|Posted by Evan Perperis 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.