Tag Archives: endurance

Can you Handle an Obstacle Course Race?

Obstacle course races such as the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race or Warrior Dash have become the rage lately. Popularity is growing fast and everyone from fitness junkies to weekend warriors are braving the conditions to challenge these races. The uniqueness of this racing makes developing a training program difficult. These events range vary in length (3-13 miles) and densely populated with obstacles. What makes a mud run difficult is preparation.

Each obstacle calls on various energy systems to perform the task.  To complete the event, energy must come from all three energy systems; ATP/CP, Gylcolysis and Oxidative, much like Mixed Martial Arts, which requires a mix of quick high intensity work and sustained endurance. If you are looking to challenge yourself , how would you train for these events? As stated these events require cardiorespiratory endurance with brief bouts of  power and strength.

Interval cardiorespiratory training with a focus on Zone 3, or peak interval heart rate, which incorporates short bursts of 90% maximum heart rate exercise, would be great for these events. This method of training incorporates high-intensity exercise followed by a recovery period, much like the race itself. The body must be presented with a workload that challenges its current fitness state. This increased workload will cause fatigue and, with the proper recovery, will eventually yield cardiorespiratory improvements. Performing this type of cardiorespiratory training 1-3 times per week will provide great benefits. If you are just starting out it is not recommended to start training at such a high intensity. So begin training in lower heart rate zones, (65%-75% of MaxHR) for extended periods. As this becomes easier, compliment the workout with brief bouts of moderate to high intensity (80-85%) exercise to build a solid cardiorespiratory base. Once you have mastered this begin to tackle the short bouts of high heart rate zone exercise (90% of MaxHR).

Below is a sample Interval Training program that uses Zone 3 exercise: Beginning Level: 2-6 weeks (depending on fitness level)

  • 30 – 60 minutes at 65-75% of Max Heart Rate

Intermediate Level: 2-4 weeks (depending of fitness level and adaption rate) Phase I:

  • 5 minutes warm-up at slow-controlled pace
  • 4 minutes at 80-85% of Max Heart Rate
  • 1 minute at 65-75% of Max Heart Rate
  • 4 minutes at 80-85% of Max Heart Rate
  • 1 minute at 65-75% of Max Heart Rate
  • 5 minute cool-down

Phase II: 

  • 5 minutes warm-up at slow-controlled pace
  • 10 minutes at 80-85% of Max Heart Rate
  • 5 minute at 65-75% of Max Heart Rate
  • 10 minutes at 80-85% of Max Heart Rate
  • 5 minute cool-down

Advanced Level: 2 – 4 weeks (depending on adaptation times)

  • 5-10 minutes warm-up
  • 30 seconds at 85-95% Max heart Rate, 30 seconds at 80-85% of Max Heart Rate
  • Repeat above 3 times (total of 3 minutes)
  • 2-5 minute recovery at 65-75% of Max Heart Rate
  • 30 seconds at 85-95% Max heart Rate, 30 seconds at 80-85% of Max Heart Rate
  • 2-3 minutes of cool-down

Perform this interval training program 3-5 days per week. On lighter days include a resistance circuit training program of varied intensities. Circuit training is a good way to strengthen and improve cardiorespiratory fitness.