Updated: Jul 9, 2018
Seas of mud and concrete walls are no obstacles in your determination to perform at your best. But what if there’s something else standing in the way of you reaching your goals?
While many view obstacle racing as a test of speed and strength, the real key to success for most competitors is developing a top-flight aerobic system. Doing so can help develop the endurance needed for this sport, while supporting the muscles that provide the strength needed for tacking obstacles, and also helping prevent injuries, decrease body fat, improve health and speed your recovery from both training and competition.
The body’s muscular system contains two types of muscle fibers. These are the anaerobic muscles and the aerobic muscles.
- Anaerobic muscle fibers are associated with strength and speed. They use predominantly sugar as fuel, something the body is not able to store in large quantities. In fact, the body is only able to use sugar for fueling all-out efforts of about two minutes or less.
- Aerobic muscle fibers on the other hand are associated with endurance, but they also play an important supporting role as the undergirding for the anaerobic muscles, helping to maintain balance and prevent injuries. They also burn fat for fuel.
Obstacle course racers need both activities: anaerobic muscle for short bursts of speed and strength. However, with courses typically running 5K, building the aerobic system also can pay big dividends.
In my decades of experience coaching and training athletes in a wide variety of sports, I have developed an effective three-pronged approach to building a better aerobic system. This involves fine-tuning diet and training, and reducing stress. It’s all about adapting the body to burn more fat as fuel.
Fat is the most important source of endurance energy and an important part of our metabolism. Even the leanest runner, for example, has enough stored fat to run hundreds of miles at an easy pace. When racing distances such as a 5K or 10K, athletes with the right metabolism can burn significant amounts of fat for energy, conserving sugar for a final kick. Using up glycogen stores too quickly in both training and racing, reduces energy, decreases overall running pace and is a recipe for bonking.
Here is a summery for improving the aerobic system and increasing fat-burning:
- FOOD. It has an immediate and powerful effect on the mix of fuels. The more carbohydrate consumed, especially refined products (the kind most people eat), the less fat and more sugar we burn for energy. This is especially a problem when consuming carbs before a workout or race, and even the previous evening’s meal. Even moderate amounts of carbohydrates can reduce fat-burning in some runners. One can even consume too many natural carbohydrates, such as fruit. My Two Week Test [http://philmaffetone.com/2-week-test/] can help you determine the optimal level of carbohydrate intake for performance.
- TRAINING PACE. Fat-burning occurs in the slow-twitch, aerobic muscle fibers. Developing these muscles during lower rather than higher intensity running helps build better endurance and fat-burning, and can contribute to better race times. Once aerobic function is developed, which could take three to six months, one can add intervals or other higher-intensity training. My 180 Formula [http://philmaffetone.com/180-formula/] can help you find your optimum fat-burning zone.
- STRESS. The accumulation of physical, biochemical and mental-emotional stress, if excessive, can impair fat-burning and force the body to use more sugar. My stress-reduction list can help you manage the various stresses in your life [http://philmaffetone.com/stress/].
How to get started:
- Eliminate refined carbohydrates, and reduce natural ones to best match your needs (use hunger, training energy and other indicators as a guide). Reducing carbohydrates means adding more natural fats to the diet. Coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts and seeds and others can actually help burn more body fat.
- Use a heart-rate monitor to keep your training intensity lower in order to improve fat-burning. By doing so over time you will develop the ability to actually run faster at the same lower heart rate, which translates into racing faster.
- Reduce any stress factors that can be easily identified and corrected.
Both healthy eating and building the aerobic system can help burn more body fat to provide the muscles with additional energy to train better, race more and get faster. An important bonus follows, one of better health, which will in turn further improve fitness, allowing you to perform at your best on obstacle courses.