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During one of the first obstacle races Andy Farina ever tackled, he was forced to climb a cargo net suspended 12 feet into the air. Once he reached the top, he had to jump from the net onto a pad. “I wasn’t expecting that,” said Farina, a personal trainer at Gainesville Health & Fitness in Gainesville, Fla.
Vic Spatola, the director of personal training for Greenwood Athletic & Tennis Club in Denver, Colo., came across multiple obstacles he wasn’t expecting when he tackled the Tough Mudder a few years ago. “The course was supposed to be nine miles, but at the last minute they changed it to 11,” said Spatola. “They do that sometimes.”
According to Farina, that’s the point of obstacle racing — you never know what you’re going to face. “Especially if you’re new to obstacle racing, there are a lot of unexpected things you’ll come across,” said Farina.
Despite their unpredictability, the popularity of obstacle course races is on the rise. Last year, there were 55 Spartan Races. In 2013, there will be 74. Tough Mudder, known as “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet,” will host over 50 events in seven different countries this year alone.
Considering this, there’s a chance some of your members could be preparing to tackle an obstacle course race of their own. As Tough Mudder veterans, Farina and Spatola parted with some tips your personal trainers could use to train members preparing for these types of races.
According to Farina, “Getting good at obstacles shaves off seconds, but getting good at running shaves off minutes.” With this in mind, Farina suggested that personal trainers help members become more efficient at running. “Help your members run more efficiently and faster,” he said.
In addition, putting members through functional movements is key. “In order to run an obstacle course race, you have to be a multi-faceted athlete,” said Farina. Pull-ups, push-ups, burpees, bear crawls and crab walks are his functional movements of choice.
When training members for an obstacle course race, Spatola said that simulating the race environment is important for preparation. “Make sure the members are wet, hot or cold, depending on the race,” said Spatola. “Have them jump in a pool in their clothes before they run. Try to simulate the race as much as possible.”
Working on grip is important as well. “A strong grip is an important thing to have, because you come across a lot of obstacles that challenge your grip,” said Spatola. Slippery and muddy ropes are a common grip challenger.
A final takeaway to impart on your members is that obstacle course races are a team effort. “I was surprised by how much of a team effort the races are,” said Spatola. “They’re fun and it’s really good team building.”
By Rachel Zabonick