In addition to endurance and strength, you need balance, speed, agility, coordination and mental strength to overcome the many obstacles during an obstacle run. Professional obstacle runner and PowerBar athlete Charles Franzke explains how best to manage a run and what to consider when training.
The right equipment makes it easier.
In OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) you don’t need any special equipment, but you should pay attention to a few points. Your running clothes should be functional, as there are often water hazards. Anyone who has ever been in the water with a cotton shirt knows that it’s no fun – that’s why you need functional running clothes. Gloves aren’t always necessary. As long as the obstacles are dry, you’ll get enough grip with some good garden gloves. But when it gets wet or muddy, the gloves won’t serve their purpose any more. In this situation, bare hands are much better. A shoe recommendation varies based on the terrain. In general, shoes should have a good profile, which should be chosen in-depth and shape according to the appropriate conditions. Road running shoes are not recommended. Performance materials such as water-repellent fabrics are also not recommended since water can get in and stay inside the shoe. The upper material should be robust yet permeable to water. For long distances, a drinking belt or backpack can be very useful.
“What makes Obstacle Runs stand out? The versatility of the challenges and the cohesion between the participants.”
Good preparation is half the battle.
To be well prepared for the start, you need proper training. All elements should be considered during training (endurance, strength, speed, balance, coordination and dexterity). As a general rule, endurance is the absolute foundation that is rounded out with relevant strength training. It’s also possible to combine running and strength training, since strength training can offer a nice variation to your normal run. For example, you can complete a strength exercise after every kilometre in order to simulate an obstacle. The best strength exercises are those with your own body weight. It’s particularly recommended to practice pull-ups using different grip types. In OCR you have to constantly move your own body weight over obstacles. A targeted workout is a pull-up program with 6x 10 pull-ups in different grip types (e.g. 2x classic grip, chin-up and hammer grip). If normal pull-ups are still too difficult, you can use a support such as an expander.
“Good technique can save you a lot of time and energy.”
Technical training for the obstacles.
Technique training for an obstacle course is highly recommended. It’s best to train the technique on real obstacles, similar to those found in the actual race. If you want to do intensive technique training, there’s the possibility to get valuable tips on a specific course. The course from Runtopia in Döhlau/Germany is highly recommended. There you have a very large selection of different obstacles. Good technique can save you a lot of time and energy. For example, it’s possible to scale an almost 3m high slanted wall in under 5 seconds. To achieve this, you have to run towards the wall with speed and courage, take a strong step into the wall and let the speed carry you upwards. As soon as you reach the edge, pull yourself up and bring one foot on top. Once you’ve reached this point, you’ll master the wall without any problems.
Most of all, of course, obstacle courses are fun! The world of OCR is quite diverse and colourful. Whether a beginner or a professional, whether an endurance or a strength athlete, everybody can utilize their individual assets in an OCR. Together with friends and comrades-in-arms, you can push your personal limits. I wish you all much success!
About Charles Franzke
Charles Franzke discovered his love for obstacle runs in the German Armed Forces while marching long kilometres while carrying heavy bags. A sports enthusiast since his earliest youth (swimming, biathlon), Charles Franzke has now devoted himself entirely to OCR. When he’s not training for an event himself, he helps others achieve their goals through coaching and training.