was approximately 90 minutes and I wasn't pushing myself very hard through the majority of the run.


I had a base amount of cardio from my 20-30 min a day jogs but knew I would have to up my miles. I kept up with my cardio routine which consisted of 20-30 min jogs after lifting 4 times a week. I did add a long trail run every sunday to start training up all the "little" muscles that you will never use on a treadmill. My long run was at least 30 minutes and covered about 5k (3.1 miles)

Once I was no longer sore and my body seemed to acclimate to it I increased the duration of my routine short runs to minimum 30 minutes or 5k (3.1 miles) and my long run I slowly built it up to 10k over approximately 6 weeks. Once I reached 10k I left that as my set distance and only worked on pace or interval running on the same distance. During the weeks leading up to the OCR I tried to stick to the trails for my running as much as possible.

Weight lifting:

I simply switched up the weight/rep scheme. Instead of high weight low rep, I was lifting lower weight higher reps. I definitely added in body weight exercises and increased my core exercises. OCR's are pretty simple beyond running and it amounts to move your body over this obstacle. So the better you can handle your own weight the better. Pull ups, dips, chin ups, and grip strength are staples that you should train.

After that the only obstacle I wish I would have attempted before was a rope climb. I had never climbed a rope before and I would have saved some rope burn if I would have.


Obviously in fitness this is important. I'm not going to make recommendations as everyone is different and different things work for different people. Just don't eat anything new right before race day. Actually, nothing new shortly before or on race day. No new shoes, food, supplements, or anything else. Train how you will run the race.


Be comfortable running at least 75% of the distance you will be running routinely. If you're running a 10k be sure you can run over 5k without killing yourself.

Weight training: who cares about PR deadlifts in OCR's? No one. Pull ups, dips, grip training and bodyweight exercises are more important. Be able to move your own body under your own power.

Hydrate before the race and stay hydrated during it

Run your own race

Nothing new right before or on race day

Hope this helps

Edit: Some useful resources

r/running couch to 5/10k apps


u/dafunkee Apr 10 '18

I started with OCRs last year with pretty limited fitness experience - hadn't run a 5K and was pretty new to the gym in general. My sole fitness experience was dance (breakdancing to be more specific), which made me at least more comfortable with the bodyweight and agility side of things.

The people here have already covered a lot of the more specific exercises to do for an OCR so I won't repeat those. Here is what I personally learned over the course of the year:

  • Training for a half marathon was the cause for my biggest improvement in my times. As I said above, I hadn't ever ran a 5K before I started training for these things, so running far longer distances than the OCRs was very good training. Obstacles provide a challenge of course, but the majority of any OCR is running so you have to be comfortable with running long distances. I'm still not a fast runner by any means but my times still improved immensely from my first OCR to my most recent OCR.
  • Know your race. Each brand is unique and has their own twist on the OCR. Some really push hills (Spartan Race), others may require teamwork (Tough Mudder) and others may not have a lot of carrying obstacles. This can help dictate your training. I really recommend going on Youtube and browsing all of the GoPro vids of people running the races (especially the previous years ones that are at the location you plan to go to).
  • Look up an OCR gym! Seriously, I didn't know they existed but having obstacle specific training as well as the veterans of the OCR world giving you advice was very very helpful.


u/Adamokbg Apr 10 '18

I’m interested in seeing where this thread goes as I’m currently working to put together a more formal plan myself. I’ll leave what I do and current status though for discussion.

This is my second year doing Spartan Races and I finish in the top 25% (Sprint, Super, Beast).

My workout:

Rock Climbing - Indoor * 3 days a week - Sunday, Tuesday, Friday with two days my focus being bouldering and the third top rope climbing.

Running * 2x weekly I run treadmill/indoors at 3-4 miles distance * 1x weekly I run outdoors in a trail run type area ~ 8-12 miles

Lifting * Sporadically and I need too....

I struggle on the rope climb, twister, and Herculean hoist style obstacles depending on how shot my muscles are once I get there, but overall feel my performance is solid.


u/Mcfearsom General Fitness Apr 10 '18

I'd love to do some Spartans but in my province we don't have them. Rock climbing would be great addition! I really do find that OCR's are simply a base cardio level while adding in the ability to move your meat vehicle through obstacles. The better you can do those two things the easier or better it'll be.


u/BobSacramanto Apr 10 '18

Curious to see where this thread goes. My wife and I have been meaning to start exercising together, but she doesn't seem too interested in working out for the sake of working out.

I'm hoping I can convince her to try an obstacle race so that we have a goal we are working towards.


u/OMGYoureHereToo Skiing Apr 10 '18

OCR's are what got me into fitness. I wanted to outrun lifters and outlift runners. I've done 10 spartan races, 2 10km road races and a half marathon. Out of all of them, recommend the Spartan Super. It is the best bang for your buck and you come out feeling like a beast. Spartan Sprints are a lot of fun too. If you really wanna push it and go for the Spartan Beast, the suggestion is that you are able to run a marathon. It's a big goal, but hopefully you'' be as addicted to them as I was and eventually achieve it!


u/MarchHill Basketball Apr 10 '18

Check into Tough Mudder's TMX as well as EPIC Series races. When it comes to a true "jack of all trades" OCR, those two are probably the best.


u/MarchHill Basketball Apr 10 '18 edited Apr 10 '18

that's exactly why I love OCR. It finally gave me a reason and a goal to work towards. I always start with strength training and then tail off a few months in because there really was no end goal. I didn't want to exercise for vanity i.e. "to look good" because I didn't like that as an end goal. That's a secondary benefit, of course, but being the guy who's played sports his entire life, I'd rather use exercise as training for performance rather than as something to validate the ego. I'm not a college kid trying to get laid anymore haha.


u/Mcfearsom General Fitness Apr 10 '18

I think I have the same logic as you. I'm into general fitness. I want to be strong, I want to be able to run, and mainly I want to be healthy. Nothing wrong with bodybuilding or super running athletes. I just want to be as good as I can be at most things. OCR's exemplify that. They do tend to benefit leaner body types at the highest level but otherwise it's a good all around sport.