No Fear for Obstacle First-timers


It can be daunting to prepare yourself physically and mentally for your first obstacle race, especially if you don’t know what to expect, but this simple advice will get you to the start line and across the finish line. – BY SEAN FALCONER

If you’ve got your first obstacle race pencilled into your diary in the next few months – and chances are good that you do, given that the Impi Gauteng #2 is on 24 September, while the Jeep Warrior #7 (10 October) and Impi Cape Town #2 (17-18 October) both take place in Stellenbosch, along with a few other events on the calendar – then you’ll appreciate a bit of good advice to prepare yourself for the big day. Obstacle racing has exploded in popularity all around the world in the last few years and more people are venturing into the mud and obstacles for the challenge, fun and buzz, so you’ll be part of a global move.

Obstacle races are great fun, but require fitness, endurance, strength, agility, coordination and flexibility. You will get far on enthusiasm, but the key to a great race and minimising post-race soreness is training and preparation, so give yourself time to get your body ready for it, especially if all you’ve been doing is straight running. If so, chances are good that you’ve been neglecting your upper body, and those first few climbing or lifting obstacles will soon let you know that a bit of time in the gym would have been a good idea before the race…

Find the Fun in Training
When you do your training, try to inject some fun into things. For example, instead of just going for a run, throw in regular stops to do push-ups or burpees, or add some strength drills such as pull-ups or lifting of heavy objects. This will simulate the actual race, as you will run from obstacle to obstacle, and will add some extra stimulation and challenge to your training. Playgrounds are therefore a great option for training venue, as you can run loops and return to your ‘obstacles.’ Even better, get your friends to join in and really make the sessions fun.

Obstacle races can feature a wide range of movements, including pulling, jumping, climbing, carrying, balancing and crawling. If possible, try to find out about the obstacles in your upcoming race so that you can prepare properly for them, by incorporating activities or drills in your training that mimic or compliment those movements – and most of the training programmes or advice for obstacle racing suggest that you incorporate at least two strength work sessions per week into your training programme.

Enjoy the race!
If you want to race for time or a good position, go for it, but if this is your first obstacle event, the best advice is to relax, take it slow, enjoy the vibe, keep your sense of humour, enjoy a joke and a chat with fellow racers, help strangers over obstacles, and get through your first one still smiling. Obstacle racing is almost guaranteed to make you feel like a kid again, so get out there with your mates, have fun getting dirty together, and just enjoy the experience. The racing can come later, once you have some experience and know what to expect from obstacle racing – and then you’ll see how easy it is to design creative training workouts to get you ready for your next obstacle expedition.