By: Shane Barnard of UrbanKick
Have you seen those obstacle course races like the Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Spartan Races and the like? Have you browsed through the pictures of all the muddy, grubby, sweaty, (and presumably stinky) participants and thought that you would love to do that? Well, this is the easy user’s guide to prepare for your first adventure race so you can rock it and have a great time!
- Prepare….a little. To get the most FUN out of the experience you should have a base level of fitness for the race you choose. If you choose a 5K course, you want to know that you could easily jog that distance and still have some energy left in the tank for those crazy obstacles. You should feel comfortable doing a set of weighted squats and lunges, as well as pushups and rows. You don’t have to have a 6-month training plan, but building some strength and endurance before the race will help you complete the course without too much discomfort. My last training tip is this: by all means, pick up some heavy sh*t and walk with it and then put it down. Seriously. During races I have carried logs, people, buckets of sand and dragged cement blocks through mud and water. Doing some functional strength work can help. Some real life ideas include: 1). carrying ALL of your groceries up the stairs at one time, 2). Move the mattress from the first floor to the second floor and/or, 3). Carry a screaming child from the car into the house. Get ready to race!
- Start with a shorter distance race. They have 5K races all they way through to races that traverse over 13 miles of mountainous territory. Choose a distance you know you can comfortably complete without much discomfort. I have seen way too many weekend warriors on the course of a race looking miserable, sidelined by cramps or pain and it isn’t worth it.
- You don’t have to do every obstacle. You really don’t. I have completed 3 Tough Mudders, 1 Spartan Race and 4 Warrior Dashes (and a handful of half marathons and a full). I have YET to complete every obstacle of the Tough Mudder. I am not a strong swimmer so I am not jumping off the plank into a freezing abyss of water. You are out there to have a good time and challenge yourself, but there is no failure. If getting electrocuted by low hanging wires as you crawl on your belly under barbed wire through water isn’t your jam…then wait for your buddies on the other side and cheer them along! (and yes…. that is an obstacle at the Tough Mudder)
- Buddy System — Do it with friends! It is an incredible experience and you want to share all of the good, bad and ugly with your posse. Those memories and pictures will last a lifetime, so get your crew together and tackle those obstacles!
- Be prepared for the unexpected. Splinters, scraped knees, dirt, dirt and more dirt. Insider tip is to keep your mouth closed when going through mud or water obstacles. I am not gonna lie. One time I jumped into the icy Arctic Enema tank during the Tough Mudder and the coldness shocked my body to the point I peed my pants. No lie. (Are you ready yet?!)
Expert Tips: Dos and Don’ts
DO Eat breakfast and hydrate. Eat the same breakfast you usually eat. Don’t change it up and make your body respond to something new. Eat some complex carbs such as oatmeal or whole grain bread or some eggs, bananas, potatoes etc. Simple foods that provide energy are the best bet. The longer races will have fuel stations on the course to supplement when you need it.
DO Wear old tennis shoes you can donate at the end
DO Lube up with body glide to prevent some chaffing
DO Bring a bag to check filled with:
1). garbage bag for your dirty clothes when done
2). baby wipes or wet wipes
5). dry set of clothes
DO Bring cheap sunglasses. If you are a sunglasses person, get a cheap pair that you won’t mind losing or damaging. Sometimes it is pretty dusty and glasses are your best friend.
DO Be a team player. These races are really about teamwork and helping your fellow racer on the course. Helping someone tackle an obstacle is the best feeling ever!
DON’T Wear cotton. Once it gets wet, it stretches and chafes your skin. Think twice about shorts and bare knees. There is a lot of crawling and knees can get pretty scraped up.
DON’T wear gloves. It sounds like a good idea, but the minute you go through the first water obstacle your hands are freezing and uncomfortable.
I hope all of these tips help and ignite your excitement to register for a race! If these stories don’t motivate you, remember, most races support a charity. For example, a portion of the Tough Mudder proceeds go to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project so at the very least, do it for charity!!