Obstacle Course Racing: A Leap of Faith or A Risk?

February 21, 2017

Obstacle course racing has surged in popularity worldwide with big names such as Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and locally, the Men’s Health Urbanathlon returning year after year with courses bigger and tougher than before.

The Men’s Health Urbanathlon will host its 8th edition next Saturday, on 4 March 2017. This year, Urbanathletes will experience free-form running in the heart of Orchard Road, and tackle 4 mega obstacles zone, spanning over an estimated 12 kilometre course.

The unique concept of obstacle course racing not only appeals to the adventurous, but also draws men and women alike, who are sick of boring treadmill slogs or typical road race.

There is no denying that the addition of obstacles such as barbed wire and heights makes obstacle course racing a riskier sport. However, are participants physically fit and ready to undergo the tough conditions?

We have heard numerous stories of injuries sustained at these races, including cuts and scrapes, sprained or broken limb, and the absolute worst case scenario - death. While the loss of life is extremely rare, a Singaporean man had died from a cardiac arrest at the Bintan Reebok Spartan Race just 3 months ago. We are deeply saddened to hear of such stories and hope to educate our readers.

The obstacle course racing creed - “No pain no glory” and “Do more never quit” mentality may be very motivating but at the same time, can be too much for beginners. It is common to see overuse injuries during training and race day injuries from attempting an obstacle participants physically were not prepared for.

5 Tips to Survive Obstacle Course Racing

  1. Train for the Race

A body physically trained to face obstacles that require intense muscle work such as lifting, crawling and climbing is far less likely to sustain injury during race day. As each obstacle course is unique with different themes and obstacles, there is no one training regime that can prepare you well enough. In fact, obstacle course races such as Tough Mudder even incorporate electric shocks in their courses. It is impossible to train to get electrocuted! We recommend focusing on cardio and strength training to get you from start to finish.

  1. Be Patient

Injuries are more likely to occur when everyone is vying for the same space or handlebar. If you approach an obstacle that is crowded with mass climbing or crawling, give it a few second or minutes to allow the crowd to thin out before attempting.

  1. Know Your Limits

Not all obstacles are suitable for everyone. If you have a recurring shoulder injury, for instance, avoid lifting heavy weights. It is also alright to “give up”. Your body might not be prepared and conditioned adequately for this round. Seek medical assistance if you are feeling unwell.

  1. Stay Hydrated

Heat related illnesses such as heat cramps, heatstroke and heat exhaustion can be avoided with proper hydration. While running marathons have numerous water stations, many obstacle course races only have one or sometimes none. Start fueling up two days before and focus on increasing your electrolytes intake.

  1. Be Well-equipped

Wearing an extra brace or knee/elbow pad will not make you a wimpy kid. There is no need to be bashful if you want a little more protection. Perhaps the tables will turn when you finish unscathed!

At PhysioActive, we offer our patients an integrated gym with state-of-art facilities. The usage of the gym before and after treatment is free of charge for independent training. A Physiotherapist will always be around and can be asked for help if necessary. Speak to us if you need expert advice to better prepare you for race day!

Also check the Personal Training we offer to help you achieve your physical health goals.

This post has been written by Goh Yun Jie.

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