This article is organised as follows:
- Part 01: Introduction to Obstacle Course Races (OCR).
- Part 02: OCR Industry.
- Part 03: Advantages & Disadvantages of OCR.
- Part 04: OCR Event Management.
- Part 05: Preparing for an OCR.
- Part 06: Governing Bodies, Associations & Championships.
- Part 07: Obstacle Courses in other Areas.
- Part 08: Useful Publications/Links and References.
PART FIVE: PREPARING FOR AN OCR
5.0 What Obstacles Might You Find on an OCR?
Obstacles participants might encounter during an OCR include (Heil, 2011):
- A Mud bog strung over with barbed wire.
- A greased climbing wall.
- A hurdle of smouldering hay bales.
- A gauntlet of brawny warriors waiting to thrash you with padded cudgels.
- Dodging live electrical wires.
- Leaping fire pits.
- Climbing over a tire pit.
- Crawling through mud and/or submerging in water.
- Jumping from height into mud/water.
5.1 Deciding to Race
Generally, there is no reason you should not decide to race in an OCR, however, you should understand the risks involved and take steps to minimise your own risk.
- Prepare and Train Appropriately:
- Do not sign up for an OCR and then show up on race day completely unprepared.
- OCR providers want participants to be successful and free from injury, so follow their suggestions for training and nutrition.
- If you are new to OCR, and especially if new to fitness, the absolute minimum period for preparation and training is one month.
- Training should incorporate strength, endurance and flexibility as a minimum.
- Ask Questions:
- If you are in doubt about what you should do to prepare for a race, do not hesitate to communicate your questions to the OCR provider (via email or social media).
- If they are slow to answer, or do not seem equipped to answer your specific questions, you may want to consider cancelling your registration and signing up for a different event.
- You may also want to seek out an exercise professional to aid in your preparation and training for the OCR.
- An exercise professional can provide tailored advice and walk you through specific exercises that will mimic the type of work you will need to do during the OCR.
- Practice Defensive Racing:
- When attending an OCR, remember that you are in charge of your own safety.
- It is reasonable to assume a course management team (usually led by a Race Director) has created safe obstacles, but you should not assume that they are being managed or monitored appropriately.
- Think of your racing as ‘defensive racing,’ much like defensive driving.
- Keep an eye on what is happening around you, and never feel pressured to attempt an obstacle that seems unsafe.
5.2 Full-Body Fitness Training
Traditional gym work is unlikely to prepare a participant for the mental and physical challenge that is OCR.
OCR requires full-body fitness, being less about how much weight a participant can move, and more about how they can move themselves efficiently (in terms of strength, endurance, and fluid movements) – difficult when covered head to toe in mud! As such, an OCR will test a participant’s:
- Endurance: This aids in keeping participants moving and getting over the finish line.
- Strength: In both mind and body, and is the foundation for overcoming obstacles.
- Core Stability (or Motor Control Stability): A strong core can improve a participant’s overall performance and reduce the risk of injury.
- Grip: Strength of grip is an important element of traversing obstacles.
- Skills: Using the correct technique when traversing obstacles (e.g. climbs, carries, and crawls) means less energy expended, a higher chance of success, and a reduction in the risk of injury.
- Mental Attitude: The body is willing but the mind is not. A positive mental attitude (PMA) is just as important as a strong body.
- Teamwork: Some obstacles are designed to make it difficult for participants to overcome by themselves, therefore requiring the help of others, regardless of whether the event is competitive or non-competitive.
With this in mind, participants training for an OCR should establish a baseline of fitness before progressing to more specific goals – for example full-body movements that have synergy between them. Depending on the starting point of the participant, training should commence with improving cardiovascular conditioning and total body strength before addressing skills specific to the OCR they will be undertaking.
Once a baseline has been achieved, participants can transition to more specific skills training. For example, grip strength, rope climbing, and hill sprints.
As well as adjusting the simplicity/complexity of the exercises, the number of sets, repetitions, and tempo can also be modified to meet individual participant training/race needs.
5.3 What Motivates People to Attend An OCR?
According to research by Rodriguez (2015), motivating factors include:
- The camaraderie among participants;
- Connecting and socialising with other like-minded people;
- Having fun; and
- Having a physical challenge that allows participants to progress and keep on track with their health goals.
An earlier study by Kronenberg (2012) also noted fun as a factor in why people attend OCR’s. “Participants may view EOCs as a recreational activity, and thus may not view themselves as athletes…” stated Kronenberg (2012, p.32). Even with the professionalisation of OCR this may still hold true.
A small study by Opala (2016, p.31-33) suggested that participating in an OCR event:
- “…was significantly associated with higher levels of positive affect and psychological well-being post-race compared to pre-race.”
- “…was not associated with a statistically significant increase in physical well-being as predicted.”
- Showed no evidence that “character strength measures” increased as a result of participating in an OCR event.
- “…showed that those who were signed up to run the EOC [aka OCR] with a team had significantly higher scores on post-race teamwork than those who were signed up to participate by themselves and the effect size indicated that this difference was large.”
- “…showed that there were negative associations between the number of prior EOCs and post-race affect and teamwork.”
The reader can find all three studies in the Useful Publications and Links section.
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