Like skinny jeans and Ugg boots, fitness goes through trends. And just as with skinny jeans and Ugg boots, those trends aren’t for everyone. Discerning individuals recognize that. Those who aren't discerning become fashion victims, or in this case, fitness victims.|
The latest trend is obstacle racing. If anyone needs a definition, here it is, courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia:
Obstacle racing is the sport in which a competitor, traveling on foot, must overcome various physical challenges (obstacles) in order to progress in the race. Obstacles include, but are not limited to: climbing over walls, carrying heavy objects, traversing bodies of water, crawling under barbed wire, and jumping through fire.
Some examples that have already made it into the public consciousness include the Tough Mudder, Spartan Beast, Warrior Dash, Death Race, Hero Rush, Barbarian Challenge, and of course, the Run For Your Lives 5K Obstacle Course Zombie Race. And if the definition of obstacle racing weren’t enough to tell you about the events, the names probably would be.
According to the Obstacle Racing State of the Union Report (I did not make that up; you can find it here), the sport actually landed in the mainstream around 2009.
It goes on to cite some pretty neat statistics. The average obstacle course racer has at least some level of college education but no kids, and is in the 18-34 age range, “with a severe decline in interest after the age of 44.” Some races skew male, some skew female, and many sell out far in advance. (At this point, the zombie volunteer slots are all filled for the 5K in Maryland in October, and there’s a wannabe-zombie waiting list).
Of course, there are downsides. Participants sign a waiver, acknowledging the risks, including broken bones, cuts, burns and so forth. Given the extreme nature of the obstacles, the number of people racing and the possibility that a few may have fueled up with beer beforehand, mishaps are possible. The severe traumas are the ones that make the news. In Michigan, for example, one man was paralyzed in August 2011 after diving into a shallow mud pit in the Warrior Dash, and two others died after running the same race.
There’s no statistic concerning the number of individuals who enter obstacle races without proper training; we hope it's a small number, but we all know the knuckleheads are out there. Certainly, it’s easy to find suggested training regimens for various races by using the Internet. Some races have boot camps and other workouts affiliated with their programs.
It raises the possibility of whether the fitness industry can or should become involved. In areas where obstacle races are held and are popular, there may be concentrations of potential competitors, and that could lead to the development of formal training programs and extra income. It seems, however, that at least some clubs and fitness centers are hesitant to develop those directed programs.
A friend who was gearing up for a local obstacle race told me he had asked a personal trainer at his club to help him get ready. The trainer told him he would be glad to help him get into better shape, but wouldn't develop obstacle race-specific training.
“I guess he didn’t want to be a part of it if I got hurt,” my friend said with a shrug.
I will admit that a) I’m not a big risk-taker — meaning I won't be doing these races — and b) I lack legal expertise of any kind. So I’ll put the questions out there. Is your club offering a training program for potential obstacle racers? Have you ever been asked about it? Would you be willing to try it? Or are you standing back from it?
Maybe, like many, you’re just simply looking at the whole concept of obstacle racing and thinking, “This too shall pass.”