Obstacle Races Are Big Business

By Ryan Halvorson
Sep 17, 2014

Only a few short years ago, the obstacle race landscape was quite barren, with just a few organizers hosting events in 2009 and 2010. According to a new report, more than 100 companies have now entered the obstacle course business, and all signs point to continued growth.

According to “Obstacle Race World: The State of the Mud Run Business,” almost 3.4 million people participated in an obstacle race in 2013. Total revenue from 2013 events was $290.1 million. The report estimates that the number of registrants will exceed 4 million in 2014, and revenue could reach $362 million. Compare this with 2010, when 200,000 people participated in obstacle course races, contributing to $15.9 million in revenue.

As the popularity of grueling courses like the Spartan Race® and Tough Mudder® continues to grow, it’s likely that more fitness clients will show an interest in participating. However, the unique demands of these events can spell danger for even the most stalwart athletes. Casey Stutzman, founder of the Alpena, Michigan–based Performance Locker, is well versed in helping clients prepare to navigate the often brutal courses. Here are his top tips for ensuring your clients are prepped for some safe fun in the mud:

  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Run wet, run muddy and roll in the sand. Adventure races are never set in “perfect” conditions, so prepare to deal with discomfort.
  • Test all gear in advance. Until you have run 6–10 miles in your race day shoes when they are soaking wet, you can’t guarantee they are race ready.
  • Cover up. Exposed skin will get scratched, cut and possibly bloody. Wearing only a sports bra and short shorts may not be the best way to go.
  • Train appropriately. Running by itself will not prepare you for this type of race. Add mini playground workouts every few miles during long-distance runs.
    Maintain a slow, steady grind followed by bouts of explosive and intense activity.
  • Focus on lifts that connect the body from head to toe and force it to work as a cohesive unit. Isolation exercises will not do the job, so replace bench presses, crunches and curls with crawling patterns and movements, and with pulling and “upper-body” exercises that use the legs to drive strength, stability and power.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. The biggest mistake that most endurance athletes make is training too much. By the time race day hits, their bodies are tired and beat up. Don’t fall into the trap of making every workout “game time”; prioritize active recovery in the training as well. “Obstacle Race World: The State of the Mud Run Business” is a report issued by Obstacle Race World. Download the full report at www.obstacleraceworld.com.
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Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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