Popular new events attracting runners and fitness lovers of all levels are obstacle course races and mud runs. These races can be extremely fun, but for a first timer they can present quite a challenge. Since they include a variety of activities during a single event, it will require more than just running to prepare and train. As expected, the possible injuries that may occur also become more varied and widespread, so here are a few tips to prevent a sidelining injury.
- Learn your course. If you are a true first timer it’s important to know what you’re getting into. IT may be a good idea to go with a friend and watch one first. Or at least get online and watch videos to get a good idea. Then practice what you can and determine your weak spots ahead of time. It may take more than just being in good shape and being able to run.
- All courses are not created equal. The degree of difficulty and course layouts vary greatly from one race to another. For example, the Warrior Dash is only 3 miles and you have the option of skipping obstacles without penalty. Probably a good start for a beginner. In contrast, the Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile race with 25 obstacles including hanging live wires at the end with up to 10,000 volts of electricity!! Then there’s the Spartan series designed by Navy Seals! Not surprisingly, it’s a grueling course and failure to complete an obstacle is punishable by doing burpees! Probably not the best first choice for a beginner. Choose a race appropriate for your level of fitness.
- Train Properly! Since the courses vary this will require some preparation. Lots of races include scaling walls and climbing ropes so definitely incorporate some strengthening of the shoulders, arms and upper back. The terrain is often uneven and more jumping is necessary so leg and ankle strength and flexibility are important. Core strengthening and body weight training will also give you an advantage. And of course, try to practice some of the specific obstacles if you can.
- Gear up and stay hydrated! Protective gear like gloves and knee pads can be very helpful when climbing and crawling. Be sure to wear the proper shoes and outfit for your race. Hydrate often with water and sports drinks. And fuel up with bananas and carb supplements as necessary.
Obstacle course races can be very fun! Don’t let lack of preparation or an injury spoil your experience! Get out there and try one! You’ll be glad you did!