Know Before You Go: Preparing for an Obstacle Course Race

Have you recently signed up or thinking about signing up for an obstacle course race? Then you are in for a unique fitness experience that will test your mind and body! Also, congrats for making that first step to thinking about getting involved in one. 

Obstacle course races come in different lengths from 5K runs to 10K runs with the number of courses varying. They’re not marathons that involve just long-distance foot races, but obstacle course races are a combination of track running, road, and/or trail running and have numerous obstacles set up in between the running.

Read below for some honest and useful tips on how to prepare for an obstacle course race because preparation is key, to anything.

Why you should join an obstacle course race

@from1girlto1world 🏃🏻‍♀️ Ever thought about doing an obstacle course race? Do it!! Here are 5 simple reasons why. Find one locally and then share this with a friend to bring along! 🎀 @MUDGIRLRUN Obstacle Race: This was so fun🤩 navigating around 17ish obstacles and being drenched in lots, lots of mud. Thanks to my girl Becky for encouraging us to go for it. Definitely had a lot of battle wounds from my knees to my one weak fingernail bleeding a lot lol to the dust irritating my lungs. But it’s ok because we survived💪🏼 #mudgirl #pinkarmy #mudgirlrun #obstaclerace #breastcancerawareness #breastcancerawarenessmonth #travelblogger #travelstories #travelwithme #travelwriter #bloggers #adventureanywhere #outdoortherapy #explorepage #liveauthentic #getoutside #getoutdoors #exploremore #arizonacollective #adventureseeker #fitnesslife #dohardthings #cancerawareness #octoberbaby #fundraising #obstaclecourseracing #runrunrun #workoutmotivation #runhappy #spartan ♬ Way Down We Go – Slowed – Ren

Do the basics.

After you sign up for an obstacle course race, you will most likely get a confirmation receipt with the details of the location and time and then you may get an email on a guide. Please save these and start marking down the location and time you have to be there on your calendar, along with saving the email of the ticket. Do not overlook anything sent in your inbox from the company of the obstacle course race.

Blogger joining MudGirl Obstacle Race, an annual event that happens in North America and Europe that raises funds for breast cancer charities and cancer research.
I joined MUDGIRL Obstacle Race, an annual event that happens in North America and Europe that raises funds for breast cancer charities and cancer research.

Do lots of physical training

Most obstacle course races are about the running, so prepare with cardio a few times each week before the race. Some cardio exercises you can do are uphill running, distance running, trail running, and if you feel like you need to keep it a bit controlled and easier, run on the treadmill. HIIT workouts are always a go-to to lean on for your overall strength.

There are going to be a few obstacles that require you to grip on things almost like monkey bars or mesh rope climbing so doing grip strength endurance exercises would be helpful. Some examples of these are getting on a bar and dead-hanging for 100 seconds, doing pull-ups on a bar, the farmer’s walk/carry exercise, and weighted pull-ups.

The farmer’s walk/carry exercise falls into this category of exercises too, but doing loaded carries for physical training will help you in doing the obstacles that require you to carry items with weight around your body. Some exercises to do for this are carrying a 60-pound sandbag up a hill multiple times, creating a tire sled with a used tire, and then putting a heavy sandbag on top of that and pulling that sled a few different ways.

Friends in an obstacle course race

Get your outfit together

You can just put on any athletic wear, but what you wear does matter how it’s going to protect you through the obstacles. I need to emphasize the shoes part first because your shoes will end up getting very dirty with the possibility of being stained. You should wear sneakers or trainers that you don’t care about risking, but I really do not recommend you throw them out just because they’re all muddy as I saw so many people did after the obstacle race I joined. You can wash the mud off your shoes and look like they never got into mud!

I recommend wearing long leggings, and workout shirts (NO cotton), or if you want to wear shorts, wear knee pads with them because there’s a high chance you will scrape your knees and get a few cuts and bruises. I know my friends and I all did. Do NOT wear boots, boots, skirts, any jewelry, or coats.

Consider wearing sports sunglasses or protective eye gear because they can prevent dust and mud from your eyes. This may be an obvious one, but don’t bother wearing eyeglasses and just opt for contact lenses.

Hot tip for how to wash your muddy clothes after your obstacle course race: Set your laundry machine with a pre-soak setting and then choose cold water with the heaviest soil. You’re welcome!

Eat right before you go

You need to fuel up before your big race! Make sure to eat breakfast 3-4 hours before you go and to eat dinner the night before at least 12 hours before the race day. For breakfast, try opting to get 400-600 calories of carbs (an ideal meal is two packets of instant oatmeal). Eating fruits is good too especially a banana. And make sure to hydrate with water and electrolytes the day before the race. I would avoid drinking caffeine like coffee before because that will just dehydrate you and make you want to go for “the runs”. Also according to 21 studies, cutting out caffeine for at least 7 days before using it at an event gives athletes the most benefits to reap regarding endurance performance.

Some safety tips to keep in mind

Now, let’s get to the most important thing regarding doing an obstacle course race: your safety. With any physical activity you do in life, there’s always a risk in something and the same applies to obstacle course races, of course. I wouldn’t recommend joining a race at all if you don’t have any health insurance to cover your back in case anything bad happens. But, here are some minor things to do before your race:

  • Make sure your nails are strong and it’s best not to have your nails done before the race or even a month before. I learned this the hard way from my own mistake as my brittle nail cracked during the race and led to lots of bleeding!
  • Remember to properly stretch before your race. Here’s a 5-minute warm up video that you can try.
  • Remember to wear lots of sunscreen all over, whether it’s a sunny or cloudy or rainy day.
  • Consider running on the sides of the course if it gets muddy and slippery and not run in the middle (where it’s most slick – you do not want to pull a muscle or roll an ankle).
  • It’s ok to walk if you do not want to or can run.
  • Stretch after the race.
  • Wash your body thoroughly in the shower after the race (also start rinsing in the rinsing stations if they’re available)… there will be LOTS of mud! Exfoliate for best results too and make sure to moisturize skin with lotion (or baby oil) as much as possible as the mud can make your skin dry.
  • Check your whole body for any scratches or bruises or unobvious injuries and treat them ASAP by washing them off with antibacterial soap and an antibiotic ointment.
  • Allow your body to recover after the next few days.

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