How to Train for Born Survivor and other Obstacle Races
Written By: SportsShoes
Obstacle races such as Born Survivor are rising in popularity across the UK. It seems running a 5k, 10k or marathon just doesn’t cut the mustard for us anymore, so organisers have got inventive and have put together some truly glorious races to challenge and inspire.
WHAT EXACTLY IS AN OBSTACLE RACE?
Now, if you’re new to the world of obstacle course racing, you’re probably thinking, “What on EARTH…?” Very briefly, obstacle races are challenging running races held in a large parkland spaces or green fields which will cover a variety of different types of terrain (grass, sand, mud, etc.) dotted with sets of obstacles you must run, walk, crawl, climb, clamber or slither under, through or over.
You’re probably now thinking, “Why, JUST WHY would I want to put myself through that?” Well, here are some great reasons…
- Total body training: On top of good running fitness, you’ll also need some decent upper and lower body strength to get through the obstacles. This means training must focus on toning and conditioning other areas the body, not just legs.
- Camaraderie: Pulling together to help each other out is, for a lot of people, one of the best things about obstacle races. To get under, across or over these obstacles most of us need a little help, which comes either in the form of friends running with you or from other kind-hearted racers out to enjoy the event.
- A test of fitness: Probably the main reason why most people sign-up. Completing events like this – getting muddy and generally feeling like you’ve been put through the wringer but yet coming out in one piece – is definitely something to feel proud about.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Fundamentally obstacle races are running events. Distances can range from 5k through to a full marathon distance for the brave. With increasing numbers of people of different fitness levels signing up to race at these events, newer races are now offering a variety of distances and obstacle difficulties to increase their accessibility – they’re no longer just for the super fit.
Here’s just a taster of some of the many obstacles you will find at an obstacle race.
- Terrain: Be prepared to hit a whole smorgasbord of running terrain in just one race. Terrain can range from easy grassy inclines, through to steep muddy hills and thigh-high water courses.
- Tunnels: Now if you’re claustrophobic , don’t spend too much time reading this bit. Tunnel obstacles can be straightforward tubes to crawl through, or worse water filled muddy slither-spaces.
- Electrified obstacles: In the pursuit to make races harder and stand out from others, organisers are constructing all sorts of wicked ways to put their racers through hell. Some of the more interesting obstacles contain electrified wires hanging over muddy crawl spaces, which can deliver quite a nasty shock!
- Monkey bars, walls and ladders: If you have fond memories of school apparatus, then you’ll be licking your chops at climbing these sort of obstacles. At many races organisers construct large monkey bar gantries, walls and ladder frames across water courses or soft mud pits. If you don’t make it across, get ready for a big splosh. This is where you’ll be needing that team work and upper body strength.
TRAINING FOR OBSTACLE RACES
So how on earth do your train for something like this? Well, although the training may not be easy, it’s actually fairly straightforward.
It’s wise to focus 70% of your total training time on the run, aiming to improve running efficiency, technique and endurance. Firstly choose a run training plan that fits the distance of your obstacle race, the amount of time you have to train and your current fitness level.
When training, vary the terrain you train on; include plenty of off-road runs as well as tarmac. Try and also vary your run training techniques and add regular Fartlekking and interval runs. As well as adding variety to training this will help keep you motivated and not feeling bored during training:
Fartlek training: Originating from Sweden, this motivational training technique (translated as “speed play”) involves getting creative with your run and changing your speed from a slow to fast pace as and when you like.
Interval training: The ultimate way of training your anaerobic energy system to help develop power, endurance and aerobic fitness. Short sprint intervals (up to 15 seconds) will develop strength and power and longer intervals (between 20 seconds and several minutes) will develop stamina and endurance.
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING TRAINING
The other 30% of your total training time should be aimed at improving the strength and developing lean muscle in the upper and lower body for stamina. Adding bodyweight conditioning workouts to your weekly training plan is a great way of developing the strength required to climb and crawling over obstacles.
Here are some great examples of conditioning workouts…
Obstacle conditioning workout 1: In 15 minutes perform as many rounds as possible of the following, taking breaks as and when you need to:
- 30 alternating reverse lunges
- 25 squats
- 20 push-ups
- 5 pull-ups
- 400 metres running
Obstacle conditioning workout 2: Find a decent flight of stairs and perform three rounds of the following, taking breaks as needed (preferably at the end of the round):
- 8 x jump squats
- 10 x hand release push-ups
- 12 x side plank raises (each side)
- 15 x straight legged sit-ups
- 20-30 seconds stair sprint
Obstacle conditioning workout 3: Head to the park or gym and get set-up near the pull-up bars. If you’re not great a pull-ups then this one will help develop the grip strength required for a good pull-up, plus work those legs hard.
- 25 x jumping pull-up
- 10 x squat
- 20 x jumping pull-up
- 15 x squat
- 15 x jumping pull-up
- 20 x squat
- 10 x jumping pull-up
- 25 x squat