When it comes to Obstacle Course Racing (OCR), such as your local Tough Mudder or Rat Race event, the challenge isn’t just in the distance run, it’s the crazy obstacles in your path from a crawl over barbed wire to jumping a 7ft fence. But you can prepare for these challenges before the day - follow our expert Rules of OCR for a successful day out in the mud!
Three Golden Rules Of OCR
1. You’re going to get muddy, very muddy. So for a comfortable race, avoid cotton at all costs, says Matt B Davis, competitor and author of Down and Dirty OCR guide. ‘Cotton becomes a lot heavier than you think so you don’t want any of it on. And because you’re going to be wet layering up doesn’t help - wear two layers max.’ Technical, wicking fabrics are the way to go.
2. You can make it, but it helps to prepare. ‘If you can bang out a few miles and are confident about your upper body strength, then you could turn up at almost all these events and knock it out,’ says Jim Mee, organiser of the Rat Races. But if you want to do well and not feel it too bad the next day, invest time in training. Mee recommends 4 weeks for a 10K event and up to 12 weeks for a half-marathon distance or above.
3. Have fun - that’s it! OK, you may also want to check out our expert guide on tackling classic OCR obstacles and the strength moves you can do to turn them into a fun challenge, rather than a Tomb Raider-style puzzle. Now, make Lara Croft proud!
The Barbed Wire Crawl
Ouch! If you don’t want to get a spike in your backside when crawling under lines of barbed wire, then it’s a good idea to work your transverse core muscles, and internal obliques so that you can stay low to the ground while keeping up the crawl speed.
Do 10-12 reps of the ‘spiderman’ abs move: start in a regular plank position with forearms resting on the floor and bring one knee up to the side of your chest at a time, while keeping your hips low. Rest for 30-60 seconds then repeat for 4 sets.
The 7ft Fence Vault
This one is going to call on your Parkour skills - it’s where you run at the wall and place one foot up on it before changing your forward motion into vertical one by pressing in and upward with your your foot. A grab for the top is followed by ‘scuffing’ your feet against the wall to smear them upwards and throw one leg over the wall.
This move calls for strong lats so hit the gym for a three-move combo. Mix medicine ball slams with lat pull-downs and pull-up bar dead hangs ahead of race day in order to build your strength.
The low vault
Waist-height bars and logs are ripe for vaulting over at speed so that you barely break your running stride. The quickest way is to run at the obstacle, place your right hand on top of it, keeping the arm straight. Then bring your left leg up and swing it over the obstacle, so that you bring the trailing leg over in the same movement, while pushing off with your right arm.
You’ll need to have good shoulder stability and a strong core for this so. Do T-press ups where you take a hand off the floor, twist your torso and reach with it straight overhead. Then move onto side-planks with a leg lift. 10-12 reps of four sets should do it.
The Monkey Bars
The trick with monkey bars is to use the swing in your own momentum to do the work and let your arms act as catching units, staying straight throughout. To do this pull on one arm and contract your abs on that side to start swinging - then swing back the other way before letting go with one hand to reach through. Get both hands on the next bar then rinse and repeat!
Prepare for the challenge by practising dead hangs from a pull-up bar - hang for 10 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat. Progress your strength by adding a single pull-up and holding the top position for five seconds.
The Rope Climb
Ropes are tricky things to climb up, but remember that your legs are way stronger than your arms, so remember to use them! You will need to grab the rope with both hands then pull your knees up towards your chest while clamping the rope between your feet - you can then pull up hand over hand on the rope while your legs assist you to stand up before repeating if necessary.
Build your upper body strength in advance of race day with hammer-grip pull-ups, (where your palms face each other on parallel grips) as well as that old weights room favourite, biceps curls. Do 3-6 reps of the pull-ups, and 10 reps of the curls, for four sets each.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your GP before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.