Enjoy pushing your limits and putting every inch of your conditioning into action? Throw some mud pits, icy water, and even a little fire into the mix and you’ve got obstacle course races (OCRs). Events like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Warrior Dash have skyrocketed in popularity. In 2013, more people did an obstacle race or mud run than a marathon or half marathon, according to Running USA. Many are driven not only by the challenge of scaling a 14-foot wall or crawling through mud under barbed wires, but also the camaraderie, since teamwork is often key. 

But how do you train to do everything from slithering through a 20-foot tube to swinging from monkey bars? “The races require a combination of cardiovascular endurance, speed, strength, and power,” says Rebecca Golian, an SGX-certified elite Spartan Race competitor and a trainer at Chelsea Piers Sports Center in NyC, where she created the OCR Training program.

Because you’re racing from one obstacle to the next, you need to train your heart rate at different zones, with high-intensity intervals as well as long, slow endurance work. At the same time, you need to develop functional strength to complete movements like pushups, pullups, crawls, drags, and carries. And, of course, there’s the mind game: “You go through
a lot in these races, so you need physical conditioning as well as mental grit,” adds Golian.

This OCR training workout from Golian mixes all the elements needed to conquer an adventure race. But it’s also a great way to burn fat and improve fitness — no mud required.

Adventure Race Training

Warmup/ Dynamic Stretching

  • Jump rope: 5 minutes
  • Alternate Toe Touch: 10 per side
  • Standing Side Bend: 10 per side
  • Trunk rotation: 20 rotations
  • Arm Circle: 6–10 reps per side
  • Walking lunge: 15–20 reps

Circuit 1

Run 1⁄4 mile (or about 2–3 minutes) at a moderate pace. Then do as many reps as possible of the following exercises for 1 minute each. Rest 30 seconds between each exercise. Complete the circuit 1–3 times, resting 1–3 minutes between each circuit.

  • Pushup
  • Crunch
  • Pullup or Hanging Knee Raise
  • Lunge
  • Plank
  • Body-weight Squat
  • Burpee

Circuit 2

Do this circuit 1–3 times. Rest 1–3 minutes between each circuit.

  • Walking lunge: With or without weight; 15–20 reps.
  • Squat Jump: No weight; 10 reps.
  • Front Bear Crawl: Begin on all fours; lift knees slightly and step forward with right hand and right foot, then immediately repeat with left side. Keep knees close to ground, directly under hips. Continue for about 1 minute, building speed as you get more familiar with the movement.
  • Reverse Bear Crawl: Begin as above, this time stepping backward with right hand/foot and then with left. Continue for about 1 minute.
  • Walking Lunge: Body weight or holding weight; 15–20 reps.
  • Squat Jump:  No weight; 10 reps.
  • Run: 1⁄4 mile or about 2–3 minutes at a slightly faster pace than in Circuit 1.