Recently, a new type of exercise has taken the UK by storm. Nope, not Boxercise. Or Pilates (it’s 2014, not 2004). Or Metafit. Or P90x.
I am talking about the Obstacle Course.
These days, you can’t open a copy of Runner’s World without seeing photos of what can only be described as muddy Rambo wannabes running through the English countryside, lugging logs, climbing ropes and willingly jumping into ice cold water. It’s like they all know something about the Apocalypse that we don’t.
I saw a conversation on Twitter recently among some fellow runners who weren’t positive towards this slightly wild cousin to the trail and road race. As someone who has done their fair share of obstacle courses (well, I did two. But that’s two more than this time last year), I started thinking about why I enjoyed them:
- The aim is very different to straight-out running events. As well as your typical running strength, these events also test your upper body and mental strength in ways a running race doesn’t. What else would you need to haul yourself across monkey bars over ice cold water?
- If you choose the right one, it can be an amazing team event. Tough Mudder and Total Warrior like to promote a no-man-left-behind ethos, which means that the time you get as a team isn’t as important as the fact that you all completed it together. That’s really nice, and different to a running race when you’re competing against other runners, but also against yourself.
- If you thought completing a 10k race was satisfying – imagine how it feels to complete a 10k obstacle race. After you finish, the high is amazing as you feel that you can run, lift, jump and scramble as well as any action hero. In fact, these events make all those old action movies look lame. I’m looking at you, Running Man….
- As a runner, you probably spend a lot of time cross training. This is a good chance to give those other muscles a chance to shine.
- Don’t be put off by the waiver they get you to sign! You also have to sign a waiver when you go paintballing, get your ears pierced and … when you sign up to any normal running race too.
- As a girl, it’s awesome to kick ass. I remember during Total Warrior that I wanted to do every single obstacle, and I did and it was so satisfying. I’m a sucker for events with names that make me feel like a hero.
- As a guy, it must be awesome to kick ass. Why spend all that time in the gym pumping those guns if you never get a chance to test them?
- The variety of events is huge. You have 10 mile events, 10k events, zombie apocalypse events. You can find ones with high tech obstacles like electric shocks, or good old rustic ones like hay bales to climb over. There are even events which simulate the Zombie Apocalypse.
At the end of the day, running is still my favourite activity, and there’s nothing that can top that in my opinion. But these obstacle courses are a good way to test yourself in a different way, and the team dynamic has also encouraged other friends of mine to get involved when they wouldn’t normally have considered it.
That’s not to say they’re for everyone – they’re just another option. I am 99% sure I’ll never attempt a triathlon. But I am definitely considering Tough Mudder. If for no other reason than the fact that the word Apocalypse has been mentioned twice already in this post, so it seems that it might be better to be prepared than not. Maybe they’re on to something….. 😉