How to Train for any Race

How to Train for any Race

Hardcore Obstacle Races such as the intense military spec ops based , mud, crawling, climbing, even zombies chasing you, are all the rage these days.  Most of these races share a common denominator - mud, water, obstacles you climb, crawl under, jump over, and run to and through.  Most also throw in a few curve ball obstacles as a surprise that are usually terrain / race event specific to include sliding down hills, dealing with fire, rope climbs and swings and many more.  But much of the fun is to not have a mapped out course and list of the obstacles to challenge your mind as well as your body.   Here is a list of obstacle course races that are growing in popularity:

The Spartan Race A race complete with miles of obstacles, mud, fire and more and a variety of distances for different levels of fitness.  This race has taken off and have venues around the world.

Metro Dash A short sprint type race full of 15 obstacle / events.  You will only run 600 meters in this race, but lift / pull / climb / push through so many events you wish you could rest with a mile jog.

Tough Mudder Designed my British Special Forces, this 10-12 mile run mixed with as many obstacles will challenge any competitor.  

Warrior Dash   Another obstacle race complete with miles of obstacles, mud, fire, and running.

BRAVEHEART Challenge   This is our 3-4 mile course featuring 10-12 obstacles. For the mudquest in you. Fun, Beer, Mud, Live Music. Designed with the help of Firefighters.

BLAZING MUD Challenge   Conquer your fears in our 6-8 mile course with 14-18 obstacles. For the individual & team run. Testing your inner self. Designed by  Firefighters and Navy SEALs, Just having fun.

SEAL TOUGH  Challenge   "THE BADDEST CHALLENGE ON EARTH" This our 10-15 mile course with 18-24 obstacles, for the truly bad ass! Designed by our team of Navy SEALs, SEAL Team ONE and SEAL Team TWO (Extreme SEAL Experience).

A fun one for the FREAK in you - Run for Your Lives   This is a shorter 5km race complete with obstacles and mud BUT you run from the zombies chasing you.

There are many, many races that are out there and some likely very close to you.  See US Race Calendar for more info and the dozens of races in your area.

The training plan below is specific to the Civilian Military Combine,  but you can use this training program to build your abilities and strengthen your weaknesses for ANY race.  See link to their site and non-profit involvement.

For this training program, a 7.5 mile race complete with obstacles every mile and a six minute burnout PT in the Pit for a pre-race warm-up will build a foundation of obstacle course fitness you can take to any race.  The Pit is simple 4 exercises and you have a 1:30 seconds to do as many reps as you can at each station with a 30 second rest and rotate between each station.

The weight is not super heavy but it will allow for most levels of fitness to complete the 90 second set:

Exercise 1:  Thruster (front squat into over head press) 75lb for men 45 (the bar) for women (30 second rest)

Exercise 2:  Kettle bell swing 40lb for men 20lb for women (30 second rest)

Exercise 3:  Burpee - max reps for 90 seconds (30 second rest)

Exercise 4:  Box jump 20 inches universal height (30 second rest)

These exercises are full body and highly anaerobic events.  Train each exercise for 90-120 seconds to get used to the exercise for that time, BUT also adapt to the 30 second recovery period.  Make sure in your workouts that you practice the 30 second rest period for optimal performance gains in the PIT. Another option if you are not into lifting weights is to add the 8 Count Pushup / Pullup Pyramid into your training routine once a week for a few months.

To train for any event, I highly recommend getting familiar with these four exercises in sequence and following this quick workout with a longer run of 6-7 miles to get a solid foundation of the distance required for this race.  Yes - this race is on a ski slope so prepare by running hills.  Mix these PIT workouts 2-3 times into your weekly workout with 3-4 runs per week totaling the 6-7 mile distances (LSD run and interval speed work).  If you do not currently run that distance, build up to 5-7 miles of running over the next several weeks.  Perhaps by adding a mile per week to your runs for 5-6 weeks will help you depending on your current mileage per week.  Here is a sample running plan.  Arrange to fit your personal schedule and fitness level as needed:

Wk Monday Mile Intervals Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Mile Interval Friday Saturday Sunday
1 3 miles 2 miles off 3 miles off 2 miles off
2 4 miles 3 miles off 3 miles off 2 miles off
3 4 miles 4 miles off 3 miles off 2 miles off
4 5 miles off off 5 miles off 5 miles off
5 6 miles 5 miles off off off 5 miles off
6 7 miles 6 miles off off off event off

*note - the above distances assumes you already jog regularly in your workouts - If you are a beginner or currently do no running, see optional beginner plan. Another training method to help with your speed is to mix in mile intervals with exercises that are from the PIT or that mimic the obstacles in the run.  For instance,

Repeat 3-4 times run 1 mile timed KB swings 90 seconds or box jumps 30 seconds rest burpee - 90 seconds or thrusters 30 seconds rest pull-ups - max (mimic pulling obstacles)

Since, every mile there is an obstacle, doing more 1 mile interval work during the week will enhance your times, but building a base of 5-7 miles per running session will help you with endurance. You then have 1 minute to the start line where you funnel off into a 7 and a half mile steep mountain race.

Obstacle 1:  Low crawl 75 feet wide x 150 long. 20 inches off the ground

Obstacle 2:   Ladder walls 750 ft of ladder walls 10ft tall - 75ft between each wall- 10 rows

Obstacle 3:  High low poles 40 poles spread 8 ft apart Every other pole is 42 inches tall and 20 inches tall.  Competitors must go over and under each pole for 40 poles!!!

Obstacle 4:  Steep hill climb Competitors must scale 300 yards of a pitch that will make them get on their hands and knees

Obstacles 5:  Log carry 400 yard log carry with both decline and incline Men 35 pounds Women 15-20 pounds

Obstacle 6: 100 yard belly crawl going downhill

Obstacle 7:  River run 1100 ft long by 16ft in width. Competitor must run through waist high water for 1100 ft to the finish line. Competitors will have to bob under wooden planks making them submerge themselves in icy water

Here is a sample week of workouts to fit preparing for these events into your schedule.  You will have to get creative with simulating these obstacles, but it can be done with relative effort.

Monday Repeat 3xs (90 seconds each) Thrusters Burpees Box jumps KB or DB swings (rest 30 secs each exercise) Mile Interval Runs

Tuesday Distance run - mix in hills, stairs

Wednesday O course Simulation Pull-up / Burpee Pyramid   Mix in low crawls, jogs, log carry, hurdles etc during the 20m run in between exercises

Thursday Mile Interval Runs -rest with lunges 10.leg, 20 squats, 20 KB swings, 20 burpees in between each 1 mile timed run

Friday Make up Day or day off Optional  non impact aerobic activity like rowing, swimming, biking, etc

Saturday Distance run - mix in hills and stairs PIT Workout Test: Thrusters KB Swings Burpees Box Jumps (90 secs each - 30 secs rest) O course Simulation Pull-up / Burpee Pyramid

Sunday Day off or make up day

The week of training above is just one of many ways to pre-train for this event.   Creating a strategy for success in the CMC race requires you to practice the events, adapt to the recovery and exertion levels, pace your miles to your level of fitness and abilities, but most importantly - have fun doing it. Enjoy the workouts and preparation and good luck with the race!

Good luck with your nutrition / performance fitness program and I hope you see improvement soon.  Workouts can be easily obtained at the Fitness Ebook Store.   Send me an email and I may post it up as an article next week. You can contact me at

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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