What You Need To Know Before Your First Obstacle Course Race

Heres what you need to know before your first Obstacle Course Racing event, and help you get prepared

Wear the right gear

Those that have done an OCR will all be familiar with this one. You’re lined up to your first obstacle course race, wearing the latest road runners or Nike Met-cons from the Box. You glance down, and all of a sudden you see a sea of trail shoes… Oh wait… I didn’t read the small print… This race is on trail?!

Or worse, you don’t even notice that 90% of these events are off trail and you’re running along in your fresh, reebok nano’s to be met with a muddy downhill and your skating like Bambi on ice.

Do yourself a favour, get some good trail shoes!

Prepare to grip

Monkey bars, rigs, hoists, Walls, all these obstacles involve GRIP! Your best bet is to work to maximise your max pull-ups on your run up to the event, that will give you the biggest bang for buck. 

But if you have a lot of time, then do a dedicated grip training program. I have a free Ebook, about training your grip for OCR, check it out.

Running is involved

Be prepared to be able to run the distance of the event… and hopefully a bit more. 

Generally, events range from 5km to a half marathon distances, so make sure you’re fairly comfortable at running the distance you have chosen and bare in mind you will have a myriad of  obstacles fatigue your along the course!

It’ll be a good idea to look at the previous race at that location to see if there is any sneaky elevation involved. If there is… Hit some hills!

Learn to carry

Whether it be a Sandbag or an atlas stone. These events generally involve some sort of carry. Get used to be able to carry in all sorts of different holds, from front rack, to on your back, to farmers carries (This will also help with grip)

Don’t think doing some hypertrophy 10 reps of 3 sets in the gym will get you through this unscathed. Get used to carry weight and moving with it!

You may get wet or muddy

Some events pride themselves on making you as MUDDY as possible… personally, i hate this aspect of OCR. But it still stands as some sort of gimmicky part of it!

My advice, don’t be wearing something plain white, as you will look like you’ve come straight out the sewer! And don’t go getting something brand new for the event – Things can easily get ruined or ripped on course!

in fact, in the USA, a lot of people have taken to not wearing much clothing at all!

It may push you out your comfort zone

If its your first event, its’ a pretty good guarantee that you will be pushed out of your comfort zone in some way. Theres not many sports like it and it will test you at some point on course. It could be how technical an obstacle is, a big fall, mud or how heavy something is.

The bonus to this, is after the event, most people feel great, feel accomplished, like they have been through the wringer, and everything that seemed tough before, isn’t so tough anymore!

If you have any questions regarding your first OCR event, then feel free to drop me a line and i’d be happy to answer your questions and have trained beginners all the way to elite field athletes.

Jake Barber

Jake is a coach who specialises in Endurance and OCR events.

@Riseandgrindrunning
Riseandgrindocr@Gmail.com

How To Train Your Grip For OCR

On this weeks podcast, Jake talks about the PROPER way to train your grip for OCR. If you’re countlessly doing dead-hangs and farmers carries with no results, then give this little podcast a listen and open up your eyes to your different grip types and how to train them! Knowledge bombs await!

All the information for this podcast is available for free on the Master Your Grip Ebook by clickety clicking here!

Check out our sponsor Whiskywolf.uk for your plant based, natural, anti-bacterial hard soap and AWESOME apparel! Use code RISE to get 10% off site wide!

Trust me its a good one & its all available on iTunes, Spotify and all other decent podcast apps!

Feel free to check out Riseandgrindocr.com for all your essential updates and free EBooks! and click here for any Rise & Grind OCR Merch!

Rise & Grind Host Details: 
Jake Barber – @Riseandgrindrunning
Graham Roberts – @ispiremc
John Chambers – @idesignthisway
George Edwards – @ge_training
Aaron Selfe – @the.a_ron126
Glenn Coleman – @glennyc1981

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Three Week Home Workout Programme

We currently live in unprecedented times full of fear and unknowing of what the future holds and what the true hold and repercussions of Covid-19 will be. I for one am sure I’m not alone in feeling totally useless during this time and wanting to help as much as I can.

It is very important that we stay active during this time and try to maintain fitness levels.

As such, I have designed an easy to follow three week training program that will be suitable for a beginner and good fun for anyone. It is designed to help you maintain some level of fitness and attack some basic strength, anaerobic and aerobic energy systems each week to keep you ticking over. And as an added bonus it can be done with the most minimal and inventive home equipment as well as very little space!

Please feel free to share with anyone that you feel this may help keep motivated during this time of solitude. And please remember to Stay at home, Protect the NHS and Save lives.

Week 1

MovementInformationRepsSetsRest
Over Head SquatUse a PVC Pipe, mop or broomstick!8360s
Push-Up WeightedUse a backpack with anything in to create weight8360s
Front Rack Step UpUse a backpack, sandbag or bag of potatoes to front rack8360s
Chair DipsResting your hands on the end of the chair seat to perform dips8360s
Spiderman Push-upsNot your favourite neighbourhood super-hero…8360s
Russian TwistsUse a backpack, sandbag or bag of potatoes or food15360s
Workout 2 – Metabolic Conditioning
10 Rounds:

20s Squat Jumps
20s Sprawls
20s Mountain Climbers

Rest 30s
Workout 3 – Aerobic Capacity
3 Rounds:

30s High Knees
30s Burpees
30s Jumping Jacks
30s Alternating Lunges
30s Skaters
30s Mountain Climber Twists

Rest 90s

Week 2

MovementInformationRepsSetsRest
Over Head SquatUse a PVC Pipe, mop or broomstick!10360s
Push-Up WeightedUse a backpack with anything in to create weight10360s
Front Rack Step UpUse a backpack, sandbag or bag of potatoes to front rack10360s
Chair DipsResting your hands on the end of the chair seat to perform dips10360s
Spiderman Push-upsNot your favourite neighbourhood super-hero…10360s
Russian TwistsUse a backpack, sandbag or bag of potatoes or food10360s
Workout 2 Metabolic Conditioning
5 Rounds:

30s Burpees
15s Rest
30s Wide Mountain Climber
15s Rest
30s Squat Jumps
15s Rest
30s Plank Tucks
15s Rest
Workout 3 Aerobic Capacity
3 Rounds:

90s Skipping
30s Mountain Climbers
90s High Knees
30s Push Ups or Plank Step Ups

90s Rest

Week 3

MovementInformationRepsSetsRest
Over Head SquatUse a PVC Pipe, mop or broomstick!8460s
Push-Up WeightedUse a backpack with anything in to create weight8460s
Front Rack Step UpUse a backpack, sandbag or bag of potatoes to front rack8460s
Chair DipsResting your hands on the end of the chair seat to perform dips8460s
Spiderman Push-upsNot your favourite neighbourhood super-hero…8460s
Russian TwistsUse a backpack, sandbag or bag of potatoes or food15360s
Workout 2 Metabolic Conditioning
3 Rounds:
30s Squat Jumps
30s Mountain Climbers
30s Rest

3 Rounds:
30s Burpees
30s Mountain Climber Twists
30s Rest

3 Rounds:
30s Alternating Lunges
30s Push Ups or Plank Step Ups
30s Rest

3 Rounds:
30s High Knees
30s Bicycle Crunches
30s Rest
Workout 3 Aerobic Capacity
3 Rounds:

60s Jumping Jacks
60s Alternating Lunges
60s Get-Ups
60s Push Ups or Plank Step Ups

90s Rest

How To Train For A Sprint or Short OCR

For some this is the entry level event as they build up to a longer OCR, but that doesn’t mean these events are any less hard! If you are running a sprint correctly, your heart should be trying to burst out your chest as your lungs gasp for air all the while your legs are filling with lactate and begging for forgiveness.

A Sprint is a solid all or nothing effort, you have to push as hard as you can and they can last from anything to 25 minutes to an hour depending on your ability and length of the course. They usually have a strong similarity to running an all out race between a 5 and 10km pace, again, depending on the full length of the course.

When we look to train for such a fast paced event its good idea to focus on some specific items to the race, they generally have little to no carries and rely on top end speed to get the job done effectively. When working with athletes i will generalise the training into three categories:

  1. Speed
  2. Power
  3. Specificity

Speed

When we look at Speed we should spend at least some of our time focussing on VO2 max type workouts, which help stress your aerobic power and also slip into that Anaerobic zone. Which in turn should help you be a little more speedy come race day!

Here are some examples, they should be fast and each set should feel pretty good initially until you start reaching the end of each interval, your recovery should be enough to bring your heart rate down to a recovered state to perform the next effort at the same level of intensity and speed.

VO2 Max Interval progression examples:

Week 1:

10 Min Easy Pace

1 x 1000m @ <5Km Pace

2 x 800m @ <5Km Pace

2 – 3 Minutes Recovery Between Intervals

10 Min Easy Pace

Week 2:

10 Min Easy Pace

1 x 800m @ <5Km Pace

2 x 1000m @ <5Km Pace

2 – 3 Minutes Recovery Between Intervals

10 Min Easy Pace

Week 3:

10 Min Easy Pace

2 x 1000m @ <5Km Pace

1 x 1200m @ <5Km Pace

2 – 3 Minutes Recovery Between Intervals

10 Min Easy Pace

During week four you should consider a deload week to help adapt to the stimulus of training unless you have a super fine tunes plan

Week 4:

10 Min Easy Pace

2 x 800m @ <5Km Pace

2 – 3 Minutes Recovery

15 Min Easy Pace


Power

When it comes to strength training for a sprint, a great place to start would be some solid compound movements and building up a base using a standard 5 x 5 principle for at least 4 – 6 weeks. After a base has been established and as we near closer to race day, the biggest bang for buck that you can do is concentrate on some more power based moves. These will prime your muscles ready for race and and ensure your legs are an absolute power house come race day.

Some weighted power move examples:

Remember these moves should be EXPLOSIVE, so the reps and sets are low, but the movement should be fast and controlled.

Med Ball Slam

Sets: 3

Reps: 5

Rest: 60s+

KettleBell Swing – Russian

Sets: 3

Reps: 5 – 10

Rest: 60s+

Sled Sprints

Sets: 3

Reps: 20m

Rest: 60s+

Dumbbell Thrusters

Sets: 3

Reps: 5 – 10

Rest: 60s+

Another example would be explosive bodyweight movements such as plyometrics, which can be incorporated to help build your speed-strength, makes us a bit more agile and help push you into that Anaerobic zone. They are also pretty handy as they don’t involve any speciality equipment like those above!

Be warned, hitting power moves seem fairly easy at the time, especially something as ‘simple’ as Plyometrics. “Its only a Jump, thats not going to do much” but trust me, you will get DOMS, especially if you haven’t done them before or in a long time. In fact if you’ve done a Plyometric session for the first time or in a while and you don’t feel it then next day, you most likely have done it wrong!

Again, remember these should be EXPLOSIVE! so the reps are short and sweet!

Heres some examples

Box Jumps

Sets: 3

Reps: 5

Rest: 60s+

Depth Jumps

Sets: 3

Reps: 5

Rest: 60s+

Broad Jumps

Sets: 3

Reps: 5

Rest: 60s+


Specificity

So now you’ve got some speed and some serious power in those legs it’s good on the run up to the event to get super specific. So what does that mean? I’ve found the best workouts emulate the race as close as possible, but usually as simple as possible. You want speed and fatigue, an ‘obstacle’ and to try and the key, which is to get back to pace as quickly as possible and maintain in the hurt locker.

When we are looking at Sprint or shorter OCRsI like to keep things simple and follow my 400/10/5 principle which consists of a piece of fatigue work for 400m, followed by a weighted movement for 10 reps and a bodyweight movement for 5 reps. You can mix this up with a variety of movements to make it specific and a sufferfest.

As we are being specific, I’d advise to use the workouts as running based, but I’ve seen success in crossing over with rowing and the Assault Bike. Again, I like to try to aim for 5 rounds, but you can start with 3 and build up further across a period of weeks.

Race WOD 1:

3 – 5 Rounds for time:

400m Run/Row/Assault Bike

10 Sandbag Lunges

5 Pull Ups

Race WOD 2:

3 – 5 Rounds for time:

400m Run/Row/Assault Bike

10 DB Thrusters

5 Burpees

Race WOD 3:

3 – 5 Rounds for time:

400m Run/Row/Assault Bike

10 Sandbag Squats

5 Mountain Climbers (Each Side)

So now you’ve carved yourself into a true Sprint worthy OCR athlete you’ll be able to conquer your next OCR or Spartan Race with a top performance to show for all your hard work! Just remember to ensure you taper before race day so your feeling fresh and ready to dig deep!

I hope you enjoyed this article, if you’d like to get involved with my OCR coaching and take your performance to the next level then feel free to reach out! 

Jake Barber

Jake is an Online coach who specialises in Endurance and OCR events.

@Riseandgrindrunning
Riseandgrindocr@Gmail.com

How To Train For A Spartan Ultra

Morzine – The Ultimate Spartan Ultra Event in Europe

The Trifecta has been completed, but now you are planning on the big one.

You want to conquer the Ultra Beast!

Well here’s an article of what I feel are the things to prioritise when you are heading into these types of events in general.

Long Runs

If you had any key sessions during each microcycle (Week), these are the ones to prioritise. After all, you will be getting at least 30 miles in come race day. You can start your long runs as low as an hour and slowly increase your time by 5 – 10 minutes per week to be hitting somewhere between 2 and 3 hours comfortably.

Making sure to allow for recovery weeks every so often where we reduce the time on feet, to recover and adapt to the increasing training volume.

These runs should be very easy and you should aim to keep your heart rate low, in zone 2, with minimal spikes unless planned, and even so these should be kept minimal. The key to these sessions is to build your aerobic base, build your heart muscle and let your mitochondria flourish.  Unfortunately, too many people get stuck in that moderate intensity rut, by hitting these runs too hard, usually in zone 3, not only is it counter-productive as you won’t fully be in an aerobic state.

You may also find that this moderate intensity will grind you down week on week and you will start to feel fatigued. A good indicator of this is if you constantly feel too tired to train, If your volume is not properly managed and your base and aerobic build is not strict, you will find this more common and your risk burning out before race day.

If you want to better manage your aerobic work and you don’t own a heart rate monitor then the best thing is to keep your pace as such that you can comfortably hold a conversation. This is a great indicator that you are in an aerobic state.

In endurance training, we need volume and time on feet, You can further add volume by adding either a secondary long run in the week or by having a longer run the day before just make sure you’re training smart and allowing a lot of recovery between them.

A lot of people I’ve coached for ultra distance events expect me to give them a 4 / 5 hour training run. Almost every time I get the question…. Er… Shouldn’t I be running longer than this?

It sounds like a good idea, but theres more than one way to skin a cat… or in this case, build volume into your training plan, and by going out and doing a stupidly long run for 4 or 5 hours, your only risking injury and pushing fatigue. You want to make it to race day right?

Save the big 5+ hour run, for the actual race! Trust me, when push comes to shove, your body will surprise you with how much further it will go… in fact, thats why these events get so addictive, as you push further and further down the rabbit hole of your bodies capabilities!

If you’re going to go out for a long 5+ hour session, then go out for a big day of hiking up some mountains, In fact, make it load bearing, that’ll give you more bang for your buck and help you embrace the suck.

Fuel

Ultra events are pretty much like an eating contest. And if you can stomach your food whilst running, you’ll always have the upper hand! I’ve seen so many people fly into these events, but bonk HARD just due to their ego on nutrition.

Trust me, you have to EAT! 

Find foods that work for you and experiment during your training runs. A good place to start is to eat around 70 g of carbs or around 300 Kcal per hour. This can be split across the hour in smaller chunks or in one sitting, whichever sits better with your stomach!

I tend to try and keep my fuel natural, so will have some bananas, dried fruits, nuts, home-made flapjacks. Occasionally on some events which have me running through the night like Europes Toughest Mudder, Ive used a hot electrolyte and carb mix to help warm me up, This has worked wonders. Its also a good boost for your morale!

Ensuring electrolytes are present are key to help prevent cramps, so ensure you’re topped up on these or at least have some salty food to hand, like pretzels or salted nuts! (Get your mind out the gutter)

Also make sure you have a mix of sweet and savoury foods, as if your out on course for a long time, you may get really sick of chowing on constantly sweet tastes, I know I do… Some of my athletes like eating baby food pouches, rehydrated food, pizza, even sandwiches! Anything that you can stomach and that is higher calorie, is fine!

The other thing is hydration, ensure you are constantly taking sips of water throughout the event and not waiting until you are gasping. This will also lead to cramp, so keep it in check as once you’ve got cramp, its usually really hard to get rid of!

Hills

The next is hills, no doubt about it the ultra events are usually placed in the hillier locations! So make sure you’re getting your body used to them!

If you’re going to compete, then a good place to start would be hitting some 15% incline threshold work, 5 – 10 minutes of work, hitting that comfortably hard zone. Then dropping the treadmill back down to 1% at an easy pace for you to recover… before getting that treadmill back up for the pain cave. You can build these sessions up from 30 minutes of work up to near an hour.

These sessions are hard, but theres not much better that will get you ready for hills come race day unless you are blessed to live at the foot of some mountains!

Secondary to hills, is usually carries up them! So don’t be afraid to grab your trusty bucket or sandbag and get used to hauling ass up that hill with it, although thats probably better practiced out in the open, unless you want to be chucked out the gym, or fancy bribing the PT on shift!

Kit

Your kit will make or break an ultra event. You need to be prepared for the weather, look it up during the week and get a rough idea well in advanced. IF you’re going to get wet and be submerged, do you need neoprene or merino wool? Is the climate hot? Then less is more. Is the sun out? You may be exposed to it for a long duration.

Looking this up before hand will be key to your completion.

Theres no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!

Are you taking a hydration pack? Where is your food going to be stored? How often will you be at your drop box? Do you need a spare set of shoes / socks?

You need to plan for every single eventuality, and then some more on top. Most ultra distance events never go to plan, so you need to know this and make sure you have enough stuff that you can keep the plan going and not have to call it quits!

Recommended Kit

These are just some of the items I’ve used previously in ultra events which have really helped me:

Hydration Vest – Osprey Duro 15

First Aid Kit – Lifesystems Trek First aid kit

Base Layer* – Skins DNAmic

Windproof Jacket* – North Face Quest

Running Tights* – 2XU Hypnotik

Running Cap* – Ciele Cap

Dry Bag – Osprey 5L Drypack

Food Source of choice min 300Kcal SPARE ICE

Electrolytes, salt tabs or Mustard 

*Cold Weather Essential

PS. The links above are affiliated, so if you wish to help fund this blog then click the links to support

Planning

Using all the above, write yourself a race plan, fuel strategy, clothing change plan. Anything that you think will help you get to the finish line. You can rarely just ‘wing’ an ultra event and it will get that ego and rip it out your head if you’re not lucky!

Crap at fuelling regularly? Set an alarm or a goal of a time interval / mile marker.

What are you going to do the day before the event? What are you going to do the morning of the event? What are you going to do once you’ve finished the event?

What will you do if you get too cold? What will you do if you get cramp? What will you do if you shoes break – Trust me this happens!

Plan every single eventuality, think above it. Write it down, memorise it. Have it with you if needed. 

Just have a F’in plan! Or the gods will chew you up and spit you out a humble lesson!

If you’d like any further advice, then feel free to contact me. I love training people for endurance events and seeing them push just a little further!

Jake Barber
Jake is an online coach who specialises in Endurance and OCR events.
@Riseandgrindrunning
Riseandgrindocr@Gmail.com

Taming the stimulus junkie – The not so sexy path to peak performance with Joseph Brigham

Human beings crave stimulus. Our ape brains go wild over shiny, flashy, loud, and pleasing tactile experiences.We are not unlike overgrown lab rats that continually push the button for pleasure instead of the button for nourishment, in the process starving ourselves metaphorically of the ability to thrive or make our lofty potential a reality. We are a slave to our inner stimulus junkie.


How many times have you done the thing that was pleasurable rather than the thing that would put you on the path to leveling up?Stayed out late drinking and missing training the next day, ruining a week of good intentions in the kitchen with an outlandish binge at the weekend, or messing up a good relationship by doing the wild thing with your co-worker. Life is meant to have pleasurable experience but when the pursuit and capturing of it spirals out to negatively effect the more wholesome lynch pins of your life – you are in the grip of a stimulus binge.


Being a junkie means being a slave to a form of stimulus to the point where your life revolves around the chasing and fulfilling of your need to scratch that particular itch. You are being controlled by it to the point where your rational thought is being side stepped and you gain more negative effects than good. There are more ways this can take hold of a human being than is in the scope of this article but the one in particular I want to touch on revolves around the stimulus of exercise and how it is detrimental to athletic performance.


That might sound like a paradox or contraindication. Surely to attain your peak you need to chase the stimulus of training, work hard, and devote your life to your craft?Yes you do need to be committed to your journey and work hard, but you also need to tame the stimulus junkie.The stimulus junkie manifests itself in athletes in the form of the PB/PR chasing, going all-out all the time, training multiple times per day, super-competitive, playing through the pain, win at all costs warrior.Go hard or go home, death or glory, chicks dig scars, walk it off, and brag about it.


This part of the athletes mindset can be very useful in the right situation – on race day, in a cup final, in the ring when a belt is on the line. It is the part of the brain that is a beast – like king-kong or godzilla – very handy in a fight but if you let it loose at the wrong time the result is less constructive. Better yet – you need to think of your stimulus junkie part of you as The Hulk, and you are Dr Banner. Sometimes you need to be smart, rational, and think things through.


In real terms this means that most of the time your training is not going to look like the montage from a Rocky movie filled with ball-breaking workouts, sprints, plyometrics, and showiness – in short, high stimulus training modalities. Most of the time you need to punch the clock and do the stuff that you need to be a robust, highly functioning, athlete with all the tools and energy in the tank to make it to the line at a peak in one piece. This means putting time in for mobility work, activating your weak muscles, putting in easy miles and building an aerobic base,  and grinding out the same fundamental movements every week to build mastery and strength. Taming the stimulus junkie means working on your weaknesses and maintaining your strengths – doing things you may not want to do and improving upon them to be a more complete athlete, rather than just hitting the things you enjoy in a workout.


Lets put this all in the context of today’s budding OCR athlete or Spartan Racer. The thing that makes the sport of Obstacle course racing so attractive for many is it is not just running. You get to break up the distance with tests of agility, strength, muscular endurance, and skill which are all generally quite a lot of fun on their own and will give you a buzz on completion – because of this it is often the Obstacle part of the acronym that is focused on. In reality this only makes up a small portion of what you need to work on to be good at the sport, the real focus for the competitive racer should be running because when you are racing you will be doing this more than anything else. You can work on all the obstacle technique that you like (which is the fun part of training for OCR) but if your running is not hitting a certain level you will not be competitive. Time to tame the need for stimulus and do the thing you need to do.


Even within getting better at running we need to tame the stimulus addict. Some may think you need to go out and run like you stole something in every training session in order to progress and get faster. This may work for a little while but the wear and tear on the body this causes means an overuse injury or burnout will be landing in your lap like a hand grenade before long. Here we see stimulus addiction being not just about the exercise you choose to do, but the intensity at which you choose too do it. This could be in part due to the mentality of “go hard or go home” that postures itself through athletic pursuits or because the athlete needs to feel like they have walked through hell in order for a workout to be defined as good. When you get stimulus addiction in check and focus on a sustainable path to a goal you will find that more often than not good workouts are the ones you can do week in week out without getting busted up. Just look at the 80/20 training principle that is popular and highly successful among runners.


The 80/20 method means performing 80% of your training at an easy intensity (Zone 2 or less if we are talking heart rate zones) and 20% of training at a moderate/high level. When applied to running this means at 80% of the time you are working at low intensity that is easy to recover from and allows you to build a strong aerobic base and perfect the skill of running while putting in more miles than you would be able to sustain at a much harder effort. Combining this with 20% of your work involving hard efforts, tempo runs, Vo2 max efforts, hill sprints, and track repeats means you get to work on high quality and high speed work in a ratio that won’t destroy you but instead make you faster for longer – something every runner wants.


For your gym work you may find yourself doing the same movements every week. Performing the fundamental human movements over and over again to get stronger, more powerful, or improve muscular endurance (depending on your training phase) – this often does not involve a lot of variety and is very much like punching the clock every week. This is not very glamorous and the desire may be to go to a crossfit class or boot camp where you are going to get beasted and do lots of fun movements with workouts that change every week. In reality this need for the workout to be fun is in part the stimulus addict inside craving a hard and interesting session. Be very wary of anything that will pull you away from working on what you need in favour of what you want. Achieving peak performance requires specificity – specific to your sport but also more importantly specific to you and your individual needs. Classes will only get you so far – a class workout is designed to be fun, stimulating, and get as many people as sweaty as possible. Does this sound like a path to excellence? To really unleash your potential you will need to quell the need for the stimulus of a beasting and the company of others (unless they have the same needs as you). Any class that claims it will build muscle, get you fitter, leaner, faster, stronger, and a selection of other diametrically opposed athletic gains is aimed at beginners because it is only beginners who can illicit these broad training responses from group training. 


So the majority of the time you are going to need to take a focused, workmanlike, clock-punching, and holistic approach to your training and have a program that meets your needs, improves weaknesses, and maintains strengths – but is there any time when the stimulus addict can be let out to play? The answer is yes – sometimes you need to blow off steam and let your inner animal hunt, fuck, and feast (maybe not just metaphorically speaking at times) in order to keep you sane as well as sharp. In pure training terms I achieve this by a monthly hard benchmark workout that involves an all out effort and some race simulation. You need to do this now and then to remind yourself you can fire on all cylinders and tap into that place where you are in zone 5 the whole session like you are competing for a podium place, you need to know you can handle the fire of competition and fucking hard efforts. The reason this is only once a month for me is because this allows me to tune my mindset for that workout as if I was coming up to a race, it is also because acts of real high intensity take proper rest afterwards to get back to your norm, and most importantly if you do too many high intensity efforts like this week in week out your ability to express a max is actually reduced as you water down intensity with more volume – thus the desired effect of the session is reduced dramatically with frequency.


Everyone is different though and depending on your mindset you may need more stimulus in your training in order to adhere to a program that will improve you as an athlete. You may need a couple of weekly group workouts for the sheer fun and camaraderie to give you a fix for your addict so you can punch the clock in those less sexy sessions you have to punch the clock with. Sometimes you need to find a trade-off and be flexible in order to make things work. OCR is not a professional sport where we get paid and ones life should be spent doing some things you enjoy in order to get the best out of it. This is a bigger picture approach you need to take as a coach especially because being competitive means different things to different people and as such their commitment to a program will come in at different levels. Not all athletes are the same and not all of them have the same awareness and control over their inner stimulus addict.


The fact is that we all crave stimulus in different ways and that this is not necessarily a bad thing. If you have ever seen a greyhound chase the electronic rabbit you can see that sometimes champions are born from that instinctual desire to fulfill a stimulus addiction. We can also see in cats chasing a piece of string how that fast agile hunter becomes a docile and disinterested animal once the string is not being made to move anymore and it is sitting firmly in its claws. The key is balance – you need that inner beast in order to stay hungry and exert performances at the top of your game (and sometimes just to simply be happy) but letting it have what it wants all the time takes away the potential power it has locked inside and it – control it, hone it, keep it hungry, and when it is time to unleash it you will be formidable.


3 ways to stay in charge of stimulus addiction

  1. Look honestly at your current training  habits and drives – do they work for or against you in the pursuit of your goal? If the answer is no – what would you need to change in order to clear a path to where you want to be? Once you know this you can make a plan of how to implement the new habits and how to avoid the outdated ones that don’t help you.
  2. Hold yourself accountable or get someone else to – set tasks and targets that you need to reach to help keep your new habits on course, or get a coach to help you do this and to help you stay the course.
  3. Schedule in times in your program to “let the beast out of its cage” – knowing that you have a time to let loose and let the addict out to play can help you stick to the more boring but helpful stuff you have to do. There is a time and a place for everything.

Coach Joe Brigham is a certified Strength & Conditioning & Spartan SGX Coach based in Hertfordshire.

For more information check out:
@coach_joe_brigham
https://www.studio180.co.uk/joe-brigham
sigmabearpt@gmail.com

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!