Benefits From Running An Obstacle Course Race | Healthy Moms

Reconnect With Your Inner Badass! Surprising Benefits From Running An Obstacle Course Race

#MomsSelf-Care #MomsGrowth #MomsFitnessHacks #MomsStillFierce

“We’ve got some Baaaaaaddddd Aaaaaaaasssssss Moms in this race today! That’s right…B.A.M.! Let’s give it up for the Bad Ass Moms!” The announcer shouted, grinning, over the pulsing music.  The crowd cheered.  I felt like a rockstar waiting to start.  I looked up at the stairs and then to my teammates.  We were excited and a little nervous, but ready.   After two months of training and hours of waiting around, we wanted to get it over with!

In August, when my friend invited me to join her team with 10 local Moms, B.A.M. (aka Bad Ass Moms) I was intrigued but unsure.  Although I run daily, I’ve never been into public races and the idea of another commitment was daunting.  Yet Jenny’s enthusiasm for creating this team was infectious and it aligned with my intention to get out of the comfort zone.

Pre-kids…I was pretty fierce and that self-confidence helped me. Later, when I learned a Spartan Race is more obstacle course than run, I knew I could (probably) handle it.

The race itself was thrilling but the lessons came from training.  Although my emotional strength is tested daily, there was something uncomplicated and joyful about physical tests.

Three Great Things Happened!

  1. Strength – I became stronger and fitter by moving out of my exercise rut.
  2. Bonding – I connected with a phenomenal group of women I now consider friends.
  3. Confidence – after deciding to take more risks, this validated my ability to take on new challenges.

The Power of Deliberate Practice

Earlier this year, I read Angela Duckworth’s GRIT, The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She describes ‘deliberate practice’ as essential for ‘the gritty’, “One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday. So, after you’ve discovered and developed interest in a particular area, you must devote yourself to the sort of focused, full-hearted, challenge-exceeding-skill practice that leads to mastery.”

This mindset combined with determination to make a respectable showing for the forty-plus crowd, helped me plan for race day.  Yes, deciding to improve anything means making the space for it and I was intentional about process and dedicating time.  I already had a daily running habit and added about 10 to 12 minutes to my weekday runs and arranged for my husband to watch the kids early Sunday mornings (45 minutes to an hour) during team training. 

Willpower Supercharged By Team

There are countless studies about how accountability to others improves goal attainment.  When NBC News reported on the exploding popularity of fitness classes in the ‘Health Benefits Of Working Out In a Crowd’, they describe, “…the Köhler Effect is the idea that no one wants to be the weakest link in a group setting. When it comes to fitness, this translates to pushing yourself harder…”

The Telegraph recently shared results from a study published in the Journal of The American Osteopathic Association, touting group exercise to lower stress, “Those exercising in a group showed significant improvements in all three quality of life measures: boosting mental well-being by 12 percent, self-reported physical fitness by 24 percent and emotional stability by 26 percent. They also reported a 26 percent reduction in perceived stress levels.  In contrast, those exercising on their own saw no significant changes in any measure, except in mental well-being which increased 11 percent.”

There were many mornings during our team sessions when I pushed myself to run yet another flight of stairs, when my calves protested or to hurl myself at a cold metal pole one more time in an effort to climb it.  My teammates were supportive, funny and the shared goal inspired me to work harder than I would have solo.

Considering an Obstacle Course Race? Here’s How I Prepared…

Changes to my daily routine:

  • Greater distance: I gradually increased my daily run an additional .5 to 1.5 miles. On weekends, I would aim to add at least two miles, schedule permitting.
  • More inclines: My normal route already includes hills, but I added stairs and prioritized greater escalation over speed.
  • Climbing and hanging: My advantage was running endurance however, I needed to boost my strength, particularly arm and shoulder strength.
    • Monkey bars — at least once per week after dropping off my oldest.
    • Handstands – when I was indoors, another way to improve my shoulder strength.

Our weekly team workout:

  • Jenny, our fearless leader, created a series of 3.5 to 4.5 mile running routes and we established a standing-time, early Sunday mornings to run routes as a group.
  • Each route incorporated at least two playgrounds (think climbing structures, climbing walls, monkey bars, poles).
  • Routes also incorporated at least two serious, steep-incline (think subway station deep) sets of stairs or equivalent hills.
  • Burpee stations – we stopped to do 20 burpees once, sometimes twice during our sessions.


  • Gloves (one teammate invested in official Spartan gloves, which looked nice and grippy). A couple of us bought less expensive weight lifting gloves.  I was happy to have them on race day.  Carrying the heavy water jugs, stone tablets, et cetera would have been (more) painful without them. Even the burpees for our race were mostly on cement and a little padding on the hands helped.

Race Day

This deliberate practice leveled us up for last weekend’s performance.  We made it through the Spartan stadium sprint in just over an hour, better than we expected!

The cardio (running and stairs) felt like nothing and I only struggled on the obstacles that required significant shoulder strength (i.e. javelin throw, rings and rope climb).

When we become caregivers, the drive to be fearless weakens.  We favor comfort and safety over challenge. The race helped me reconnect with the dormant, fearless part of myself, responsible for my greatest achievements.

Shortly after 5:30 Thursday morning I saw Jenny at our local gym, we were on the same row of treadmills.  During cool down, I asked her why she decided to do Spartan. “I wanted to be more fit again…stronger and return to healthier habits.” She said. I smiled, understanding completely and grateful to have been part of her journey.

If you’re in the comfort zone, you’re not taking the risks that promote growth.  That growth fuels our fantastic future selves.  Go on, unearth your inner badass, that’s where you’ll find the drive to leap over your next obstacle.


If you enjoy this post and would like updates & research on finding time for self-care & personal growth every week-ish, send me a note!

2 thoughts on “Reconnect With Your Inner Badass! Surprising Benefits From Running An Obstacle Course Race

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  1. I love the BAM story! Before kids, a big hiking or backpacking trip on the calendar was a sure way to get myself to the gym, out for training “hikes” on the neighborhood hills, and so on. With kids and no such trips planned, my motivation has slackened. And the thought of finding time to train for anything seems impossible until the baby is actually sleeping through the night, though I know it really isn’t. Knowing how busy you are and that you found time to train reminds me that all things are possible!Thanks for the tip on the Spartan race…maybe next summer….

    1. Thank you Ali! Yes…definitely consider Spartan next summer or getting a hiking trip on the calendar. Having that ‘appointment’ to work towards a larger fitness goal made a huge difference in my drive to push to the next level.

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