Sink or Swim!

Preparing for the watery obstacles

Sink or Swim! - Preparing for the watery obstacles
When people think of obstacle course racing, they typically think of the mud and land-based obstacles and forget about the water. Water obstacles can be anything from a mud pit to a full-on swim across a football field-sized pond or lake. Being comfortable in the water can be a huge help when it comes to race day preparation, and it’s often overlooked. While water and swimming-based obstacles are not a staple, they show up in a number of races and time in the water cannot be overlooked.

For Swimmers…

Sink or Swim! - Preparing for the watery obstaclesEven if you are comfortable in the water, swimming during an OCR can be a lot different from laps at the local pool. The best way to practice for race day is find a local pond and practice swimming along the shoreline.

DG15-SINK-OR-SWIM-INS3Also, practice swimming short distances in your shoes and race clothing, as that is how you will swim on race day. For safety, do so in a controlled area with a buddy.

For Non-Swimmers…

Check the race materials before signing up for the race, as many organizers put in their notes whether swimming will be included. If you are really uncomfortable in the water, opt for a race without swimming sections in it.

If you’re looking to challenge yourself, know your limitations. Race organizers usually provide life vests, so don’t be shy about using one. Also, ask if there is an option to swim along a shoreline where the water is only waist deep. If swimming is the only option, wear the life vest and float on your back kicking with your feet. You can kick your way across the watery obstacle.

Insider Tip

Oftentimes, there are guide ropes marking the swimming sections. Depending on the race, you can often use those ropes to help guide you across the pond. It can be faster and easier (depending on the race) to give your legs a rest and just pull with your arms through the water.

Overall, the best possible way to practice for swimming is to swim. It is highly encouraged to take a few swim lessons before your first race to make sure you are comfortable in the water. If you grew-up swimming like a fish, like me, you will look forward to gaining ground on your competitors in the watery obstacles.

One final and very important tip…never dive into a water obstacle and use caution in tackling the obstacles. Safety first!

That’s the dirt for this week. Next week, I’ll bring you more insider dirt on the world of obstacle course racing.

Margaret Schlachter

Margaret Schlachter, the first professional female obstacle course racer, is a top ranked athlete in the Reebok Spartan Race series. She is also an endurance athlete specializing in ultra trail running races, a Spartan SGX Coach, and a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She founded, a leading source for all things obstacle course racing and endurance sports. For more information on Margaret, her upcoming book and online coaching services.

Margaret's book "Obstacle Race Training: How to Beat any Course, Compete Like a Champion and Change Your Life" is available for PRE-SALE! Click HERE to reserve your copy.

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