The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for an Obstacle Course Run (OCR)

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OCR events have taken the world by storm over the last few years, with new events popping up on an almost monthly basis. The popularity of these events is ever-increasing as well, attracting die-hard fitness fanatics, charity supporters and also the less active who are keen to challenge themselves.

Many people are still put off the idea of attending such events though out of concern for their level of fitness and fear of not finishing. The key thing to remember here is that, although some of these events are classified as races, many attendees take part to simply do that, take part, and to challenge their own ability.

As a weight lifter, cardio isn't my favourite activity, in fact, my idea of cardio is lifting weights faster – until recently. I now jog to the gym and play badminton and swim once a week, although the majority of my exercise is weight-based in the gym.

So you may be surprised to learn that I am a regular attendee at a number of OCR events across the UK – despite the limited amount of my cardiovascular training activities. I guess the point I'm trying to make, is that you don't have to be an athlete to enjoy an OCR event, you can go just to take part and to challenge yourself.

I'm going to give you some idea as to what I would advise in order to get yourself OCR-ready.



So the first thing I would suggest is to actually start doing some sort of physical activity, whether it's running, swimming, a fast-paced sport or something similar; this will get you used to putting your body under some level of stress. Gradually build up your stamina over time so that you can run 3 or 4 miles without stopping at a steady pace, 10-12 minute miles should be enough.

The next area to prepare is your upper body strength. Whether you go to the gym, train at home or at the local park, just try and build your upper body muscles so that you can handle your own bodyweight, by this I mean have the ability to perform push ups, perhaps some pull ups and shoulder presses with a medium weight, try 10-15kg as a minimum.

I would advise training with a friend if you can as this will help to motivate you, if you don't have a friend willing to train with you, then take some music along with you. I would also suggest getting an app such as the NIKE FITNESS APP or a geo-location watch; tracking your progress will help you to challenge yourself and to measure your progress, seeing improvement is a massive motivator.



Whether it's Summer, Autumn, Winter or Spring, the water that you will get sprayed with or have to jump into WILL be cold – very cold! You need to make sure you are prepared for this as, if you haven't experienced it before, you will be shocked at how cold it really is. I would advise going for a swim at a local water park, take a friend with you for safety reasons, or try running in a tshirt and shorts in the rain. The idea here is that you are prepared mentally and physically for the chilling water obstacles. This alone is an energy sapper at any OCR event so if you can get used to this, you're already 1 step closer to success.

A month before the event you need to focus on your cardiovascular exercise, so lay off the weights. You need to be used to your weight, so don't go packing on the pounds during this period. Focus on your stamina, and if you want to keep your weight training up, then use medium to light weight and increase your reps and sets.


It's important to challenge yourself, but equally, if this is your first OCR event, it's important to focus on completing it. However, timing your run is a great way to see how you have improved for when you run your next OCR event.

Don't be afraid to walk – many will do this! If you need a breather, take one, if you want to walk up a hill, walk it, if an obstacle is too much for you, skip it. Remember that the aim here is to do the best you can and... COMPLETE THE DISTANCE.

If you have managed to pull a team or a group together, try and stay together. It is really motivating to have a group together who are giving 'banter' yet spurring each other the whole distance.

Start with what you think you can handle, most races will have a 5k and 10k option. If you are unsure, go for the 5k. See how you feel at the end of the event, and if you feel you could do more, then next time try the 10k.

Make sure you eat on the day, high energy foods are advised. Many runners will increase their electrolytes for a few days running up to the event to 'load' their bodies in preparation for the race. Make sure you are hydrated, but most OCR events will have a fruit table and a water table at the half way point – so get involved there.. but don't be a greedy b*stard – it will bite you in the ass about 1 mile later as you are struck down with stitch or with a bloated feeling – You're not a pig so don't hammer the food, and you're not a camel, you need to store up, you just need to replenish quickly to keep yourself going.


If you have any tips of your own then please feel free to share them with me, or, if you took my advice, then let me know how you got on and which OCR event you participated in.

Good luck, you're gonna need it – only messing!

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