My legs are hurting, my lungs are burning, and I’m covered in grime from trying to scale a dirt hill turned into a mud pile by a rushing torrent of water from a fire hose. It’s the World Famous Mud Run at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, and I’m having a blast while participating in one of the most popular trends to hit recreational activities in a long time.
Traditional running races such as 5Ks, 10Ks and marathons are still popular, but the past few years have seen an explosive proliferation of mud-run-type events for individuals who want a one-of-a-kind fitness experience wrapped around a fun yet physically challenging workout. There are so many different variations of the mud run that it has spawned the generic term obstacle-course racing (OCR) to refer to any type of race that involves navigating a number of obstacles that will fatigue you both mentally and physically on the way to leaving you a sweaty, muddy (but proud) mess.
One of the benefits of participating in an obstacle-course race is that it can provide a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound training objective for those who want or need a goal for the motivation to work out. An OCR not only provides a training goal and gives you a GREAT workout on the day of the event, but it also creates a vibrant and unique community of like-minded, adventure-seeking individuals who support one another throughout the competition. That’s because one of the foundational principles of an OCR is that racers offer assistance to one another even if they may technically be competing to see who finishes the race first.
If you’re in need of a new challenge to conquer or if you just want to find a community of people with a similar outlook on life, here are seven reasons why you should consider participating in an OCR.
- It’s an effective cross-training workout. Because you alternate between challenging your cardiovascular system while running and using muscular strength to overcome obstacles, consider obstacle-course racing as one of the most effective cross-training workouts you will love to hate. (Even Bo knows OCR!)
- The terrain variety can mean fewer overuse injuries. Running on a hard surface like concrete or asphalt means that every time your foot hits the ground, it can create significant impact forces, which, over time, could lead to debilitating overuse injuries. OCR events are more often than not held on dirt trails with numerous hills. A constantly changing terrain means that your body experiences a variety of different forces, reducing the chance of the repetitive stresses that could result in a soft-tissue injury.
- It’s actually a series of short runs. An OCR features a number of different stations throughout the course, requiring you to run from one obstacle to another where you have to stop, assess the obstacle and identify the quickest, most efficient and SAFEST way to overcome the challenge. This means that instead of running at a continuous, monotonous pace, you are essentially performing a number of short runs as you transition from obstacle to obstacle. Running 10 kilometers on a flat surface may seem like an intimidating and mind-numbingly tedious task, whereas performing a series of 400- to 800-meter runs over the duration of the course breaks down the distance into smaller, easier-to-complete segments.
- Compete as a team, or make new friends. Obstacle-course racing offers options for entering as an individual or as part of a team. If you and your friends enjoy working out together, then consider an OCR an outdoor group workout, which, because it can be so challenging, can help you enhance the strength of your existing friendships. On the other hand, if you sign up to run an OCR as an individual, it’s almost guaranteed that you will make new friends as you work with others to navigate challenging obstacles.
- Feel like a kid again. If your childhood involved building forts and a love of muddy adventures, then consider obstacle-course racing a chance to recapture your youth. Climbing over walls, crawling through tunnels, swinging on monkey bars and shimmying up ropes during an OCR will provide plenty of fun flashbacks to a time when homework, passing notes in class, and waiting for the final bell to ring so you could go outside and play were the toughest challenges in your life. In other words, participating in an OCR will make you feel like a kid again, even if only for a day.
- Relive your athletic days. For individuals who played competitive team sports up to and through college, it can be tough to find the same sort of athletic challenge once you’re out of school and in the adult working world. An OCR provides a worthy challenge to appease your athletic, hypercompetitive self. Training for and participating in an obstacle-course race allows competitive individuals to have the experience of a challenging competition without the logistics of committing to a team practice and game schedule.
- Relish your accomplishment. Many OCR events feature a cornucopia of food and adult beverage options for participants to enjoy after the race. Not only will you have fun while working out, but you will also have a real reason to party as you enjoy your accomplishment once the race is over.
If you are looking for new challenges to upgrade your workout program or if you just want to make new friends and expand your social circle, consider entering an OCR. A few simple searches for “obstacle-course racing” and/or “mud run” should provide a number of options to choose from. Once you register for an OCR, you can search for group fitness workouts featuring high-intensity interval training or athletic conditioning, in which a qualified instructor can lead you through workouts that can help you prepare to successfully complete the race.
Inspired to participate in an OCR event? 24 Hour Fitness has teamed up with Spartan Race to provide 24 Hour Fitness members and team members with a discount. Find a race near you, and get 20 percent off race registration with code 24LIFE at checkout.
Photo credit: Paulo Vizeu, Unsplash