Obstacle Racing

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Chaitanya Velhal at Ruggedian obstacle Race

Are you looking for a fitness format that challenges you physically and mentally? Are you the kind that likes to try different fitness regimes? Well, if you answered yes to one or both of these questions, the answer is in Obstacle Racing. As a form of fitness exercises that owes its origins to the military, this is a fitness trend that has caught the fancy of common folk too.

The Concept

So let us start by first understanding what Obstacle Race (Military Training) or Obstacle Course racing (OCR) all about. Basically obstacle racing is a foot race where the participant must run/walk/ crawl through a set of obstacles, these obstacles are heavily inspired from military training. “This training was designed in the first place for military commandoes to train them to move through real life obstacles like, jumping through a firewall, cross muddy swamps, climb high walls, swing on ropes, lift or drag heavy boulders or sacks. Recently all these obstacles have been adapted into a racing format to challenge participants,” says Chaitanya Velhal, Co-Founder & Head Coach, Multifit Academy of Triathlon & Endurance Sports (MATES). There are many exercises and sports that can test our physical capabilities but there are very few that test us on almost all fronts at the same time. “Obstacle courses are an integral part of both basic and advanced military training. On the physical front, Obstacle courses test participants for their strength, stamina, endurance, flexibility, agility, speed, etc. but Obstacle courses are much more than just physical tests. They challenge your determination, patience, perseverance and a lot more. Obstacle courses are one of the rare tests / exercises / sports that challenge all faculties (mental, physical, emotional and spiritual status). OCR is a test of your raw talent in every sense as an athlete,” says Captain Vinod Shankar Nair, Ex-Army Officer, Lifestyle Expert and Coach. Activities of Obstacle courses are like Burma Bridge, Spider Web, Commando Crossing, Tyre Wall, and other elements with the aim of testing participants speed and endurance.

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Group Activity

Obstacle race running is a trendy new running concept that involves a whole body workout in addition to running. This form of running now has more subscribers in the western world than traditional half and full marathons. Volano Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., India’s leading participative sports firm which organizes the Maruti Suzuki Devils Circuit (MSDC) Obstacle Race is now one of the biggest running properties in the country with over 40,000 runners annually and nearly a million strong followers on digital media making it one of the largest sports properties in the country today. The concept has grown popular among fitness enthusiasts as well as corporates seeking to build a healthy team spirit. Devils Circuit enjoys participation from individuals across a diverse age group ranging from 16 to 70 years old. Designed for those across varying fitness levels, it allows everyone to test themselves in a highly challenging environment. “A typical course at MSDC comprises five kilometers of rugged terrain with 15 Military Style obstacles interspersed at every few hundred meters.  The obstacles are very similar to the ones used by Defense Forces in their trainings but here these are designed for corporate Professionals hence we ensure that they are intrinsically safe and yet challenging,” says Adnan Adeeb, Founder & Managing Director at Volano Entertainment Private Limited. Naturally participants cannot stop but go gaga over these races. “I had been meaning to join Devils Circuit for a few years now but I hadn’t managed the time.  I now know why it’s called a life changing experience. I had such a fabulous time that I am sure I am coming back next year again,” says Divya Shetty, Associate Manager – Consulting Operations, Kantar, Hyderabad. Sunjay Punjabi, Concentrix, Pune adds, “the very thought of the name Devils Circuit gets an adrenaline rush in my body.  The most energetic sport I have been associated with … I have participated in Devils Circuit multiple times and look forward to be a part of this highly competitive obstacle race every year and may be even more.  Really excited to see Devils Circuit coming to Pune in November this year and the preparation to participate in the race has already begun.”

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Prepare For It

To do well, one must be physically, emotionally and mentally tough. Follow a strict diet and eat foods that will help stay strong and aid quick recovery. Obstacle racing needs some amount of proper functional training. Obstacle courses test your body in various ways. You must be trained in moving efficiently. “Having big biceps and pecs will not help here. Rather, building your endurance by running regularly, training for stability, balance and last but not the least body weight training like calisthenics will go get you ready for this,” says Velhal. Swetha Devraj, Adidas Athlete avers, “I kind of relate life to obstacle races, it is full of challenges that will take you up and down, sliding, jumping and running but you got to overcome it in order to keep going! An obstacle race is a running event that involves different types of challenges along the way that include wading through mud pits, climbing up ropes, jumping into freezing water. Now, if the idea of doing an obstacle course race sounds intimidating, let me tell you that it is true but it is also a lot of fun, and the obstacles help to break up some of the monotony of a traditional running race. I have convinced countless runners to try obstacle course racing, and so many of them have had a great experience and gone on to do more.”

Do it Right

Since obstacle courses are a specialized exercise format ensure that while crossing over an obstacle keep your body size to a minimum and cross over the top as quickly as possible because the top is when you are against the skyline making you a sitting duck for enemy fire. “Keep moving, never stop or else completing the course may become impossible. While running over logs of wood or balancing beams, don’t stop moving and don’t forget to breathe. Choose your personal equipment well and keep it as snug as possible. If your belt, harness and laces are loose they could get snagged somewhere leading to grievous injuries. Then again, if they are too tight you will still be in trouble,” advices Nair. Safety comes first so do wear proper attire that protects your elbows and knee as well as below the knee. Do not underestimate the obstacles and be mindful while performing these. Do use proper shoes and tie them well. Do not wear cotton that absorbs everything and makes you heavy, rely on compression clothing. Do not eat unhealthy heavy food the night before the race. Do eat something light that gives you energy. Do warm up and stretch well before the race starts,” adds Devraj.

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Advantage OCR

Since obstacle races are just another form of functional training, it will prepare you for any physical challenges you may face in day to day life including navigating a long flight of stairs. It will benefit your overall health improving your stamina, strength, speed, agility, endurance and flexibility. Training for obstacle courses will not only train the body but will also train your mind. Sanjay Sharma, Consultant Frenzy Adventure advices, “obstacle course is a great combination of cardiovascular and strength training improves agility. It is also a strong way of training supplement for team building and a fun way to get fit. It is important that you let a professional guide you and not go about trying this at home. Check for safety measures and precautions. It will be adventure on your mind.” Harish C Sood, Former IGP, CRPF and former Army Officer (Madras Regiment) says, “it is not a means for physical fitness instead it is one of the tests of physical efficiency. Each obstacle is designed to test one or the other form of physical efficiency requirement. It is only the healthy and physically fit who can clear the obstacles.” An effective team building initiative, obstacle races are also being increasingly used as part of corporate team building activities. “I am also looking forward to engage more teams from our group to be part of the experience Devils Circuit provides.  We have been participating in various running events, but nowhere have we receive such rave reviews from our team members after the event as we received for Devils Circuit. We are eager to participate with bigger group and utilise the opportunity to provide an experience of a lifetime to our team members,” concludes Sudhir Singh, Partner in Leading Consulting Firm, Delhi NCR.

Checklist

  • Anyone who is healthy and fit can participate.
  • Stay Calm, remain focused, apply physical strength where required.
  • Listen to the instructor before the activity.
  • You do not have to be a professional athlete or a commando to participate.
  • Obstacles can be a source of challenge and motivation for those who want to be fit and adapt to a fun way of working out.
  • Obstacle racing is not advised for people with joint issues as this might aggravate the risk of injury.

This story appeared in the Nov 17 issue of Smartlife Magazine here:

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