Throughout the summer, our weekends seem to be filled with weddings, graduations, birthdays and many other celebrations with family, friends and colleagues sending our social well-being meter through the roof! That said, our physical well-being tends to take a hit on the weekends as these events take up most of the summer.
As we get back into our normal routines we often find ourselves asking, “ok, what’s next?” What is going to motivate me to get back on track and stick with it? For many it may consist of getting back into a walking routine, signing up at a fitness center, or tending to the gardens. For millions of people it consists of “Obstacle Course Racing.”
Obstacle course races (“OCR” for short) take place in many different venues. From ski resorts, to sports arenas, to hiking trails and fields consisting of three to 18+ miles of fun, challenging obstacles. Make a simple Google search of “Obstacle Course Races” and you’ll find hundreds of videos of participants crawling through mud, climbing over walls, scaling monkey bars that hover over moats (that some end up swimming in), and many other obstacles that seem to be thought up by some mad scientist and a child who likes mud.
As painful as some of that that may sound, what you also see is the soft side of these challenges behind the Spartan Shield of the Spartan Races, and behind the titles of some like “Tough Mudder” or “Warrior Dash.” Throughout the race you will see teammates and complete strangers alike assisting each other over obstacles. At the finish line you see tears of joy and happiness. You see family, friends, colleagues, and strangers embracing each other after just tackling obstacles they never thought they would attempt.
Amy McCrae, community health team health coach at The UVM Medical Center, lent us insight on her recent experiences with obstacle course races.
“I have done most of my races with friends and family. Once I did it alone, but you’re never really alone at these events because everyone is on one team and if you need a hand over a wall you don’t even have to ask as someone is there to help! It’s very heart-warming really! People you’ve never met before are willing to give you a hand or offer words of encouragement that help get you up and motivated to finish when you’re getting tired or feel like quitting.”
For Natascha Dacres, precertification associate in the Department of Surgery at The UVM Medical Center, crossing the finish line is the most amazing feeling!
“The challenge is like nothing I have ever done before. The euphoric feeling I get when I have accomplished something that I didn’t think I could is amazing, and to get over the mental strain of doing something you are afraid of.”
Lynan Moy and her colleagues have also found these races to be very inspiring and motivating.
“We have gotten ourselves in such great shape. Our camaraderie and becoming such good friends with this group has made my life so much happier. We have been told that we are inspiring others to get off the couch as well. I believe these races have become so popular because just about anyone can do it. Just try. And the people are all out there helping each other. I have seen and helped total strangers out there on the course and been helped in return. Such as being pulled out of mud that is up to your thighs!”
So if you’re like me and the thought of pounding the pavement makes your bone shake just thinking about it, give one of these sites a look. Happy trails!
Considerations Prior to Participating
- Are you new to exercise? Visit your primary care physician to discuss your new exercise program before starting.
- Have you ever tried an OCR before? A good idea might be to attend an event as a spectator (comes with a small fee at times). This way, you can see what the obstacles entail and find out first-hand what the event is like. For example, The Spartan OCR has three different distances: A 3 mile (Spartan Sprint0, 6 mile (Spartan Super) and a 13 mile (Spartan Beast) course.
- Training for an OCR is slightly different than training for a regular run or walk event. Total body exercises as well as plyometric training is involved on a weekly basis more so than that of a walk/run program. Seek out a certified professional for exercise instruction as proper mechanics and form is essential to injury prevention and successful OCR completion.
Corey Cenate is an Wellness Health Coach with Employee Wellness at The University of Vermont Medical Center.