Completing an obstacle race means building proficiency across a wide range of fitness components, says Youcef Abdi, who finished sixth in the steeplechase at the Beijing Olympics. “You need endurance, speed and strength to be able to jump and absorb the muscle trauma caused by the impact.” That’s not all. You also need co-ordination to get over obstacles as efficiently as possible, and judgment so that you jump cleanly, without interfering with other competitors. No wonder Abdi believes his event, and obstacle races in general, are an apt metaphor for life.
“You run and you confront an obstacle, you jump it and then it’s flat and you think, ‘Okay, everything’s great’,” he says. “Then you hit another obstacle.” Ready to tackle any obstacles put in your way? Give yourself a leg-up with Abdi’s tailored workout (oppsite).
|Tuesday||20-minute warm-up jog, followed by five minutes at threshold pace (fast enough that you can’t hold a conversation). Rest for one minute. Repeat threshold run x 3.|
|Thursday||40-minute run + 10-minute run at threshold pace.|
|Saturday||Gym session (see “Prepare for Lift-off”, below).|
|Sunday||Long run on a hilly course over rough terrain. Vary your pace and leap off boulders, over logs and from one side of the track to the other. This will get your body used to dynamic, unpredictable movements, says Abdi.|
|Barbell half squat||Slowly bend your hips and knees until your thighs are at a 45º angle. Spring up in a quick, explosive movement. Keep the bar light – 40 kilograms max. Do three sets of six reps.|
|Single-leg box squat||3 x 6 reps.|
|Single-leg hop||Hop as far as you can, land and take off again. “It helps build leg stability,” says Abdi. Do six hops on each leg. Repeat.|
|Calf raises||3 x 12-15 reps on each leg.|
|Skipping||Two minutes. “You need strong ankles and Achilles tendons because you’re going to be doing a lot of landing and pushing off,” says Abdi.|
|Elevated legs 3 x 30 reps.|
3 x 30 reps.
|Alternate arm/leg raises||Lie on your stomach with your arms extended out front. Lift your right arm and left leg about 10 centimetres in the air. Switch limbs. Do 10 on each side.|
Hurdle hit list
Build the techniques to take obstacles in your strideCharge “When you see an obstacle, attack it,” says Abdi. “Don’t fear it or start shuffling towards it. Speed up to build momentum. It’s the key to jumping properly. If you slow down, you lose rhythm.”
Knees up You have two physical cues to ensure clearance, reckons Abdi. First, make sure your knee is higher than the obstacle and, second, that your foot follows. “If your knee’s not high enough, you’ll hit it,” he says.
Nail the landing “Some people think clearing an obstacle is the end of the jump,” says Abdi. “They land and then relax and go all wobbly.” Instead, you need to brace your core and abdominal muscles on impact, then carry on, he advises.
Mastered these moves? Put your skills to the ultimate test with the Men's Health Urbanathlon!