Training to Stay Ahead of Injury in Adventure Racing

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by Keith Paine

The spring and summer are primetime for adventure races like the Spartan Race and the Tough Mudder. These outdoor obstacle courses are all the rage in the fitness world, but there can be a major price to pay for the everyday person stepping up to the challenge. Injuries happen at every single one of these races. Is there a way to avoid these injuries, or are they just part of doing “extreme” races?

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In fact, there is. You can train to survive and prosper in your next adventure race. Having a little knowledge about how to train effectively can make the difference in seeing your race have a successful finish, as opposed to a dreadful dropout. The two most common adventure race injuries are ankle sprains and shoulder strains/tears. Why do these occur? The simple answer is because adventure courses require the ability to stabilize your joints in multiple planes and angles of motion.

Exercise outside

Most people move and train mostly in only one plane of motion–the Sagittal, or forward, plane. That’s fine if you’re going to just continue in that plane, but what happens if you’ve trained on a treadmill and then tackle a winding, uneven rocky trail? It’s a whole new set of stresses on your ankle. The more you can prepare your body for the different challenges you’ll confront in your race, the better chance you have of staying away from injuries.

Here are some exercises from Nimble Fitness that will help you build shoulder and ankle stability [check out the video below]:

  • Shoulder/Pec Opener on the Foam Roller – We start with this opener because a tight pectoral/chest line can prevent the major stabilizing muscles of the back from functioning and stabilizing properly.
  • Bear Crawl – let’s get those shoulder and core stabilizers working! Focus on keeping your shoulder blades set back and chest open.
  • Bar Pull-Ups w/ Lateral Swings – Sure, you might be able to rock some pullups, but what happens when you hit the monkey bars? Your shoulders better be able to stabilize side-to-side and arm to arm.
  • BOSU Stability Hops – Certain sports have plenty of lateral training, like soccer or tennis.  The rest of us need to train our ankles and knees for it, especially if we’re going to be covering rocky, uneven trails.