Be comfortable with being uncomfortable by Marc Trussell

When I worked in marketing, this was one of the most memorable pieces of advice given to me by my boss at the time; it was said in the context of presenting and pitching to large groups of people; making eye contact, smiling, and owning the floor.

This advice also carries over to obstacle course racing or any element of endurance sport for that matter. I’m a big believer in making the training harder or more challenging than the event itself, and something I drill to my clients when coaching. 

When I was training for the Double Ironman in 2009, I would add in “special” training sessions to my schedule and I believe that these played a great part in getting through the 280 odd miles. The most memorable session being a 15 mile run directly before taking part in a 5k charity Swimathon.  The same went for my 100 mile ultramarathon in 2012, I ran 26.2 miles, the marathon distance on a dark January evening once my wife got back from work, I had been looking after my daughter all day, and had all day to think about doing it, telling myself reasons why I shouldn’t. I don’t enjoy training in the evening as I’m much happier training first thing in the morning, getting out before the rest of the family is up.  For this race, I also ran 100 miles in six days, which meant running to work, at lunchtime, and to home from work on some of the days. 

These sorts of challenges are not only physically but mentally challenging. The aim being with them that when you hit a low point in a race, you can, agree with yourself that it’s bad, yes, but not as bad as the training you undertook to get there in the first place. These sort of sessions are best planned in advance and added sporadically amongst your usual plan. The best training sessions, in my opinion, are those which you quite simply don’t want to do.

So next time you’re planning an easy run or training session, factor in something different, a dip in a pond or a random heavy carry perhaps…

And, on the day of your next Spartan Race, own the course, make eye contact and smile at the marshals and supporters. Be thankful for the position you’re in and be comfortable with being uncomfortable, your mojo will thank you for it! 

Marc Trussell is an Obstacle Race and Endurance Coach and the only Spartan SGX Level 2 Coach and Perfect Delta holder in the UK, his website is www.gomarc.net 

Mastering Your Pull Up

Whether you can hit 20 or 0, you’re not going to master your pull up by doing rep after rep after rep. The key to mastering the pull up is breaking it down into multiple key areas. Grip, Muscle endurance & Strength

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Grip

You need to make sure your grip can crush cans of beer like Stone Cold Steve Austin! But before we do that we need to
know that there are more than one type of grip infact there are three

The Crush Grip – The grip between your fingers and palms, think crushing a can!

The Pinch Grip – The grip between your fingers/thumbs, think holding a deck of cards and applying pressure!

The Support Grip – The most common grip which is used when holding onto something, think deadhangs/farmers carry!

The support grip will give you the most bang for buck, but its not a bad idea to be nailing all three of these to ensure no weaknesses and that you can hold onto that bar for days, if not weeks. But how do you train these grips may you ask? Well here’s some moves to get your grip strong!

The Farmers Carry – This hits the support grip and crush grip

Deadhangs – This hitsthe support grip and crush grip

Plate pinch carries – This hits the pinch grip 

Towel Hangs – This hits the crush grip

Incorporate these into your workout routine for a set amount of time, say 30 seconds, making sure the weights are pretty heavy and increase the time over a period of 3 – 4 weeks.

 

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These moves will help build some muscle endurance using the same movement patterns but in a way thats easier than a strict pull up. The aim here is to ensure that the muscles used have enough muscle endurance to keep the pull ups going.

Negative pulls ups / Eccentric lower – Start at the top of the bar  in a pull up position and slowly lower your self down engaging your upper back

Assisted pull ups – Use a resistance band or resistance machine to take the pressure off a normal pull up and aim to hit more reps than you can do strict

Inverted Rows – Hold onto the bar in a squat rack with your back facing the ground, and pull yourself up to the bar

Incorporate these into your routine by hitting either a few more than your current max pull up rep range, or if you can, try to hit 12+ reps, 2 – 3 sets will be enough to see you progress over a few weeks

 


Strength

Building strength in the muscles associated with the movement will help your body be able to either finally lift you over that bar OR more times than you can dream of. But first we need to understand which muscles a pull up uses? Well there’s a hell of a lot, which is why its considered such a hard move, but, we’ll mainly concentrate on the below, which will in turn hit some of the others also

Latissimus Dorsi – Upper backjesper-aggergaard-539148-unsplash

Trapezius – Upper back

Biceps – Arms

So what moves can we throw down in the gym to help build these bad boys into pull up machines!

Lat Pull Downs – Lat pull down machine

Bent Over Row – Dumbbells or Cable row machine

Barbell Shrugs – Barbell or Dumbbells

Bicep Curls – Dumbbells or Barbell

Incorporate these into your routine with a 5 x 5 to ensure you are building strength, progress this over a few weeks, adding weight and dropping reps if needed and you’ll be on course to success!

 

Advanced

If you’ve use all the above advise and you’re hitting new PB’s how about you work towards hitting some of these bad ass advanced movements, they will make you the envy of everyone in the gym for sure! Please note – These are HARD!

Weighted Pull Ups – Get yourself some weight and see how much you can carry whilst performing a pull up

Muscle Ups – We’ve all seen these in the local crossfit gym, well they can correlate well to getting over a wall in OCR, so may be worth giving them a go!

One Arm Pull Ups – These are ULTRA HARD! if you can do these, well your F’in awesome.

Archer Pull Ups – These are a fantastic way to build up to your One Arm Pull Up, but again they are HARD!

You could also do those Kipping ones… but nobody wants to be seen doing those…

As always, hit me up if you want any advice, feel free to sign up to the mailing list and share the love!

 

OCRWC: The Key To Success

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Failure and learning from your lowest moments is what breeds success, and throughout history there has been multiple figure heads who have down right failed before succeeding. (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, JK Rowling)

Someone who springs to mind is the world renown NBA star Michael Jordan, a figure head in the height of NBA’s popularity with six NBA championships & 5 MVP’s to his name, a guy who has a net worth of over $1 billion USD!

You could say that this man must have fantastic genetics, which yeah, he most likely does have some (Like being 6ft 6″). But is he human? Sure. He’s also a man who clearly learns from his failings (And has probably one of the longest quotes in history)

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Now this man has clearly gotten success out of some heart wrenching failures, in fact, he clearly is fuelled by them. And thats something you need to hold onto as you move into the OCR World Championship this coming weekend.

You will be lined up with the best OCR athletes in the world to compete in a premier event which will test you in the fine art of Obstacle Course Racing.

The aim of the event is to keep your ‘Band’

This band confirms you have completed every obstacle and without it you will not place in the rankings. You may have multiple attempts at an obstacle and will only lose the band if you do not fully complete an obstacle.

But what happens if you are struggling to complete an obstacle?

  1. Breathe – Don’t rush into a second try until you’re 100% ready, breath and evaluate what went wrong and what you may change on your next attempt. 
  2. Assess – Watch others, Another athlete may be using a different technique which could be saving their grip, try to mimic it but only if its within your capability.
  3. Visualise  – A positive mindset can help you achieve anything with a little adrenaline running through your veins. Visualise how you are going to tackle the obstacle and what technique you’re going to use. 
  4. Accept – Attempt the obstacle with the above three key components in place with the view of success but accept the outcome.

But what happens if you lose your band?

Take Mr Jordans advice!

This is a hard pill to swallow but sometimes you have to call it a day, your grips gone, or your saving yourself for the next day. But always, always, take Mr Jordans advice and learn from the outcome.

Don’t let the band rule your race and plan to finish it with your head held high. Afterwards analyse your efforts, take some advice from a Coach, get some pointers from some other athletes and see what you can do to ensure you nail it next time!

And hey, you are on the path to success!

I’m hoping you won’t need any of this advice, but at least its in your arsenal if you ever need to pull it out, good luck and see you on the course!

Spartan European Championship 2018

So here I am lined up in the village of Morzine, mountains towering either side, with Europes best Spartan racers. We’d been told the total elevation would be over 1800m+and the distance was to be over 20km. So let’s just put that into perspective shall we… The race would be the equivalent of running to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK, plus an additional 500m gain, with obstacles and heavy carries thrown in! This race was not going to be for the faint of heart…

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The start of the race had us running through the picturesque town of Morzine and hurdling over local car barriers made of wood, before hooking up a local trail by the mountain river. The first obstacle lay ahead, a simple Z wall with block holds which you had to get around. Unfortunately for me, even though I usually have no issues with this obstacle, I landed myself 30 burpees and a face palm of altitude!

After a quick river crossing and some technical trail we were greeted with a waterfall, which included a cargo net some 20 feet high hanging from it. We had to jump into the pool and swim across to get onto the net and climb for the initial ascent of Ponte De Nyon. At this point it was pretty much a power-hike up a seriously steep ski slope which included a barb wire crawl as well as another obstacle, Olympus, at the half way point. No matter how slow you moved, this mountain made sure your lungs and legs felt it!

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It took me around one hour and a half to summit Ponte De Nyon (2019m) which was a total of 1100m climb from the village of Morzine. I was greeted with an incredible 360 degree vista of the French alps. Spartan also nicely placed a cargo net A-frame over the peak of the mountain, which was a cool touch. After this point it was a large downhill section, now I thought I was pretty good at running downhill. It turns out that may not be the case as I witnessed some of these mountain goat runners quite literally throw them selves down that mountain at what felt like whatever cost necessary. I’ve never seen downhill running like it and I commemorate those guys for having the guts to do so at such speeds and recklessness.

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After the initial descent, Spartan gave us a log to carry over to a lake, where we had to swim with it to the other side. This was a nice relief on a baking hot day of over 25 degrees celsius, and to be fair felt like a spa treatment after that ascent. We then ran up and down another small incline before hitting an obstacle which had you pulling two sandbags on a sled across a field, inducing some nice lactate in those quads, just what you need after summitting a mountain…

We were then thrown further down the mountain, with a few obstacles thrown in, Bender, Tyre drag and pull, Twister before we were yet again starting to ascend. At first the trail was tough but zig zagged through a forest so it was cool. But then we were yet again thrown up a Ski slope style hill, straight up, probably another 300m of elevation in total. My legs were broken and the heat was baring down at this point. So in true Spartan fashion, as you could just start to see the top closing in, they decided you needed a big chain to carry the rest of the way… At this point my legs were ruined, energy levels were low and I was dreaming of the end and that finish line.

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At this point even the descents were starting to hurt, with the quads begging for some mercy. Another rope climb, another technical descent… At this point we’d run around 20kms and homing into town with over 1600m of elevation. That’s when I thought to myself… This was advertised as 1800m? Maybe my Garmin Is not clocking 100%… Well it turns out that just as you thought you were coming home, Spartan decided to throw you on the most hellish of a sandbag carries to date. One mile long with a 50lb bag, up another 200m of steep ski slope elevation and back down in the searing heat. I’ve never seen so many grown men laying on the floor, beaten and broken, sweat pouring off of them, some even close to tears. Not to mention so many strong women powering through such an ordeal. Even the racers with the strongest minds and bodies were contemplating waving that white flag!

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Spartan had placed a water station after the carry, but by this point everyone was staving off dehydration, with some throwing water over themselves to keep cool including myself! The mountain had been beaten, it had taken blood sweat and nearly some tears, but now I had the final couple of Km into the village.

The village had some big obstacles, including a spear throw, a multi-rig and a slack line. Not to mention the deviously placed hurdles which after 20km+ of mountain terrain, felt like mountains themselves.

The race was a total mental and physical exhaustion. Your mind wanted you to stop and your body wasn’t far behind… So to hit that finish line, with both intact was a great feeling. My body wanted to rest, and so did my mind!

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All in all, the race was a fantastic experience. Afterwards I said I would never want to do a race like that again, It took me back to my first ever OCR, where the challenge was not the competition but in fact, just completing it! I knew coming into this race that it was not going to be my strongest, due to the mountainous elevation and distance, it definitely showed, with me just about placing in the top 100!

Regardless of my placing, I’m sitting here a week later writing this wishing I was back on that start line again!