Beginner’s Guide to Challenge Races

Beginner's Guide to Challenge Races

They are known by a few different names: mud runs, challenge races, and obstacle races, to name a few. You may have heard of some of the more popular ones like the Tough Mudder, the Spartan Race, the Dirty Girl, and the Warrior Dash. But what exactly are they? Do I have to get electrocuted? Will I have to run through fire? This article will cover a lot of the basics and hopefully clear up many questions.

What exactly are challenge races?

Challenge races are events that normally cover a distance anywhere from a 5K to a half marathon that include a number of different obstacles. Each race will have their own obstacles that are scattered throughout the course. Each race will normally have its own website that will
outline the course and the obstacles you’ll be facing.

Do I need to be in great shape to participate in one?

It definitely wouldn’t hurt! These events are challenging (hence the name) and training before participating in one is a really good idea. They will test your strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and overall toughness. You don’t need to be an Iron Man to do one, but being a couch potato isn’t going to do you any favors. If you are considering signing up for one of these events, talk to someone who has done one or two to see what kinds of physical demands they encountered. If you’re unsure if you’re in good enough shape to complete the event, talk to a personal trainer. They can assess where you are physically and suggest a training program to make sure you’re as prepared as possible to complete the event and have a great time doing it.

What happens if I can’t do everything? Will I get disqualified?

Every race is different, but you won’t be thrown off the course and shamed publicly for not being able to complete an obstacle. Some races will loosely enforce penalties (like burpees) for not being able to do something, but a lot of the time you can just walk around it and continue on.

What should I wear?

One of the most important things you can invest in is a good pair of shoes. Some courses will require you to cover over 10 miles of uneven terrain, so going in flip flops or the beat up, 10-year old shoes you cut the lawn in is not a good idea. Everyone has their own preference on what they like to run in, so find something that works for you. Try trail running shoes, cross-trainers, tennis shoes, or something else that has decent support but isn’t too heavy. Many events will have you trekking through mud and water, so be prepared to get them really, really dirty.

Wearing clothing that will wick away moisture is a good idea, too. Depending on the time of year, athletic shorts and an athletic t-shirt or tank top are normally a good bet. Do not underestimate your socks! You will need a good pair of socks that won’t hold on to water and cause blisters. Talking to someone at your local running shoe store will get you started on the right path. Again, you aren’t going to finish most races clean so be prepared to do a lot of work covered in mud and water.

So, am I ready to participate in challenge races?

Challenge races can be a lot of fun and extremely rewarding. They’re even more fun when you’re prepared for them. Do your research into the event you’re considering signing up for and prepare yourself as much as possible for it. Not being able to complete a race isn’t a good feeling, and it’s even worse when you know that it’s because you didn’t prepare for it.

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Jordan Meyer Certified Personal Trainer at Elite Sports Club - North Shore

Written by Jordan Meyer, Elite Sports Club – North Shore Certified Personal Trainer & Challenge Race Aficionado

Besides his experience with personal training, Jordan has also worked in corporate wellness teaching a variety of classes, including Cardio Camp, Strength Training, Core Training, and Beginner Boot Camp. Jordan has a B.S. in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from UW-Oshkosh, is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, and an experienced rugby coach at the men’s and high school levels.
Jordan specializes in bodyweight strength training, Youth Fitness, and sport-specific training. He loves being active and learning new things and is always more than willing to share his knowledge, so feel free to approach him with any questions you may have! Jordan’s philosophy is “Be your own advocate. The more you know, the better you can be. Don’t be afraid to try new and difficult things: that’s how you grow!” His career started in 2010 and he joined the Elite Sports Club team in 2012.