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Running Techniques and Strategies for Obstacle Course Racing Beginners


trail running

Running is a huge part of OCR, and nailing your technique will make your race a whole lot more enjoyable. Here’s a game plan to get you started and keep you moving strong.


Understanding the Terrain


First off, OCR courses are designed to keep you on your toes—literally! You'll encounter everything from muddy trails to rocky paths and steep hills. We need to get you comfortable running on all sorts of surfaces.


- Trail Running: Let's hit the trails! Running on uneven surfaces will improve your balance and agility. Plus, it’ll strengthen those stabilizing muscles in your legs. Look for local parks with trail systems or even nature reserves. Start with shorter distances and gradually increase as you become more comfortable. Pay attention to your foot placement to avoid tripping over roots and rocks.


- Hill Training: Don’t shy away from hills. Running uphill builds serious leg strength and endurance. And don’t forget downhill training—it’s great for controlling your speed and building quad strength. Find a nearby hill and incorporate hill sprints once a week. Run up the hill at a hard pace, then walk or jog back down to recover. Repeat 6-10 times depending on your fitness level.


Proper Running Form


Good form is your best friend—it keeps you efficient and injury-free. Here’s what to focus on:


- Posture: Keep your posture upright with a slight forward lean from the ankles. This helps reduce strain on your lower back and makes breathing easier. Imagine a string pulling you up from the top of your head to maintain alignment. Keep your shoulders relaxed and avoid hunching.


- Foot Strike: Aim for a midfoot strike to lessen the impact on your joints. Avoid heavy heel strikes or running on your toes. Focus on landing softly, as if you're trying to sneak up on someone. This can help you run more efficiently and reduce the risk of injury.


- Arm Movement: Keep those arms bent at 90 degrees and swing them naturally from your shoulders. Avoid crossing your arms over your chest—it can mess with your balance. Your hands should pass by your waist, not crossing your body's midline. This helps in maintaining forward momentum and balance.


Interval Training for Beginners


High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is gold for OCR. It mimics the race’s stop-and-go nature.


Let’s start simple:

- Basic Interval Workout: Warm up with a 5-minute jog. Then, run fast for 1 minute and walk or jog slowly for 2 minutes. Repeat this for 20-30 minutes, then cool down with a 5-minute walk. As you progress, you can shorten the rest periods and increase the intensity of your runs.


- Progressive Intervals: As you get more comfortable, we’ll bump up the intensity by increasing the duration of your fast runs and reducing recovery time. For example, run hard for 2 minutes and recover for 1 minute. Mix it up to keep your body adapting and improving.


Pacing Strategies


Pacing yourself is key to keeping your energy up throughout the run. Here’s how to do it:


- Start Steady: Kick things off at a moderate pace. It’s tempting to sprint out of the gate, but we want to avoid burning out too soon. Find a comfortable pace that you can maintain without feeling winded.


- Maintain Consistency: Find a pace you can comfortably hold. This helps conserve energy for the obstacles and the latter parts of the run. Use a running watch or app to keep track of your pace. Practice running at a consistent speed during training to get a feel for it.


- Use Landmarks: Break the run into smaller, manageable segments using landmarks. This makes the distance feel less daunting and keeps you focused. Mentally divide the course into sections and focus on reaching each landmark, whether it’s a tree, a sign, or an obstacle.


Warm-Ups


Warming up properly is crucial to prepare your body for the demands of running and OCR. A good warm-up increases blood flow, enhances flexibility, and reduces the risk of injury. Start with 5-10 minutes of light cardio, such as jogging or jumping jacks, to get your heart rate up. Follow this with dynamic stretches like leg swings, arm circles, and high knees to loosen up your muscles and joints. Incorporate movement-based stretches that mimic the actions you'll perform during the race, like lunges with a twist and hip openers. This routine primes your body for peak performance and helps you avoid strains and sprains.


Check out our post on Warmups here:


Incorporate Strength Training


Running is crucial, but so is strength training. It’ll enhance your overall performance and make running easier:

- Leg Strength: We’ll do squats, lunges, and step-ups to build the leg strength you need for hills and obstacles. Add weight as you get stronger. Plyometric exercises like box jumps can also improve your explosive power.


- Core Strength: A strong core helps you maintain good running form and provides stability. We’ll add planks, Russian twists, and leg raises to your routine. Incorporate dynamic movements like mountain climbers and bicycle crunches for functional strength.


- Upper Body Strength: Pull-ups, push-ups, and rows are essential for climbing walls and ropes. Let’s get that upper body strong! Use resistance bands or a suspension trainer if you’re new to these exercises. Gradually increase the difficulty as you build strength.


Get started with our bodyweight exercises:


Recovery and Injury Prevention


Recovery is just as important as training. It keeps you injury-free and ready for more:

- Rest Days: Make sure you have regular rest days to let your muscles recover. Active recovery like walking or gentle yoga can help.


- Stretching and Mobility: We’ll incorporate stretching and mobility exercises to improve flexibility and reduce injury risk. Focus on your hips, calves, and hamstrings. Foam rolling can also help release muscle tension and improve blood flow.


- Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any discomfort or pain. If something feels off, take a break and let’s address it before it becomes a bigger issue. Don’t ignore persistent pain—seek professional advice if needed.


Conclusion


Mastering the running part of OCR is crucial, especially if you're just starting out. By getting comfortable with different terrain, maintaining good form, using interval training, pacing yourself effectively, and combining strength training with proper recovery, you'll be well on your way to crushing your first race.


Ready to lace up those shoes and start training? Stick to these tips, stay consistent, and get ready to tackle OCR with confidence and enthusiasm! Let’s do this!


Check out more strategies here:


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