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How to Train for an Obstacle Course Race
By Dave Hopkins M.S. ACSM-HFS

Obstacle course races are a popular form of competition and provide a formidable challenge for those seeking more than a half marathon or triathlon. Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash and the Spartan race are a few examples of these races. A new type of race to Erie, will be taking place on September 7 at Presque Isle, called "The Barber Beast on the Bay". The race is entirely on the beach, adding sand as an element to the obstacles. Employing a form of interval training is the most applicable method in preparing yourself for the format of these races. The courses are up to twelve miles long with around 25 obstacles along the way. The training should consist of running at an intensity above your normal running pace, for a distance ranging from 0.5 miles to 2 miles. Then, you should perform a bout of resistance exercise. This format should be repeated until at least half of the distance of the race has been completed. The aerobic to anaerobic (work-to-rest ratio) should be about 2:1. Performing a ten-minute run immediately followed by five minutes of chest presses (3 sets of 12 reps), would yield a 2:1 ratio. During the actual race, you will have a chance to recover at water/food stations, rest rooms and while waiting in line to attempt an obstacle. Ankle injuries are common in these races, due to uneven terrain and ankle instability. It is necessary to train the muscles in the calf (gastrocnemius and soleus) in order to prevent injury and increase running efficiency. Performing calf raises with straight legs and with the knees flexed in a seated position, will strengthen these muscles. Grip strength is an important factor, due to the design of the obstacles. Climbing walls and ropes and traversing monkey bars are some examples of obstacles that require you to strength train your forearm flexors. Pull-ups, bicep curls, hammer curls and reverse curls are the most common exercises for strengthening these muscles. These are a few training aspects to consider before participating in obstacle course races, however, training should be tailored to the individual.

Dave Hopkins, LECOM Medical Fitness Wellness Center, can be reached at (814) 868-7800 or dhopkins@powerwellness.com.

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