How To Train For Your First Obstacle Race

How To Train For Your First Obstacle Race

by Darren Round on Jun 10, 2014

Oh man, it’s so on! You’ve paid your entry fees, you’re sponsored and it’s time to train for your first hardcore fitness-based obstacle race. In this article we’re going to get neck-deep into it and answer the common questions folks in your position typically have. And to say you’re not alone is an understatement.

In Australia obstacle course-based fitness is going mega-viral. The modern fitness industry is being completely re-shaped in a new more hardcore outdoorsy image. Don’t worry, you’re going to do great! With that said, let’s get to it.

What kind of expectations should I have?

The truth is you’re capable of amazing things when you put your mind and soul into it. But, you need to be honest with yourself physically. If you’ve only got maybe 4-6 months to train, or less, and you need to drop 30kgs to be at your ideal weight then…Or, if you’ve never run a km in your life and you need to be on the finish line in 8 weeks…

The point is be realistic with yourself. The Spartan Race, the Survival Race and Tough Mudder are fun yes, but they are also tremendously physically demanding if you’re seriously competing. Although, if you’re in decent shape and can run a 6 minute kilometre without breaking a sweat, you can definitely get to where you need to be within a few months of disciplined hard work.

Should I invest in athlete accessories and home gym equipment?

It doesn’t hurt to have some dumbbells or a barbell laying around the house. It also doesn’t hurt to wear a weight-vest, or something similar. The one thing to beware of is over-training though. Oftentimes many newcomers work out so hard before the race that by the time they show up they’re chronically fatigued or their body has gone into full calorie deficit mode.

You should setup a serious progressive-overload training schedule and stick to it. But, you shouldn’t be working out or exercising around the clock. It’s not natural. In order to get into top condition food and rest are HUGE factors.

Strength or endurance training?

It’s best to go for a well-rounded approach that focuses on developing both strength and strength endurance. You need to be capable of big bursts of strength/energy and be able to sustain a moderate to heavy pace when necessary.

You can’t do one or the other really, because obstacle courses demand both. So, you stick with training that focuses on full-body power/strength moves as well as high rep count compound exercises that push your muscular stamina to its breaking point…and then a little further.

Can I effectively train for the event in a regular gym?


Yes, gym equipment is extremely helpful. If you have a gym membership, you’ll definitely want to use it as much as possible.  Functional trainers, free weights, squat racks, Olympic-sized barbells, proprioceptive (balance/stability) devices are all effective.

Plus, for most people the gym is going to make it possible to train with much heavier volumes of weight.

How should I train for specific obstacles?

Listen, as mentioned before the obstacle-course fitness world is absolutely huge. You can easily hop online and get insider information from tons of people just like you. Everything people are doing to prepare for races is all right out in the open. Folks love to share their routines, their results and all the lessons they’ve learned.

We’re talking everything from social media networks and the blogosphere to specific forums and dedicated websites for the races/race brands themselves. You’ll learn about the fitness equipment they use and exercises. You’ll have a much more open-eyed perception of the whole process. With that said, now isn’t the time to be lazy so do your homework and start training!

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