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Obstacle Racing- What’s Trending in Fitness, Spring 2014

April 10, 2014

Every year millions of Americans make the commitment to compete in a fitness race.  The training commitment required to cross the finish line is a fantastic motivator for maintaining or improving one’s fitness level or athleticism.  Historically the weekend events of choice have been marathons, half marathons, 5k’s, triathlons or long distance cycling rides, but there’s a new format sweeping the nation: Obstacle Racing.  An obstacle race is a blend of distance running pared with physically challenging pit-stops that require strength, coordination and mental toughness along a set course.  Some of the biggest names in this hot fitness trend include: Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, and Rugged Maniac.

Racers risk catching fire leaping over obstacles, slashing themselves on razor wire, getting electrocuted by dangling live wires in a mud pit, freezing their parts in an ice bath pool all while scaling any number of military inspired impediments.  These events are usually one day affairs and can cover a distance anywhere from three miles to 12 miles, or more.  The appeal for experienced weekend warriors seems to be the challenge of taking on a whole new type of race.  For all participants, experienced and novice alike, crossing the finish line is a huge badge of honor.

Although the intensity of most obstacle events might seem over the top, in 2011 an estimated one million people registered for an adventure event and participation has only climbed from there.  Since 2010, 1.5 million more people have crossed the finish line of an obstacle race than a traditional marathon finish line.  It was clear obstacle racing’s popularity was officially booming when Runner’s World magazine featured the two-time “World’s Toughest Mudder” champion, Junyong Pak, as their athlete of the month in the October 2013 issue.

With fun and adventure comes risk.  Most obstacle racers walk away with the expected bumps and bruises, but the risk of broken bones, paralyzing injury or even death is real.  Compared to traditional road races the incidence of severe injury is noticeably higher, most likely due to the introduction of physically challenging and sometimes dangerous obstacles.  This brings to light the need for use of good judgment during an adventure race and the importance of proper training and preparation in-advance of race day. 

Whether it’s your first race or fifth race, training for the event is essential.  Obstacle racers need a blend of upper-body and core strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, coordination and mental toughness.  To feed the demand for obstacle based training TC Fit has added an Adventure Training class to our regular class line-up.  Fitness specialist, Nate Olson, challenges class attendees with high intensity body weight circuits, battle rope routines, TRX exercises, core strengthening sets and an unending number of other creative exercises.

The benefits of training for an adventure race extend well beyond the mud pits, monkey bars, and barbed wire obstacles of these wildly popular weekend events.  The outdoor summer season is right around the corner which for those of us living in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” means many weekend trips up north, hitting the miles of beautiful bike trails, portaging through the blissful terrain of the Boundary Waters or just finding more ways to spend more time outdoors.  Many of these activities are much more fun when our bodies are well prepared for the functional movement patterns required by our adventures.  For example, hauling a canoe from lake to lake along with paddling for hours on end requires more preparation than most realize until their first trip out into the wilderness of Minnesota’s most pristine landscape.  If you’ve trained and successfully completed an adventure race, chances are your body will be better prepared for the physical requirements needed to survive summer’s activities.

Curious about more ways to train for an obstacle race?   Contact the TC Fit fitness specialists for more information on training plans and injury prevention.