How to Prepare for Your First OCR
Congratulation! You’ve signed up for your first OCR (Obstacle Course Race) or at the very least, you’re thinking about signing up. You’ve taken your first step to entering a community and starting a race like no other. Obstacle Racing is pretty challenging with lots of crawling, climbing, jumping and sliding but check out these tips on how to prepare for your first OCR.
The (easy) bit – the running
Unless you’re a seasoned runner, you may actually find the running the hardest part of the course. Don’t stress too much if 10 miles seems too far, you just have to do the math to figure out that it may be easier than you expect. On a 10 mile course with 20 obstacles, you’ll only ever really have to be able to run ½ a mile between each obstacle. Drop these into your running training to crush those running goals for your OCR:
· Off-roading – pack most of your miles in the trails if you can. Strengthening those ankles with uneven surfaces and testing out your trail shoes will really benefit you for race day. After running for 5-10 minutes (depending on your fitness levels), drop in some press-ups, squats, burpees or star jumps just to really try and simulate the day. If you’ve got access to an outdoor gym, try adding in some pull-ups to build up the strength for those walls.
· Hill work – I’m yet to see an OCR without any hills so prepare those calves and quads for a workout. Running short hills will work wonders to strengthen your lower body while sprinting will increase your lung capacity and metabolism. Don’t forget to, in a second session, get yourself used to running downhill at a moderate and safe pace – it’s harder than it sounds
· Speed work – Get yourself out the house and onto a track or just a road. Start off with a few miles to warm you up and then start by running a speedy 400m, about 1-1.5 minutes faster than your normal pace. As you pass the 400m finish line, go straight into 30 seconds of an exercise (jumping jacks, press-ups, skipping rope etc) followed by a 2 minute walk to rest – repeat another 4 times. Progress each week by adding an extra set.
Now to the bit that most people stress over – the obstacles and the strength required to conquer them. When preparing for my larger OCR events, I split my training up into the following categories:
· Overall strength – This is the type of strength that will really get you through the obstacles. Being able to persevere through the pain will require you to perform between 15 and 20 reps to simulate how your body will be feeling when you’re tired towards the end of your race. If you’re an adrenaline-rusher, you’ll need overall strength to ground you. Body weight exercises such as press-ups and pull-ups are fantastic for building overall strength if you don’t have access to a gym but if you’ve got a membership, get yourself in the gym to strengthen your whole body.
· Grip strength – In the likes of monkey bars and walls, grip strength can really make or break an OCR. Grip strength tends to come from any hanging movements – be it a pull-up or a dead-hang, get those forearms working. If you’ve reached a peak with your grip strength, give Google a search for ‘grip strength exercises’ – there are plenty out there.
· Tiredness training – But I’m always tired after I train? You know those days when you’re too tired to train?.....That’s when you should get out and do it! OCRs really do test your whole mental and physical state and when you’re tired, you slow down. When you’ve had a rough day at work, get yourself out and pound those miles/lift those weights to really get that OCR feel.
You’ve got an idea now get yourself some gear
The likelihood is that you’ll probably be covered in mud after the first obstacle so perhaps don’t go and buy yourself the whitest T-shirt in the shop. Having said that, don’t fear that you’ll ruin your clothes, as you’ll probably find that you don’t. I guarantee that you’ll be hooked after your first race so really consider investing in some great gear to keep you warm, happy and running fast.
Before deciding on your gear, take a look at the type of obstacles and terrain. If there’s a lot of water, you’ll obviously need slightly different gear than a dry OCR with no mud (yes, that exists).
Here are some of my essentials for an OCR:
· Shoes & socks– get some great trail shoes with great grip. You’re looking for a durable and comfortable shoe. I personally prefer a non-Gore-Tex shoe for going in and out of water just to keep the weight down but I’ve also enjoyed the comfort Gore-Tex shoe. In terms of socks, I wouldn’t worry too much – a supportive sock above the height of the trainer should keep at least some of the debris on. I personally use the Gecko XT’s for my OCRs and they have lasted me over 35 Tough Mudder courses! (https://www.asics.com/gb/en-gb/gecko-xt/p/T826N-300.html)
· Leggings – A great set of leggings can really help with keeping the heat in while you’re running around. Consider investing in some medium-weight ones. Enough weight to keep you warm but allowing for flexibility. Leggings also protect your legs from any stones while you’re crawling in tight spaces.
· Compression gear is your friend – Enabling you to reduce cuts and bruises while keeping you warm. Get that idea of that lovely cotton t-shirt with your team name out of your head – a quick wicking t-shirt will work wonders.
· Windbreaker – Now I’ve experienced the wonders of a windbreaker, I won’t go back. I personally use the ASICS Packable Jacket, which is small enough to pop in a pocket while you’re running but is amazing at keeping the wind off when you’re wet, muddy and cold. (https://www.asics.com/gb/en-gb/packable-jacket/p/2011A045-020.html?)
General tips & on the day
· Organise hydration and nutrition beforehand – most OCRs have multiple hydration and nutrition points on course but they’re often just water and potentially a sponsored nibble of a bar. Take a look at what they offer and see if you need to take your own on course.
· Practice training with your teammates. A lot of the obstacles require trust such as climbing down from a wall and with a great team, your stress levels will reduce and you can have a great day.
· Pack bin bags – you’ll need these to carry your dirty clothes back home
· Just remember that you did the hardest part – signing up. Once you’ve put the training in, decided on an awesome team name and turned up, the easy bit is running the race you’re prepared for.