Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The challenge of obstacles

Since I have been competing in obstacle course races (OCR's) it has given me new ideas for training.  Mostof the races consist of 3-6 mile distances, and take anywhere from 26 minutes to an hour.  Running for 3 or 6 miles is not too challenging, especially if the course is flat that you run on.  Add some hills and it can change everything

However, running for a 1/4 mile, stopping and doing several exercises (or an obstacle) can make those 3 or 6 miles seem much more challenging.  This is what I have been working on the last few weeks is the non-steady (start and stop) running.

As a former ultra-endurance mountain bike racer, I have been accustomed to getting into my "tempo" during an event and trying to maintain that for 6-24 hours.  I became very good at controlling my HR and stabilizing my energy levels.  Nutrition was a huge factor in that, but I also trained my body and muscles to push a certain pace for hours on end (without going over my threshold).

The break in rhythm of running takes a toll not only on the cardiovascular system but also the muscular system.  Besides, most of the running is not at a "tempo" or controlled pace.  Because of the short distances between obstacles I am running at or near my threshold.  Then when navigating an obstacle I try to conserve energy and not expend too much.  Sometimes this can be very difficult and then as a result the running will slow down to try and recover.

A few of the obstacles that seem to effect the flow of flow of running during an obstacle race are the following:

     Repeated wall climbs - four to six 8 foot walls spaced 10 feet apart from each other.  This really takes a lot of energy to get your body up and over the walls and when you go to run to the next obstacle it can take a while to get back up to race speed.
     Short mounds of mud/dirt - this may not seem challenging to those watching, but having to run up short mounds of man-made hills (10 feet tall) breaks the running rhythm and can use lots of energy doing so, especially if the mud/dirt is wet and slippery.  Lots of stabilizing muscles will be called on to help get you over them and can zap the needed energy to sprint to the net obstacle.
      Over/Under Hurdles - If there are several of these in a row, these can completely slow down your running.  Most races will have a section of logs that you have to hop over and crouch under for several yards.  Doing this effectively will use lots of core strength and requires lots of jumping, which will always tire the legs.

The list could go on, but these are just a few of the one's I have experienced recently that have altered my running in between each obstacle.

When having to navigate an obstacle, you want to go as fast as you can, but you also have to take your time as in some races it could cost you many burpees if you don't complete the obstacle (fall off the balance beam, hopping from one log stump to another, etc).  And, going to fast when your shoes are wet over an A-Frame wall could cause you to fall and result in a pretty serious injury.

Obstacle course races are a great way to help develop mental toughness, how to overcome fears, how to accomplish something you may not have thought you could, and to get a good workout in.  It can be a great way for a team or company to help teammates/employees work together and build a better bond between each other.  

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