Off-Season Conditioning for Obstacle Course Racer (OCR) Athletes

As the season winds down for all OCR athletes, it's time to move into the "off-season".  The off-season is a time to let the body recover from any nagging injuries that may have occurred as well as give the mind a break from the normal routine.  It doesn't mean that you will be sitting on the couch and becoming a lard ass.  

The length of time for an off-season can vary for each athlete, depending on goals.  Typically an off-season will last 3-4 months (Nov - Feb, or Dec - Mar for most people).  During this time, I advice athletes to take 2-3 weeks off COMPLETELY and catch up on some things they may have had to sacrifice during the season, and to not think about training at all.  This time may need to be longer if an athlete has a major injury to recover from.

Then for the next 4 weeks I'll have them begin a strength program targeting all major muscle groups using compound movements.  The focus will be on lighter weights with higher reps to get the muscles used to the resistance training again and to get them ready for more strength work to come.  Rest between exercises will be minimal so that we are activating the aerobic system at the same time.  We'll also include some low intensity cross training with other sports such as mountain biking, paddleboarding/kayaking, or rucking/hiking along with a good amount of mobility work.  It's also good to get into some Yoga/Pilates classes 1-2 days a week, if possible.

Weeks 6-10 I like to have athletes work on building lots of full-body strength using heavier weights and lower reps.  The goal is to build strength, not muscle mass.  I like to prescribe up to 8 sets of certain compound movements of 2-3 reps allowing adequate amount of rest between each. Finishing each workout with a little obstacle work is ok to add in some fun, but I like to keep it simple and not structured.

Week 11 will usually be a recovery week to allow full recovery and prepare for some explosive-style movements/plyometrics. 

For the next few weeks (weeks 12-14) I'll move athletes into a power phase where they begin to move explosively (box jumps, split lunge jumps, power cleans, etc.).  Here I like to add in some short high intensity work capacity circuits to fire up the anaerobic system a little.  This is also a good time to start adding in more structured obstacle work/grip strength training. 

So by the end of a 3-4 month off-season, the OCR athlete should be really excited to get back to competing again.  If the athlete/s plan to focus on Championship races held in Sept-Oct, I like to have he/she begin with more short distance events (Spartan Sprint, Bonefrog Sprint, or Tough Mudder Half), and then as months go by start adding in some middle distance events (Spartan Super, Savage Race, Bonefrog Challenge) and then really start to focus on the longer events (Spartan Beast, Bonefrog Tier 1, Tougher Mudder) as July/Aug roll around  

In general the goal for the off-season should remain the same for most athletes, while the time frame may need to be adjusted for each individual athletes.

Once the off-season is over I'll have athletes move into an "early season" period.  More on that in a later post.