What is Obstacle Course Racing? 5 Tips for Your Best Race

Obstacle course racing, also known by the acronym OCR, involves any competition where challenges are placed along the competitors’ path.  With events sprouting up across the country, obstacle course racing is becoming one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S.  These races are designed to be physically and mentally challenging, and test one’s strength, courage, and endurance.  Many of the obstacles used for these events are inspired by those used in military training.  Some popular obstacles include climbing up ropes, crawling in mud, and scaling walls.

Check out these tips for obstacle course racing from Zensah Athlete, Jeff Farmer.

5 Tips for Your Best Race

With over 5 years of experience in obstacle course racing, Jeff has competed with participants from all over the world, and finished 13th at the OCR World Championships in 2014.  Here are his tips to conquer your next race:

  1. Master Your Bodyweight
    Training with weights is fine, however, it is important to master one’s own bodyweight, since that’s what will be required during an obstacle race.  When you reach the point that bodyweight exercises (i.e. push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, walking lunges, bear crawls, crab walks) are less challenging, add a 10-15 lb. weighted vest.
  1. Pull-ups are a MUST!
    You’ll most likely encounter walls (of varying heights), rope climbs, and monkey bars at every OCR.  Pull-ups will condition the muscles required to conquer those obstacles.
  1. Hit the Trails!
    Unless you are running one of the few urban-type OCRs that are offered, your race will most likely be held on trails.  Training on trails will properly strengthen muscles, tendons, and ligaments that aren’t as stressed on smoother, more stable surfaces.
  1. Mix it Up
    Mix in strength/endurance or calisthenics during your runs.  Depending on the event company, a 5k OCR will have anywhere from 15 to 30 obstacles, so you rarely have long stretches of just running.  If you want to blast through these obstacles, you must increase your lactic threshold.  A training example would be: Run ¼ mile, perform 100 mountain climbers, perform 20 burpees, etc.  It’s important not to rest before and after the exercises, but if you must, keep it to a minimum.
  1. Have the Right Gear
    Wear fabrics that dry quickly.  NO COTTON!!  Don’t overdress, less is best!  If the temperature seems cold, add 15 degrees to the current temperature and dress according to the new figure.  You will warm up as you move.  Personally, I prefer running with temperatures in the 50s to low 60s, and will definitely be wearing shorts and a short-sleeve shirt.  If the actual temperature at race time is 35 degrees, I will dress as if it’s 50.

5 Tips For Your Best Obstacle Course5 Tips For Your Best Obstacle Course

Whatever you are wearing will get wet.  The more you wear creates more weight.  If you dress in layers, some items may never dry, and you will end up being colder.

A Note for OCR Newcomers

At some point prior to race day, put on all the gear you plan to wear.  Then, hose yourself down or take a shower, and go run 3 to 4 miles.  During the run, analyze your gear and make mental notes about comfort, whether it restricts movement, how quickly it dries, shoe weight, how well they drain, and note any blisters or chaffing.  This will give you time to adjust if needed; you DON’T want to be figuring these things out during a race.

Ready for a challenge?  Register for an obstacle course race near you!