Want a new challenge this summer? Whether you’re a lifter, a runner, or just wanting to take on something new for your body and mind, consider signing up for an obstacle course race.
AN OBSTACLE COURSE RACE (OCR) can guarantee you two things: new physical and mental challenges. About 4.5 million Americans signed up to do an OCR in 2016, according to Sports Business Journal, and women are pushing through more OCR finish lines than ever. Last year, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash reported 40%, 35%, and 51% female participants, respectively, with a staggering variety of training backgrounds. “The cool thing about OCRs is that there’s no specific way to train—that’s what keeps them fun,” says Amelia Boone, a Reebok-sponsored OCR athlete, and an attorney. “People who do well are very good at controlling their body weight and spiking their heart rate, and have a mixture of speed, strength, and endurance.” During the elite heats of races, men usually start a few minutes before women, so the girls make it a goal to pass as many guys as possible. Corinna Coffin, a member of the BattleFrog Pro Team, says this is called getting “chicked.” “It’s empowering to pass a lot of guys.
They say, ‘We just got chicked!’ ” she says. “I think the guys like it, too, because it gives them motivation to go a bit faster.”
For racers like Spartan Pro Team member Cassidy Watton, OCRs serve as the base of other athletic pursuits. Watton placed fourth in the figure division of the 2016 NPC CJ Classic and looks to get into kettlebell sport. “I love doing the Spartan Race, but I want to prove I’m a great overall athlete.”
Want to challenge yourself to do an OCR this season? Take a cue from the training logs of these top competitors and see what it takes to finish muddy, strong, and ready to come back for more. Then check out our eight-week OCR training guide (pg. 93) to help you get there.
1. CORINNA COFFIN
2015 BATTLEFROG CHAMPIONSHIP, 2ND; 2014
SPARTAN RACE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, 2ND
OCCUPATION: LIFESTYLE DIRECTOR AT BATTLEFROG
ATHLETIC BACKGROUND: LACROSSE, CROSS COUNTRY (HIGH SCHOOL); CLUB LACROSSE, CLUB TRIATHLON, (COLLEGE); CROSSFIT
“I’m selective in terms of what strength training I do. There’s a balance between upper-body strength and creating excess muscle that’s just going to slow me down.”
Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings
Aerobic endurance: 45-minute run or swim.
30 minutes of foam rolling. CrossFit: one hour of strength training and metabolic conditioning, followed by obstacle training such as rope climbs or weighted dips. End with 45 minutes of cardio: rowing, ski erg, or Assault bike.
Aerobic endurance: two to three hours running, cycling, swimming, or paddleboarding.
2. AMELIA BOONE
TOP FINISHES: 2013 SPARTAN RACE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, 1ST; 2012, 2014, 2015 WORLD’S TOUGHEST MUDDER, 1ST
ATHLETIC BACKGROUND: SOFTBALL, BASKETBALL, SOCCER (HIGH SCHOOL); RECREATIONAL RUNNING AND GYM WORKOUTS
“I do a fair amount of CrossFit, but I’ve gotten away from doing the heavy Olympic lifting. I focus more on doing high-intensity bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, kettlebell exercises, and farmer’s carries.”
Mobility exercises to work on areas of weakness to prevent injury, especially hip/ glute activation exercises. A.M. run: includes easy recovery runs, hill work, and long efforts from five to 20 miles. Weekly run distance is 50 to 80 miles.
3 days per week
CrossFit, strength training, or HIIT in the evenings, paired with an easier recovery run on that day.
1 day per week
Rest day, or 20 to 30 minutes of swimming, light spinning, or other aerobic activity.
Prepare yourself. Although the obstacles themselves are often a surprise during an OCR, you can be sure your strength will be challenged. At the Spartan Race, competitors frequently face two dreaded tasks. Here, our pros offer their best advice on how to surmount them.
What it is: An assortment of monkey bars, rings, ropes, and poles that you must climb across without touching the ground or using the side structures for assistance.
Pro tip: “Momentum is key. I run into the first object, say a rope, then swing forward so I can skip a couple of rings. Keep your body in motion throughout,” says Coffin.
What it is: Walking a designated route while holding a bucket filled with rocks or sand up to the prescribed line in front of your body.
Pro tip: “Secure your arms all the way around the front the bucket, so one hand is grabbing the other wrist. Set a goal number of steps to take before rest, which means placing the bucket on your knees in a quarter squat,” says Watton.
3. CASSIDY WATTON
TOP FINISHES: 2014 OCR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, 2ND; 2015 FENWAY SPARTAN RACE SPRINT, 1ST
OCCUPATION: HEAD COACH AT EPIC HYBRID TRAINING; GROUP FITNESS INSTRUCTOR
ATHLETIC BACKGROUND: BASKETBALL, CROSS COUNTRY, TRACK, POWDERPUFF FOOTBALL, SOFTBALL, SOCCER (HIGH SCHOOL); CROSSFIT, NPC COMPETITOR
“When I was training for my figure contest prep, I did high-intensity interval training almost every day and lifted weights three to four times a week for four months,” says Watton. Today, she focuses on a mix of high-intensity intervals and weight work, in addition to teaching group cycling. Watton uses this Tabata workout at Epic Hybrid Training called “the Blast,” as part of her routine. Do each exercise for 20 seconds and rest 10 seconds; do eight rounds.
- Single-arm Kettlebell Thruster
- Wall Walk (Stand with back against a wall with feet and butt planted on the ground. Climb the wall to a standing position by driving your shoulder blades into the wall and keeping your feet planted. Slide down the wall and repeat.)
- Plyometric Pushup
- Resistance Banded Sprint
- Mini-band Jumping Jack
- Battle Rope Squat Jump
- Box Jump-over (Jump forward over a box that’s 18 inches—or at the height of your choice—with two feet, landing softly. Turn around and repeat.)
- Burpee High Jump (Choose an overhead target six to 12 inches higher than your reach. Drop chest to the floor at bottom of burpee, stand, and then jump up to touch the target.)