By Rob Sulaver, C.S.C.S Men's Fitness
So you want to do an adventure race? Here's how to prepare.
THE WALL/MOUNTAIN CLIMB
“Here’s something random, climb over it.”
Best way to train: old school pull-ups, just like high school gym class. These will be included in your resistance workouts—done twice per week—3 sets of 10-12 reps. Upper body pull development will be helpful for many of the obstacles you’ll face. As a strategy note, any time you’re climbing over stuff, try to get your legs involved. Good climbers make it easy on themselves.
“Here’s a long sewer-like tube. Make like a rat and crawl through it.”
Best way to train: Bear crawls—it's exactly what you'll be doing on race day, so be sure to include them in your training. At a random point during your run - 100 yards of bear crawl. In the weight room - 45º dumbbell press. Again 3 x 10-12 to be paired with your pull-ups. You'll develop the upper body strength and stability to manage these tubes with ease.
LOW CARGO NET (AKA "THE DEVIL'S BEARD")
“We hung this net obnoxiously low and you need to crawl under it.”
Best way to train: Duck Walks. Sure they look a little funny, but nobody will be laughing when you make this obstacle look like a joke. Do 100 yards of duck walks also at a random interval during each run. As for your resistance training—deep squats. So long as you're injury free and have the mobility to make it happen, going below parallel is very beneficial for your knees. Deep squats will prepare your quads, knees, and back for the awkwardness that awaits you. 3 x 10-12.
“Run up this.”
Best way to train: Stairs, stair climber, or a Jacob’s Ladder. Plan your running routine to include some stairs or bleachers. I wouldn’t recommend doing your distance work on a treadmill, but if you must, hop off and use the stair climber or Jacob’s Ladder for 3 hard minutes. It’ll break up your cardio and prepare your calves and quads for this obstacle. As for you resistance training, include seated calf raise. Also 3 x 10-12. Your ankles and calves are going to be working overtime during the race—stabilizing and exploding. Get them strong and you’ll be faster and less injury prone.
“Get over this massive mound of tires.”
Best way to train: High knee sprints. Also included in your distance training. Do 100 yards of high knee sprints at a different random interval during your run. In the weight room, include hanging knee-ups. They'll get your abs and hip flexors ready for the pit (and also help you with your incline running). 3 x 15. Use a medicine ball or ankle weights if 15 reps are easy.
“Pack a tire on your back and carry it for a while.”
Best way to train: Sand bag carry and/or buddy carry. Finish off your runs by carrying something heavy—like your training partner or your dog. Alternate every 100 yards (unless you’re carrying your dog—then don't alternate). In the weight room—sandbag fireman carry—80 yards. You’ll develop the core strength and stability to carry whatever they throw your way.
Honestly, the fire pits at these races aren’t exactly the burning skin-melting infernos that I imagined them to be (for obvious reasons). But you still need to get over ‘em.
Best way to train: Picnic table jumps. Develop your explosive power with plyometrics. To be included in your runs at random intervals - I like the rule “any time you see a picnic table do 5 box jumps.” In the weight room - squat jumps. These will also develop your explosive power and challenge your conditioning to help not only with the fire pit, but the entire race.
“Here’s a really big obstacle, so we’ll give you a rope so you can get over it.”
Best way to train: If you have a rope, climb it. But as an alternative, finish each lift with a max dead-hang from a towel. It’ll train your grip to handle the thick rope. This, in combination with the pull-up routine at the beginning of the workout, will get you monkeying over any roped obstacle they throw your way.
“You see this massive mud hole. Jump in it.” The mud plunge is usually a relatively easy obstacle—it’s the running afterwards that gets tough.
Best way to train: Do some of your distance running in the rain. You’ll get used to your shoes, sox, and shirt being soaking wet and you might even decide to invest in some different gear (hint: cotton athletic socks are your enemy).
“Just like the playground in elementary school—you know the drill.”
Best way to train: Don’t be afraid to run by the local play ground and give the monkey bars a twirl to get your form down. Just try not to scare the kids away. As a strategy note, be sure to take your time on this obstacle—it’s usually time-costly to fall off these things, especially if there’s another mud pit below.
The fact is, if you want to be competitive, most adventure races are still about running. Sure you need a strong, athletic body in order to complete some of the obstacles, but the people who win these races are runners. So above all else, make sure your running is up to par.