Fitness Flash

Preparing for Your Next Event

Ten years ago, if you were training for “an event,” that event was probably just a 5K, 1/2 marathon, full marathon, or perhaps a cycling race, biathlon or triathlon. Nowadays, there are a plethora of different types of fitness competitions that average gym-goers can try. (Some events are better suited to above-average gym-goers.) These include the “mud run,” “inflatable 5K,” “zombie run,” “color run” andmany other outdoor events that make you do a whole lot more than just run. Although these types of events are commonplace now in any major city, the type of training that they require is anything but common.

An event such as the Tough Mudder, for instance, has you complete a 10- to 12-mile course with more than 20 obstacles. These obstacles include wacky monkey bars, wall climbs, a human hamster wheel, Olympic rings and an ice bath. These are hardly exercises you train for every day in the gym, but there are definitely ways to get your body ready.

Generally speaking, you want to focus on your cardiovascular health first, but continue to increase your intensity as your other training progresses. Many of these events are 5 or more miles of total distance, but they allow you to take a break from running to complete an obstacle instead. This means training for these events is more like training for a game of basketball or soccer, rather than a 3-, 5- or 10-mile run. It’s not about training at a moderate pace for a long duration, but rather alternating moderate-pace running or jogging with highintensity bursts of speed and strength. You must train your body to use all of its energy systems efficiently. As a general rule, though, you should be able to run continuously for at least half of the total distance. In other words, if you’re doing a 10-mile Tough Mudder, make sure you can run for 5 miles continuously. In addition to your normal moderate-pace running, you should practice sprint training, as well as plyometric training to increase your power development. 

Strength training is an integral part of completing an event that requires you to climb walls, hang or jump. You should be able to do the following to make it through the course:

  • Hang from a pull-up bar for at least two minutes
  • Bring your knees to your elbows while hanging
  • Complete several chin-ups and pull-ups with varying grip combinations
  • Pull yourself up and over a wall or bar

In addition to training your back, arm and grip muscles to complete this list, it’s also important to focus on the forgotten stabilizing muscles in your hips, knees and core. Since you’re not just running in a straight line, it’s paramount that you add in exercises that work your body in several planes of movement. Lateral and diagonal stepping, agility ladder work and mini hurdles can all help develop your hips, knees and ankles to function well during some odd movement patterns. If you’re planning your first non-traditional fitness event, and you need some additional advice, feel free to contact one of the exercise specialists at the BJC WellAware Center. Good luck!

by Aaron Gutjahr, BJC WellAware Center, exercise physiologist and personal training coordinator

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