The Ultimate Obstacle Course Race Guide for Beginners

Jul 31, 2018 | Fitness

By Nancy Couper, ClubSport Pleasanton Elite Personal Trainer

Congratulations! You have taken the leap and signed up for your first Obstacle Course Race! Don’t panic, you’re going to do great. However, now may be the time to turn up the heat on training. Not only will you need to prepare your body for the challenge ahead, you also need to know a little more about race day. Elite Personal Trainer and Spartan Certified SGX Coach Nancy Couper has you covered answering some FAQs.

What is Obstacle Course Racing (OCR)?

You will run, scale 6 to 8-foot walls, cautiously crawl under barbed wire, and muscle your way through rope climbs and grip-based obstacles on courses designed to test your fitness level and push you outside your comfort zone.

Will this be too hard for me?

The beauty of OCR is that there are options for participants of any level. With the right training program to prepare both mind and body, you can definitely take on any course. Many OCR events offer various course levels. For example, at Spartan Races, you can choose between three course levels: Sprint (3+ miles and 15+ obstacles), Super (8+ miles and 20+ obstacles), and Beast (12+ miles 25+ obstacles). You can also choose to race as an individual, or if you thrive in a team environment, you can race as part of a squad.

What’s with all the burpees?

OCR athletes have a love/hate relationship with burpees. The burpee is a signature move in our training, and you must know how to do it safely and correctly. On the course, the penalty for not completing an obstacle is 30 burpees. (Yes, 30!) This number becomes especially important when competing in the Age Group or Elite waves; failure to complete 30 burpees with proper form can cost you deductions on your race time, which may mean the difference between first and second place.

What kind of obstacles are there?

You’re in for a treat! Obstacles are strategically placed on the course to test your mental and physical grit. Whether it be crawling through tough terrain under barbed wire, climbing a rope when wet and covered in mud, or “simply” walking or running up a steep grade, there’s a test for all. Many of the obstacles require upper body and grip strength, such as pulling a heavy object through dirt or pulling your body up and over an inverted wall. We simulate obstacles during training to help you prepare for OCR signature obstacles or new encounters on the course.

How should I prepare?

Preparation is critical. Along with physical preparation, you’ll want to be selective in how you fuel during training and race day, the gear you use to protect your body during training and on the course, as well as how you care for your body leading up to race day and post-race recovery.

What different pre-workout foods should I try?

As with any food source or supplement, it’s important to know your body and what works best for you. An appointment with one of our club nutritionists is a great place to start, and your first 20-minute consultation is free!

What should I wear?

Every course has its unique terrain, but you’ll do a combination of crawling, walking, running, jumping, and, in some cases, swimming. Prior to the race, research the course layout, weather, and other environmental factors. Your apparel should be functional, preferably moisture-wicking with compression, and extremely durable.

Any other tips for OCR newbies?

Start with a shorter course to get a feel for Obstacle Course Racing and train with one of our OCR training groups. OCR is not for the weekend warrior. Also, check out our July 2018 and March 2017 OCR workouts. Get ready to fall in love with burpees, pull-ups, running, and new challenges around every corner.


Meet Nancy Couper

Nancy Couper is an Elite Personal Trainer at ClubSport Pleasanton along with a performance enhancement and youth exercise specialist, Spartan certified SGX coach, certified group fitness instructor, and an experienced runner, accomplished obstacle course racer, and former competitive soccer player. Nancy is one of the coaches leading the OCR athlete’s training program at ClubSport Pleasanton.

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