What Is Obstacle Racing?

The physical and mental benefits of obstacle racing are huge. In this episode, Get-Fit Guy talks about 3 compelling reasons why you should try an obstacle race.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #187

Reason #2: Full Body Training Effect

Obstacle course training and racing forces your body to cross-train in dozens of new movement patterns that build cardiovascular and musculoskeletal fitness, and also stress your joints and physiology in a variety of new ways. For example, in a typical obstacle training workout in my backyard in Washington state, I will:

  • Run up a gravel hill, pick up a sandbag, and carry the sandbag around the perimeter of my house.

  • Put down the sandbag, run over to a 30 foot rope, climb up, then descend.

  • Do 20 heavy tire flips.

  • Drag a cinder block attached to a chain 50 yards.

  • Run up a hill to a haybale, grab a homemade spear and throw it into the haybale from 10 yards.

  • Run back down the hill to the house and do 10 pull-ups and 30 burpees.

  • Repeat for 3 rounds.

As you can see, this type of full body workout is far better at building a “bulletproof” body compared to the typical weight training circuit at the gym.  

Reason #3: Ability to Conquer the Unknown

In a sport such as triathlon or running races like a 5K or a 10K, you always know the order of each leg of the race - I swim, then I bike, then I run. But in obstacle racing, you might get a quick glance at the map of 20 obstacles just before you set off for the race, with big question marks on the map where surprises might greet you.

In triathlon and running races, you know the exact distances of each leg. But in obstacle racing, you might start a race – a Spartan Sprint for example – knowing that you’ll be running somewhere “around 3 or 4 miles”.

In triathlon or running races, you generally know if we’re going to be on asphalt, concrete or gravel. But in obstacle racing, you don’t know the terrain of the course you’re about to encounter, and you might run on dirt trails, crawl through culverts, run through rocky river beds, scramble over sand dunes, or trudge through waist deep water.

In triathlon or running races, you can preview the course ahead of time. But in obstacle racing, you have no clue where you’re going until the starting smoke grenade is thrown.

Often, we exercise enthusiasts are notorious for being creatures of habit, and rigid in our training. But by doing an obstacle race, you’ll throw a curveball at your brain and your body, and learn valuable life lessons about how to physically and mentally deal with the uncertainty.

And I must admit, that feeling of danger and the unknown is actually quite exhilarating - so much so that I am now recommending to everyone I know that they need to do at least one obstacle race. So what are you waiting for? Go find a Tough Guy, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Atlas Race, Warrior Dash, Superhero Scramble, or any other variation of an obstacle race or mud run and experience life to the fullest!

If you have more questions about obstacle racing, then leave your thoughts and join the discussion over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy

Woman in obstacle race and man in obstacle race images courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.

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