Have you ever wanted to take on an extreme athletic challenge, but didn’t want to stare at boring pavement mile after mile? What if you could crawl through the mud, climb walls with fellow racers, throw spears, and conquer countless other exciting challenges to reach the pinnacle of amateur athleticism?

The past few years, people have been ditching the typical marathon to sign up for obstacle course races like Spartan, Savage Race, and Tough Mudder. These non-traditional fitness challenges are more social and team-oriented and feature a wider variety of trials to encourage more balanced training.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise they’re surging in popularity. The question is, are you going to answer the call and join the battle? Do you have what it takes to emerge victorious, covered in mud (and maybe a little blood)? Take a look below at some crucial steps to help you prepare for an obstacle race.

1. Make a Plan

“In preparing for battle, I have always found plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” These famous words from Dwight D. Eisenhower ring true for anyone who wishes to conquer high mountains today. Make a plan.

First, set personal goals:

What do you want to accomplish, and why?

Is a 3-, 5-, or 10-mile race your goal?

Will you participate in a novice or elite event?

What muscle group or strength type will you focus on?

These questions and more should be thought through. As you set your goals, be sure each action is clear and measurable. Write them down and look at them often.

2. Choose Your Race

Now that you have your goals set, you can begin your search for the perfect obstacle race. Start by researching the events taking place near you. Spartan, Savage Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Epic Series Obstacle Challenge are well-established obstacle races that hold a variety of events all over the USA.

When you’ve found the race for you, gather as much info about it as you can. Some events even provide a race layout and/or list of all its obstacles. This will give you a good idea of how to begin training right away.

3. Create a Varied Workout

Obstacle races require both cardio and strength training. Even then, you’ll also want to have good agility, balance, and an understanding of how your body moves under momentum. Definitely take your normal workout routine and spice it up with some variety.

During the race, you’ll do a lot of stop-and-go routines. Keep this in mind as you work out. Space your running every 5 to 10 minutes with exercises like burpees, push-ups, sit-ups, and squats in between. And if you know what obstacles your race will have, find exercises that mimic the movement needed to overcome them.

Before you race, make sure you get a grip first. Really though, forearm and wrist strength are key to rope climbs, monkey bars, and heavy carrying—all obstacle race staples. Hand exercisers are great for strengthening grip, but you can also carry filled buckets, sandbags, or water jugs as part of your training routine.

Make sure your workout includes a variety of exercises, and always try to train like it’s the real thing.

4. Fuel with Proper Nutrition

To develop the strength, endurance, and agility you’ll need for an obstacle race, your body will need optimal nutrition. No matter how much you train, your overall health will be your foundation for success.

So get ready to clean up your diet and start making healthier habits in your day-to-day life. Focus on low-fat, low-glycemic foods to provide essential vitamins and minerals, as well as macronutrients like protein.

More and more, athletes are complementing their varied, healthy diet with nutritional supplements that focus on cellular health. Just recently, Spartan—creator of one of the world’s most exciting obstacle course races—made USANA Health Sciences its official nutritional partner. This partnership shows the connection between extreme athleticism and science-based nutrition.

USANA makes world-class nutritional supplements to support your body’s muscle and cardiovascular health as you prepare to overcome all the obstacles your race throws at you.

5. Have Fun!

Remember, the whole point of running an obstacle race is to enjoy yourself. On the day of the event, relax and have fun. If you approach your training (and race) with a positive, upbeat attitude, you’ll be more mentally prepared to overcome the challenges ahead of you. And you’ll come away a stronger, more confident person.

It’s hard to tell exactly how well you’ll perform compared to everyone else, but just stick to your own goals. There’s nothing wrong with walking if your legs need a rest. Many people’s goal will be to simply complete the race. Others will be focused on having a supportive team-building experience. Some will strive to finish first. You should stay true to achieving your own personal goal.

Don’t fear the barbed wire, mud pits, and eight-foot walls. Every one of these tips you put in place will take you one step closer to take on an obstacle course race. Just imagine how good you’ll feel, after months of diligent training and healthy eating, when you finally reach the finish line, covered in sweat and mud. And of course, filled with that feeling that only comes when you’ve exceeded your limits and accomplished something you never thought possible.

Author's Bio: 

Born and raised in Utah, Taylor Pulver grew up fishing, camping, and hiking his way through the Wasatch Range. Now he lives in Salt Lake City as a writer, gardener, and avid reader of fantasy and science fiction novels.