As the weather cools down in the UAE, it will officially be obstacle course race (OCR) season. A few weeks from now, The Ice Warrior Challenge (September 21), the Wadi Adventure Race 17 (September 29) and the du Tough Mudder (December 7-8) will see fitness enthusiasts — and just about anyone up for a good challenge — push their physical limits.
For some though, it’s serious business — an opportunity to really ace a race.
George Crewe, one of the coaches of an obstacle course race community called OCR Freaks, shares his top tips on how to overcome the obstacles during the race day:
Mix it up
A majority of OCRs cover a long distance and participants are expected to run mostly on sand, rocky terrains, soft hills and uneven grounds. Crewe suggests mixing running and allocate days for easy runs, speed days, active recovery days (walking and light jog), long runs, circuit trainings and obstacle specific run (carry a sandbag or any weight and run up and down the staircase). “Also make sure you are running correctly with the correct form and then the only way to improve on these kinds of terrain is to go and train on it over and over and the results will show,” he says.
Grab that bucket
Bucket carries are often featured in OCRs. Most participants do not wear gloves during the race and therefore, filling up a bucket with sand or pebbles and carrying it with bare hands can be painful. “A lot of people want to find the easiest way to carry a bucket in a Spartan race for example. The reality is, there is no easy way. The only way to get better is to train yourself for it,” Crewe says. “Spartan Race didn’t want it to be easy. A good idea would be to grab a bucket, start off by filling it halfway, test yourself over 400 metres carrying it and time yourself. Keep working on it week by week and then gradually start to fill it to the top until you have built up the strength to carry it easier. The bucket carry will never feel easy to anyone, however, once trained you will be able to get through it fast which means less pain.”
Master the sand bag
There are those sandbags you need to carry uphill too. The best way to carry one — on one of the shoulders or on the back or in front — depends on the size of the person, says Crewe. “If you are a smaller person and the sandbag drapes over the front and back of your shoulder and you carry it on one, then try putting it on the upper part of your back and grip it with both hands,” he advises. “Take a sandbag onto a staircase or a steep hill and walk up and down it numerous times to train yourself to get better on those uphill climbs.”
One more tip: Go heavy. Make sure the sandbag you are training with is either the same weight as, or more than the ones you will find in a race. This way, come race day you will feel more comfortable when picking it up and starting to move with it.
Get to grips
To improve your grip, Crewe has some exercises you can do during training: Carry kettlebells, dumbbells, heavy water bottles or any heavy object you can grip and hold by each side. Do pull ups, chin ups and dead hangs (just hanging on a bar), or pull something heavy with a rope attached to it.
OCRs rigs combines gymnastics rings, ropes with knots and pipes in varying order and height that you need to master. “The best way to avoid falling from it is to make sure your grip and upper body strength are good. Another good tip is to try and be fast. The less time you spend on the obstacle the less fatigued your grip and upper body will be. Practice makes perfect,” Crewe says. “Race hard, race smart and race with confidence.”