Jonathan Albon on his way to winning the Judgement Day obstacle race earlier this year
inov-8 athlete Jonathan Albon has been crowned the world’s number-one obstacle course racer after winning both the OCR World Championships and the Spartan Race World Championship, both held in the US. Some of the fittest athletes on the planet battled it out over long, brutal miles of hills, mud and water, rope climbs, barbed wire crawls, fire pits and much more at both races. Jonathan, aged 25, is unbeaten in OCR races in 2014 and has won several fell, mountain, trail and ultra running races too. Here are Jonathan’s top-10 tips to master obstacle course racing.
1 Operate outside of your comfort zone
Obstacle course races are designed to take you out of your comfort zone. You will likely get wet, have grit in your shoes, gets scratched or stung and have to carry something heavy. It will hurt, a lot. You can prepare yourself by incorporating some of these elements into your training. Get off-road, get dirty and push yourself.
2 Run – a lot
Most obstacle course race courses, certainly in the UK, are probably about 80% running and 20% obstacles. This means that in order to have a shot at completing or setting a fast time, you need to be able to run. There are many fancy training schedules you can follow but the simplest way to get better at running is just to do more of it. Run hard, long and include hills. I’ve worked hard at my running and am now doing around 350km and 16,000m ascent per month.
3 Circuit training
It’s not just running you need to be good at; you need to be strong too. For obstacle course racing this doesn’t mean you need to be able to squat two-times your body weight or bench press a small car! The best exercises revolve around you moving your bodyweight, as you will do during a race. So, hit the press-ups, pull-ups, squats, burpees, planks and sit-ups. Do them one after another as part of a circuit training session. I also do a lot of functional fitness training.
4 Technique – look up videos online
There are many types of obstacles, such as monkey bars and wall climbs. Learning the correct technique to negotiate them will save you time and energy on race day, plus reduce the risk of injury. Watch the many technique videos online then, if possible, get out and practice on specialist training courses.
5 Healthy living – eat / drink clean and get enough sleep
Being healthy is always going to benefit you in any sporting pursuit. Eat well, gets lots of sleep and stay active! Obstacle course racing is tough enough without making it even harder for yourself!
6 Wear the right shoes
In the run-up to competing in my first obstacle course race in 2009 I bought a pair of inov-8 x-talon 212 trainers. On race day I felt as if I was cheating! The aggressive cleats on the outsole gave me the grip to fly up and down steep hills and skip over thick mud, while others around me floundered. Five years on they are still my favourite shoe and the one I will be wearing at the world championships.
Taking care of your hands on race day is imperative. Gloves are a good idea if there will be any rope work as they will help prevent burns. In the cold, neoprene gloves can make a massive difference. You can have the best grip-strength in the world but once your hands get cold they are useless.
8 During race nutrition
This can make or break a race. Fuelling your body with what it needs is crucial, especially in longer races. Eating energy gels is a great way to do this.
9 Make it social
The UK-based team I am part of, inov-8 OCR, is a racing team but we are also a group of friends. Teaming up to train or race boosts motivation and makes the experience a hell of a lot more fun. I also use Strava to track my training and that of my friends and other racers online.
10 Have fun!
Make both training and racing fun. If it’s fun you will do more of it and therefore improve. Sport is supposed to be fun, especially obstacle course racing so enjoy the experience and never give up.
Watch Jon in action, winning this year’s Judgement Day obstacle course race in this video