Sign Up for Your First Obstacle Race!

Sign Up for Your First Obstacle Race!
by Mike Volkmar, MS, CSCS, PES and Matt Carroll, USAW LVL 1, AFAA CPT

The rise in popularity of obstacle races is undeniable. The obstacle course race (OCR) community is growing every day with a plethora of different types of races becoming available. There are races for those in the best shape of their lives and there are also races designed to get people from couch to race day. This article will focus on convincing those of you who have yet to make the leap to sign up for your first race to do so.

Here is a list of the races from beginner to advanced:

Rugged Maniac – For the beginning OCR athlete in all of us, a 5k with no pressure on competition, contains beginner level obstacles and an easy flat terrain.

Warrior Dash – For beginners and those with little experience, a 5k with little emphasis  on competition and more importance  on finishing, semi-challenging terrain and obstacles.

Savage Race – designed for the slightly more experienced OCR athlete

Tough Mudder – A team course designed for the beginner OCR athlete

Bone Frog – For the experienced OCR athlete

Battle Frog – A Navy Seal inspired obstacle race for 3-4yr vet of OCR

Spartan Race – Designed for the experienced OCR athlete and those looking to test the physical and mental toughness

And here are three reasons why you should be signing up for one of these OCRs right now!

#1 – To Challenge Yourself

Have you been attending the same group exercise classes for years? Do you find yourself with the same workout routine as last year’s New Year’s resolution? Are you looking for a new physical and mental challenge? Did you love the camaraderie of your high school or college team? Are you looking for a fierce competition? Lacking motivation and a training purpose can be the two biggest issues with your current fitness program.  Signing up for a race accomplishes both goals.

#2 – The Positive Group Dynamic

You have seen them by now. The group picture of the local boot camp gym all muddy with big smiles after a big race with 30 hashtags. At the United Strength Academy our goal is to change lives for the better, starting with the mental battle.  Running a race with a team can change the way you see fitness; USA team members focus on camaraderie and finishing warrior strong! At the end we all feel accomplished and ready to train for our next race!

#3 – Great Way to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle

Compare your current workout with an obstacle race. When competing in one of the many different OCR races no matter what difficulty it will call on many different muscles and require the mental toughness to push through the pain. You will need leg endurance, cardio endurance, and upper body strength.  You will need to jump, run and lift in ways you never thought possible.  Mindless cardio on the treadmill or elliptical trainer just does not cut it. If your goal is body fat loss, you need to challenge the anaerobic energy systems of the body, which means sprints and lifting weights.

If you’re looking to join the revolution with the next best thing in fitness, if you want to challenge yourself and push yourself past your limits, if you love team work and fierce competition then an OCR race is for you! No matter your physical condition there is a race for you. You just have to be willing to make that first step.

“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” –Unknown




MICHAEL VOLKMAR, MS, CSCS, PES, CPT, received his master’s degree in Exercise Science with a specialization in Exercise, Nutrition, and Eating Behavior from George Washington University (GWU). In 2001, Mike started his well-traveled path in Sports Performance Training at the Junior College level (OCC, Onondaga, NY) working with the baseball team. He worked for three years as the Strength and Conditioning Coach at GWU, first with the Single A affiliate (High Desert Mavericks) of the Milwaukee Brewers, and later season with the Double A affiliate (Harrisburg Senators) of the Washington Nationals, before moving on to spend one year at the International Performance Institute of IMG Academies, FL. Mike continued his professional development by becoming the Director of Strength and Conditioning at the APEX Academies. Currently, Mike is the strength and conditioning coach at the Peddie School. A Division I baseball player during his undergraduate career, Mike is an amateur powerlifter with a passion for all things fitness.  Mike has advanced specialty certifications in strength and conditioning, post-rehab exercise, athletic development, and sports medicine. Mike stays active in social media with Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  He also runs a Summer Strength and Speed program at the Peddie School.

MATTHEW CARROLL, USAW LVL 1, AFAA CPT, is an AFAA certified Personal Trainer and Spartan Elite Racer. He’s is in the top 100 OCR elite male athletes in the world. He’s a coach and a co-owner of United Strength Academy. As a Spartan Racer, he understands the importance of functional training and good nutrition. He has a desire to help others reach their goal and continues to find ways to motivate people to be their best. He is a sponsored athlete in Phyziqued Muscle.