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Extreme races: Get fit to get dirty

Apr. 6, 2013 - 10:20AM   |  
Staff Sgt. Ashley Davin, 102nd Security Forces Squadron, crawls through the mud during the Spartan Race Aug. 12 in Amesbury, Mass.
Staff Sgt. Ashley Davin, 102nd Security Forces Squadron, crawls through the mud during the Spartan Race Aug. 12 in Amesbury, Mass. (SA Jeremy Bowcock / Air Force)
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More and more weekend warriors are signing up for the increasingly popular “extreme races” such as Original Mud Run, Warrior Dash and the various levels of Spartan races. Some of the most popular:

Original Mud Run. 5k (18-plus obstacles) and 10k (30-plus obstacles) distances over a military-style obstacle course. Directors will look for every opportunity to get you in water, mud or dirt.

Warrior Dash. Distance is about three miles with around 12 obstacles chosen out of a larger number of set obstacles. This has given rise to the 15-mile Ironman Warrior. This event is known for one obstacle named the Warrior Roast in which you run through a small controlled fire.

Spartan. This event has four levels: The Sprint is three-plus miles with 15 obstacles; the Super Spartan is eight-plus miles with 20-plus obstacles; the Beast is 12-plus miles with 25-plus obstacles; and the Death Race is 48 hours with an unspecified number of obstacles (and a 90 percent failure rate).

With a number of clients who are either regular or first-time participants in these events, I have developed some individual and team workouts with the goal of a successful and enjoyable race. We try to imitate the race without having to build the obstacles. Most of the obstacles require pulling or lifting your body up and over or through.

400-meter runs alternating with strength drills

I recently had two two-woman teams execute this one outdoors. It breaks down to five strength events and five 400-meter runs executed at a good pace. Each strength event was done as a team. Two rounds is close to a 5k distance. Here’s how it goes:

• 400-meter run

• 18-plus-pound medicine balls thrown over a 50-meter distance

• 400-meter run

• Team up to carry a filled 10-gallon water cooler over a 50-meter distance

• 400-meter run

• Bear crawls over a 50-meter distance

• 400-meter run

• Team up to flip a tire over a 50-meter course

• 400-meter run

• Team up to push a pickup truck over a 75-meter course with a slight incline.

The obstacle course on your base or post

If your installation has an obstacle course, you can get some great training by practicing only the low portion, which usually consists of a wall; logs at low and medium heights; and logs at medium height placed close together. A favorite workout is to have the teams get themselves and a 75-pound bag over each obstacle.


One of the simplest obstacle-style workouts I’ve seen requires a 20-pound medicine ball, a waist-high fence with a top rail made of wood or pipe, and at least 10 meters of grass on each side of the fence.

• Throw the ball down hard at your feet 12 times. Be careful that the rebound does not strike you in the face.

• Pick up the ball and toss it over the fence.

• Jump the fence.

• Execute 12 more ball throws at your feet.

• Toss the ball back over the fence.

• Repeat nine times for a total of 10.

Remember: These events are not so much about the running as they are getting over, under or through the obstacles as a team. So have fun — and get dirty.

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