Anyone can do an obstacle course race regardless of athletic ability, current physique, or even if you haven’t trained one iota for OCR. That’s not to say you can’t (or shouldn’t) train for one of these races. Just like you would train for a marathon…it can only benefit you to train for an obstacle course race.
As an active participant in as many obstacle course races (“OCR”) that my pocketbook will allow each year, I often hear people say that they aren’t in good enough shape (or insert any other excuse) to do an obstacle course race when I excitedly try to convince them to join the dark side and do a race. Here’s why that is incredibly far from the truth.
Some commonly heard excuses:
- “I need to get in shape first.”
- “I’m not athletic.”
- “I’m overweight.”
- “I’m not strong enough.”
- “I could never do something like that.”
First– these are all self-limiting beliefs, so let’s debunk them. None of these excuses actually hold water when it comes to your ability to complete an obstacle course race. Here’s why.
Excuse: “I need to get in shape first.”
Fact: No, you don’t. Unless you are hoping to be the next top elite obstacle course racer, you can complete any of these races without getting into shape first. You can walk the whole darned thing and still complete it if you want. Who cares if a 3-5 mile obstacle course race takes you two or three hours? The feeling you will get upon completion of the race will be that much more rewarding in the end because you will have done something you didn’t believe you could. You are your only competition, and if your current situation ends up inspiring you to want to do better or run quickly during your next OCR, then, by all means, go for it!
Excuse: “I’m not athletic.”
Fact: So? You don’t have to be athletic to walk or jog. You don’t have to be athletic to pick up a sandbag or bucket. And, you certainly don’t have to be athletic to crawl under barbed wire, fencing, or through tubes. Are there athletic obstacles in some of the races? Absolutely! But, depending upon which race you choose, it might not matter. There are options (depending on the race you’re doing) if you don’t feel you can conquer the more athletic obstacles alone. You could A) try to complete them anyway and be stoked when you get it, B) do the race with friends on a team or in the open heats (which allows you to receive help), C) take the penalty (if the race has a penalty in lieu of obstacle completion). Any way you slice it, you can still complete an OCR without “being athletic.”
Excuse: “I’m overweight.”
Fact: I’m not here to talk about your weight, because I don’t know how much you weigh. I am here to talk about those who say they can’t complete a race because they are overweight. IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER. Seriously. Every year, there are a good amount of people who believe they are overweight or maybe even are overweight, who sign up for a race and complete it. You know what happens? THEY FINISH.
If you’ve got this picture in your head of the race venue buzzing with athletic, muscular, in-shape superstars– wipe your imagination clean right now. Yes, you will see those people. But, you will also see children, teenagers, moms, dads, groups of friends, gym rats, people who haven’t been inside a gym for years, people who count calories and those who don’t. You will see every type of person imaginable, including those who believe they are overweight, and they are all waiting to cheer you on to the finish line. If you have determination, you can complete an obstacle course race.
Excuse: “I’m not strong enough.”
Fact: Honestly, this was me. A little side story here, if I may: I’m average in weight and height for my age. Always have been. I was not overly muscular, but not particularly puny-looking, either. My athletic hobbies consist of high-intensity sports–and yet, I thought I was not strong enough to do an obstacle course race. As I watched on from the outside hopping around taking photos at races, I seriously thought that I didn’t have the strength in me to do “one of those crazy races.”
You know what? I signed up for one of the easier races to see if I was right, and it turns out I was wrong! I had a strength I didn’t realize (maybe more grit than anything), and I surprised myself at what I could accomplish. Now, I push myself to work harder and get stronger because well, why not? And I also realize that telling myself I wasn’t strong enough was simply an excuse my mind had come up with to deter me from my own potential. No, you don’t have to look like you live in a gym to complete an obstacle course race. You just have to believe in yourself and be persistent in wanting to finish. You, too, are strong enough!
Excuse: “I could never do something like that.”
Fact: Something like what? Have fun, play in the mud, and run around like a happy kid at recess? Can’t you do that? You can, and you should. You don’t have to register for the competitive or elite heats to join in on the fun (and rapidly growing) world of obstacle course racing. There are plenty of waves you can join that are filled with people who just want to do them. To push themselves, their friends, and their co-workers to be their best self. Register your office as a team-building exercise, or make it a family bonding experience.
You can honestly make the races what you want them to be. Too often, we get caught up with what we see on social media and it detracts us from the bigger picture. Our feeds are filled with the promotion of superstars, and this is true for every sport. There’s nothing wrong with that, but not everyone can be an elite athlete or an elite obstacle course racer. That’s just not practical. But, everyone CAN participate in a race at their own level, for their own goals, and their own gain. Even you.
Where should you begin?
If you don’t know which race to start with, decide if you want to complete the race on your own or with a group of friends. Making this decision will help you decide which race to conquer first. You should also take into consideration why you’re questioning if you can complete a race or not. Is it because you don’t think you can run the whole thing, or are you concerned about not completing obstacles?
Some OCR races encourage teamwork, such as the Tough Mudder, and will definitely be enjoyable to do with friends. If you’re wanting to really test yourself, sign up for something that encourages personal accountability (Spartan’s a good one for this). There are some races that are more difficult than others to achieve on your own. If you’re hesitant for any reason, consider starting with Rugged Maniac, Tough Mudder Half, a Terrain Race, or the Warrior Dash. These races tend to be shorter and encourage completion of the race. They’ll also be good to show you that it’s really a lot of fun, and will help build your confidence that you (YES, YOU!) can complete any OCR race you set your mind to.
If you want to race solo, but aren’t feeling overly confident that you can complete all of the obstacles, consider if the race is a penalty race or not. The Spartan, for example, demands a 30-burpee penalty for EACH failed obstacle, while the Rugged Maniac carries no penalty. Some races simply require you to give up your wristband if you can’t complete an obstacle, so take this into consideration.
Even if you have to walk the whole thing or jog/walk it– I promise you’ll be able to complete it. You will have fun seeing what obstacles you need to get better at and can go from there to find proper training for yourself so you’re better at the next one. Because there will be a next one.
Here’s a handy list of obstacle course races we’ve put together to choose from. If you know of one not listed, let us know!
Welcome to the OCR Community! 😉
(After you’ve completed your first race and gotten hooked like the rest of us, go ahead and send us your race recap! We’d love to post it and tell the world your story.)