|Posted by Strength & Speed on August 15, 2021 at 5:35 PM|
I like to think of myself as an optimist for most things, but when it comes to attendance at races, the numbers aren’t lying. We have seen a dramatic downtick in race attendees in 2020 due to a complete shutdown for three months and then people’s reluctance to return to something many consider a luxury, Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). What does this mean for the future of OCR?
The next year will be critical for the future of our sport and OCR is at a crossroads. In my opinion failure to act will lead to the death of some of our favorite parts of OCR. This isn’t a prediction of doom, but rather a cry to do something now to avoid future problems. Here’s what I think we can do to keep our sport thriving and growing:
1. Bring your friends: We’ve all got those friends who keep putting off running a race with you. Now is the time to get them to sign up. If they don’t sign up, there may not be your favorite race brand to come back to next year.
2. Start Checking Things Off Your Bucket List: We’ve all got a list of races that you really want to run. Whether you pulled it from Mud Run Guide’s Ultimate OCR Bucket List or just have your own personal list, the number of events often keeps growing. Start signing up and crossing things off now. With the industry hurting, don’t wait until next year. Let me see those Ultra-Beast buckles, black/orange World’s Toughest Mudder headbands and the most coveted of them all, the OCR World Championships finishers medals this fall!
3. Pick Up Some Extra Merch: While I don’t think you want to just give race companies money in exchange for nothing, picking up that piece of merchandise (merch) you’ve had your eye on is encouraged. If you remember when BattleFrog when out of business, people were clamoring to get that last BF shirt or sticker to remember their favorite race. Take your pick of your favorite mech now. Brands both old and new are rolling out new stuff. If you are like me I would check out two of my favorites Conquer The Gauntlet merch (www.getourmerch.com) and Battle of the Lions (new merch coming soon including some MudGear stuff…that I may or may not have seen a sneak preview of).
While some may be wary of signing up for races or committing to big plans, now is the time to do it. If race companies don’t recover from the COVID pandemic, there won’t be a race to return to in 2022. Our sport is built upon overcoming obstacles, this is just another challenge in our path. Let’s join hands (virtually…while staying 6 feet apart) and help the industry to conquer what may be the biggest obstacle in our path for the future of OCR.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on August 1, 2021 at 5:35 PM|
When Spartan announced their move to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last year there was definitely some public outrage from the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) community. The reasons went the full spectrum from “It’s too far away!” to “I don’t like the Middle East’s treatment of ” to “They only got the championship because they paid for it”.
Every point has some validity but there is always another side. Here are a couple of reasons you may want to reconsider if you are “boycotting” Spartan World Championship Abu Dhabi:
1. “It’s too far away”: Some think a world championship has to move to be “legitimate”. I would disagree (as I discussed in 2017) as evident by other sports history of never moving outside the US or not even moving locations (i.e. Ironman World Championship). However, I do think it’s a nice touch to move the location. While it may be “too far” for you, it’s been “too far” for the rest of the Eastern Hemisphere since the sport’s inception. I think it’s great to expose some other athletes to world class competition who have been racing their local and regional events for years. Many of them are as fanatical of fans as American Spartan’s are.
Some of my all-time favorite races I have run were on the other side of the world (Hannibal Race Kuwait, True Grit Enduro Australia, Toughest Mudder UK, Hannibal Race Lebanon). Plus, several more that are on my bucket list like Nuclear Race, Toughest and a couple more Hannibal Races. It not only gives you a new race (instead of going to the same venue you’ve run a half dozen times) but gives you a cultural experience unlike anything else. Instead of going to McDonalds and IHOP, get outside your comfort zone and experience something new and unforgettable.
2. “It’s Not on a Mountain/Usual Spartan Championship Terrain”: Spartan’s championships have only been Tahoe in California and Killington in Vermont, both are mountain courses. Honestly, I’m more excited about watching Spartan WC this year than any other year. The sandy terrain and (what I expect to be) rolling hills as opposed to a death climb should require a different form of athleticism. I can see people who normally do well falling well short of historical placements and some lesser known names climbing toward the top. It should be an interesting year.
3. “I Don’t Agree with UAE’s Policies on (insert issue)”: First of all, I’ve seen a lot of comments that are generally ignorant associated policies in other Middle Eastern countries and assuming those policies are the same in UAE. Just like Europe, each country has their own policies and laws. Here are some other things to consider:
a. UAE’s Progressive Nature: UAE is home to two of the biggest Middle East tourist destinations for westerners, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I’ve been to Dubai (not Abu Dhabi but fairly similar) as part of my wife and I’s honeymoon (it was awesome) and spent almost four years of my life in various countries in the Middle East. UAE is about as progressive of a Middle Eastern country as they come. If you’re set in your ways, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more American/Western friendly Middle East experience than the UAE.
b. It’s a sport, not a political movement: At the end of the day OCR is a sport. I generally believe politics should be left out of sports/racing as much as possible. I’m personally not a fan of when countries boycotted the Olympics for political reasons regardless of how just their cause or belief was/is. On a similar note, I don’t think athletes should boycott races based on issues that don’t have to do with racing.
c. “I’m not going to change my behavior while I’m there”: I regularly workout shirtless in my home gym and occasionally walk around in my underwear around my house. When I go to public gyms or other people’s houses I adjust my behavior. The same logic applies on a bigger scale for visiting other countries. I respect local customs, which may mean showing a reduced amount of public displays of affection (PDAs). While on my honeymoon my wife and I didn’t hold hands in public, it wasn’t illegal, I was just trying to be respectful based off cultural norms of others I saw walking around. There’s nothing wrong with showing respect when visiting someone else’s home.
That being said, it’s a Spartan Race and UAE knows what they are asking for during the race. Dress in your normal racing attire for the event. If you are going to go out in town afterwards to eat, perhaps a sports bra and booty shorts (or shirtless with compression pants) may not be appropriate dinner attire, just as that wouldn’t be appropriate in most places in the USA.
d. “You’ll never change opinions or gain understanding without exposure”: If you are a racist/ethnocentric person and you are never exposed to the group you hate/dislike, you’ll never change your opinion of them. I had an Iraqi soldier who worked with our Jewish Executive Officer (XO) for six months say, “You know what…I always thought all Jews were bad, after working with the XO, I know that’s not true.” Exposure and understanding can go a long way as long as you are respecting local laws and customs.
e. Politics never stopped people before: California is one of the far left states in the USA. I don’t recall anyone taking a strong stand against California’s laws on major political issues when the championship was in their border for the last couple of years. I don’t recall people from the left boycotting races in far right states either. Why are people starting now?
4. “They are only getting the WC because they paid for it”: I don’t know if this is true but if internet rumors are to be believed UAE paid Spartan a lot of money to get the championship in their country. If this is true…I say…who cares? Spartan is a business. In case you forgot, in the last two years the big three of OCR (Spartan, Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash), has now become just Spartan (Warrior Dash went out of business with Spartan buying some of their assets, Tough Mudder went bankrupt then was purchased by Spartan). If the sport can thrive longer and more efficiently thanks to outside investors I say great and bring them on. This is truer more than ever since COVID-19 delivered what could be a fatal blow to parts of the OCR industry. I would also bet similar stuff goes on the USA with venues/towns vying for having events come to their area to boost local businesses.
5. Let’s punish people of a region for actions of their government: Imagine if a brand like HYROX said “we refuse to hold events in your country because of the American stance on or because your president is .” Now let’s assume that you agreed with HYROX’s political stance, which was opposed to the current policies of the government. It would seem unfair and ridiculous to “punish” the citizens of that country just because the company has a different opinion. In a similar way, I don’t think the people of UAE and surrounding countries should not have access to racing just because of what may or may not be a good stance of a government.
One of the beautiful thing about sports is it brings people together and breaks down barriers. Brenna Calvert and I experienced this first hand in Kuwait and Lebanon. Many of you may have experienced it at OCR World Championships where I’ve seen athletes swap country shirts along with eating meals together after the race. Instead of letting political opinions and national policies divide you, maybe it’s time to go over some personal obstacles and experience a different culture. Maybe you aren’t ready for that though, either way, things aren’t always as simple as they seem. Regardless of your decision to attend Spartan World Championship or not, I hope you can at least understand other people’s point of view even if you disagree with it.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on July 15, 2021 at 5:00 PM|
Most of us view the world through our own biased lens, which can affect how we picture things. When I say the word “world champion” world champion to an OCR athlete, typically a name or maybe two pops into your head and that’s it.
If you only race Spartan when someone says the Spartan World Champion your mind will default to either Robert Killian (winner at Spartan World Championship 2019 in Lake Tahoe) or Ryan Atkins (winner at 24 hour Spartan Ultra-World Championships). Even as I type this my bias is shown, as a male, I initially typed the names of the two male champions instead of the women’s champions Nicole Mericle and Rea Kolbl (respectively).
Brand Bias: If you are a hard core Tough Mudder Legionnaire when someone says world champion, your mind will default to World’s Toughest Mudder individual champion. If you race lots of series besides Spartan and Tough Mudder your mind probably defaults to OCR World Championships.
Gender Bias: As I showed in the initial example, you are also probably bias slightly towards your gender. When I think of world champions I default to males because that is who my direct competition is and that is how I frame races.
Distance Bias: Your opinion is further biased by what you like to race and/or more frequently compete in. As someone who specializes in Ultra-OCR, I tend to think of other ultra-athletes over the winner of the OCRWC 3k or the 100m world champion.
As someone who races across brands and across all distances from 1 mile to 24 hours, when someone says world champion to me, my brain defaults to the OCR World Championships 15k. In my mind, the most prestigious based off level of competition, prize money, distance (not too long, not too short), originality of event (the first OCRWC in 2014 had only the 15k and team) and difficulty of obstacles that require mandatory completion. So if we are going to talk about THE world champion, we must be talking about Jonathan Albon (undefeated 6x winner of the 15k). If we are going to talk about A world champion, it could be any of the brands, distances, genders or categories talked about in this article or the previous article. Regardless of who they are or which world champion title they held, they still had to earn it by training, competing and performing at the highest levels.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on July 9, 2021 at 1:35 AM|
After saying I’m going to make it out to Indian Mud Run since 2017, I finally made the trip. It always lines up as a bad date for me due to a major endurance event or a local race. However, this year it was in the middle of me moving houses, so much to my wife’s happiness (sarcasm), we made the trip to near Columbus, Ohio for Hubie Cushman’s race. Here’s what I thought about my first Indian Mud Run experience:
Parking/Check In: Parking was in a lower lot (unless you paid for VIP) and they had buses running to the start line. Unlike almost every other race I’ve seen do this, the buses were quick, efficient and there was enough that it didn’t feel like you were waiting. This is one of those races that I think VIP Parking is worth it if you want quick access to your car since standard parking is a short bus ride away. However, normal parking ran without issue. Check in was super-fast and inside the building where the merch shop was collocated.
Race Organization: One of my favorite parts of this race is that it is separated into Pros and then Male/Female broken down by Age Groups. Therefore, if you are someone who is mainly concerned about Age Group placement you’ll get to run with your wave and know exactly where you stand mid-race instead of guessing on the ages of the guys in front of you.
Terrain/Course: Technical hills. That about sums it up. After a short run through an open field the course jumped right into the woods with lots of technical footing and short/steep inclines and declines. If you have run the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships (OCRWC) when it was in Ohio, the terrain is very similar. Whatever you normally take for a 6-mile OCR, you may need to add 50% or more to your finishing time to get an accurate estimate. I thought the course was marked well, not as well as OCRWC where it is taped the length of the course, but the trail seemed pretty clear to me and it seemed like I could always see at least one course marking. The course ran by the festival a couple of times, usually as part of one of the interesting obstacles making it great for spectators. Spectators could even venture out a little to see some of the final mile of obstacles which included many of the other fun/interesting obstacles.
Obstacles: The course boasted an epic 85 obstacles over its 10k length (actually most people’s GPS had around 7.2 (+/- 0.1) miles for the course. What I liked, much like OCRWC, the really hard obstacles weren’t super long. Therefore, if you failed you could take a minute to regroup and retry with a decent probability of success. The ones that look the longest even had points where you could partially rest your legs either in a cargo net or short ladder, so not a complete rest for your arms but taking a little of the pressure off.
The most notable obstacles were Nuclear Rings (a traverse across pegs using rings), Force 5 Gibbons, a low rig, a red rig (underneath a cargo net to rings that ascend/descend and underneath another cargo net), 40 foot monkey bars and Indian (Skull) Valley (skull valley holds to ring to pipe traverse to short ladder to alternating skull holds). Add in two of the most epic water slides in all of OCR, Full Potential Obstacle’s The Destroyer, two different Dragon’s Back obstacles (one low and one normal sized) and of course 3 different variants of Floating Walls (one low, one that you go over instead of across and the epic massive one at the finish). Honestly, I could spend the entire article talking about their obstacles. Bottom line is they were some of the best in the sport, period. Obstacle designers Sidney Morris and David Mainprize from Battle of the Lions were out there building some of the more technical obstacles so I shouldn’t have been surprised with the quality/design of them.
The Red Rig was probably the one that took the longest but the two cargo nets meant you could wrap your arms and shift the weight off your forearms. It definitely took a lot out of you but the design meant even with a tired grip it wasn’t impossible.
The final obstacle was the signature Indian Mud Run Floating Walls, except the higher set of floating walls was replaced by three swinging bars and two rings providing a fun trapeze like ending to the race.
Chief’s Challenge: Their multi-lap option is called Chief’s Challenge. It requires 3 laps of the course…something which seemed like no problem the day before. On event day I quickly figured out why it only has a 35% success rate. The technical nature of course, density of obstacles, heat and overall exhaustion made the three-lap fun run feel a lot harder than I was expecting. If you finished all three laps you were rewarded with a genuine Native American arrow made by a local tribe. Although not competitive yet, rumor is the 2022 Chief’s Challenge will be its own competitive division.
Awards: Indian Mud Run gave awards five deep for men and women pros, a nice touch for a field that had two of the top four men from North American OCR Championships. The men’s and women’s field were both deep with podium regulars and athletes who have been on Pro podiums of OCRWC and North American OCR Championships (NORAM) so the five deep awards was cool and well justified. Pro podium received Native American made tomahawks as well as a giant metal plaque which identified their placement. Top three in each age group also got Native American tomahawks for their performances.
Overall: Indian Mud Run has a high-quality reputation and for a good reason. They did an amazing job and it is truly one of the best races in the USA. The bottom line is this, if you like OCRWC or NORAM you will love Indian Mud Run. The obstacles, the awards, the atmosphere and the community is all top notch. My only complaint was that I did the Chief’s Challenge, so I missed out on some of the great atmosphere since I was logging miles most of the day…but I did get a sweet arrow so it’s a tradeoff…one that I would probably make again.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on July 1, 2021 at 4:55 PM|
Who is the world champion of Obstacle Course Racing (OCR)? Well, that’s not really a good question. It is like asking “Who is the world champion of running?” Are we talking 100m dash, 5k, marathon, 4x400m, steeple chase or another distance? Are we talking the last Olympic gold medalist or the last IAAF (International Amateur Athletic Federation) World Finals?
Using the same logic for sports like swimming and running, here’s a breakdown of who can call themselves a “world champion”.
1. Different Distances: Just as in running, swimming, cycling, triathlon and all other endurance sports, there are multiple world champions based on different distances. In OCR for the OCR World Championships (for each gender) we have a 100m champion, 3k champion and 15k champion. This doesn’t count the team champions (discussed later). For Spartan there is the Beast length champion and Ultra-World Champion. Typically Spartan refers to the Best length champion as “the Spartan World Champion” and adds caveats to other event’s champions like “the Spartan Ultra-World Champion”.
2. Different Brands: Over the year’s different brands in the OCR world have held different world championships. Brands like Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder (World’s Toughest Mudder) and OCR World Championships have all claimed a “world championship title”. Interestingly enough, BattleFrog Championship wasn’t labeled a world championship, just championship or series championship. The point is that multiple brands crown their own world champions. So can anyone with a brand crown a world champion? Technically yes, but similar to the value of money (which isn’t backed by gold or something tangible), people generally need to agree that it is a world championship event.
3. Team Events: What about team events do those count? Yes. Spartan has a team world championship event, OCRWC has an all-male team race, all-female team race and coed team race. World’s Toughest Mudder had a team event (four man until 2016 and two man 2017-2018), two man relay (2019-current) and four man relay (2017-current). Similar to Spartan saying “Spartan World Champion” and “Spartan Ultra-World Champion”, for the most accuracy if you are a team world champion you should probably add the caveat of team in there if you are referring to yourself or someone else that is a “team world champion”.
4. Age Group World Champions: Just like team, if you win your age group at a world champion event, you are technically a world champion too, as long as you add in that caveat “age group” before world champion.
What’s my point? My point is many people can claim the title of a OCR world champion. Some may be thinking why should I even care? Just like with “What Makes a Race” article, it is about being transparent and honest with people and/or potential sponsors.
Are we cheapening the word? Not all world championship titles are on equal level of prestige. Age group world championship wins are not as prestigious as overall world championship wins. Team world championship wins are not as valuable as individual world championship wins. Finally, some distances are more prestigious than others. I would argue the same logic applies to Olympic medals with individual golds being more prestigious than team golds. Just like in running people care more about the 100m and the marathon than the 200m and the 1500m.
When we hear the words world champion, our bias comes into play and who in our sport comes to mind. Check back next we as we explore you inherent biases and how it relates who you picture when you hear the words OCR and world champion in the same sentence.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on June 1, 2021 at 4:50 PM|
If you are a follower of our website, chances are every four year when they announce the new Olympic sports you do a quick check to see if Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) made the cut. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they weren’t on the list for Tokyo Games (originally scheduled for 2020) or the Paris games in 2024. However, there was another “sport” that was on there that may have surprised you, break dancing. Yeah, that’s right breakdancing made the cut but OCR didn’t, here’s some thoughts on why that might be:
1) The Olympics is a business: Ready for me to ruin your idealized version of the sporting world? I think many people see the NFL and MLB as businesses, but so is the Olympics. They have just done a really good job of marketing themselves to be an idealistic version of athletics. At the end of the day though, the Olympics is trying to make money and they think breakdancing will bring in more money than OCR.
2) Breakdancing is more interesting to watch: As we just covered, with the Olympics being a business they are trying to get the most number of people watching their program. This way they can sell more tickets to live events and get better television coverage thus get high paying sponsors/commercials. As an OCR athlete, I’ll admit it, watching someone breakdance for a couple of minutes is more interesting than someone running hard and climbing over things for an hour or more.
3) Breakdancing is cost efficient: How much does it cost to build an OCR course? I don’t know, it is a lot though because not only do you have to assemble the obstacles, you need to groom the trail and mark the course. That’s lots of people doing lots of work. Compare that to the cost of building a dance floor and breakdancing gets another point.
4) Breakdancing is space efficient: The shortest OCR courses are about 100m but typically most are 5k to 10k in length. At the far end of the spectrum they are 13-26 mile courses. Compare this to a breakdancing area, which requires a small stage/space to perform. Jumping back to cost efficiency, the same space can be used for other small athletic events. Rather than building a completely new and highly specialized facility for an event, you can essentially use a pre-existing space. All you need to do is schedule out a block of time and put down the dance floor/stage or whatever the term is for their performance space.
5) Breakdancing is comparable on opposite sides of the world: You can video tape a breakdancing competition and have judges identify who is the best. Compare that to OCR where it is hard to tell if one course is harder than another. Factors like weather, elevation, technical terrain, a muddy course, variability in obstacles and number of obstacles are just some of the factors. Personally, I think those things make OCR more interesting than other sports by adding variability but it also means it’s hard to compare times/performances. You can fix this by running OCR on a track with obstacles (similar to steeple chase), but again we run into cost and space efficiency challenges.
Will we ever see OCR in the Olympics? Maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell. Regardless the sport is still very young and still hasn’t hit 10 year of championships (Spartan’s World Championship and World’s Toughest Mudder was supposed to be in 2020, while OCR World Championship was supposed to hold their 7th in 2020).
To make it to the Olympics we will likely have to do things like standardize obstacles, course length, elevation and running surface, all which take away from the uniqueness of our sport. However, you can still have an Olympic version of OCR and a crazy original version kind of like how triathlon has an Olympic distance event or strength sports have Olympic lifting but also crazy stuff like strongman competitions. Perhaps we don’t belong in the Olympics anyway and focus ourselves on another international sports competition with medals like the X Games. Whatever the future holds, I look forward to seeing when, how and why our sport transforms.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on May 15, 2021 at 4:45 PM|
I think we can all agree that 2020 was a weird year. With limited racing going on, it left many athletes in limbo. This was a small taste of what others have felt over the last couple of years when things like injury or decreasing performance has led them to question their desire to be an athlete. If you’ve been racing and competing your whole life and you can’t anymore? Now what?
Create Other Pillars of Strength
Just like investing money you should be diversifying your life. While it is okay to have one of your main pillars be athletics, if you don’t have other pillars you are setting yourself up for failure. Using myself as an example, I have family (my wife, children, extended family), my church (Orthodox) and my job (Army) as the other three big pillars.
Theses pillars of strength create resiliency because when one falls apart for whatever reason, you always have something else to fall back on. You’ll also find that building strength especially in topics like family and church can often further strengthen the other pillars like athletics.
Since you are reading this, I’ll assume athletics is a large part of your life, as it is mine. Bottom line though it is just part of your life and not your whole life. If you want to achieve peak performance in fitness you’ll have to prioritize it near the top but it shouldn’t be the only thing you have going for you. As you can see from the last year, sometimes your decision to leave a sport (hopefully temporarily in 2020) is not 100% in your control.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on May 1, 2021 at 4:45 PM|
Your last race didn’t quite go as planned and you fell short of your goal. Whether it was a DNF (Did Not Finish) or just falling short of your desired placement, you’re just not happy with how things went. With a rise in social media and races occurring almost every weekend, it sometimes feels like “you’re only as good as your last race.” Is there truth to this statement or is it complete garbage perpetuated by the athlete that’s on the top of the finisher’s list from this past weekend’s race? Let’s explore the concept a little further.
All wins, one bad: To analyze the statement let’s examine the extreme ends of the spectrum first and figure out if they are helpful or not. If you’ve been crushing your goals (whether that’s podium, AG podium, keeping your band or simply making it across the finish line) and you have one bad race, obviously the “good as your last race” statement isn’t true. You can probably chalk the last race up to one bad day. It happens to everyone and you can’t control who shows up on race day but you can control how you perform.
Long streak of bad: What if you were crushing your goals two years ago and seem to fall short of your goals at every race for the last two years. Well then, maybe you’re doing something wrong. Perhaps you need to train more consistently, adjust your training to avoid injury or taper more for your event. In this example, there is some truth to the statement. Perhaps you were never that good and are overestimating your ability.
Overall, the statement “you’re only as good as you’re last race” holds little water. However, there is a happy medium. If you’ve bombed the last 10 races, maybe it is time to re-evaluate your training, goals and preparation. You’re not only as good as your last race but your last race is a “brick” in the “house” of your athletic performance.
At the end of the day, consistency and time matter in performance as an athlete. The goal of this article is to take an honest look at yourself. If we don’t look at ourselves honestly, we can’t identify weaknesses or problems and then adjust or training to fix them. So you aren’t “only as good as your last race” but your last race is part of who you are as an athlete. Be honest with yourself, evaluate, adjust and overcome.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 11, 2021 at 9:25 AM|
Going out for a run, maybe do a pull-up or two, possibly flip a tire, then go run again. Sounds like a general approach to training for an OCR, right? But what if I told you there is a better way, a way to specifically target your training for your race? Well this article is the ticket to give you those tools, so read on and thank me later.
Factors to consider
There are a number of factors to consider when training for your next race, distance is a big one and the major requirements/physical demands of the event should be accounted for. For instance, if you are going to run a Spartan Stadion working on speed while being able to recover from a near max heart rate quickly will be beneficial. If your next event is Conquer the Gauntlet, grip strength should be a more of a priority due to the mandatory obstacle completion; running speed is still important but if you can’t finish the rig your speed doesn’t matter.
What about a more general approach? What if you just want to be ready to compete at any race but not specialize in one brand? Then a more balanced approach to training is needed, working on a broad range of OCR skills will be required, but at the cost of specializing in a specific set of skills.
How to train and when is a big factor in getting ready for your next race. I advocate for a periodized training program that has you focus on different outcomes at different parts of the year. In the off-season, roughly 12-16 weeks out from your first race, you may want to focus on strength. No, I don’t mean getting up to a 3 times bodyweight squat (although that would be impressive). We do want to get stronger though. First and foremost, strong things don’t break; while yes, it is a cliché there is an element of truth to it. When we lift weights not just our muscle gets stronger, our bones and connective tissue get stronger as well. This in turn acts as an internal insurance policy that lets your body protect itself when you accidentally put it in bad positions. If you are generally stronger everything gets easier, and you can put more force into the ground with each step which means you run faster. The off season is also a great time to work on your base level of cardio. Using this time to lift heavy and run slow will give you a great platform to build the rest of your training from.
As you get closer to the race, what we will call pre-season, approximately 8-12 weeks out, your running volume should increase. But we also want to start working on running faster. That doesn’t mean you just try to get your long run done sooner. Instead this is where you may want to put interval work into your program. 200m, 400m, 800m or any other distance you want to try if you are going all out and giving yourself time to nearly fully recover before you run again. If you have heard of “repeats” they are similar, but different from true intervals. For a true repeat we are still running fast and resting for a set time however, on a repeat your run may not be 100% effort. Instead set a goal time or pace and maintain that pace for the prescribe sets, your rest period may be a bit shorter because your focus isn’t on all out speed. Instead your focus should be on being able to keep a pace while not fully recovered.
During the racing season maintenance is the key, your race schedule should also dictate your training schedule. If you have a couple months between races, then you can probably train a little harder between races. If you race every week or two then it will be hard to gain any ground because you will need to recover from your first race, train for a day or two, then rest for the next race, and boom it’s race day. This makes performing at your peak very difficult for each event. Keep in mind depending on where you live the race season can last anywhere from six to nine months, or even longer in some areas. That is a long season where a lot can happen, mitigating the risk of overtraining is important. You can help yourself out by setting certain races as more important than others. That way you can set your training schedule to peak for those events, and train through other less important races.
After that championship race there is still a whole section of training to not forget about, even if there isn’t much true “training” to be done. I like for this block of training to last 4-6 weeks after my last event. I treat post season as an opportunity to recover, we have been training and racing for over half of the year. Physically, neurologically, and hormonally our bodies need a break. We can’t perform at 100% everyday of the year, we need to recover and let our bodies get back to something that resembles normal so that we can start building again. My recommendation is a solid week of rest maybe even two weeks after your last race, I know you will be bored, but your body will thank you. After the week of rest a simple program with low volume weight training and lower running distances for another 4-6 weeks will be beneficial until you get back to off-season and can start to really get serious again for next season.
What it all means
While this article doesn’t give you specific set and rep schemes, it does give you a direction to go in when you do decide to plan out your training calendar. Do some research on the best ways to reach your individual goals, find a trainer who specializes in OCR, find and join OCR groups on social media in your area, etc.
Good luck as you move into what we are all hoping is a more open OCR season, and I wish you all the best in reaching your goals for the season.
Jared is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with a masterï¿½??s degree in exercise science. Jared ran his first OCR in 2014 and was able to compete at OCRWC in 2016 finishing top 50 in the world in the short course event for his age group. Jared is the owner of JRenFitness which offers personalized online training for Elite OCR athletes and general population clientele.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 3, 2021 at 2:20 PM|
The Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) industry has taken a hit over the last two years, there’s no doubt there. Brands like Spartan and Tough Mudder that normally hold dozens of events a year dropped down to almost zero (Spartan held five OCRs in 2020 plus some Hurricane Heats and Tough Mudder held zero). This has no doubt caused a financial burden on Spartan (who owns Tough Mudder as of early 2020). While I have a slight concern about the future of Spartan, I’m more worried about the future of Tough Mudder and here’s why.
Of note, I’m writing this article based off publicly available information and my experience watching other companies rise/fall.
Spartan is Spartan owner’s Joe DeSena’s baby. Joe built Spartan from the ground up and has created a worldwide movement with races all across the globe. He led the industry in almost every aspect of the sport creating regional and world championships, having the biggest prize money, creating a pro team and not just building a race but a lifestyle brand. Without Spartan leading the charge and “breaking brush”, OCR would not be where it is today. Every brand including direct competitors have benefited from the actions of Spartan. Like I said, Spartan is Joe’s baby and he cares about it more than just a simple CEO. He’s the CEO and the founder. Decisions aren’t simply a numbers game of profit vs. loss, it’s defining his legacy. This is his project to get people off the couch and change the world….and he’s doing it successfully.
Now let’s look at Tough Mudder. Tough Mudder was Joe’s rival for most of its 9 year lifespan. Created by competitor Will Dean, Joe was fighting to outdo them for most of the last decade. In 2020, Joe bought Tough Mudder and all of its debt to consolidate the brand/sport/business. Tough Mudder is not Joe’s baby and therefore is a business acquisition. If Tough Mudder fails to be profitable or at least trending in that direction over the next couple of years, I would guess Joe decides it is a bad business move and cuts his losses. He already saved Tough Mudder for complete destruction once, I don’t think anyone would blame him if he ends up deciding massive losses aren’t worth his time and effort. Unlike Spartan, I would guess Tough Mudder is a numbers game comparing gain vs. loss and therefore he is not emotionally invested in its success.
I’m not saying don’t sign up for Tough Mudder because it is going to go out of business, in fact I’m saying the opposite. DO SIGN UP FOR TOUGH MUDDER or it will go out of business. The one thing Joe DeSena and Spartan have always been known for is taking care of their customers. We’ve seen it during COVID when registrations were transferred and we’ve seen it when Warrior Dash went out of business as he transferred registrations to his race despite not getting that registration money. Everyone got to race after paying for registrations so I wouldn’t worry about not getting to race. In fact if you signed up for Warrior Dash, you actually could have used that registration to race for free in about a half dozen other races, talk about a good investment. Instead, I would worry about what happens if you don’t bring your friends out to race and don’t sign up yourself. I’m fearful at the end of one of these year’s Tough Mudder concludes with World’s Toughest Mudder…and doesn’t come back. The first Tough Mudder of 2021 kicks off in Atlanta April 24-25, so sign up and don’t wait for the “I’ll do it next year” plan.
This isn’t meant as a “HA! I called it!” article. It’s a warning to come race, bring your friends and keep your favorite brands going. The actions of the OCR community over the next couple of months will help determine where the sport goes in the future.