A couple of months ago, post-wedding and pre-honeymoon, a friend of my husbands asked “You like running and blogging, right? Do you want a place in an obstacle race? I’ll shower you with Kabuto Noodles.” Being a lover of noodles, I said yes. I’ll be honest: I was focusing mostly on the noodles at this point and not really thinking about the other bit. I’m a girl who loves her sofa and having no plans; I probably should have thought harder about the drastic change in lifestyle required.

obstacle race
Image from Dirty Dozen Races

The event was a Dirty Dozen obstacle race, made up of a 12k distance peppered with 20+ major obstacles. Some of them look fun, with giant climbing frames and muddy hills for clambering. Some of them… less so. I’m not sure about you, but my idea of a fun Saturday afternoon doesn’t generally involve being casually electrocuted (except on very special occasions.) Though the obstacles are daunting, there’s a team of friendly, muscular people on hand to help you out if you – understandably – can’t haul yourself up a 6ft vertical wall.

Training begins… and ends

I started researching what I was actually going to need to train for, and creating something of a training plan. I spoke to a school friend who now does these races pretty often and has bigger biceps than Tarzan. I googled my little brain out. I started training. I completed a whole TWO sessions at the gym. And then… my running injury returned. My IT band had a bit of a fit and decided for itself that I wasn’t going to be running that race. The combination of running and a return to weight training had knackered it, and I had to pull out (sorry Tom!)

However, I did learn about the training during my brief spell as an obstacle race trainee, and got some great advice with friends. So why not share the knowledge, eh?

Don’t worry if you can’t do every obstacle

It’s okay not to be able to nail every single thing. Some people’s legs tire more quickly than their arms, and it’s difficult to train for the situation you’re going to be in. But give each obstacle a go, rather than skipping them; there are people to help pull you up and over, and it’s better to have tried and failed a couple of times.

(If you injure yourself, obviously skip it. Skip them all and get the hell outta there. Get medical treatment. And ice cream. We don’t judge.)

obstacle race
Image from Dirty Dozen Races

Focus your training

An obstacle race requires full-body fitness – you’ll be pulling yourself up and over things, swinging your legs for balance, scrambling along under nets, walking over moving things… you’ll need strength everywhere. By focusing on compound exercises that work more than one area at once, you’ll be training efficiently. Suggested moves that mimic some of the actions you’d take during an obstacle races are:

  • Box jumps
  • Mountain climbers
  • Jump squats
  • Lunges
  • Pull ups
  • Push ups

It’s also good to do some general “running and jumping around” exercises – try a 20m bear crawl, laying flat on your stomach and pulling yourself to standing a few times, bounding and running backwards. 

Don’t neglect the running

The obstacles might be the scary bit of the race, but don’t forget that you’ll need to run between them. Unless you’re running a 20-mile race you don’t need to worry about this tooooo much, but some sprint training will help your running, AND increase your overall fitness. 

obstacle race

Add some 100m interval sprints into your circuit training to get your pulse racing, and turn those legs to jelly!

Bring your cosy things

When you’ve finished the race, you’re going to be exhausted, wet, muddy and, probably, cold. Take some comfy, dry clothes to change into when you’re done (most races will have some form of public and embarrassing shower) that you don’t mind getting a little bit muddy. Changing out of your wet clothes will help keep you nice and toasty, and will feel umpteen times better than trying to get home in mud-caked leggings.


Do you have any tips for first time obstacle racers?


Disclaimer: I was offered the Dirty Dozen race place and noodles, and asked to share my experience; I wasn’t obligated to write a positive post. Plus I didn’t even do the race. Boo!

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