In the multipart series, Dominate Every Obstacle, we examined the essential components of a successful obstacle race training program. Part One, Lungs and Legs focused on cardiovascular fitness including long distance runs, hill sprints and speed work. Part Two, Race Strength, detailed strength training techniques that are functional, compound and dynamic. Lastly, Part Three, Race Specific Skills discussed how to train the exact skills needed to navigate the challenges encountered during an obstacle course race.
Armed with this knowledge, we are now able to construct a theoretical mock-up of an obstacle race training routine.
Assuming you are training five days per week, the routine should feature two run specific workouts, two strength specific workouts and one “hybrid” or combination workout.
When programming your run workouts into the training week, be sure to allow one day for a long steady-state run. This will train your body to regulate a steady heart rate over an extended distance, while conditioning your legs to take the pounding. The specific distance of your race will dictate the length of your run. If you are training for a 7 mile race, you will need to build up to a 7 mile run, at minimum. Run workout number two will change from week to week, alternating among hill sprints, intervals, and tempo runs. Hill sprints can be conducted on a short, steep hill or a long, steady incline. These sprints can be resisted or un-weighted for 4-10 repeats. Intervals may include Fartlek efforts, Tabata sprints, or track based workouts like 400 meter repeats. Finally, during a tempo run that covers 3-5 miles, depending on the length of your race, you are attempting to run at or around 80-85% of your maximum heart rate for the entire run. This run should take you out of your comfort zone, causing heavy breathing and burning in the legs.
Strength workouts begin with a dynamic warm-up of un-weighted exercises and skill work. Lunges, bodyweight squats, push-ups, and jump rope are solid options. Next, focus on one or two compound exercises using a barbell. Deadlift, front or back squat, power cleans, or other Olympic based movements are most desirable. The goal is to use a heavy, challenging weight that still allows for the execution of proper lifting form and body positioning. Sets and reps are in the range of 5×5, 8×3, or 12×2, where you are progressively increasing weight each set.
After completing this portion of the workout, allow 3-5 minutes of rest before moving on to more dynamic, explosive, and un-weighted exercise. Select 3-5 plyometric, bodyweight, or kettlebell exercises and complete a circuit-style workout of 3-5 rounds. You may also elect to include race specific skills like grip training or rope climbs into this portion of the workout. For example, try 10x box jump, 10x push-up, 20x kettlebell swing, and 5x pull-up for 4 rounds with minimal rest before finishing up your workout with a cool-down and foam rolling if necessary.
In addition to the run and strength specific workouts, a “hybrid” workout will combine components of strength and cardiovascular training into one workout. Ideally, this workout will also feature some attempt to train race specific skills. When possible, take this workout outdoors to alter your training environment and mimic the setting of the race. Combining running intervals or sled pushes or pulls with bodyweight or kettlebell exercise is a great start. If you are able to get your hands on oversized tires or weighted sandbags, this would be the time to flip, carry, or throw them around.
A sample hybrid workout would look something like this:
5x Alternate Lung (each Leg)
10x BW Squat
5x Lateral Lunge (each leg)
5 minutes of easy Jog and dynamic movements: High-knees, Butt-kicks, Bounding, Reverse Run, etc.
Run @ 400m
25x KB Swing
Run @ 400m
Tractor Tire Flip @ 25 yards
Run @ 400m
25x KB Thruster
Run @ 400m
Repeat 3-5 times, and then cool down.