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|Posted by Strength & Speed on July 5, 2017 at 10:25 AM|
You may have heard the term before OCR aka Obstacle Course Racing or you may just know it by the common brand names Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, BattleFrog and Conquer The Gauntlet. The events involve running, climbing, crawling and jumping your way to the finish line. Regardless of your fitness level or athletic background, it is time to give OCR a try and here is why:
For the overweight: Whether your goal is to lose another 5 lbs. or another 50 lbs. OCR can help. The events are fun but still challenging and the open waves allow you to attempt/complete obstacles according to your current fitness level. After a day out on the course you will be having such a good time you will not even notice that you spent the day exercising. Furthermore, the desire to do well at OCRs has led many people to embark on extensive training between events. This goal focused method of exercise is much more effective at reducing body fat than just trying to lose weight. Do not worry about being last or slow, the multiple waves of people means no one is even keeping track of who is the slowest on the course.
For those looking for something different: OCR is not your standard 5k on a road. OCRs provide an off road experience with man built obstacles you will not find anywhere else. There is a reason the sport has been growing at an exponential rate including recent television coverage for both Spartan Race and BattleFrog Series.
For those looking to be a kid again: When was the last time you jumped in the mud, went down a big slide, jumped from heights into water and had fun on the playground? OCR is basically an adult playground, except you will not have to lift your legs when you go across the monkey bars. Plus, you will not creep out the other parents who are trying to watch their children on the playground while your sweat covered body tries to get some exercise.
For the online obsessed: Feel like may have found the end of the internet and are still bored? OCR can redirect that obsessive online behavior into something more healthy (and interesting). With tons of articles on websites likes Mud Run Guide, podcasts like Overcome and Run and video from Obstacle Racing Media, OCR provides a direction to channel that online addiction.
For the Ninja enthusiast: There you are watching American Ninja Warrior (ANW) thinking, “That is so easy….I can do that.” Well, put your money where your mouth is. OCR brings obstacle racing to your backyard and you do not have to put tons of time developing a submission video, waiting around all night and then getting 2 minutes of exercise, which may not be aired on TV (talk to some people who have had the ANW experience if that last sentence confuses you). Skip all that and just sign up for an OCR online and show up to race. If you miss your wave…no problem, most events have multiple waves running all throughout the day.
For the bodybuilder/gym rat: You spent all year working on those gains, sculpting your abs and building those biceps. But typical gym…they will not let you work out shirtless. That’s not a problem in OCR. Show up with as little clothes as you want on the starting line. Is Planet Fitness not letting you wear that cut off sleeveless shirt or that stringer top? Not a problem, the OCR world is actually “judgment free” and you can even show up dressed in costume if you really want. Furthermore, almost every strength athlete hates cardio but this is one cardio session you will not dread, I guarantee it.
For the competitor: Maybe you have not played sports since high school but still have that competitive drive. If you are the guy (or gal) who turns everything into a contest then you need to come out to OCR. The earlier waves offer a competitive experience typically with things like timing chips and mandatory obstacle completion. Instead of bragging about how you had the best parking spot at work or ate dinner the fastest, start bragging about your race results from the past weekend.
For the Strength & Speed athlete: If you are like me and enjoy running but also lifting weights, than OCR is the sport for you. Tired of getting beat in running races by people with no upper body strength? OCR fixes that problem with obstacles. If you are an all-around athlete who does more than just run or a runner who is looking to be more well-rounded, check out Strength & Speed and then sign up for your first OCR.
Whatever your goal or fitness background is, OCR has a place for you. From waves that offer prize money and sponsorships to non-timed waves where people complete on the obstacles they are comfortable with. The sport brings in everyone and I have never seen such a strong sense of community in any other sport.
(This article was originally written for JRen Fitness on their Facebook page and has been reprinted here in its entirety)
|Posted by Strength & Speed on July 3, 2017 at 11:00 AM|
Every weekend that I am fortunate enough to participate in the great sport of obstacle course racing, I hear countless people talk about how they love the obstacles and loathe running. I for one am getting the running thing under control as I learn to train correctly for it, but I can empathize with the sentiment expressed by these great people. Dirt Runner has created an event unlike any I have seen up to this point, it is perfect for those who love to show off their strength and obstacle proficiency.
Dirt Runner’s DRX Games can best be described as a Pentathlon or Decathlon of OCR skills. I had the pleasure of participating in one of DRX Games in 2016 and placed just off the podium, so I wanted to come back for a little bit of redemption in 2017 and I am glad I did. I will preface this by saying, the turnout was underwhelming. This was for a couple reasons in my opinion, the first being that many OCR athletes who train specifically for racing may not possess the strength needed to place highly in this style of competition. (Sorry if I hurt anyone’s ego with that one.) Ultimately, the regular 140-170 lbs. elite racer is going to have a tough time beating a 200 lbs. athlete in a test of maximum tire flip reps for time. The second reason I believe the turnout was lower than last year was the choice to hold this event on Father’s Day, Sunday. It’s difficult to entice people away from their families on a day like that; I however, made this event my Father’s Day gift!
For anyone who attended a Spartan Race near Chicago from 2011 to 2015, you would be familiar with the Cliff’s Insane Terrain venue that Dirt Runner calls home. It’s hard to describe how cool this venue is, with a multitude of permanent obstacle built on it. One of my favorite aspects of this property is the multiple types of terrain that is available for them to get creative with. The format of DRX Games unfortunately, does not utilize much of the property. Those creeks, ravines, fields and single tracks are reserved for the other events put on at Dirt Runner; such as the DRX Dash, Midwest Mayhem, and Warrior Rush. However, you can come out and train for most of the summer and fall if you look up their training days on the website. (They allow onsite camping as well)
DRX Games takes place in the main festival area, which includes most of their feature obstacles and strength based implements. One portion includes a roughly 300 meter loop with 15+ obstacles back to back.
The DRX Games have to be one of my favorite events in OCR, simply because of the style of competition. Each games event is unique and will feature different challenges. Last year there were Log flips and a spear throw, this time the event consisted of 5 challenges that I will do my best to bring to life.
A giant tire “box jumps” for maximum reps in 1 minute. This was no little tire!! If I had to guess, I would say it was around 30-34” in height for the men, and about 20” for the women. You were required to jump up and stand before dropping back down to the ground for a completed rep. This event required not only the explosive power to jump that high, but also a level of endurance to keep cranking out reps as fast as possible.
This event named The Dragons Nest, was an interesting take on a tire pull. You had a medium size truck tire pulled out on a 30 ft. rope with a 72 lbs atlas stone sitting inside of it. This event was to be completed for time. When the horn went off you were to sprint down to the tire and pick up the atlas stone. You then carried the stone back to the start point, and proceed to pull the tire all the way to you. Then grab the tire and drag it back out until the rope is fully extended. Now you get to sprint back, retrieve your atlas stone, return it back to the tire where it began and sprint your way back to the start. It’s a grueling, heart pounding challenge to test your strength & speed!
Now that your legs a burning a bit… its time to go flip some tires! They don’t let up on you here at Dirt Runner. The tire flip challenge was another time trial test. You were required to flip your truck tire about 15 flips to the other end of the area, then turn around and flip it back to the starting point until it settles around the concrete block it was sitting on. At that point, you must pick up the concrete block and sprint it down to the end of the area and back, returning it to your tire to complete the challenge.
The finish at this one was incredible, and highlighted why I like this event so much. You had a 260 lbs. strength athlete tie with myself, about 195 lbs. Everyone has a chance to compete at the games due to the various challenges, not just a single discipline that dominates.
Rope climb time! Taking a break from the strength obstacles, we head over to a technique based challenge. To make these rope climbs more challenging, the competitors were not allowed to jump off the ground to start their ascent. You could only reach up high, and then bring your feet up to begin. Your goal, climb the rope and hit the bell as many times as possible in 1 minute. As usual, those who can climb a rope without using knots placed much higher; so get your rope climbing skills ready if you plan to come out to a DRX Games event.
The Games always close with a test of speed and obstacle proficiency. Now you get to see how you stack up against the 300 meter DRX Dash course. We had the pleasure of starting the course with a repeat run at the Dragon’s next that we previously competed in. This turned out to be an advantage for me, as I won that event the first time we saw it. During the sprint course, the longest stretch of running is about 20 meters before you are tested against another obstacle. These includes a cargo net monkey bar, a giant slip wall, a 150 lbs atlas stone roll, a difficult weaver, and finally finishing up with Dirt Runners take on what most of us would know as the “Tip of the Spear” from the good ole’ days of Battlefrog.
By ending the games with the DRX Dash course, it allows you to give everything you have left for this sprint. And there is no better way to end a race than exhausted with the gas tank on empty.
Dirt Runner has some of the coolest trophies around. The overall DRX Games series winner in 2016 received full size tridents, the DRX Dash champions won lightning bolts, and the recent Midwest Mayhem champs received swords and golden dragon’s heads. This time was no different, the champions received a large golden skull medal with the Dirt Runner orange lightning bolt across the face. This bad boy will look pretty good on my wall!
This may be one of the smaller local events, but every event I attend at Dirt Runner always turns out to be one of the most memorable races of the year. There are multiple options left in 2017, hopefully you can find a chance to experience one of their race formats soon.
Upcoming events at Dirt Runner:
July 22 – DRX Dash V – Time trial event on the 600 meter 20+ obstacle short course. (Multiple race options, including the Extreme unlimited laps for 60 minutes)
July 23 – DRX Brute - Similar to the DRX Games but with heavy strength challenges
Aug 6th – Warrior Rush Challenge – 5k obstacle course with 50+ obstacles. (Offers a 6 or 12 hour option as well)
Aug 20th – DRX Games VII – The second 2017 games, come on out and see if you can compete for a podium spot.
Christopher Balven is a member of the 2016 Strength & Speed Developmental team and a Battle Corps member representing the permanent OCR facility just outside St. Louis, MO.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on June 5, 2017 at 10:15 PM|
As a lifetime drug free athlete I post about Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) a lot, probably more than I should. However, I try to provide Strength & Speed with new, interesting and fresh content. Many of my friends no longer subscribe to magazines like FLEX, Muscle & Fitness or do not pick up new ones like Bodybuilding.com’s Train because the content is just rehashed year after year. How long can you tell people to lift weights, follow rep schemes and eat high protein healthy food. There is only so much you can write about the topic without just reusing information.
None of the above magazines ever talk about PEDs. The only fitness magazine I have found that takes about PEDs is Muscular Development (MD). MD is generally “pro-steroid” but still gives out advice like consider risks and understand side effects prior to use. While steroid use seems very obvious to me when I look at bodybuilders or fitness models due to years of reading magazines, reading books and watching documentaries, it is not obvious to the average consumer. When I first started reading these magazines, I thought no one used steroids because drugs are illegal and bad, so why would anyone use them? However, after spending some time in the fitness industry you realize that major stars like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, The Rock, Mark Wahlberg and Van Dam have all used them at one point (they all admitted it or their usage signs were very obvious).
As a drug free bodybuilder (although I do not plan on competing for another couple of years), I struggle to find information that has not already been beaten to death. The social taboo of PED use leaves that topic relatively unexplored in many fitness magazines. While not an advocate of PEDs, I do think that not talking about them at all is worse for sports. To me, not discussing PEDs, is just ignoring the elephant in the room and sets false expectations for people.
Just as I have seen many people complain about the beauty magazines photo shopping their models and how people should be aware of this, I think the same should be true about bodybuilding magazines. Readers should know that being 240 lbs. at 5% is possible but only through the use of anabolic substances or even being a lighter weight than that and staying shredded all year. Anyway, I hope you enjoy some of these posts and learn something in the process and I try to space out the PED articles with some other relevant strength content that is not just rehashed Muscle & Fitness articles.
Arnold photo found via a Google Search
Big Ramy photo from FlexOnline
|Posted by Strength & Speed on May 17, 2017 at 10:10 PM|
Every fitness magazine series has their elephant it he room that they rarely talk about. For lifting magazines it is drug use. Rarely talked about but clearly visible are advertisements filled with bodybuilders or fitness models clearly on steroids. Instead magazines like Flex, Muscle & Fitness and Train are filled with rep schemes and diet advice. That is all great stuff, but they never talk about the steroid use used to achieve the physiques that accompany the pictures of the good diet and training advice. The running “elephant in the room” is far less dramatic, but is just as important. The “running elephant” is volume.
Magazines like Runner’s World fill their pages with new shoe types, diet and articles like “How to get faster while running less.” All of that is good information but the secret to getting faster for readers of Runner’s World is usually just run more. People reading these magazines do not want to hear that the secret to getting faster is just more work, because they feel like there has to be something else. The truth is that most people who are reading this magazines are running below 30 miles a week (that is based off talking to friends and coworkers that read running magazines). That is well below the almost 100 miles many professional runners put in each week.
You can change shoes, tweak your diet or buy new garments all you like, but the answer to getting faster is usually just consistent hard work. I’m not saying don’t read these magazines, because you will learn a lot regarding running related topics, but don’t forget that at some point you need to put in the work. If every issues just said do more work, it wouldn't be very interesting so I understand why they are written the way they are. The magazines provide much more than just training advice, they help you connect with the sport. I know I have used these magazines for motivation in the past, which makes the hard work required for success easier. Keep reading and enjoying, but also keep that consistent hard work going.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on May 4, 2017 at 7:00 AM|
Last year we covered Inspirational Star Wars quotes on May the Fourth. Since we used up most of the good quotes last year, this seems like a perfect opportunity to go in the opposite direction. Here are my favorite pictures and memes from fatest human in the Star Wars Galaxy, Jek Porkins. Enjoy!
|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 16, 2017 at 11:40 AM|
“Everyone I know that took steroids looks like crap.” I have said it before and I will probably say it again in the future. I am not referring to the damaging health effects of steroids but I am referring to the quality of their physique. If you are reading this, you may be thinking I am saying steroids do not work effectively at building muscle. That is also not what I am saying.
What I am saying is that most of the people I know who have admitted to anabolic substance use currently have mediocre to poor physiques. People who I work with or have trained with that used Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) usually look like crap because they were missing the key ingredient to begin with….consistent hard work. Most of the guys I know who turned to PEDs is because they were looking for the quick fix from a couple months of hard work. However, eventually other things take priority, the drugs become too expensive or they just lose interest. The missing ingredient, consistent had work comes back to bite them in the ass.
Once they stop using and the major effects of the drug wear off, their shitty work ethic shines through. This leaves them with less than exceptional physiques, often leaving me with the thought “You used steroids?!?! Maybe you should ask for a refund.”
There are obviously a ton of exceptions to this as demonstrated by hundreds of bodybuilders and physique competitors just one Google search away. There are also a ton Facebook and Instagram which are also just a click away. Consistent hard work plus PEDs will produce significant results as demonstrated by Lance Armstrong, Alberto Cantador, any professional IFBB bodybuilder, Rita Jeptoo or Justin Gatlin.
If you plan on using PEDs (which I am against), then make sure you are at least putting the key ingredient of consistent hard work before using them. Furthermore, if you do plan on using them stay away from competitive races (see my article about Lance Armstrong showing interest in Obstacle Course Racing) and organizations/events that are declared as drug free. If you do your research feel free to legally take them if you plan on competing in drug using events (NPC, IFBB, some powerlifting and strongman organizations) or are using it solely for aesthetic reasons. In my opinion if you are not competing it is not much different than getting plastic surgery to improve you appearance and consists of a personal choice.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 15, 2017 at 4:05 PM|
If you have not looked into the value of adding some mental training to your repertoire you are missing out on achieving your peak performance. I covered a little bit of the importance ofmental training in my book “Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite ObstacleCourse Racing” but there are so many topics to cover, I could not cover mentaltraining in depth. To truly understandall the benefits it really requires a book focused on just mental training.
I recently picked up Matt Fitzgerald’s book “How Bad Do You Want it” and wasblown away with how great his book was. He provides real life scenarios of top level athletes using the power oftheir mind to unlock their full potential. He takes examples of athletes like cycling’s Thomas Voeckler, GregLemond and Cadel Evans explaining how they could summon super-humanperformances when the conditions were right. Add in some running examples of Sammy Wanjiru, Jenny Simpson and StevePrefontaine and you have an all-star line up of truly amazing stories.
I personally thought it was the best book on mental training that I have read sofar. It is definitely something I planon reading again as I get ready for major competitions. The stories included in the book and thescience that supports them will help you create your own stories of greatness.
His book was go good, I wanted toread more on unlocking my personal mental potential and immediately picked upanother book called “The Champion’s Mind” by Jim Afremow. With such high expectations, I wasimmediately disappointed. MattFitzgerald is heavily involved in both competing in running/triathlons and anexperienced journalist. His bookreflects that. Jim’s background is inpsychology and his book reflects that. Althoughhe works with athletes, he is not a high level athlete himself unlikeMatt. Matt understands the importance ofthings like reserving mental strength for races , periodization, trainingcycles, peaking and the importance of rest. I felt like Jim’s book did not reflect that as well focusing more onjust doing your best every day. In reallife when you give 100% everyday, that leads to burnout, injury and loss inmotivation. Unlike Matt’s book, I won’tbe reading Jim’s book again.
Matt used real life examples andJim’s book is filled with fictional stories that don’t necessarily translateinto real life. Bottom line is if youare looking to pick up a good book on mental training, buy How Bad Do You WantIt”. “The Champion’s Mind” fell short ofexpectations.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 1, 2017 at 10:40 AM|
Not surprising to anyone, but movies often show stuff that is completely inaccurate, improbable and sometime impossible. They are provided to us so companies, actors and staff can make money while providing the rest of the world with entertainment. Here are some classic examples pulled from a variety of sports based movies. Typically the underdog comes from behind to win the big game or match even though he does a lot of the following. These are my top 5 movie falsities that have been brainwashing you negatively.
1. Train hard and it will make a difference in a week
The season starts and the team is getting their butt kicked all year. However, the first playoff game is in a week….so it is time to step up our training. Actually, if the big game is only a week away you should probably train hard for two or three days and then taper. If it is a race, then maybe you should have been tapering the last two weeks. Either way a week of hard work is not going to fix things unless you come up with a magical play like the flying V.
2. Go hard all the time
BEAST MODE!!!! Wait a minute, as my favorite OCR athlete and Olympic Biathlete says “Beast Mode is a Myth”- Marco Bedard. Training montages often show tons of high intensity work really crushing things to get to that peak level. However, for events like running, OCR and even team sports, your fitness is built through consistent low to medium intensity work mixed with some high intensity training. Which leads directly into the next falsity…
3. A lifetime of sloth can be fixed in a couple of weeks
If there are two people and one has been training hard for months and years on end while the other just started training this season. Chances are the sloth is going to lose. There are exceptions due to the genetically gifted but chances are the new athlete is in a for a loss.
4. Nonsense training leads to dramatic results
Nonsense training actually violates the rule of specificity. Specificity means you practice whatever task you have to perform because it will make you better at it (better neurological pathway, stronger muscles for that activity, more fluid movement, etc). Paint the fence, carry this bucket up this hill, toss eggs back and forth or whatever else is portrayed in movies often loosely relates to the actual activity they are being trained for. These scenes typically just make dramatic parts that film well. Those athletes would be better suited training for whatever sport/race they are doing instead of doing supplementary exercises.
5. Bad attitudes are turned into great ones
The people who do really well in sports do not show up thinking, “Man I hate practicing”. In fact it is the opposite. It is the love of the game, which makes their behavior obsessive and even unhealthy. Although unhealthy is usually the difference between achieving results and someone’s opinion of not achieving an appropriate outcome based on work input. Chances are if you are someone you know is showing up to train with a bad attitude they will no longer be part of the team/club/sport in a couple of weeks or months.
Pay attention next time you watch any sports based move of an underdog coming from behind to win the big one. Chances are perpetuating several or all of these falsities. I guess telling people that a mix of genetic gifts and a lifetime of hard work produces great results does not make for compelling movies. Aw well, at least you know the real answer now.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on February 15, 2017 at 3:00 PM|
Idecided to pick up Phil Knight’s book ShoeDog, about the founding and history of one of Nike. Today, Nike is viewed as a giant in the shoeand athletic clothing industry. However,they were not always like this. Afterreading this book, it gave me a whole new perspective on Nike and how difficultit can be to start a business.
ShoeDog takes a look at Nike focusing on the early days and follows through all theway up to modern day. The later years ofthe story are mostly glossed over, but the early years are very in depth. Hearing how they struggled to make ends meet,took large risks and were almost sued out of existence in their early daysreally gives you a new view of the company. Their persistence and innovation revolutionized the running industrydespite several points in the story where their existence seemed like it wasdestined to fail.
Thebook is also filled with a ton of stories that are just interesting to hearincluding stories about the legend Steve Prefontaine, how Nike came up withtheir name and Bill Bowerman’s historic waffle design on the bottom of Nike’sshoes. While Nike is sometimescriticized today because they are often viewed as “the man” or “a superpower”when it comes to the athletic world, just like every other company they startedout very small (as Blue Ribbon Sports).
Ireally enjoyed hearing the backstory associated with Nike. While obviously written from a biasedperspective (owner Phil Knight is the author), in my opinion he still sharedsome stories that does not paint Nike in the best light. However, he explained his side of the storyand how he saw the situation at the time. If you are a fan of Nike, a fan of running or just someone who likes toread about the backside of the athletic industry, this would be a good book toadd to your reading list.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on February 1, 2017 at 8:00 AM|
I was recently in the middle of a binge listen of Hunter Mcyntire and Ben Greenfield's Obstacle Dominator podcast when I noticed something peculiar. Both have bodybuilding backgrounds and are now competitive OCR athletes.
I too have a background in (natural) bodybuilding and compete in OCR. So what is it that turns bodybuilders into OCR athletes. The two seem opposites with one focusing on aesthetic and isolation movements while the other has a large running and functional movement component.
Here is my take on the topic...
First, you can't be too good at bodybuilding otherwise your probably won't leave it. I don't know much about Hunter or Ben's background but I know I was good enough to qualify for the Drug Free Athlete's Coalition World Finals for natural bodybuilding but knew I stood no chance on that big stage (side note, natural bodybuilding is splintered with numerous organizations and championships). I had been bouncing between sports for years (that's the reason S&S exists) so the change was nothing crazy for me. I did expect to go back to bodybuilding in a year or two but have since wholly committed to OCR. For me the things I didn't like about bodybuilding helped push me towards OCR. I grew tired of how subjective it was for results, compare that to races which have a clear winner. Plus, even in natural organizations I still thought there was drug use both within the rules and outside the rules. For example, most naturals organzations let you take DHEA, which is against the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) but okay by almost all bodybuilding rules. For me, I knew I would be competing in WADA sports in the future, specifically running and triathlon, so refused to take that supplement or other ones banned by WADA. This put me at a disadvantage compared to my competitors. I also saw some guys competing in natural organizations that were clearly on steroids, which is obviously outside the rules.
Second, the obsessive, meticulous nature translates well from bodybuilding to OCR or really any other sport. The same effort used to make meal plans and workout programs can be applied to OCR. I'm not saying you should train the same, but the attributes of analyzing and adjusting based off perceived weaknesses is a good lesson that can be applied not just in OCR but life in general. Diet, a huge part of bodybuilding is also important for any competitive athlete and was a smooth transition with OCR allowing for more variation and higher carbs than a traditional bodybuilding diet.
Third, the willingness to suffer also crosses over. Suffering is involved at the type of any sport as your push your body into fatigued states and then taper for your big race. Bodybuilding is one of the ultimate sufferfests. Having single digit body fat and continuing to workout twice a day (hard lifting and light cardio) is awful. Easily the worst I ever felt just standing around was the final three weeks before my last show. This willingness to push your body hard can be applied not just to OCR but athletics in general.
So should you expect more bodybuilders to cross over into OCR. Not likely, the sports themselves are just too different. Bodybuilders do cardio but it is either very, very low intensity (to stay in fat burning) or very brief high intensity sprints (to boost metabolic rate). Both which are not the best for most OCR courses. One day I will return to natural bodybuilding, but that is a long way off because I love this OCR thing too much right now.