We know, from experience, that weight and weight loss can be a touchy subject; especially these days. That's okay. We aren't going to tell you to lose weight, cut your calories, or any of that in this article. We are going to talk about body weight in relation to athletic performance in obstacle course racing.
For anyone who wants to improve their abilities in obstacle course racing the most important thing to focus on is performance. This is true for all Open wave racers, Age Group racers, and Elite racers. If you want to improve, you need to look towards things that will improve your performance.
For most, the grip intensive obstacles at races are the hardest. Monkey bars, rigs, rope climbs, walls, etc. Those obstacles are challenging because they require a solid amount of upper body and grip strength along with good technique. In our modern world, not a ton of people do a significant amount of work on their grip strength - especially when hanging from bars or ropes. You should absolutely work on building your strength, but if you are carrying extra weight, it will take a lot more strength to successfully complete obstacles than if you were carrying less weight.
At a Spartan Race (any distance) I am capable of successfully completing all of the obstacles. However, if I put on a 20lb weight vest and tried to do them all, I'm not sure how it would go. I MIGHT still get all of them, but it would be very hard. If it were a 40lb weight vest, I think I would likely fail a few. So if you are someone who wants to build strength and improve your overall performance, and you have body fat that you can lose healthily, that is something you might consider in order to improve your performance.
As with obstacles, it is also harder to run carrying more weight (when that weight isn't muscle - and even sometimes when it is). If I run a Spartan Sprint in 30 minutes, but then I add a 20lb weight vest, I promise you my run times/paces will slow down a lot. Carrying more weight requires more energy, so you'll be burning energy at a faster rate and will be fatiguing more quickly.
Again, this is all from a performance perspective. Both Luke and I (Joel) have worked with dozens and dozens of clients in-person whose main goal is weight loss. With obstacle course race training, we don't focus on weight loss. The goal is always to improve performance for races. Sometimes that means paying attention to weight, and sometimes weight loss happens as a result of the training and we don't have to give it any extra thought. Focus on performance. Ask yourself, "What will help me perform better?" If losing weight is one of the answers, cool, work toward it! If not, great! Work towards whatever will improve your performance.
That's all for today! Train for performance!