5 Reasons Why Trail Running Makes You a Better Obstacle Course Runner

5 Reasons Why Trail Running Makes You a Better Obstacle Course Runner

Obstacle Course Racing has hit the world of sport like a lightening bolt in the last year or two. People from all walks of life are getting up off the couch and onto the trail to try out this latest trend in sport. Running obstacle courses is not a new concept; just ask the military, which have been incorporating these courses into their training for decades. However, the trend has left the Bases and made their way into the mainstream. Many people ask me, how to train for an obstacle course race, and my answer always is; get out on the trails. Here are the top 5 reasons trail running makes you a better obstacle course racer.

  1. Get Comfortable With Your Surroundings – Almost all obstacle course races take place in a natural environment, i.e. trails! For those coming from a road running background getting comfortable with the trails can allow you to focus on the more daunting tasks of mastering all the obstacles. On race day you want to be as comfortable as possible with your surrounding so some time on the trails beforehand will improve you skill on race day.
  2. Fewer Injuries – Trail running is a more forgiving surface than the concrete or asphalt in front of your house. Trails also help build more strength in your muscles and ankles as you constantly adapt to the changing terrain, roots, rocks, and more on the trail. This helps race day as you jump up and over walls or conquer any of the balance obstacles.
  3. Learn to Hike – If you live in a mountainous area, spending time on the hilly trails will greatly improve your overall performance in an obstacle course race. Many of these races take place on ski resorts or other challenging terrain. The fact is 99% of the field will probably find themselves hiking/walking part of the course. It takes time to build those climbing muscles and a trail run on steep terrain helps train those muscles to plug along up a mountain hillside, sometimes carrying a sandbag in a race.
  4. Expect the Unexpected – When you go for a run on a trail there is always the possibility of finding an animal along the way, a washed out trail caused by spring rains you have to traverse across, a fallen limb across the trail, you are in a constant state of adaptation. All the climbing, crawling, jumping, that can happen on those less road traveled trails can help with your climbing, crawling, and jumping in a race. Think of the trail as nature’s playground!
  5. Mental Strength – Trail runners are mentally tough, maybe it’s something about being out alone in the woods away from it all. Every trail runner has felt the moment when they reach a snowy, muddy, or endless hill where they have to dig deep and press forward. This is a skill cultivated by practice. Obstacle course races press participants to enter into these mental state countless times in a race. The time spent practicing on the trail can help you to get over that last eight-foot wall when everything in you is saying no, or force your fingers a few inches further to ring the bell at the top of a rope climb. It is the mental fortitude that trail running instills in us that presses us forward in obstacle course racing.

Overall, the benefits of an obstacle course racer trail running are numerous. Trail running is just plan fun. It gets us out of the city and reconnects us with nature and our natural surroundings. I love finding muddy trails right after a race, feeling the squish under my feet and coming home with the proof I was on the trail all over my calves and shins. If you are already a trail runner looking to take on obstacle course racing you are already ahead of the curve! The two sports really are like cousins to each other and share many of the same characteristics. Next article how to combine trail running and obstacle course racing training into one workout that can be done on any trail!

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