How to train for an obstacle race



Forget road races or even mud fest challenges, the latest fitness trend is for extreme challenge races,with events like Tough Guy, Grim or Spartan Beast, this last which  incorporates 12 miles of off road running with a reported 50 obstacles.

If you have entered one, or thinking about it , be aware that it requires a different type of training than anything you may have done for a running race.

Here are our essential tips for what to expect and how to train for an extreme challenge race.

1. Running

Depending on the length of the course, you will need to build your endurance to run the distance, but crucially you also need to factor stopping and starting, and having to go up hill and down, usually  through mixed terrain which will include water, mud and sand that will stick to your shoes and clothes  adding additional weight.

How to train: Try a workout that includes one hill sprint followed by 40 wall step ups, followed by a commando crawl of 50 metres. Complete 10 sets. This will get your body used to the feeling of running on jelly legs.

2. Brrr….the chill factor

In the UK, many of these races are scheduled in the winter months, which means the air and water temperature are likely to be bitterly cold. Don’t neglect your cold water training.

Why? Not only does entering cold water knock your breath away, it will increase your breathing rate making you feel out of breath. Moreover, it can lower your muscles ability to produce force by up to 25%, leaving you feeling like a rag doll when you come out of the water.

How to train: Just as your body gets stronger as it adapts to using heavier weights, so your body can adapt to the stresses of cold water training. If you live by the sea, run through the water up to knee height for 10 x 100metres, with 10 push ups, and 10 squats after each sprint.

Also, go into the water up to chest height so you get used to how your body will feel, followed by some sprints.

No sea nearby? Try bath submersion. Sounds mad we know, but you may be glad of it.

3. Strength and conditioning

Many people approach these races as just another running race. They aren’t.

Climbing, crawling, swinging and perhaps even swimming all require you to use all the body’s muscles so don’t just work on your legs.

Train your upper body just as much, particularly if you are a woman who can often neglect upper body training.

How to train: Kettlebell swings, along with pull ups are some of the best all over upper body workouts. Try to combine them with something else, so again you are recreating the kind of conditions you may experience in the race.

To build up your pull up strength, try 5 strict pull ups on the start of every minute for ten minutes. If you can not pull up your own body weight, use a Power Band, and loop it under your foot or knee to assist (consult a professional personal trainer for tuition).


The Fear Factor

Ever found yourself unable to move, or not in control of your body just through fear? It could be simply trying to balance on something, or climbing but whatever it is, you will probably face your fears in an obstacle race.

How to train: Try and do all the things that you know might give you the fear before the race. If you’re scared of heights, try climbing something. Worried about water? Get in the water. But remember, being in a race atmsophere with everyone cheering you on will help carry you through many of your fears.


No matter what, you will finish a race like this feeling fantastic. Pushing outside your comfort zone often creates the biggest physical changes (the fear motivates you to train hard for a start) but also the greatest sense of accomplishment.


N.B Please note that this training is for conditioned athletes used to exericise. If you are a beginner, please contact Fitbitch for a training plan or consult a local personal trainer in your area.

Fitbitch is currently training a team for the Spartan Beast and will be conducting Performance Camps in 2013. Please get in touch if you are interested in obstacle event training for yourself or a corporate team.