OCR Workout of the Day: The Gambler

OCR Workout of the day:  The Gambler

(Love this deck as much as we do?  Click on the photo or go here to get yours – only $5!!)

To date, I have posted reviews and write ups of workouts I’ve done, but I’ve never suggested a Workout of the Day. Since the reality of signing up for the 2015 Death Race is starting to sink in (which may or may not be related to my inability to sleep tonight), I decided to post a workout in honor of the 2013 Death Race (The Year of the Gambler). Hopefully this will give you a unique twist on your workout, while still kicking your but. I’m willing to bet that most people don’t have a roulette table in their house, so I opted for something a bit more easily obtained: a deck of cards. (Be happy I didn’t opt for tarot cards… do you know how big that deck is??)

For the inauguration of the deck of cards workout, which I’ve named “The Gambler Workout / 54 pickup,” you will obviously need a full deck of cards, preferably one that still has the Jokers in it. The idea is simple, each suit will represent an exercise and each corresponding number (2-10) will be the repetitions (reps) for each exercise. Face cards (Jack, Queen, King, Ace, and Jokers) will all be assigned different rep counts, which I will list below. I know that everyone is at different fitness levels and this workout can be modified by raising or lowering the reps, or you could cut the deck in half… but that would be cheating, and we all know cheating earns 10 burpees per card.

EPSON scanner image

Now before we go any further, in the spirit of the Death Race, I highly recommend that you have an assistant or task master to deal the cards, or better yet, throw them at you while laughing maniacally at your suffering. If you’ve managed to acquire an assistant, have them shuffle the deck while you warm up. I suggest 50 burpees, but 2-5 minutes of jumping-jacks will work too. So here we go.

Card Repetition Values

  • Numbers 2-10: each represents number of reps
  • Jacks: 15 reps
  • Queens: 20 reps
  • Kings: 25 reps
  • Aces: 30 reps

Card Suits/Exercises

  • Clubs: Sit-Ups/Crunches/Planks
  • Spades: Squats/Lunges
  • Hearts: Jumping-Jacks/Burpees/Mountain Climbers
  • Diamonds: Push-Ups/Diamond Push-Ups/Triceps Push-Ups

Jokers: 50-100 reps of the exercise of task masters choosing. Preferably Mountain-Climbers or Burpees

The idea is to move from one exercise to the next without taking breaks and chatting, which is why you have the task master. Once you’ve successfully made it through the workout, you have 30 seconds to pick up all 54 of those cards or it starts over again, Slackers. Happy barfing!!!

*This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that if you click and make a purchase, I receive a small commission, without any cost to you. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. Your support is greatly appreciated!


How to Find Your Perfect OCR Shoes

How to Choose the Best Shoes for OCR

*This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that if you click and make a purchase, I receive a small commission, without any cost to you. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Lately I’ve seen lots of social media posts from people asking what kind of shoe to get for OCR’s. Now before you go ape-shit trying to find the right shoe and end up buying an entire shoe store, consider whether you plan on doing more than one OCR. While your standard run-of-the-mill sneaker may get you by for you first event, it is truly no way to shred through a tough course without risk of a twisted or broken ankle. I can’t speak for everyone in this matter, but over the years, I have tried several approaches, from old running shoes to trail shoes, and this post is the result of my personal experience.  Your mileage may vary.

Having not had the benefit of this post when I started, let me walk you briefly through my personal shoe-volution:

As I mentioned above, I have run events in everything from my old running shoes to basic trail shoes to top-shelf billy-badass mountain trail running shoes. (All of which, by the by, I have managed to pay less than $80 a pair for.) Like most people new to the OCR world, I ran my first mud-laden event in my old running shoes. They were Mizuno Wave Riders, and as you can see below, the tread on these is definitely geared for the road.

Not exactly my best choice, but at that time, I still didn’t know my butt from a hole in the ground about OCR. While I managed to get through the course without any injury, I did have a hell of a time slipping and sliding through the muddier parts. In fact, I nearly LOST one of my shoes in a mud pit midway through the event. Apparently not having learned my lesson, I wore these same shoes for my first Tough Mudder. Yeaaaaaahhhhhh….  Don’t do that.  They were retired after that race.

For round 2,  I tried to take a step up by going to a large sporting goods store and looking for a decent pair of trail shoes. Their staff was bloody useless in terms of product knowledge, but having done some online homework prior to this excursion,  I managed to acquire a good basic pair of trail shoes, in spite of their bumbling. Those were the Asics Gel-Venture 3’s, and I liked them so much I bought two pairs.

I wore these through several OCRs AND the Death Race, with the eventual conclusion that these shoes have good traction for basic trails, and are good enough for a easy training run, a light ruck, or minor snowfall, but are still not the best choice for OCR’s. They simply are not well suited for complex terrain and gobs of tasty mud. I still own both pairs that I bought that day, and they are still intact… although they probably could be put out to pasture any time. I think I’m just holding on to them for sentimental reasons because black and red shoes are manly and awesome.

Round 3!  Having been in the OCR community for a couple of years at this point, I had the opportunity to do much consulting with trail runners and Death Racers, and there were two brands that seemed to be recommended time and time again. Inov-8 and Salomon. I’m cheap, so no way was I buying both of them. I discovered that our local outlet mall carried Salomon’s, and was sort of gravitating that way, so after much praise was heaped upon the Salomon Speedcross by one of my fellow OCR buddies during one event, I went and picked up a pair.

Look at the difference in the tread on these mofos. This is the key feature of any great trail shoe. I could go on and on about how much difference these shoes made during my next OCR, but I won’t. What I will tell you is that they are light, water resistant, clean up easily, and have one of the best quick lacing systems around. There are just a couple of minor cons: 1) The quick lacing system can get jammed up with mud (water and/or WD-40 can fix this easily). AND 2) This model was apparently too narrow for my foot, which was my own damn fault for not heeding my own advice listed below (DOH!!!!). Learn from Uncle Ian, kids.

This brings me to my current favorite shoe, which solved the issue with the narrow toe-box: the Salomon Fellraiser. This shoe is known for its wider toe-box, and more aggressive lug / tread style. I have yet to find anything that I don’t like about them. (Other than they don’t match the colors of my CornFed jersey, but when you’re covered in mud, everything is brown anyway.)

(I have yet to try Inov-8 Talons, the Reebok Terrain or a new shoe I have recently heard about called the Icebug Acceleritas. But if you have experience with any of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!)

So how can you save yourself years of terrible / mediocre / less-than-optimal shoe performance?

For starters, get fitted for shoes and don’t always just buy what your BFF is wearing. For gods’ sake man, do your homework and be an individual. Start by going to a specialty running store and have them analyze your foot size, width, arch type, pronation, gait, stride etc. When you’re being fitted, try on several pairs and different brands and ask questions.  If the store has a knowledgeable staff, you will be able to get the info you need to decide what kind of shoes to get. While most of these stores will have lots of shiny running shoes, and usually some basic trail shoes, not all of them will carry what you need for OCRs, but the fitting itself is incredibly important.

Second, talk to your fellow obstacle course racers!  Man, is there anything we love more than rehashing our races, the good, the bad, and the ugly?  No way!  Get a few people together in the beer tent and they’ll tell you more than you ever wanted to know about their shoes.  What works for them may or may not work for you, but if you pay attention, you’ll get lots of clues.  For example, I mentioned that my favorite Salomons have a wide toe box.  Obviously that’s not great if the ball of your foot and toes are narrow, so you could rule that out.  Knowing what NOT to buy is super-valuable as well – hello saved dollars.

So what DO you need in an OCR shoe? You need a shoe that is:

  • Resilient, with plenty of flexibility.  Your foot will be moving in lots of different planes.
  • Water resistant, or more to the point, that drains water / mud easily.
  • Cleans up easily.  Once you’ve spent the money on a good pair of shoes, you’ll want to get as many races as possible out of them.  That means you’ll want to be able to take the hose to them, and get them mostly clean without having to do a lot of detail work.
  • Most of all they need some serious traction, so be sure you are looking at shoes with some serious tread or lugs… think monster truck tires.

As I learned from my first pair of Salomons, you also need to focus on how they fit. Are they comfortable as soon as you put them on? How does the arch support feel – too much / too hard / not supportive enough / just right? Is there any tightness in heel or toe-box? Any discomfort you feel when you put the shoes on will only be magnified once you start running. The last thing you want once the smoke grenade is dropped and the Kraken is unleashed is a floppy shoe or a blister at mile 1.  When you get them home, run a mile or two on a treadmill over varying incline.  If they’re in any way sub-fabulous, box ’em up and take ’em back.  (But air them out first – don’t be a douche.)

Whether you’re looking for your first “real” pair of OCR shoes, or trying to make your next upgrade worthwhile, I hope all of this is helpful in your next shoe selection!  What shoes have you tried?  What did you love / hate?  Have you found your perfect shoe?  We’d love to hear about it!

Fuel Your Fitness Friday 2.27.15

Fuel Your Fitness Friday 2.27.15

You may or may not know that Mrs. World and I are vegans.  Although I prefer the term “flexetarian”. That occasionally freaks people out.  We get reactions that range from blank stares, to concerns that we are going to die from lack of protein, to the most common, “I could never do that.”  There are a growing number of vegan elite athletes.  Not that I’m throwing myself in their category, just making a point that it is not only possible, but absolutely being done.  Don’t believe it? Check out http://www.greatveganathletes.com/ to see a fabulous array of these folks all in one place.

Honestly, a vegan lifestyle is not difficult, but you can relax, because I’m not going to try to change how you eat.  I do know that lots of people are curious about how I fuel my fitness level on a vegan diet.  I know that lots of others are interested in either reducing the amount of meat in their diet, or increasing the amount of vegetables, or both.  (There’s so much interest, in fact, that Mrs. World has started holding vegan cooking classes about once a month.)

If the idea of “vegan recipes” scares you, try substituting “plant-powered” recipes, or “super delicious recipes that just happen to not include meat,” would also be a good option.  Keep an open mind, and I’ll bet you’ll find some new favorites!

A few of this week’s menu items:

lentil barley stewLentil Barley Stew

You remember how much Mrs. World loves throwing everything in a pot and turning it on? Here’s another winner in that department.  This stew is ferociously filling, and makes a CRAZY huge batch. We were eating it all week, and not getting sick of it, I might add. It just got better (richer, creamier, more flavorful) as the week went on. A couple notes: go ahead and omit the cashew butter. The flavor was better without it. Also, as rich as it is, Mrs. felt it was missing some zing, or as she calls it “brightness,” whatever that means. She ended up adding 3T each of lemon juice and white cooking wine, which really did make a difference.  Try the recipe as written, then you can add them if you wish, 1T at a time, tasting as you go.

Chickpea Vegetable CurryChickpea Vegetable Curry

Mrs. absolutely lost her mind over this recipe.  I suspect I shall be eating a lot of it in the future… which is fine, because she’s right, it’s awesome.  The amount of fat in this recipe is just a little out of control (and freaking delicious) due to the entire can of coconut milk. You could try using light coconut milk, but we haven’t tested that yet, and may not ever, because did I mention how yummy this is?  I did?  Okay good.  Notes:

  • Final amount of brown sugar was 1T + 1tsp
  • Final amount of lemon juice was 2T
  • Used 3oz (1/2 of the little can) of tomato paste
  • Used 5oz (1/2 bag) frozen spinach, added in the last 5 minutes of simmering, and it was perfect
  • Omitted the green onions since we didn’t have any. Didn’t miss them at all.
  • Wasn’t sure if the basil in the recipe was fresh or dried. Used 1 tsp dried.
  • You MUST add 1/2 T garam masala, and 1/2 T curry powder. Trust me.
  • When you serve it, the ratio of quinoa to curry should be a scant 1/2c quinoa (or go down to 1/3c) to a generous cup of curry. Mrs. over-quinoaed (did you know quinoa could be a verb?) her first portion, which really dilutes the curry. Don’t do that!

Sweet potato zucchini frittersSweet Potato Zucchini Fritters

Mrs. wasn’t so sure about this recipe going in (because it sounded like work with all the veg grating), but we do love a good fritter, and there were zucchinis dying in the drawer. On the original blog post, Averie talks about the fritters being watery, and also rather bland tasting on their own.  Obviously wife wasn’t having any of that business, so she fixed it. If you follow her advice, they will NOT be bland, and don’t even need a sauce. Notes:

  • Once you have grated your veg, take a few paper towels and squeeze some of the moisture out of them.  (You can use a clean towel, but the sweet potato will stain.) You don’t have to be obsessive about this, but a few good squeezes will make a big difference!
  • To your grated zucchini and sweet potato, add the following: 1 flax egg, 1T hot taco seasoning, 1tsp chili powder, 1tsp curry powder, 2 large blobs vegan mayo (maybe 1/4c), 2T vegan ranch dressing, the mix of 1/4c vegan butter and 2T wheat flour.  Stir until everything is well combined.  Use a 1/4c measuring cup, and scoop onto the baking sheet, pressing into roughly 1/2″ thick patties.  We got 9 generous scoops.
  • For better crispiness, bake at 400, not 350, and since you’ve removed a lot of the liquid, you don’t have to do the step about “pushing it back into the fritter.”
  • Do let them stand a few minutes before serving.  We tried serving with a spicy honey mustard sauce, but it totally overwhelmed the delicious flavor of the fritter.  If you MUST have a dipping sauce, I’d recommend you go with a simple vegan ranch. These are great with a side of cauliflower, broc, or bruss.

Anyone have a favorite vegan or vegetarian recipe you’d like to share? Or maybe a non-vegan recipe you’d like Mrs. World to take a stab at vegging up?  Let us know!

Fiskars Splitting Axes: X25 Vs. X27

Which Axe is Right For Me

*This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that if you click and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. Thank you for your support!

I needed an axe. I tried to tell wifey that it was practical – you know, for splitting firewood, and working out in the style of our forefathers. Not for a second did she believe in my desire to rock some George Washington pecs and abs. The truth is, I needed it primarily for OCRs and adventure races (i.e.: The Death Race), and since you’re here, I bet that’s why you want one too.

At the time I was purchasing, money was tight, and I had trolled the interwebs for hours trying to find the best bang for my buck. Hopefully you’ve stumbled upon this article early in your own quest, and I can save you some time and sanity.

Huge simplification: If you’re looking for insight into anything but a Fiskars splitting axe, you are shit outta luck. I looked into lots of brands, True Temper, Seymour, and Gerber to name a few, and their reviews wouldn’t even make a caveman give up his pointy rock. The only other brand that appeared to have some wherewithal was Husqvarna, but with a shorter reach and twice the price, I didn’t see the point of researching it too closely.  So save yourself some time, and just know you’re getting a Fiskars.  Now it’s just a matter of the X25 or the X27 (both with 2400+ 5-star reviews on Amazon at the time I’m writing this).


According to the Fiskars site, both are designed to be ideal for splitting medium to large sized logs, and their heads are shaped to be easier to remove from wood. Both have an included sheath, inseparable PermaHead (snicker), shock-absorbing frame, and a lifetime warranty. All of which means… what, exactly? The PermaHead (snicker some more) means that the head and handle are attached by having the handle material wrap around the base of the axe head. The “Shock Absorbing DuraFrame” is made of a material that absorbs shock better than a wooden handle, which is great if you have an unlucky swing, whiff the log, and slam the handle into the log instead. Not that I’ve done that. Ever. And the lifetime warranty? On the off-chance you manage to break the handle or head with your Dwarven strength, no worries Gimli, they’ll replace it.

So really, the differences come down to length, weight, and price. The X27 is 8 inches longer, just under a pound heavier, and about $10 more in price.  According to the stats, the X25 is best suited for persons 5’-5’9”, and the X27 for those 5’10-6’+.  I’m going to recommend you take that with a grain of salt. At first, I wanted to get the X27, but at the time $10 mattered quite a bit, so ultimately, price ended up being my deciding factor, and I went with the X25. That was a few years ago, and since then, I have used both axes on numerous occasions, swapping axes with friends who own the X27. I’m still considering purchasing an X27 as well, but I’m not at all disappointed with my choice.

At 6’1”, I’m a fairly tall guy, so you’d probably expect me to lug around a larger axe to complement my frame, but the truth is, I love my Fiskars X25, who has been christened “Little Buddy.” As an obstacle racer, size and weight will have an impact on your results. In all my events to date, Little Buddy’s size, or lack thereof, has been a definite asset in maneuverability and functionality while on the course. Holstered to my pack, the 8” shorter handle ensures that it does not exceed the height of my head, keeping me from getting hung up trudging through thick brush, or slinking through drain pipes and under barbed wire. Believe it or not, he has even proven to be an asset in the splitting department by being compact enough to chop in tight spaces where you can’t get a longer swing in. During one winter event, we were required to move a large tractor tire, which – BONUS! – was frozen to the ground. The X25 size was a perfect fit inside the tire, allowing me to chip away the ice to free the tire, while singing the “My Buddy” song from that 80’s commercial. It’s all about morale, baby.

As for the Fiskars X27, I’ve seen this axe snag up more racers than a radio tower on a Porsche. (There’s probably a few Death Racers still hanging around in the trees of Vermont.) On the bright side, this thing is a beast. Extra length equals more momentum equals more power, and nothing says “testosterone” like being able to split more logs than a saw mill. So if I really were going to buy an axe for splitting firewood, that would probably be my choice. (See, Honey? Practical!)

The X25 retails for $59.99 on Fiskars.com, but is currently selling new on Amazon for $44.97 with free shipping, or used for less than $40.

Fiskars X25

The X27 retails for $69.99, but is selling for $54.97 new on Amazon, or used from about $47.

Fiskars X27

For more information, you might also check out Fiskars’ page on all things chop-tastic: http://www2.fiskars.com/Gardening-and-Yard-Care/Projects/Tools-Techniques/Choosing-the-Right-Tool/Choose-the-Right-Axe-for-You#.VNlRKTHF-So 

Fuel Your Fitness Friday

Fuel Your Fitness

You may or may not know that Mrs. World and I are vegans. Although I prefer the term “flexetarian”.  That occasionally freaks people out.  We get reactions that range from blank stares, to concerns that we are going to die from lack of protein, to the most common, “I could never do that.”  There are a growing number of vegan elite athletes.  Not that I’m throwing myself in their category, just making a point that it is not only possible, but absolutely being done.  Don’t believe it? Check out http://www.greatveganathletes.com/ to see a fabulous array of these folks all in one place.

Honestly, a vegan lifestyle is not difficult, but you can relax, because I’m not going to try to change how you eat.  I do know that lots of people are curious about how I fuel my fitness level on a vegan diet.  I know that lots of others are interested in either reducing the amount of meat in their diet, or increasing the amount of vegetables, or both.  (There’s so much interest, in fact, that Mrs. World has started holding vegan cooking classes about once a month.)

If the idea of “vegan recipes” scares you, try substituting “plant-powered” recipes, or “super delicious recipes that just happen to not include meat,” would also be a good option.  Keep an open mind, and I’ll bet you’ll find some new favorites!

Here are some of the things we had this week:

zucchini skilletZucchini, Black Bean, & Rice Skillet

Holy shizz.  We had this once before, a loooooong time ago, but it was only so-so.  Mrs. had saved it, with the idea of making a couple of adjustments, and we are SO GLAD she did.  It was awesome. First of all, change the oil to 1/2T coconut oil, then change everything else to organic if you can.  We’re not big fans of green pepper, so we used 1c chopped red, orange, and yellow bell peppers.  Most important change: Use regular brown rice, and pre-cook it.  Add 1.5c cooked rice to the skillet, and omit the additional 3/4c water.  This makes a huge difference!! Sub 1c vegan cheese, and you’re good to go.

Eggplant caponataEggplant Caponata

Budgetbytes.com has long been one of Mrs.’s favorite recipe sites.  She got away from it a little when we first went vegan, but now that she can veganize just about anything, she’s back to prowling it weekly.  This was a brand new recipe, and it was a win.  Her favorites are the kind where you dump everything in a pot and turn it on, and this totally fits the bill. FYI, we only had 1/2 an eggplant on hand, and it was perfectly fine.  Also, to reduce the carbs a bit, she served it over 1c brown rice instead of pasta, but I’m sure that would be delicious too.  It has an unexpected kick, which we love, but you could tone down or omit the chili flake if you wanted. (Weenie.)

Mexican QuinoaOne Pan Mexican Quinoa

This one bears a striking visual resemblance to the zucchini skillet, but that is purely coincidental… except for her aforementioned love of throwing everything in a pan and turning it on… which you also do here!  Woot!  Mrs. is working on becoming better friends with quinoa.  It’s not that she doesn’t like it, just that she finds it tedious to cook, what with the rinsing and all.  She DOES love the crazy protein content (oh look! Vegan protein!), so she’s trying to get more comfortable with it.  Since this recipe just calls for it being added dry with everything else, that was ideal. Of course, she can’t leave anything alone, so she had to toast it with the oil and onions for awhile before adding the remaining ingredients.  Oh, she also added a crap-ton of lime juice, which took this from what was probably a “very good” recipe, to a “get-your-hands-off-those-leftovers-before-I-break-your-face” recipe.  All hail the chef.

Anyone have a favorite vegan or vegetarian recipe you’d like to share? Or maybe a non-vegan recipe you’d like Mrs. World to take a stab at vegging up?  Let us know!

Spartan Rope Climb: How to Get Your @ss Up That Rope!

How to Climb the Spartan Rope

Oh Rope Climb. Many of us have hated you since childhood. We continue to hate you today, whether because you’re still kicking our ass, or because we have to wait while you throw down with a bunch of other people before we get our turn. Well, Rope Climb, today is a new day.  See, I suspect you’ve gotten a bad rap.  I suspect you are only trying to point out our weaknesses and imbalances, not for a snarky laugh as we splash butt-first in muddy waters, but to help us improve our levels of Awesome and Badassery. Am I right, Rope Climb? We shall see.

Thing the First:  Unless you’re huge, green, and own a closet full of shredded pants, the rope climb is not all about upper body strength.
Can it be done that way? Sure.
Can it be done that way by most mere mortals? No.

Thing the Second:  Believe it or not, this is a total body exercise. You need a strong core for balance (so you’re not swinging out horizontal like a pole dancer – you’ve seen the folks I’m talking about). You need a method of getting your lower body involved, and there are several to choose from, so that the big muscles are doing most of the work.  You need grip strength.  I’m going to show you that this is not all about your arms, but the fact is, unless you’ve got teeth like a donkey, you’re gonna need your hands to hang on for however long it takes you to get up those [20 feet.]

Thing the Third: There are about a bazillion names for techniques that all do essentially the same thing. J-hook, S-wrap, Russian wrap, Spanish wrap, squat and brake, and probably others I just haven’t heard yet.  All are variations of methods for doing what I said in Thing the Second, which is to use your whole body.  Here are some excellent demonstrations. Take what works for you and discard the rest.

I suggest you start with this article from Brian at ITStactical.com posted here on artofmanliness.com. He covers 3 techniques:  the gym-class technique, which is what most of the people you see failing at races are trying to use, a military “brake and squat” technique, which is also known as the S-wrap or Spanish wrap or marine version, and another brake and squat which is usually referred to as the J-hook or SEALs version. Here’s the video:

S-Wrap, Spanish wrap, Marine version

The S-wrap essentially involves wrapping the rope around your leg, creating more points of contact for control of the rope. My personal experience is that this also creates more points of rope burn, but that’s just me.  They do a great job of pointing out the need to maintain control of the rope, much as Brian pointed out above.

This video is straight from the Spartan’s mouth.  He makes it look really easy, and if you follow his directions, maybe it can be for you, too!

J-hook, Russian wrap, SEALs version

This video expounds on the J-hook (my preferred technique), including some common misfires, which are definitely helpful to keep in mind. I did note that Jason has the rope positioned between his legs, instead of to the outside, which is a slightly different variation. You do what’s most comfortable for you.

Here’s a crossfitter’s version.  The guy’s technique is most closely aligned with what Brian demonstrated in the first video, and is the way I myself prefer.

A couple of honorable mentions:

In general, I love the videos from Iron Edge. They do an excellent job of breaking things down.  My problem with this video is the assumption that you need to be able to perform a close-hand pull-up in order to successfully navigate the rope, which just ain’t so. On the other hand, he does a beautiful job of demonstrating the hook with his feet. You can very clearly see how he’s wrapping the rope, as well as how far upward each grab propels him. He’s got a great progression for beginners, and as usual, there’s also a list of exercises at the end to help strengthen the various muscle groups.

Pete, from howtotrainformudruns.com has this video on rope climbing. He personally likes to keep his hands close to his chest.  That doesn’t really work for me, but it may work for you.  I do really like his 5 pulls up / 5 pulls down exercise, which can easily be incorporated into your training and workouts on a regular basis.

So what’s the best way to climb the rope? Whichever way gets you to the top, as quickly and safely as possible! Try all of these, and see what feels the best to you.

Do you have any other methods we didn’t cover here? Share them in the comments!

Strengthening & Stretching to Prevent Injury

Simple Exercises to Prevent Injury

Want to be successful in your next (or first) obstacle race?  Here’s a tip:  Don’t get injured. Too often folks just head off for a run with no warm-up, or worse, hit the course on joints that have been in no way prepared for the abuse they’re about to take.  You know what we call that?  Dumb.  You are begging for an injury.  Not only are you not going to perform at your best in this race (whatever that means for you), you may take yourself out of the game for the rest of the season… extra suckmazing if you’ve already requested the time off work and paid your entry fees.

Tooling around some of my favorite blogs today, I came across a couple of great posts from elite runner Tina Muir.  On her personal blog, she shares some of the triumphs, frustrations, and tediums of being an elite athlete.  It’s a fascinating look at the life many of us fantasize about and romanticize, but these two posts can be incredibly helpful for athletes of ANY skill level.  (Even though she’s using small weights, I’m talking to you, Giant Dude Who Can Haul Himself Up The Rope Using Only His Arms.)  I highly recommend incorporating these exercises, or something similar, into your daily training routine.  When you see your buddies getting injured, you’ll be so glad it’s not you.  Feel free to gloat.

This first post focuses on leg strengthening exercises.  When running, we tend to think of our muscles as working in one direction, which very simply is not true, ESPECIALLY for for those of us running in mud.  Just because something looks simple, doesn’t mean it’s not important.  Internalize this fact.  Strengthening Leg Exercises for Runners  Each video is only a few seconds, like this one:

The second post is about preparing your body for running, but these exercises would also be excellent before going out on any OCR course.  You may have driven a long way to get where you are.  Maybe you slept on a crummy mattress in a Motel 6.  Maybe you’ve been looking forward to this race for a year, you’re totally keyed up on adrenaline and could bounce a brick off your hamstrings.  Do this.  Seriously.  Dynamic Warm-Up  (Click on the link for her youtube channel in this post.  When you get there, type “active” in the search bar, and it will bring up all of the exercises individually.)  Here’s a sample, called the “hurdle walk over.”

What do you do to warm up before your training events and races?

Obstacle Quick Tips


No matter how good you are at something, even after years, you can still pick up a piece of information that changes the game.  I was all over the interwebs the other day, researching the race calendar for 2015, and I bumped into a couple of choice tidbits that I thought I would share, in case they ended up being useful to someone else.  Some of these seem like common sense, but it’s funny how many things seem obvious once they’re spelled out. Take a look – one of these might just shave a few seconds / minutes / burpees off your next race!

Quick tip #1:  Arctic Enema

Amelia Boone and Deanna Blegg, both podium dwellers of World’s Toughest Mudder, agree that the best way to handle the AE is just dive in, get to the board, and get out. Don’t wade gingerly.  An article in Mud & Obstacle does a great job of explaining the science here.  But even if you don’t care about the science, I’m willing to take Amelia and Deanna’s word for it… seeing as how they’re on the podium.

Quick tip #2:  Funky Monkey

If you’re not already skilled at getting across monkey bars, don’t try alternating hands.  Go one bar at a time, and swing for momentum.  Most importantly, DON’T STOP.  Your grip strength will most likely be the first thing to fail, and recovering momentum once you’ve lost it is tough.  For more monkey tips, Tough Mudder shares their secrets here.

Quick tip #3: Barbed Wire Crawl

While this obstacle isn’t exactly a hard one, it is tedious, especially if there have been five waves ahead of you, there are fifty other schmoes going through at the same time, and the guy with the fire hose is having a particularly bad day. The method I like to use has been dubbed the “Hobe Roll” after Hobe Call. Simply lay horizontally instead of going in head first and roll. Be sure to keep your eyes focused on the end of the obstacle to help stave off dizziness and to keep you on course. And obviously, be aware of the barbed wire and be prepared to adjust your position, lest you add a new battle scar.

Quick tip #4: Walls (8′, 10′, inverted)

This tip is my own invention, and it’s something I like to call “the chicken wing.”  Once you’ve managed to grip the top of the wall (using the a-frame, the step, or best of all, good ol’ fashioned momentum), you just need to pull yourself up high enough to get your arms into an “L” position.  At this point, you can swing one elbow over the top (like a chicken wing in the chicken dance), which will keep you secure enough to swing one leg up.  From there you just need to muster a few drops of energy to basically roll yourself over the top to victory.  It may not be pretty, but at least you did it by yourself.

Do you have any quick tips you’d like to add?  Something that took an obstacle from horrible to manageable, or better yet, to easy peasy?  Let us benefit from your wisdom, oh Great Obstacle Guru!

#OCR Style Gym Workout


My gym-rat wife was short on time this morning.  Her usual a.m. routine is to lift heavy shit for an hour, then spend 20-30 minutes sweating her brains out on cardio.  Today a client somehow managed to sneak in an appointment that encroached on her 90ish minutes of zen, and she needed to bust it out with enough time to shower before interacting with humans.  So over coffee, we put our heads together and came up with an OCR-style workout that would blast both the strength and the cardio (hard), and get her out of there in 45 minutes or less.  The report from the trenches:  She killed it, but it also killed her in some sort of murder / suicide that was apparently a win-win.

When next you find yourself short on time, give this a try.  Mrs. World says you’ll love/hate it!

(Note:  We have open areas in our gym that are about equivalent to a half-court distance. You can do this in a gymnasium with court markings, or just use whatever open area you have and adjust the number of lengths you do.)

Warm up:

  1. Sideways shuffle to 1/2 court and back – 2 rounds
  2. Sprint to 1/2 court, touch the ground, sprint back, touch the ground – 5 rounds

Your heart should be pounding, so that’s enough play time.  Now do 2 rounds of each of the following sets.  Have more than 45 minutes?  Do as many rounds as you want and up the reps!

Set 1:

  1. Plank walk with feet on furniture sliders to 1/2 court and back (She’d been wanting to try this since I mentioned it in the the Battle Frog workout review.  She has confirmed that it does indeed totally suck.  Her workout partner is no longer speaking to her.)
  2. 10 burpees

Set 2:

  1. 20 push-ups (2 rounds also satisfies today’s 30 push ups for the Spartan Challenge!)
  2. 12-15 hanging crunches (Hang from a bar and bring your knees to your chest.)

Set 3:

  1. Bear crawl to 1/2 court and back
  2. 15 Spiderman planks (Get in high (easier) or low (harder) plank position and alternate bringing your right and left knees to the outside of your elbows.  Keep your butt down!)

Set 4:

  1. Jump rope 2 minutes (By this point in the workout she said each minute was four hours long.)
  2. 20 Russian twists with medicine ball (she used the 12lb)

Even if you’re short on time, TAKE 5 MINUTES TO STRETCH so you’re not sorry later. Or don’t, I don’t care, but don’t come crying to me about how sore you are.

Do you have some favorite OCR simulations that you use in the gym?  If you try this, let us know how it goes!

2015 Midwest Obstacle Race Event Listing


It’s that time.  Time to knuckle down, scavenge the interwebs, and try not to schedule multiple races for the same day, or a Saturday race in Ohio and a Sunday race in Milwaukee.  This is way more complicated than you might expect.  The best all-inclusive site I’ve found is http://www.mudrunguide.com/directory/usa/, but even this is not exhaustive.  (Although if they are missing events, you can just email it to them and they’ll get it added.  If you are an event coordinator, why would you NOT do this immediately upon completing your schedule??)  So, a couple hours of digging last night, a couple more hours this morning, and I think I’ve got most of my favorite events tracked down.  Having done all of this research, I shall now share it in hopes of making your life a better, albeit dirty place.

I generally stick to about a 6 hour radius when selecting races.  This is close enough that I can drive there and back in a weekend without having to take extra days off of work.  I live just outside of Chicago, so if you’re not in the IL, WI, IN, OH area, this post is not for you. If that is the case, and you are compiling your own list, please email me so I can link to you and we can reach more people!

Here goes.  I’ve included the date, the race, and the CURRENT pricing, as of this moment.  In case you’re not aware, the prices go up the closer you get to race day.  ALWAYS do a search for deals on groupon and living social.  I rarely pay full price for races, unless I absolutely cannot help it, and I’ll die if I don’t do that race.  These prices do not include spectator fees (which many races have), parking fees, or additional insurance fees.

All of the items in GREEN are the ones I’m definitely planning to participate in.  The ORANGE ones are possibilities depending on how I’m feeling, whether we can work it into the budget, and in the case of the WDC, whether I qualify.  If you’ll be at any of them, let’s grab a beer at the finish!

  • February 15: GORUCK Scavenger, Chicago, $40
  • February 20: GORUCK Challenge, IN, $60
  • February 21: GORUCK Light, IN, $40
  • February 28: Bulldog Challenge, Charleston, SC
  • March 13: GORUCK Challenge, Chicago, $115
  • March 14: GORUCK Light, Chicago, $85
  • March 21: GORUCK Light, OH, $60
  • March 22: Spartan Workout, Wilmette, IL, Free
  • March 27: GORUCK Challenge, Milwaukee, $85
  • March 28:  GORUCK Light, Milwaukee, $60
  • April 3:  GORUCK Challenge, OH, $85
  • April 4:  GORUCK Light, OH, $60
  • April 10:  GORUCK Challenge, Chicago, $115
  • April 11:  GORUCK Light, Chicago, $85
  • April 17:  GORUCK Challenge, IN, $85
  • April 18:  GORUCK Light, IN, $60
  • May 1:  GORUCK Challenge, Chicago, $105
  • May 2:  GORUCK Light, Chicago, $75
  • May 2:  Badass Dash, Hoffman Estates, $61, $71 elite
  • May 2:  Mudocalypse, IN, $60
  • May 2: Rescue Run, Aledo, IL, $95
  • May 8:  The Suck Midwest, IN, $150
  • May 9-10:  Tough Mudder, Chicago, $170
  • May 16:  Spartan Sprint, Indy, $105 morning or $75 afternoon + $30 elite
  • May 22:  GORUCK Heavy, Chicago, $200
  • May 23:  Spartan Sprint, Miller Park, $90 morning or $60 afternoon +$30 elite
  • May 23:  Mud Guts & Glory, Ohio, $90
  • May 23: Rubicon Race, Davenport, IA, $75 
  • May 30-31:  Gladiator Assault Challenge, Chicago, $59
  • May 30:  Goliath Challenge, WI, $55
  • May 30:  Spartan Beast, Ohio, $145 morning or $110 afternoon + $30 elite
  • May 31:  Spartan Sprint, Ohio, $75 morning or $60 afternoon + $30 elite
  • May 31: Down & Dirty, Chicago, $65/$75 now, $90/$100 race day
  • June 5: Cornfed Boot Camp, Rolla, MI, $55
  • June 5:  GORUCK Challenge, Madison, $105
  • June 6:  GORUCK Light, Madison, $75
  • June 12:  GORUCK Challenge, Chicago, $105
  • June 13:  GORUCK Light, Chicago, $75
  • June 13:  Savage Race, Ohio, $61
  • June 13-14:  Warrior Dash, IL, $60
  • June 20-21:  Black Swamp Dash, Ohio, $39
  • June 20: Xtreme Muck Ruck, Copemish MI, $65 now – $85 race day
  • June 26-28:  Death Race, VT
  • June 26:  GORUCK Challenge, Milwaukee, $80
  • June 27:  GORUCK Light, Milwaukee, $55
  • June 27-28:  Warrior Dash, IN, $50
  • July 3:  GORUCK Challenge, Chicago, $95
  • July 4:  GORUCK Light, Chicago, $65
  • July 10:  GORUCK Challenge, Madison, $75
  • July 11:  GORUCK Light, Madison, $50
  • July 11: Mudocalypse, IN $45, $85 elite
  • July 18: Big Dawg Dare, Litchfield, IL, $45
  • July 18:  Mudathlon, NW Indiana, $65
  • July 19:  Force of Nature Mind Body Challenge, Chicago, $135
  • July 24:  GORUCK Challenge, Chicago, $95
  • July 25:  GORUCK Light, Chicago, $65
  • July 25: Wipeout Run, Chicago, $54 now, $89 race day
  • Aug 1:  Warrior Dash, WI, $50
  • Aug 8: Mudcross Challenge, Walnut, IL, $50
  • Aug 14:  GORUCK Challenge, Bloomington IN, $75
  • Aug 15:  GORUCK Light, Bloomington IN, $50
  • Aug 15:  Spartan Super, Chicago, $130 morning or $95 afternoon + $30 elite
  • Aug 16:  Spartan Sprint, Chicago, $75 morning or $60 afternoon + $30 elite
  • Aug 21:  GORUCK Challenge, Chicago, $95
  • Aug 22:  GORUCK Light, Chicago, $65
  • Aug 29:  Badass Dash, Chicago, $51, $61 elite
  • Aug 29:  Muckfest, Chicago, $55
  • Aug 29:  Rugged Manic, Chicago / Milwaukee, $49
  • Sept 4:  The Ultimate Suck, Cuba, IL, $250
  • Sept 4:  GORUCK Challenge, Milwaukee, $75
  • Sept 5:  GORUCK Light, Milwaukee, $50
  • Sept 5:  Mudocalypse, IN, $45
  • Sept 10:  GORUCK Heavy, Chicago, $175
  • Sept 11:  GORUCK Challenge, Chicago, $95
  • Sept 12:  GORUCK Light, Chicago, $65
  • Sept 12-13:  Tough Mudder, WI, $179
  • Sept 19-20:  Battle Frog, Lake Geneva, $93
  • Sept 19:  Muckfest, WI, $55
  • Sept 19:  Warrior Dash, MI, $50
  • Oct 2:  GORUCK Challenge, Chicago, $95
  • Oct 3:  GORUCK Light, Chicago, $65
  • Oct 9:  GORUCK Challenge, IN, $75
  • Oct 10:  GORUCK Light, IN, $50
  • Oct 10:  Warrior Dash World Championships, TNrequires qualification
  • Oct 17-18:  OCR World Championships, Ohiorequires qualification
  • Oct 18:  Urbanathalon, Chicago, Event Cancelled
  • Oct 31:  GORUCK Light, Chicago, $65

There are a few others who have not yet posted their dates and / or locations, but which I’ll keep my eye on.  Those are:

  • The Civilian Military Combine
  • Dirt Runner

If you have anything to add, or you want to leave us a note on price / date changes, please post in the comments!