Remove the Walls of your Gym
Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) has been around for 5+ years now. It is considered the fastest growing sport in modern age. If you're debating on signing up and taking on an event that in some instances is marketed as the toughest challenge out there, you may be wondering "where do I start?" or "How do I train for this?". The answer to these questions is simple and can be found outside your back door. All the tools you need to prepare for an OCR are built within nature and within your city's trails, river valley, parks and suburbs.
One of the most attractive qualities about OCR is that it takes part in the great outdoors, amongst the fresh air and sunshine (most days). There are no walls or boundaries, and with that in mind there should be none when you train either. Meaning, you should train outside!
So how do I get ready for an OCR event? After a few Google searches and YouTube videos, it's pretty straightforward on what you can expect to run in to on the course. OCR has a few fundamental movements you can focus on. These moves consist of lifting heavy objects, carrying said objects from point A to point B. Climbing on, under and over structures such as walls and cargo nets, grip strength for using your upper body and of course running on trails, through water and up and down hills. Hopefully watching those videos didn't psych you out from considering an OCR event.
With those fundamental moves in mind, you can look at the great outdoors in an entirely different perspective. Put your creative juices in to action and began exploring the city; transform the great outdoors in to your great big gym. Think of it as the adult version of your favourite schoolyard playground growing up. Picture this; on a walk along the trails behind your home, you find a fallen log or boulder. These objects instantly transform in to tools to build functional strength and endurance. They could be used for carrying up hills, or weighted hikes. They could become your new dumbbells for building strength in your back, arms, shoulders and legs. You decide to ditch the heavy weight and continue up the trail a little further. At some point you may come across a retaining wall, a fence or a strong tree. May seem awkward or silly at first, but these are the perfect tools for building your climbing abilities, calling on all types of functional strength in your legs, back, arms and hands. Since you live within the city you likely will pass by a playground or two on your journey. Jackpot! You just found the right avenue to work on grip strength and test your ability to get through tough obstacles like monkey bars, the slippery wall (think running up a slide) and simply running through mud or sand.
When it’s all said and done, keeping these fundamentals in mind, will turn a pleasant run or walk along the city’s trails, in to a full body workout, playing off your strengths and teaching you your weaknesses, preparing your for the experience that is to come once you arrive at the starting line and ready to take on your next obstacle course race.
What you’ll find over time as you prepare for an OCR event is that the health benefits don’t come when you reach the goal of fighting your way through the mud and obstacles and across the finish line, but the journey that takes place between the time you sign up and the time you show up the day of the race. The benefit comes from the hours upon hours of going on adventures through the city’s vast trails. Taking in the sunshine and fresh air as you climb up hills and over miles of gravel paths. The moment when stones and trees that were once scenery, now became your tools to build strength and confidence. And at the end of the day, it is the community of friends, turned family you’ve met along the way who you passed on the trails weeknights after a stressful day at work, or the hand that gave you a boost over the 8” wall you never imagined climbing over when you were muddy, wet and tired on course. The idea got you started and the journey is what helped you finish.
So what if I'm not training towards an obstacle race? That's ok, the tools found in nature, can be utilized to help you achieve any goal you set your mind to. Regardless if you're goals are to earn the summer body you've always fantasizes about having, trying to beat your own personal records, or improve upon your athletic performance; the outdoors is the answer.
Here’s a secret that not many people talk about. When you're outside, time has no meaning, nor does your feeling for being tired or exhausted. Your mind wanders and your focus shifts from how long do I need to workout, to where will this adventure take me and what can I do out here?