Hands up who took part in an obstacle course race this year? Did you love it? We bet you did. If you did it as a team, you may be wondering whether next time you’ll get a better time. Or if you did it for speed, you’ll be going through all the ways you could have shaved off vital seconds. Perhaps you’ve already done several, are totally hooked and are trying to get sponsored? Either way, our top 10 tips for improving your time at an obstacle course race are vital.
1. Get Ahead at the Beginning
Don’t get stuck behind people right from the start. Get to the start line early so you can take prime position for setting off – hopefully this way you’ll encounter less traffic.
2. Fuel Ahead of the Game
No matter how nervous you are, make sure you have a hearty breakfast. Each person’s different but porridge is great, as is brown toast and peanut butter. If you’re in a rush, an energy bar does wonders. Don’t forget to drink up too – depending on the weather, the last thing you want is to get de-hydrated; this will slow you down massively.
3. Be Comfortable in What You’re Wearing
Never ever wear something new on the day of the race. Always road test an item of clothing before you race it in. Who knows where unexpected chaffing could come from? Also ensure that you’re kitted out for the right type of a race. For example, if running features highly then a short-sleeved top could work better. However if there are lots of obstacles and you like to be covered, choose a long-sleeved top. Always make sure that long hair is tied back. There’s nothing worse than getting a muddy, wet hair all over your face at the exact moment you need to be able to see where you’re going… Headbands are very effective for shorter hair, with plaits being our favourite option for longer hair.
4. Have Good Shoes
If you’ve been racing in trainers, it’s time to step it up a gear. Whilst trainers are fine, there’s a lot to be said for ‘fell’ shoes which are generally used for hills and mountains. You’re looking for a shoe that’s light, grippy and durable. We especially love anything from Inov8 and the Reebok All Terrain Series.
5. Know the Route
Some races don’t reveal the route so if you’re taking part in one of those, search online for what obstacles you can expect. If you’re lucky enough to be able to see an outline of the route before, go through it so you know what’s ahead when you’re racing. There may be some obstacles you know you’re not so good at which would then pave the way for a special training session to focus on weaknesses.
Never get distracted from your goal – of getting to the end in the fastest time possible. If you wear blinkers then your concentration will never lapse and you’ll ensure each obstacle is completed without faff. Don’t worry about being rude when approaching a crowded obstacle – most people know that there are two types of OCR racer – those who do it to win and those who do it for fun. A polite ‘coming through’ usually works perfectly.
7. Pace Yourself
Depending on the length of the route, don’t exhaust yourself right at the start – you may have laps to complete or one long race, either way, you should make sure you’ve got energy left for the hardest part, the last quarter. Pacing will also help you avoid injuries – taking it steady and consistent will get you to the finish faster than if you run in short bursts.
8. On Penalty-Driven Races, Take Your Time
The Spartan Race is an obstacle course race where if you fall off an obstacle half way through or you fail to complete one you have to take a penalty in order to continue. In the case of the Spartan Race, it’s usually a set of burpees. No matter how much of a burpee king or queen you are, you’ll be faster not incurring these. And don’t forget that burpees will drain you of energy!
9. Get Fitter
This is a sure-fire way to be faster. A lot of obstacle course race winners are good runners – so if you’re a cross-fitter, get some runs in too. And ensure to work the whole of your body, focusing on upper body strength, core stability, leg strength and cardio. Get those covered and you’ll be well on your way to a good time.
10. Technique is Everything
As Richard Pringle from The Reebok Spartan Race said recently, ‘technique is everything’. It’s less about getting over obstacles in a flashy way and more about efficiency – what’s the least energy required to get over this obstacle? You don’t want to zoom through the first half, legs and arms akimbo, before realising you’re shattered for the last part. Getting through obstacles should look effortless.
Got any more tips to add?