How To Choose A Spartan Race or OCR Training (6 Must-Ask Questions)
Obstacle course races (OCR), also sometimes called “mud runs,” are the fastest growing sport in the entire nation. According to Outside magazine, in 2013 around 3 million people crossed an OCR finish line—which is more than ALL the half-marathon and marathon finishers combined. (Obstacle-Course Racing: The Next Olympic Event) Spartan Race founder, Joe DeSena, even has clear goals to getting the OCR sport into the Olympics by 2024. Whether or not OCR racing makes it to the Olympics, though, it’s obvious that OCR races are the hottest next thing in racing.
With the popularity of OCR races, such as Spartan Race, coupled with the TV sensation American Ninja Warrior, it’s no surprise that a myriad of training options for would-be OCR warriors—young and old alike—have popped up. But just something is touted as “Spartan Race Training” or “OCR Race Training,” doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get any actual race training.
To truly train for an OCR race, you have to actually train on obstacles. (And a bucket carry does NOT count!) So how do you know whether or not you’re “Spartan/OCR” workout is really going to prepare you for an OCR race? We’ve compiled the top 6 questions you should ask yourself before signing up for any “Spartan/OCR Workout.” (And here’s a hint: The answer to all the following questions should be “YES!”)
- Will You Train On Actual OCR Obstacles?
A bucket carry is great for building muscle strength—but this is something you can easily accomplish at your own home by buying some heavy rocks and a bucket at home depot. To actually learn how to succeed at OCR obstacles, you have to TRAIN ON obstacles. This means the OCR workout or race training should employ obstacles such as various sized walls, rigs, spear throws, tires for flipping, and traverse and inclined walls. Basic rule of thumb: if you could recreate the training in your own backyard, it’s not much of a training. Before you sign up, call and ask what obstacles you’ll be practicing on during the training. If there aren’t obstacles being showcased, what you’re really getting is a glorified workout with heavy weights and maybe, if you’re lucky, a rope climb. This may be ok if it’s what you’re looking for. Just find out before you show up so you’re not disappointed.
(King’s Camps and Fitness client practicing walls at our Obstacle Open Gym.)
- Is The Training Led By Elite Coaches Active in the OCR Community?
You wouldn’t take Driver’s Ed from someone who’s never driven a car, so why would you take a workout or race training from someone who’s never run elite OCR races? The coaches leading your training should be elite, experienced athletes who know what it takes to run and obtain top placement in races. (Because anyone can run in the elite category—they just have to pay extra money. It’s the top placement that indicates how serious the coach is about the OCR sport.) And, any athlete worth their weight in salt should have an Athlinks or ChronoTrack account. Review the coach’s account to see which races they’ve run and how they did in them. If there is no account, the coach is not a serious athlete. And why train from someone who’s not serious about the sport you’re trying to get better in?
(SGX-certified Coach Mike King enjoying a Battlefrog podium finish.)
- Are The Coaches Certified?
There are a number of certifications coaches can take to learn how to train people for OCR races. If you’re running Spartan races, looks specifically for SGX-certified coaches, as these coaches have spent time studying the key bodyweight movements and race-day fundamentals that you’ll need to successfully overcome your obstacles. Training for Warriors also provides certifications, and there are a number of personal and group training certifications out there as well. If the coach you’re training with isn’t certified in anything, run—don’t walk—away. You’ll be wasting your money and potentially setting yourself up for injury.
- Does The Coach Or Training Facility Train Pro-Level Or Competitive Athletes?
The proof is in the pudding, they say. Or in this case, the proof should be who else trains with them. Just like you use Yelp to check out a restaurant before you go to eat, check out who else trains with the coach or at the facility. If pro-level or other competitive athletes train with the coach or at the facility, you can be assured that the training must be pretty great. (Because while there is some genetic component to athletic greatness, most greatness is not born, it’s bred through great training.)
(King’s Camps and Fitness Pro Team member Rea Kolbl Pra rocking the peg board.)
- Does the Coach or Training Facility Support Multi-Level Athletes?
Teaching a pro who already knows most of what needs to be done is one thing, but has the coach or training facility also coached your average Joe? You want to go someplace and to someone who has a variety of coaching experience. If it’s not clear whether a facility or trainer has experience coaching multi-level athletes (e.g., beginners to elites), don’t be afraid to call them up and ask. If the person who answers isn’t able to answer your questions, they probably also can’t help coach you over a wall.
(King’s Camps and Fitness obstacle course training camp community members.)
- Does the Coach or Training Facility have years of experience?
Everyone has to start somewhere. But, when you’re trusting your life to a coach who needs to accurately teach you how to climb walls, swing on rings, and throw spears—you don’t want the guy or gal who decided to throw a “Spartan Workout” on a whim in their backyard. OCR races and their training are potentially dangerous events. In order to avoid serious injury, you need to train with coaches who take the event as seriously as you value your life. Call us dramatic, but we’ll choose trained and certified coaches over your neighbor who bought some buckets from Home Depot and is now holding a Spartan Workout at the community park.
So what’s the net-net here?
Don’t get us wrong—there is a place for hard workouts that involve bucket carries and lots of burpees. Those workouts are great for conditioning your body for running races that requires you to, well, carry buckets and do burpees. But, to truly be ready for an OCR race, you also need to train on actual obstacles.
This is why King’s Camps and Fitness has been providing actual obstacle training since 2013. It’s also why all our obstacle training camps are taught by certified coaches, taken by elite and beginner athletes alike, and utilize race-like obstacles. We’re open every Wed night for Obstacle Open Gym, and hold weekend OCR workshops, and offer a regional race series using a facility dedicated to obstacle course training. Hooyah!