Obstacle Course Training
When it comes to fitness, men and women are often held to very different physical standards. Recently on the show “American Ninja Warrior,” Kacy Catanzaro shattered the stereotype based on women being the weaker gender. Not only did she complete the obstacle course, but seemingly did it with ease. For those who haven’t seen it, the show consists of freakishly fit people attempting to conquer a super difficult obstacle course, more often than not failing. Kacy may be only 5-feet-tall and 100lbs, but this girl not only emerged victorious in one of the most difficult obstacle courses, she put a lot of muscular men to shame! For perspective, some Olympians and Army specialists have failed to complete the course. Even her boyfriend, a 4-time returning participant on the show, couldn’t pass the intermediate course. You have to respect her amazing athleticism.
How to Prepare Body
Obstacle course races are some of the most popular events this summer. Chances are your friends have tried to get you to sign up for at least one of these events with them. But they are hard. They push both your strength and endurance limits. This requires boosting your cardiovascular training, your upper body strength, as well as your core stability. Grip strength is also very important as you are often lifting or pulling your body, or simply hanging on for dear life.
Sprint, don’t “Run”
Even though some obstacle course races can be 3-10 miles long, you are never really “running” more than a mile at a time. Doing sprints will help build the muscle and endurance you need. Try going to a track and start off with 4 Laps (1 mile). On the straight parts sprint at your best, then slow down to a jog around the bends. If you don’t have access to a track, or if you get kicked out for little kids practices, you can add intervals of High Knees, Step Ups, or Quick Feet into your normal workouts. These will prepare your heart rate going up and down as needed.
Upper Body Strength
There are usually walls, monkey bars, ropes, and many things to climb up on, so you have to work on the ability to pull yourself. To strengthen your upper body, start with pull-ups. Try underhand or neutral grip first. If you can’t perform a pull-up you can do the exercise with a chair underneath to assist. Other great exercises to work on Pull-up strength are single arm dumbbell rows and cable pull downs. Assisted Pull-up machines are also a great progression tool to help on the shoulder strength that is needed. Rope Climbs are also great if you have access.
How is your jumping ability? There are walls, hurdles, and more to get through. Working on your agility is great because it allows you to practice how to safely jump and land. Work on things like Jump Squats, Calf Raises, High Knees, and general jumping is a great thing to do. Swing your arms to give you momentum, and make sure that you are decelerating (landing softly) to absorb the impact when you land to help build stability.
Because of the nature of the obstacle course race, you are changing what you are doing constantly; your training should reflect that fact. Interval/Circuit training combining strength and endurance is great for getting ready. Adding things like Burpees, Jump Squats, High Knees, Push Ups, and Overheard Presses into a Tabata Drill or other circuit is a wonderful way to prepare for obstacle course races.
To strengthen your core, add hanging abdominal lifts to your training routine. Other great core exercises are traditional planks, side planks, maybe even mountain climbers. Core strength is critical to meet the agility requirements for these types of races.
Obstacle races feature a lot of barriers that require forearm and grip strength. Out on the course, you're often hanging from your hands, pulling yourself up and over walls, or carrying heavy buckets of rocks, tires, logs, even your buddies. Monkey bars, rope climbs, wall climbs, and various haul and carry obstacles all require grip and forearm strength. Although each of these individual obstacles is relatively easy to complete individually, doing them one after another can really take its toll on your arms and hands. The stronger your forearms and grip are, the more likely you'll be able to hang on until the finish. A great way to increase your forearms strength is by incorporating multiple reps of push-ups and pull-ups into your training regimen. For grip strength, you really can't beat hanging on a rope. Hang onto the rope for as long as you can a couple of times per week. Also, just holding heavy dumbbells in each hand works great.