Shit will become cray-cray.
Regardless of how you think it will go down (or *if* it even will), we will need to prepare for it.
The truth is, we will all have our own personal apocalyptic moments far before the zombie insurrection or nuclear holocaust. While mine might be a grizzly bear encounter, yours might be something as common as just having to rush to the hospital.
We can call these “obstacles to life”.
Having completed 2 actual obstacle courses this summer, I can honestly say these simulate “when the shit hits the fan” moments pretty well.
My team and I recently ran the Dirty Donkey Mud Run. We registered for the elite category (Kick Ass) and our captain donned a go pro to capture the footage.
This isn’t a post to sell you on why you should run these, however, but rather on how to prepare for when you do.
THE 2 SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES
Obstacles courses are generally 5 km in length, have anywhere from 10 – 20 obstacles, and are a great tool to uncover your weaknesses.
If all you do is run for preparation, however, these will suck. Along the same token if all you do is strength train, once again, these will suck.
Here’s how not to suck:
BALANCE STRENGTH AND CARDIO
To run an obstacle course without dieing requires us to not only have good control of our own weight but be able to lift external weight as well. For the former, I am referring to relative strength (i.e pushups, pullups, jumping, running) and for the latter, absolute strength (carrying logs, pressing pipes and such, and pulling things such as crates).
To develop this strength, following a program that is a hybrid of gymnastics and strongman will yield the most results.
While you will need strength to bypass many obstacles, it is actually your levels of cardio that will make or break you (and by “cardio”, I mean simply how well you can breathe).
Like I discussed in How to Win a Race (Without Running), we don’t necessarily need to run long distances to develop our cardio. In fact, I haven’t ran further than 400 meters this year yet I took 4th in this last race (despite wearing a #20 pound vest). I credit this to 3 things:
- My training consists of short, very intense workouts
- ZMA supplementation
- Using stimulants pre-workout
Note: I explain these more fully here.
The one exercise that will stress both these attributes beyond belief is hill sprints. Not only are these a great upper-body and core exercise (surprisingly), but they will give you insight into whether your lungs are up to par or not.
LEARN HOW TO SHIFT GEARS
When we do high-intensity exercises such as sprinting, an all-out set of pushups, or we are simply excited / nervous before a race, our heart rate increases.
It does this in large part so that it can pump more oxygen to our cells. This is a good thing. It becomes a bad thing, however, when it is allowed to stay high. When this happens, we can overheat.
With regular running (see: steady state) we typically don’t have to worry about this since we run at the same pace and our HR tends to mirror that. And with strength training, our heart rate sky rockets, but since we rest a lot more, it is allowed to recover. With obstacle courses, however, we don’t get this rest since we are doing both running and strength exercises.
2 ways we can face this:
#1 Ignore it
The faster you can address your high heart rate, the better (and more comfortable) the rest of the race will be. You don’t, however, even have to pay attention. I have ran many races where I allowed it to stay high and didn’t focus on my breathing. Did I feel like crap afterwards? Absolutely. I think I probably even killed some brain cells.
#2 Calm yourself
Obstacle courses are largely stop-and-go. It is when we are at “breaks” (the slower parts of the race), that we will want to slow down our breathing as well. This will become especially important sometime near the start of the race. During this time, we naturally run faster and may or may not be hyped on caffeine.
As you can see, I started the race like a bullet. If I wanted to survive the next +4 km, however, I needed to take a moment to steady my heart rate. I did this once I hit a straight stretch of running and by simultaneously slowing down my speed (slightly) while focusing on big, slow belly breaths, I was able to shift to 2nd gear (or “second wind”) within a a minute.
This isn’t anything new but once we become stressed out and totally embroiled into what we’re doing, we tend to forget about this little breathing aspect. Even as I write this, I notice my breathing is shallow. Breathe, Levi, breathe…
The best workouts to practice this “shifting” will be Crossfit as many of their workouts combine running, high reps, and strength exercises with little or no rest.
DID YOU SURVIVE?
Have you already ran an obstacle course?
What helped (or what didn’t)?