Calorie Burn: 552 per hour
Get Down and Dirty
Imagine running a brutal cross-country race over rugged terrain—except with a 50-pound sandbag over your shoulders as you haul ass up a mountain. Then you’re back to running, only now your legs feel heavy and your muscles are tweaking. Next you leap into freezing-cold water that makes your legs full-on cramp. Now you’ve got to scale a wall, but your calves aren’t firing; they’ve shut down. That’s obstacle-course racing (OCR). “It’s in those moments that you’ve got to dig deep and find strength within yourself,” says David Magida, one of the sport’s first pro athletes and the co-author of The Essentials of Obstacle Race Training. Yes, what once looked like a mud-splattered fad of people taking the scenic route to a drinking party is now a real, grueling sport and a growing one at that. “That’s what makes the sport so beautiful—you find out a lot about yourself over the course of a race.”
What It works
Because of the event-based nature of OCR, it’s more a way of testing fitness than of building it. “It’s all about being challenged by a race that tries to break you down from every facet of fitness imaginable— strength, power, endurance, speed, agility, mobility, and, just as critical, recovery,” Magida says. “It tests you, it pokes holes in your fitness and challenges you to correct them so you can be better the next time you line up.”
The “R” in OCR stands for “race,” so straight-up speed is important, but all those strength obstacles— heavy carries, wall climbs, monkey bars, and the like—tend to level the playing field for guys who do a lot of strength work. And the races are fun! “I think we were designed to run, to jump, to climb, to move, to get dirty,” Magida says. “It makes you feel like a kid again, but it also kind of makes you feel like a man at the same time.”
An OCR is more than just a test of strength, endurance, and speed; it’s a test of toughness. Crawling through mud beneath barbed wire, hefting yourself over high wooden walls, running through charged electrical wires, jumping into grimy water—you’re bound to get bruised and battered. “By the time you cross the finish line, you’re sore for days,” Magida says. While the equipment may be minimal, race entry fees often start near the triple digits.