Image Credit: Supplied

It has been more than three years since the birth of obstacle course races (OCRs) in the UAE.  Every year since 2014, there’s an average of 8-9 of them.  The season usually starts from January to March and back again during the cooler days from October until December.

Recently this month was the Shwaiman Obstacle Race 2018 in Abu Dhabi.  There were four categories and participants in each category had to go through 18 (land and water) obstacles to finish the race.  I interviewed one of the winners in the team category – OCR Freaks.

The team started off last December 2017, comprising George Crew, Bash Hussain, Ivana Kolaric and Pete Goodwin.  They have joined the Kuwait Spartan Sprint, Wadi Adventure Race, Bahrain Spartan Beast & Sprint, Old School Challenge, Shwaiman Obstacle Race and NAS Night Challenge. The team continuously train every day and has several members who fly abroad and compete in obstacle races.

Here, coach  George Crew reveals the secret formula behind his recent success:

What made you join OCRs? 

Our team is full of so many varieties of athletes with different goals. Some of us are from a sporting background and then found OCR and loved it. Others were challenged to try it and decided to stick with it. Some wanted to get involved to increase overall fitness and well-being. We have some athletes who joined to lose weight and are still doing so. However, I can say one thing about OCR and speak for everyone in the team, we are all addicted to it and will never stop racing as long as we are able.’

It is true that OCRs are addictive. I’ve joined more than 5 OCRs since it started with Desert Warrior Challenge in 2014, and I have trained with my team, Team Tamaraw DXB to prep myself during these races.  Yet, I still couldn’t do monkey bars! Is there a secret recipe to conquering these obstacles?  Here are six tips from OCR Freaks:

1. RUN

80 to 90 per cent of an obstacle course race is running. If you are a good runner then you have a high chance of doing well in an obstacle race. However, obstacle race running is much more technical than running around your local park. We advise to ensure your running training conditions are as hard as possible to notice the full benefit during a race. For example, run on soft sand with hills, rocky terrain and lots of twists and turns on uneven ground. This is what you can expect from an obstacle course race. If you add this to your training then this will prepare you for real race conditions.


99 per cent of obstacle races will have more than one obstacle, in which you will be required to carry heavy objects such as buckets, sandbags and logs. To train to improve your carries you must train putting yourself in race conditions. Carry a heavy sandbag up and down the beach, carry a bucket full of sand up and down your apartment staircase, even carrying your shopping with a farmer’s carry technique will improve your carry strength.


If you want to do well in an obstacle race then you need to be fast. Try to include speed workouts into your training such as 200m sprints, walk for 50m and repeat. This doesn’t need to last for hours and hours. We advise to incorporate at least one speed training session a week and do this for a minimum of 40 minutes.


The difference between just running and obstacle racing is you need very good muscular endurance levels. You will need to be able to stop and start again throughout the whole race, using your strength over a long period of time. A good way to train your muscular endurance in a gym would be to run for 1km, complete 30 burpees, carry a sandbag for 400m and repeating this cycle for a set period of time.


Almost all obstacle course races require you to have an extremely good grip. This may be to climb a wall, carry some heavy logs or to complete a set of monkey bars. We have found that the best way to improve your grip strength is to go for regular indoor rock climbing sessions. Rock climbing is all about grip strength and technique. Including regular sessions (minimum once per week) will really help you improve your overall grip strength. We also advise you to carry out various dead hand, hand switches and pull up / chin up exercises on a pull up bar.


So many people in the fitness industry overlook recovery time. We strongly advise to listen to your body. If you are training hard and pushing your body to the extreme then it needs time to recover. We advise to have 1-2 recovery days per week. During a recovery day it can be anything from a 30-minute walk with lots of foam rolling and stretching to simply doing no exercise at all. Allowing your body to fully recover will allow you to train harder the next day and perform much better on race day. Recovery days will also help prevent injuries occurring and you fully exhausting your body.

So now that summer is here and OCR days will yet again start in a few months when it is cooler, it doesn’t mean you stop training.  As what Crew advised, ‘aim to be always race ready!’  You can hit the gym, train with teammates and friends in the parks or go solo at home.  

Eat well-train-rest-repeat!