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The Secrets to Training For Adventure Racing

The Secrets to Training For Adventure Racing

So you want to do an adventure race but don’t necessarily know where to start. We’re here to guide you. Let’s get a couple things out of the way though – whether you’re a runner, a crossfitter, or a powerlifter, recognize that training for an adventure race is a different beast.

1. Start training six months in advance.

man and trainer using ropes

An adventure race is a multi-sport and multi-terrain affair. You’re going to want to prepare for it in ways you may be less familiar with.

2. Train in stages.

people biking

You want to bifurcate your training into stages: a base, build and peak before the race.

3. Establish your base.

man outside stretching

It is imperative to establish a strong base before you move into training for specifics of the race with more advanced maneuvers. This will do much to prevent injury at the later stages. During the base phase, focus on simple things – train three times a week (minimum) for a couple hours at a time, and do a circuit workout with lots of compound bodyweight exercises in quick succession to maintain a fairly high heart rate. More advanced athletes should train four to six days a week. Listen to your body and understand when you need to rest for recuperation and growth. All of this training should be low to medium intensity, with a distinct focus on increasing aerobic capacity.

4. Research the race and its nuances.

two people backpacking

To train for the specifics of a race, you need to understand the course, obstacles, and weather. As you transition into the build phase of your training (around four months prior to the race), do your utmost to emulate the conditions.

5. Train for the specifics of the race.

man kayaking
For races that are single-sport or triathlon-derived (ultramarathons, Iron Man), the majority of your training can be sport-specific. It is important to incorporate high-intensity work and long-distance work into your regimen. The most popular adventure races incorporate many obstacles, which can be conquered via strength training.

High Altitude: Specialized gyms can simulate high altitude. If you happen to live somewhere mountainous, get out there and do some trail running.

Steep Terrain: The stair climber and high-incline wind sprints. This is especially useful if the steep terrain you’re doing is part of an obstacle – in which case you can train by doing high-incline high speed sprints for 30 seconds, then resting for 45 seconds. Repeat this ten times and your body will get the idea.

Tire Pit: High knee sprints. Do these for 100 yards back and forth five times. These simulate the tire pit, and will make it a breeze.

Tire Carry: Weighted lunges will activate more muscles in your hamstrings than you’ll likely employ for the tire carry, and will make the obstacle laughably easy.  Ideally, place a barbell across your shoulders and do your lunges with this (as opposed to holding two dumbbells at your sides).

Wall Climb: Common in many of the obstacle course races (Tough Mudder), this is replicated by upper body pull movement, such as pull-ups. If you develop a strong pull-up, you’ll find the actual obstacle much easier since you can incorporate your legs and lower body.

Tube Crawl: Bear crawls simulate this effectively. Core strength is important here, so planks can ease the process.

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6. Maintain a focus on duration.

person running outside

Adventure races are endurance affairs. As such, while some intensity work is useful, the primary objective should be to maximizing the total time of the workout. As a starting point, a beginner should be doing a few hours of each discipline per week (with one or two disciplines per session) during the base stage and work up from there.

7. Get enough rest throughout.

tent outside

This is especially important immediately preceding the race. When in the midst of training, we have a tendency not to realize how exhausted our body is. Overtraining is far more common than people realize. Beyond the risk of injury, overtraining can cause the hard work to actually be counterproductive, weakening your muscles. The best athletes understand how to heed their body’s warnings. One sure-fire warning sign is feeling unusually tired and lethargic.

8. Fuel your body appropriately.

meal prep

Eat fuel that your body can burn for energy and use to develop muscle. Without enough fuel, your body can be in a catabolic state where it burns muscle for energy. For longer races, pack some nutrition for the course to replenish your glycogen stores and prevent you from hitting a wall. Always, always, always remember to stay hydrated.


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