How to Survive Your First Obstacle Race

Pro endurance athlete and obstacle racer Erin Beresini explains everything you need to know

You’ve spent the past several weeks training for your very first obstacle race and the big day is just around the corner.

No doubt, training physically is the most important part of preparing for an obstacle race, but for a truly successful race there are a few other factors you should take into consideration.

Getting through your first obstacle race requires both physical and mental preparation.

As you get ready to  cross the starting line of your first obstacle race,  Erin Beresini, an endurance athlete who's completed obstacle races such as The Ultraman Canada, CA Triple Crown, Solo 24hr MTB, Tough Mudder and Spartan Ultra Beast (completing a Spartan Race of every distance in one year) and and the author of "OFF COURSE Inside the Mad, Muddy World of Obstacle Course Racing" offers the following expert advice.

-What to Do During Your Race-

  • Don’t Psych Yourself Out: “Do not let the other racers or the announcer psych you out,” says Beresini. “People all have their own pre-race rituals, and the announcer is there to hype up the crowd. Think about how awesome it is that you get to do this with your friends, and how much fun you’re going to have getting dirty together.”
  • Hydrate: “Take advantage of aid stations and make sure to stay hydrated,” she adds.
  • Enjoy the Experience: “If you want to race for time, most events will let you. Otherwise, forget about the clock and enjoy it,” says Beresini. “Keep a sense of humor and a smile on your face, help strangers, and soldier on. You’re guaranteed to have a great time!”

-What to Wear-

  • Crazy Ninja Attire Accepted: “Some women race in sports bras and tiny booty shorts,” Beresini explains. “I am not one of those women most of the time. Cuts and scrapes are bound to happen when you’re crawling on the ground. I like to wear 3/4 length spandex pants, knee high compression socks and a rash guard on top to protect my skin. I look like a crazy ninja when I race.”
  • Moisture-Wicking is a Must: “Whatever you do, make sure you’re wearing material that dries quickly because you’re bound to get wet—cotton is a no no,” says Beresini. “Gloves with grippy palms can also be helpful for monkey bars and obstacles where you carry things. Just be sure to snip off the fingertips so they’ll drain water.
  • Shoe Strategy: “Go for the lightest weight sneakers you can handle because they’ll dry faster,” she adds. “Companies like Ice Breaker, Reebok, and Zoot all make shoes that are supposed to dry and drain quickly.”

-Final Words of Wisdom-

Beresini says that you’ll find more fun in fitness after finishing your first obstacle race.

“The winningest obstacle racer of all time, Hobie Call, loves to say that he loves OCR because it makes him feel like a kid again,” she said. “OCR gives us permission to go play outdoors as adults. Once you do a race, you’ll find that feeling carries over into your workouts and rejuvenates them. You’ll be more creative in designing workouts with the stuff you have. You’ll be more apt to train outside, which has huge mental benefits over training indoors. OCR is a gateway drug to a happier fitness life.”