Fitness Training and Obstacle Racing

Reaching for the Next Level

I’m going to follow this post up with a Podcast, so keep an eye (or ear) out for it.

It’s easy to get excited about a new goal, but be careful how fast you approach it. There are a lot of risks to moving from one extreme to the next when it comes to your goals; thus your training as a result. How do you know when to move from beginner to intermediate? Or intermediate to advanced? Worst case, you move from beginner to advanced.

Have you ever heard someone tell you they tried a new program or exercise and they got hurt, so their doctor told them it wasn’t for them? How do you know when you’ve done something stupid vs. too much of something for your current fitness level?

Remember that it takes years to build neurological connections between your brain and your muscles. When some people do a regular push-up with arms shoulder width apart, they still feel their shoulders and triceps instead of burning out their chest. Why is that? Because they have not yet made the connection between their brain and the muscles firing. What happens when your knee starts to hurt while you are running? There could be a lot of factors, but chances are your posterior chain is either not strong enough to support the running that you are doing, or not activating properly during your running. These same problems pop up with injuries all over the body and it gets worse when you add speed and intensity.

Your priority to yourself should be recovery. If you aren’t recovering between workouts, you aren’t doing much for yourself. You can’t make gains if your body is constantly exhausted. So rest if you need it. Get extra sleep and make sure your muscles are ready to go for the workout. It’s easy to know from day to day if you need rest, just look at how your body is performing and ask yourself how you feel. Some people can train twice a day five days in a row, but they are often sleeping 8 hours, napping 2 hours and don’t have much else going on (you guessed it, mostly professional athletes).  Your resting heart rate and working heart rates will also give you a lot of information. If your heart  rate won’t go up during your workouts, you probably need rest. If your resting heart rate is really high, your body is working overtime to repair, and you probably need rest.

Base your training on how you’re actually doing, not what the training plan states. Sometimes you can go harder; sometimes you need rest.

What is your training doing for you? What are your goals adding to your life? I assume if you aren’t a pro athlete that your goal is to live a long, happy and healthy life. So what does a 300lb Olympic bar snatch have to do with that? Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with that, but what does it add to your training vs. what does it take from your body? An Olympic bar snatch executed properly takes years of training, guidance (on your form and technique) and mobility. Sure you can throw the weight above your head on your first day of training and keep building on that, but please see me in five years and let me know how that’s working for you. Who knows, maybe it will be fine and your tissues will adapt, but maybe you’ll get hurt too. So if your goal is a big Olympic snatch, get professionally coached and get after it. But if your goal is a long life of mobility, exercise and happiness, set the right goals.

What are the right goals?

Variation in training is great. You will never be a master of one thing, but you will progress at all things. This will make you a more rounded athlete. So for 4 weeks at a time, you can work on building push-up strength so you can complete a clapping push-up. Pushing strength is functional and required in daily life, especially at your own body weight. Things like handstands are advanced, but they require strong wrists, good shoulder mobility, dedication, etc. all things you want to have in your life. Training in a group will keep you social, making friends and pushing yourself harder (another factor of long term health is being as fit as you can so the affects of age take longer to hit you – but that’s for another post).

I took up Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is that it forces me to train regularly, stay mobile, and be comfortable in my own body. To successfully complete an OCR (without skipping obstacles) takes a good deal of stamina, endurance, grip strength, cardio, etc. But it doesn’t ask too much of your body outside of your ability to control your own weight.

If you are overweight, you won’t be able to hold yourself up; underweight and you won’t be able to do the heavy lifts or carry the heavy buckets. If you are not mobile enough, you’ll have trouble with the crawls or low climbing rigs. All of the skills needed for OCR are also needed for a  healthy life. You don’t have to go to my extremes of racing Elite to do it, but racing at all will keep your mind in the right place. You’ll have fun with friends, you’ll keep track of your nutrition so you can succeed, you’ll run so you can make it through the race and you’ll work mobility and animal movements to stay mobile through obstacles. All of these things are vital for a long and healthy life and none of them ask more of you than your own weight (with a few exceptions, but still very reasonable amounts of strength all people should have).

That’s what my goals do for me. What do your goals do for you?

If it’s not adding to your life, it’s taking away from your life. In anything you do, make sure your training is doing the right things for you. If you are asked to step up your training, make sure you understand why, because more often than not, it’s too much too fast.

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