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How Elite OCR Athletes Are Training

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

We recently polled 210 OCR athletes to see how they were training, and we had a solid mix of Open and Age Group racers respond, but only a few of Elite racers. Lots of people in the comments said they'd be interested in seeing the data for JUST the athletes competing at the Elite/Pro level, so we polled Elite competitors only. HERE WE GO!

QUESTION 1: On average, how many miles do you run each week? (We understand that it will vary depending on where you are in your training, so give your best general average)

Could the results be more spread out? While I expected a range, I wasn't quite expecting this spread. The reality is that athletes are going to train based on the time they have and what their body can sustain before injury. Race distances play a big part as well. There are so many factors that play into this, and I think you'll see that play out in all of the results as you read through this article.

QUESTION 2: Which race distance do you PRIMARILY train for?

Pretty self-explanatory. You can sort of get an idea of how the data from Question 1 plays into these answers...sort of. Not much else to say here.

QUESTION 3: Do you regularly (at least 2 times per month) incorporate hill/incline training into your programming? (Examples: Hill repeats, hill sprints, incline treadmill, mountain running, stairs, and similar training methods)

Hill training matters. MANY OCR's include hills; whether they be small, rolling hills or massive mountain climbs. Training on hills will also help build stronger legs for running. I highly recommend hill work for any runner. Clearly Elite athletes are using them.

QUESTION 4: What forms of cross training do you incorporate on a regular basis? (Regular basis = At least 2x per month) PLEASE SELECT ALL THAT APPLY.

Cross training is valuable in many ways. It helps you build fitness, it helps break up repetitive training, it challenges your brain, etc. There is no good reason not to cross train in some capacity. Any of these methods can be great, and it all depends on your strengths and weaknesses and training needs and what you have access to...still, cross training is very valuable, so I would once again highly recommend you use it.

QUESTION 5: Do you incorporate heavy carry training into your program on a regular basis? (Regular basis = 1x per week of at least 1 exercise for heavy carries)

If you struggle with carries, train for them. Since the carry weights in OCR aren't typically very heavy, an athlete who does general strength training may be just fine without the specific training. As with everything else, it is individually dependent. I will say, just because you can complete a heavy carry doesn't mean you are good at it. There are athletes who make up minutes on the carry over others because they are Good at it.

QUESTION 6: How many strength training workouts do you do per week (ON AVERAGE) (This is the number of strength workouts - not days of strength training per week - some people do more than one strength workout per day)

Almost everyone is doing 2 or 3 strength workouts per week on average. Considering that the majority of each race is running, and a much smaller percentage is strength work, this isn't surprising. My personal opinion is that 2-3 strength workouts per week would be the sweet spot, but 2 can absolutely be enough. Again, it ALL depends.

QUESTION 7: Do you regularly incorporate Grip Strength Specific work into your training? (Regularly = AT LEAST 1x per week) (Examples: Dead hang, Grip Switches, Rope Climbs, Monkey Bars, Ninja Gym, etc.)

We all know (or should know) how absolutely essential grip strength is for OCR. If you can't yet complete all obstacles that require grip strength, you WILL lose a lot of time and energy compared to an athlete who can complete all of the grip obstacles. This is even more important at a race like Savage Race where obstacle completion is mandatory to have a shot at the Pro Podium. Train grip strength.

QUESTION 8: Are you generally able to complete ALL of the obstacles at the events you participate in? (Generally means that you are capable of completing all of them, but sometimes make a mistake and fail one/some - But you are capable of running a clean OCR anytime you go out to race)

It is my (Joel Hayes's) personal opinion that athletes competing in the Elite/Pro waves should be capable of running a clean race (not that it will always happen, but the capability should be there). Beside it a coincidence that 5 people said they don't regularly do grip strength work, and 4 aren't capable of completely all of the obstacles on any given race day?? You decide. (EDIT: A person commented with a question which sent me back to the data, and it turns out that of the 4 who CAN NOT complete all of the obstacles at any given race in general, 3 of them DO regularly do grip strength specific work - my assumption above was INCORRECT. Thanks to Carah for pushing me to check)

QUESTION 9: How much time do you spend (on average) for a workout? (Again, we understand that this number may vary depending on where you are in a training plan, but give us your best estimate).

Between 45 and 90 minutes is where most of these Elites are training. Once again, it's goal and person dependent. Training for an Ultra requires volume (in almost every case ever) to do well (be at the elite level). Training for a 10K requires less volume to still perform well...not that a 10K competitor doesn't train a all depends!

QUESTION 10: On Average (again, understanding that it may vary) how many days per week do you typically train?

No one is training 4 days per week. I didn't expect that, but it also holds no significance. Clearly these athletes believe in regular training stimulus as most are training 6 or 7 days per week. 7 is okay if you are in a specific portion of a training block and are going 7-10 days before a rest day or 2, but I would not personally advise most athletes to go 7+ days without rest days regularly. Personally, I almost always do 6 days on, 1 day of rest.

QUESTION 11: Which recovery method(s) do you utilize at least 1x per week? SELECT ALL THAT APPLY.

It's good to see athletes using different methods to aid in recovery and keep their bodies performing optimally while reducing the risk for injury. Take what you will from this graph, but it is wise to take care of your body no matter what level of racing you compete in.

QUESTION 12: The MAJORITY of your running is done on which surface:

If all you have is roads, then run roads. If you have regular access to trails, I would suggest trails over roads for the majority of your work. OCR's are almost always on trails, and trail running is not the same as road running. Depending on circumstance, treadmills may be a necessary evil (haha). If it isn't safe to run in the dark where you live, or if you need incline work in a geographically flat region, or whatever, then use the treadmill. That specificity says trails win. I hate roads and treadmills, so I am bias, but still, trails win for training specificity.

THANK YOU FOR READING! I hope you found the data interesting. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the "it depends" portions of training, we'd love to help you! You can visit our Custom OCR Training Programs or email us at

*NOTE* Yes, this is a small sample size of just 25 athletes - that's all who answered the survey over a 2 week period.

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