Obstacle course races: The new fitness trend you've got to try!

Lace up! Friendly competition (plus lots of mud) makes this workout a whole lot of fun.
Obstacle Course Racing Photo, Nikki Bidgood/Getty Images.

Think of it as: Fitness meets summer camp.

Why it's hot: Playtime gets a competitive makeover in this quirky competition. Imagine racing a 5K with fit funsters (and maybe even Brooklyn Decker and a handful of NFL and NHL athletes), crawling like a commando through mud, deftly dodging live electrical wires and charging through rings of fire. It’s also super-accessible, says Montrealer Selica Sevigny, co-founder of Spartan Race, the world’s largest obstacle course race. “You don’t need to train for months or invest in gear. Anyone can do it. We’ve had 70-year-olds compete.”

Where it came from: The U.K.’s Tough Guy challenge introduced us to the fun and far-out world of competitive course racing over 20 years ago. But it’s only in the past few years that North Americans have fully embraced the challenge, dreaming up even more madcap obstacles and daring feats. It’s such a hit, the rumour is it might just become an Olympic sport (Sevigny’s petitioning for it).

How it works: Races vary in length, between 5 and 20 km, and include anywhere from 15 to 45 obstacles. Think wall climbs, monkey bars, trench and water crossings and mud crawls. You set the pace, with most racers finishing within 30 minutes to three hours.

Where to find it: Look online for international races like Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash and Spartan Race, and local competitions like Canada’s Mud Hero and the O Course, a military obstacle training workout.

Obstacle Course Product, Kate Gertner.

Feel-good factor: Obstacle course racing tests your mental and physical stamina in a completely carefree way. Although some races are timed, there’s no winner-loser aspect. In fact, everyone feels like a winner, especially after conquering off-the-wall challenges. With all the cheering from spectators on the sidelines, it’s hard not to feel a serious confidence boost too.

Why you'll love it: How often do you get the chance to abandon all hesitation and act like a kid? “When you see other people covered in mud, you lose your inhibitions,” says Sevigny. “Crossing the finish line, you can’t help but feel like the biggest champ around.”

Hone your skills: Add a touch of play to everyday workouts. Head to the park and create your own obstacle course. Do triceps dips on benches and pull-ups on monkey bars, and jump in a few puddles for good measure.


Have you ever competed in an obstacle course race? Tell us why you loved it in the comment section below.


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