At Crossfit Thunderbolt, we train for the “unknown and the unknowable”. The movements we work on in the box have a real life application beyond the barbell, and the well-rounded fitness we’ve worked so diligently to build is what will help us succeed with the “unknown”.
If you are training for an obstacle course race (OCR), you will find yourself well-prepared with the programming at Crossfit Thunderbolt. Here are 7 ways that Crossfit prepares you for obstacle course racing!
For weeks now at Crossfit Thunderbolt, we have been systematically and progressively building up our deadlift strength by following Wendler programming. When it comes to real life applications – like picking up heavy suitcases, moving furniture, OR picking up that heavy boulder or oddly shaped object at an obstacle course race – you will be well prepared to do so. You will be strong enough, but even more importantly, you will know the key points to make sure the movement is safe. Out on the course, you may hear Coach Justin’s voice in your ear, or mine, telling you to keep your weight in your heels – “big chest” – keep the natural arch in your back (no rounding) – keep the “bar”/object close to your body. These points that you have practiced over and over in our strength programming have made you strong, and they will also keep you safe as you put them into practice in an obstacle course race.
By working on strict pull-ups and pull-up progressions, we have been systematically gaining strength in the lats, shoulders, and core. One of the most common injuries in OCR is to the shoulders – but the strength you’ve built up working on strict pull-ups will help protect your shoulders. And that skill and strength will help you pull your body up the rope and up and over walls. You may hear Coach Ana or Coach Tiffany’s voice in your ear, telling you to retract your shoulder blades before you pull….These are skills you’ve been working on with us, and they are the skills that get you ready for the “unknown” of an obstacle course race.
3. Grip Strength
Think about all the farmer carries, the pull-ups, the toes-to-bar – think about DT, for goodness sake. Think about the WODs where your forearms were burning and you wondered if your hands could hold on for one more rep….we’ve been working on grip strength, sometimes in ways that you don’t even think about. It carries over to the rope climb and the monkey bars, as well as many “unknown” obstacles where you might have to carry an object.
Cardiovascular endurance is something we frequently work on here at Crossfit Thunderbolt. Remember Murph? The WOD with a 5k? The WODs with 800 meter runs or 400 meter repeats have also been building up your endurance. If you have worked on your running form with Coach Scott, you have increased your running efficiency and reduced the chance of running injury. All of this has prepared you to run a typical OCR of 3 to 8 miles. (If you want to do more work on running form, or if you are training for a longer OCR, please talk to me or Coach Scott!)
5. BURPEES! (high intensity effort)
We all love to hate burpees. Some obstacle course races require a burpee penalty for any missed obstacles. But regardless of which race you are doing – burpees have increased your body’s ability to do high intensity exercise and maintain effort over time. Think about when you first started: doing just a few burpees was a huge challenge! You may not *love* burpees – your eyes may still roll when you see them in a WOD – but as your fitness has increased, your body’s ability to maintain high intensity effort has increased. When you are out there on the obstacle course, that ability to maintain high intensity effort will pay off when you are sprinting up hills, or if you have to do 30 burpees. You will be ready.
6. Mental Toughness
Mental toughness is another key component. And you have developed that in spades here at Crossfit Thunderbolt. Think about the times you wanted to quit a WOD, but didn’t. You have developed strategies – whether that was to check your pacing, take a breath and get back to it – whether that was a mantra, such as “just one more. One at a time” – whether it was to picture how proud you will feel when the workout is done – whether it was breaking the workout in manageable chunks in your mind and telling yourself that you are 1/4 done, then 1/2 done – whether it is simply realizing that you are capable of SO MUCH MORE than you thought. All of these strategies have built up your mental toughness – they help you to keep going when you want quit. And mental toughness is a real-life skill that will help you out on the course.
7. Community and team-work
Community and team work are a vital part of both Crossfit and obstacle course racing. The community at Crossfit Thunderbolt is strong and tight-knit. We are close, supportive, and have that core belief that “no one gets left behind”. And once you’ve done an obstacle course race, you will realize the OCR community is very similar. You will see people helping each other, teams working together, and everyone cheering for the fastest and the slowest athlete alike. You will see the experienced athlete and the beginner working together. In both communities, we know what it is like to suffer and to overcome, and that is why we respect each other’s effort. And as part of the community, you will find help from a stranger when you need it – and in turn, you will offer help to a stranger who needs it.
If you have been following our programming here at Crossfit Thunderbolt, consider signing up for an obstacle course race to test your fitness!
If you are looking for a way to prepare for your first obstacle course race, or a better way to train for your next race: come check us out at Crossfit Thunderbolt!
(Coach Molly has run 10+ obstacles course races with her team, 3 marathons, and countless half marathons. She is CF-L1, CF-endurance, as well as a Spartan Group X Coach)