put down the barbell bro ocr new years resolutions

This is an open letter to the beginner obstacle course racers and people who simply cannot overcome the chasm.

I’m talking about the moment you realise that hammer curls and lat pulldowns (for that cobra back) may make you look good in race photos but they won’t help you finish the race strong.

I’m not talking about that struggle to finish your first or the second race that you’re doing as a challenge to yourself. We’ve all done that and completing those personal challenges creates a natural transition into more serious competing. We all enjoy being heroes for a day, with our social feeds full of epic photos and teeming with likes. This is how racing for fun should be.

However, things change when you set your sights on finishing in the top 20 or top 10. Especially if you haven’t yet competed in an elite heat. The key thing to know is that your current workout routine probably isn’t going to earn you a Spartan coin or a pay check.


Look at how epic this is. But it’s not what OCR is about either.. Moments like these are just snapshots of a longer effort mostly made up of running.

I know because I’ve wasted maybe a year of OCR training. I was doing some Crossfit, running just once or twice a week, and indulging my maybe cocky obsession with strength training. I thought this was what solid enough for competitive OCR. Even more so – it was a solid training plan to ensure appearing big and beastly at the finish line.

Meanwhile ignoring how to even reach the finish line in the first place.

My point is that it’s not enough to pin all hope on barbells and elevation masks when you’re racing in OCR.

Sure, you’ll start out strong on race day. However eventually, you will see a trail of dust left by no one else… but the great runners.

And this is where strength should come from in the first place.

Too many events showcase the epic side of OCR – the obstacles – whilst overlooking the grind of running for miles. I absolutely hate action reals and promo photos, that only show ripped people going over walls or under barbed wire. These are rarely the people who perform well in obstacle races or who are deemed elite athletes. They sure look good though.

To do well in OCR, you’ve simply got to focus on the largest muscle group you have. Not your lats, not your pecs or biceps, but your leg muscles. This means improving your running and hitting the trails regularly.


This is what 90% of the race is going to consist of – you know it damn well.

The obvious conclusion: if you want to compete with the elites who run well, start running yourself.

Don’t run just once or twice a week, like my naive, younger self. You should run three, four or five times a week. Find a training plan that works for you, or perhaps even a running coach with a good grasp of what OCR is about. You can also recruit an accountability buddy to help you keep to your ambitious new running schedule.

We’ve long said that OCR is a runner’s game. And we’re not alone.

Now OCR champs Jon Albon, Ryan Atkins and Matt Murphy have developed an obstacle course training program which is built on one maxim: “Obstacle Races are traditionally 90% running, 10% obstacles, if you improve your run, you will improve your results.”

Trust the source, get out there and start moving your legs regularly. Forget the barbells and unlock your true beast mode through natural movements for results that will last longer than an awesome finish-line, fire jump photo.

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