You may think that you have to be a ninja or spend hours training for an obstacle course race…I’m going to tell you why you don’t and break down some common training mistakes that I often see people doing.

I believe there are four main components to OCR training, these are:

  1. Strength training – functional training with emphasis on the movements and muscle groups required to complete the obstacles
  2. Training outside in all weather conditions on terrain similar to what you’ll be racing on (when possible)
  3. Pairing cardio such as Running or HIIT (Burpees, jump squats, etc) with strength exercises to mimic race conditions and fatigue
  4. Mental strength – training to push through the “I can’t” voice and the sore muscles to finish the race


I’ll explain more about these in detail below:

Strength training – you will need a lot of strength to complete some of the obstacles – being able to push and pull your own body weight is a huge advantage when taking on an obstacle course race.  Grip strength or the ability to hang and move your body across an obstacle without touching the ground, is one of the number one things that I most often hear people say that they would like to improve.  A common mistake many people make is to not do enough strength training, they think that the race will be like a typical running race and focus too much on the cardio of running and not enough on the strength training aspects.


Training outside – You won’t be racing in a climate controlled gym – you’ll be outside at the mercy of Mother Nature with possible rain, wind and snow coming at you.  The ground is uneven at most OCR’s (mud, dirt tracks, trails, roots, rocks, grass, etc) and it is a lot harder to run on than a treadmill.  If you haven’t trained outside it will be hard to race outside.


Pairing cardio with strength – I like to incorporate Run & Strength and HIIT workouts into all of my clients’ programs – they mimic the race conditions of running and then hitting a strength based obstacle when you’re fatigued.  Doing obstacles after running for 20-30 minutes is a lot harder than just practicing on them with fresh legs.


Mental Strength – this is something that no one realizes is as important as it is until they are right in the middle of a race and feel like quitting.  There are a lot of strategies I use to build mental strength but one of the best ones I’ve found is pushing through the hard workouts, especially when you want to quit, which is one of the advantages to working out with a group – you tend to work harder than you would on your own.

Some common training mistakes I see many people making are:

  • Running but not strength training – like I said above, you’re running but stopping to complete obstacles along the way so while a cardio base is important so is the strength to complete the obstacles
  • Lifting lots of weights but never doing any cardio – I’ve seen big body builders on the course dying from the cardio of running – they do great on the heavy lifts but struggle with the run and stop and distance of the race
  • Overtraining – when it comes to exercise more is not always better – the trick is to work out smarter not harder. To have the right workouts in the right amounts in your program that will help you reach your goals.  Training all the time with no rest or recovery can lead to injuries and put you out for the whole season.


I don’t think that training always has to be fancy, in fact you can do a lot with body weight, a playground and a few things you have hanging around your garage or that you can buy for a reasonable price at your local hardware store.  This is the philosophy behind my newest program OCR at Home – it’s an online program that delivers weekly OCR training workouts to your phone with weekly check ins and coaching to help keep you on track. Hiring a coach who has been there and knows how to train for these races and what it takes to finish them (and who has learned a lot of stuff the hard way!) is definitely an investment worth making.

Get started with your race training with these four FREE workouts I put together that incorporate everything I’ve talked about in this post:

–> Download your Free workout guide HERE <–

Do you have a favourite way to train?

Happy Racing,