Three Things Pro Obstacle Course Racing Athletes Aren’t Telling You
I was like you once. I wanted to be REALLY good at obstacle course racing, but didn’t know what to do to get myself on that level. But after becoming the seasoned mud run veteran that I am now, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to compete at a high level in the sport, although some of them seem counterintuitive or fairly hard to grasp. I’m here to share some of these things with you.
You have to slow down to speed up.
This sounds ABSOLUTELY ridiculous and the first time I was told to do this in order to get faster, I was in utter disbelief. But I put my faith in one of the best trainers of OCR athletes (the infamous Yancy Culp) and it paid off in dividends!
Think of it this way; when you go HAM (if you don’t know the reference, it’s available on urbandictionary.com… and it’s NSFW) on your workouts every day, all you’re really doing is raising your cortisol levels and increasing your chances of injury. High levels of cortisol in your body translate into your body breaking down muscle tissue you’re trying to build up. Getting injured often keeps you from training consistently, so you never see the results you want. It’s a vicious cycle!
So you want to manage your cortisol levels while still training consistently to achieve the results you want.
You have to learn to slow down in your training! And by that I mean learn the difference between aerobic and anaerobic work. The more time you spend in your anaerobic zone (concerted effort to train, inability to chat while exercising), the more you’re increasing both your cortisol levels and chance of injury.
Spend more time training in your aerobic zone (a pace at which you can hold a conversation with someone) to avoid training too hard and to also get some benefits that you’re not seeing with anaerobic training. For instance, when you focus on aerobic training, you’re developing your body’s ability to utilize oxygen more efficiently by developing your cellular mitochondria. Aerobic training will utilize not only oxygen for energy when you’re training, but also your body’s fat reserves! When all your training is in the anaerobic zone, your main source of energy is from sugar reserves stored in your body. Aerobic training will not only help you stay free from injury, it’ll get you that ripped body all the OCR athletes have!
Another benefit to aerobic training is that in most endurance events, when you develop your aerobic zone, you’re better adept to run faster for longer periods of time. Unless the specific race you plan to tackle lasts less than a minute in duration (400 m distance or less), a finely tuned aerobic system is what you need. The longer you spend working on your aerobic system, the faster you’ll be for your local 5k! Faster speeds while running means you’ll be done with your next mud run in less time! And if you’re like me the less time you spend running in the mud (because you’re so much faster now) only means you’ll have to sign up for more to hit your mud-playing quota for the season.
Hydration is KEY
Dehydration directly impacts performance of endurance athletes. A recent study shows that a 5% drop in hydration resulted in a 30% reduction in performance (as measured by VO2 max). As a 150 lb athlete, a 5% drop in my hydration equates to 7.5 lbs of water. That’s a lot of water! But athletes will feel a drop in performance even at dehydration levels of 1% of body weight.
The best way to combat the effects of dehydration on performance? DRINK FLUIDS! But trying to fight off dehydration with just water isn’t very effective. Simply put, your body also needs electrolytes to hold on to the fluids you’re ingesting.
And that’s the beauty of Hyburst! It has all the electrolytes your body needs to maintain *proper* hydration to perform at your highest level! This organic product also has a kick of green tea, so you get a nice little boost of energy during your training runs or races! The combination of proper hydration and that little kick of energy is the perfect combination for leaving your competition in the dust!
You have to master quick transitions between aerobic and anaerobic work
Obstacle course races require you to spend a long period of time running and doing aerobic work, while at the same time completing obstacles that will spike your heart rate into the anaerobic zone. What this means is you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable!
Unfortunately, there’s only one way to get used to cycling between these zones if you want to compete in OCR; you have to spend time transitioning between the two in your training. Your OCR-specific workouts should have periods of aerobic running combined with intervals of anaerobic exercises to mimic what race-day conditions will be like. Over time, you’ll become more efficient transitioning between the two zones and your recovery after obstacles will improve dramatically, too! And another benefit is it breaks up the monotony of sustained running.
Throwing in some anaerobic exercises into your training will allow you to switch up your daily workout routine with different exercises. Not only will this keep your training fresh, it’ll help you avoid hitting a training rut where it feels like you’re repeating the same exercises and same routines daily.
AVOID THE BORING.
And when you throw in different anaerobic exercises with your aerobic training, your body is less likely to adapt to the exercises. When your body adapts to your exercise routine, you stop seeing those GAINS that people keep talking about. Keep changing your routine daily and watch those gains pile up!
My suggestion for those who are starting to incorporate this into their training is to incorporate a body-weight based anaerobic exercise like burpees, jumping lunges, jumping squats, or pull ups. These exercises will help you get race day ready!
Bill is a competitive OCR athlete from Indianapolis, IN. He has a background in distance running and powerlifting. He is also co-founder of BROCR Media, an web series dedicated to highlighting the sport of OCR and its athletes.