Written By: Evan Perperis, NSCA-CPT
Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is a sport that stresses the body of the hybrid athlete. Requiring athletes to simultaneously train for strength and speed can lead to problems, confusion and reoccurring mistakes. Once people have their weekly set routine down, these mistakes frequently come to the surface for the OCR athlete looking to take his training to the next level.
Mistake 1: Focusing on your strengths
Everyone does it, it’s just a matter of how bad everyone does it. Those that are good at obstacles love practicing their obstacle technique. Those that are good at running continue to run a lot without reducing volume so they fail to develop the strength required to complete harder obstacles. After your next race, take a look at where you had trouble, if you passed every obstacle with ease, your weakness lies in your speed, so focus on that for your next training block. If you failed an obstacle, you can focus on the muscles and specific movements for that specific obstacle.
Mistake 2: Racing Too Often
If you are an OCR athlete, chances are you are making this mistake. I am definitely guilty of this and I know it. I know the races are a lot of fun, but it is not the best method for improvement. For those that are just looking to have a great time, set personal records for number of races run or just lose some weight, then keep on racing every weekend. If your goals lie in getting your best placement possible, then you need to pick and choose your “A, B and C” races.
Mistake 3: No long term scheduling
This ties directly into the Mistake 2. If you are racing every weekend, chances are your long term scheduling is not there. Your training should have build periods followed by a taper before you race. For your “A” races, a 2-3 week taper after a serious four month training period is recommended. At most you should have 2-3 “A” races a year. For “B” races, which may or may not occur during your “A” race training, a short one week taper is recommended. For your “C” races, a 1-2 day taper is recommended. This will help prioritize your races, avoid you from racing too often, and create a long term schedule for improvement.
Mistake 4: Not being patient
I see this one fairly often too. “I have been running for a month, but can’t seem to improve my placement in OCRs”. Physical improvement takes time. Your success is built upon months of training, which stands upon a base of years of experience. Do not expect to go from “I can’t run the complete length of an OCR” to standing on the podium in a couple of weeks. Keep putting in hard work month after month, year after year and enjoy the journey.
Mistake 5: Not being consistent
Mistake 5 directly ties back into Mistake 4. To improve, consistency is key. Your ability to become stronger and faster requires consistent training. I personally have seen this over my own athletic career having achieved a marathon PR every two years for more than a decade. Sometimes the PR was an improvement of twenty minutes, other times it was two minutes. The result was cutting my marathon PR by an hour and a half between 2003 and 2014 (I’ve since switched over completely to OCR). Without consistent training I would not have improved and neither will you.
Now that you know these are frequent problems amongst OCR athletes, make sure you watch out for them in your own training and if helping friends or clients get ready for a race. For more great tips on training strength and endurance training specifically for OCR athletes, pick up my book “Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite Obstacle Course Racing”.
Evan Perperis, NSCA-CPT
Hammer Nutrition Sponsored Athlete
Owner, Strength & Speed