Now I know not everyone is into racing as it is not their preferred mode of challenging themselves, but for those of you who want to take the leap, are curious about taking the leap, or have taken the leap and need some guidance I’d like to share with you my method of preparation from beginning to end.
Ready … Set … Go!
First things first, whether you are thinking about a race or have picked a race to do, understand the demands of what it is you are about to undertake.
What’s the distance?
What are the modes you will be utilizing? (Running, cycling, swimming, climbing, etc.)
Understanding these things will help you start to craft your approach to being ready to compete against yourself and give it your highest performance.
Since my experience lies within the realm of obstacle racing, I will primarily use it as the rubric for my examples to help illustrate the mindset and approach to preparation.
Tomorrow I will be competing in the Spartan Sprint. It is just over 3 miles of ground coverage and 15+ obstacles that include climbing, crawling, and jumping.
So from that alone, I can draw that I need to be able to move from point A to B over a distance of 3+ miles, and need the upper and lower body strength to move my own bodyweight over, under, and through things.
So if one needs to train to travel a set distance, then it only makes sense part of your training should include moving that distance. So include it in your training!
Of course, never, ever, ever, think overdoing it will improve your results. In fact, it will do just the opposite.
So how does one train for a distance like that?
Start by conquering the mile.
Three times per week, add a mile (run/walk/jog) in to your training. If you are starting from the walk, work up to the jog, from the jog to the run, from the run, to better time.
Once you can comfortably run the distance of a mile at a steady running pace, you are ready to start pushing the distance factor.
Drop your frequency down to twice per week, and focus on trying to complete 2 miles. Once you can maintain a run for this duration, it’s time to “go that extra mile.”
Now, drop your frequency to once per week and focus on the 5K (3.1 miles roughly.)
This will be your primary running training for the duration (if you are trying to compete in a 5k that is, if the distance is greater, keep your frequency to once a week, and continue adding a mile when you reach your next steady state level) so it is important to track your times and try to improve each go.
As supplemental training to help increase your endurance, interval training can be pivotal. Up to twice per week, take 10 – 20 minutes of your workouts and focus on peaking your heart rate for a solid minute (work up to a minute if it is too difficult at first) and then for the subsequent minute, reel it back and let your heart rate recovery. Do as many of these “On-Off” intervals as you can, increasing the number of intervals each session (no need to go beyond 20 minutes just focus on more speed at that point.)
Alright! So we mapped out our plan for cardiovascular endurance to hit the goal of 3+ miles.
But now … what about the strength to carry our body through obstacles?
Do not fear! Take an objective look at what the activities could conceivably be.
Those are some good starting points.
When we look at our muscular system as we have before, we are divided into pushing and pulling muscles. Strangely enough, for an activity such as climbing, pushing and pulling muscles work in tandem.
What do I mean by this?
Well, consider the climbing form. You use your upper body to pull your weight towards a designated height, and your legs to push your bodyweight towards that designated height.
So right there we understand that the pulling muscles of the upper body will be very important and we should train to be able to pull at least our own bodyweight. Simultaneously, knowing we need to push our own bodyweight with our legs, we then understand that we need to train to be able to do just that.
For weighted exercises that work these muscles in exactly the way we need, we can utilize the Lateral Pull-down, and the Seated Row (for our back and arms.) For our legs we can use Squats and Lunges.
For bodyweight training we can do pull-ups (utilizing over hand, under hand, and neutral grips) and perform bodyweight squats and scissor lunges.
Jumping? Well, once again, that’s your pushing leg muscles! But … if you’re going to be jumping, why not practice … jumping?
Pulling, well, we’ve already covered that!
Carrying? There are a plethora of carrying exercises we can do to work on this one, be it suitcase carries, farmer walks, or medicine ball stair carries.
So, to wrap all that up in a neat little package, if you take a balanced approach to your training, i.e. work your upper body, lower body, pushing, and pulling muscles, you really can’t go wrong, even if you don’t know what obstacles they are going to throw at you.
My best piece of advice, is to train yourself to move your bodyweight through all the planes (crawling included!) to be as prepared as possible to carry your body over, under, and through anything they can muster.
The last piece of the equation is to understand the bodies’ limitations, and what exactly it means to use planned recovery time.
If you do not give your body the time it requires to recover from an activity, and immediately start working it again, you risk not only missing out on progress, but actually regressing progress you have made!
24 – 72 hours is a good general rule, but really, you need to listen to your body. If it’s good to go after 24 hours. Go. If it isn’t. Rest.
Lastly, prior to your race, you want a good long recovery period with stretching and balance exercises. This will allow you to fully replenish your glycogen stores and have the maximum amount of energy ready for your race day. I follow what I like to call the 72 hour rule prior to a race. 72 hours before my race, I will not engage in strenuous lifting activities, and will instead focus on stretching activities and some yoga.
Nutrition? If you aren’t eating clean, now’s a great time to practice. It will make your gains stronger, and faster. As well, aid in your recovery times. You may even feel so great you may not want to go back to eating crap!
Now get out there, and go race!