Brooke Van Paris

On the Course of a Lifetime

Advertise

If your client just signed up for an obstacle course race, take it from Brooke Van Paris their life is about to change—but first you’ve got work to do as a trainer.

  From Fitness Trainer July/August 

Brooke Van Paris

Brooke Van Paris

Brooke Van Paris is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. From surviving a crippling car accident to maneuvering her way into the Obstacle Course Racing Championships as an elite competitor, she is as tough as they come.

You may recognize Van Paris from season 1 of Fox’s “American Grit”, a then mentally and physically grueling military-inspired competition. Till the very last second, she sustained on passion—that very passion which currently drives her to motivate others and transform lives by creating and implementing unique training programs as a top notch fitness trainer.

Obstacle course racing (OCR) is bigger, better and tougher in 2017 attracting participants from all types of backgrounds. Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, and Warrior Dashes are some of the most popular races nationwide boasting thousands of participants every event. These races push participants to their physical limits testing their endurance, strength, speed, agility, and dexterity. Chances are you’ve had, or will have, a client who is one of those thousands. A client who needs a comprehensive approach to their training combining running, calisthenics, balance training—pretty much anything a OCR course can throw at you.

Van Paris, a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer is well versed in preparing herself and others for these grueling events. We sat down with Van Paris to get the dirt on preparing clients in this growing trend.

Brooke obstacle race

Brooke obstacle race

Fitness Trainer:

Now an elite competitor, what first had you step foot on the course?

Brooke Van Paris:

I still remember my first race- It was called Morgan’s Mud Gauntlet in Ohio. My co-worker at the time had begged me to do one of these “mud runs” and I was so out of shape and embarrassed that I always turned him down, until September 2014.

October 29, 2009 I was in a life changing head on car accident where the airbag deployed and crushed both of my hands. This left me handicapped and without use of either hand for the next two years of my life. I couldn’t bathe myself, feed myself, or do any of life’s most simple of tasks. Over the course of the next two years I had a surgery every six months and by the time the nightmare was over, I had gained a lot of weight and my muscles had atrophied completely away to nothing.

So, let’s pick up again at my first race. September 2014 (two years post casts) I showed up in a WHITE compression long sleeve (yes, not sure what I was thinking), athletic shorts, and an old pair of tennis shoes. I was scared to death at that start line, but those feelings were short lived. It turned into smiles, laughs, and ended up being an experience that to this day, I will never forget. I ended up completely head to toe in mud, completely exhausted, a HUGE smile on my face, countless amounts of new friends, and a giant medal around my neck.

FT:

Sounds like you found yourself along that course.

BVP:

After that race… I was instantly hooked. I always call the First Race—the “taste the kool-ade” experience. You either fall in love, or you don’t… and if you do, you will be dubbed a junkie- like me! My first nine months after completing my first local OCR, I did 48 races. Yes, overkill I suppose, but I was addicted! Because of this, I was training hard in the gym four to five days a week and racing every weekend… and as a result, my body transformed. It was an outcome I had never intended; but the body is amazing, adaptable, and ever changing.

FT:

Speaking of training, how quickly and how well do you think a personal trainer could prepare a client for the OCR path?

BVP:

In my first year racing I lost 40lbs and in October 2015 I represented the USA at the World Championships of Obstacle Course Racing and placed top 20 percent in the world. Pretty cool coming from a girl who was overweight, sedentary, and handicapped for years. So, if I can do it- your client can too.. here’s some tips and workouts to throw into your programming:

Top 10 OCR Training Tips

Push ups

Push ups

1. PUSH UPS

• There is a lot of crawling in races, whether it be in the mud under barbed wire or through tunnels. You need to make sure you incorporate a similar movement in training to simulate this. Push-Ups are perfect! They work the chest, triceps, and core. This allows the client to crawl longer and not have the “burn out” on the longer crawls.

• How Many? 12-20 reps for 4 sets

*Also try Bear Crawls for more difficulty!

Pull ups

Pull ups

2. PULL-UPS

• 8-10 Foot Walls, Ropes, Grip Strength Rigs, and much much more! Races are littered with obstacles that require strength from your back to pull your body up and over. Pull-ups are amazing for this.

• Because there are so many of these obstacles in one single race, in training to do 4 sets of as many pull-ups as you can (Wide Grip). If your client cannot do a pull-up, go ahead and use the Lat Pulldown Machine and do 4 sets of 15-20 reps at a workable weight.

Squats

Squats

3. SQUATS

• Lots of leg strength required in races! I try to incorporate my legs into every aspect of racing, for example- lifting up the bucket for the bucket carry is basically a squat.

• Barbell , bodyweight, or dumbbell Squats are my favorite. I like high workable rep ranges on these, so 4-5 sets of 15-20 reps. You can also program for other variations of squats like : Front Squats, Hack Squats, Sumo Squats, and even throw in Leg Press. Keep sets and rep ranges the same.

• Try Box Jumps for some plyometric action! 30 Seconds each set, 4 sets.

Lunges

Lunges

4. LUNGES

• Legs are just so important; I cannot stress it enough. Lunges, like squats, are a multi- joint movement that are great for building the leg strength needed in an Obstacle Course Race.

• Use bodyweight or throw in a Barbell or Dumbbells for added difficulty. Do these in the gym or outside, but have the client walk with each lunge. 4 sets of 15 lunges on each leg.

Core Work

Core Work

5. CORE WORK

• In many of the obstacles—core, stability, and balance play a huge role! Your core can aid you in almost every single one.

• Crunches are amazing because you can do them anywhere. 4 sets of 20 reps. Make sure your client engages the core and does not compensate by trying to pull with their neck! *They don’t like crunches?

a. Try Plank Holds! Shoot for holding for 45-60 seconds for 4 sets.

b. Mountain Climbers! 30 seconds each round for 4 sets.

c. Burpees! EVERYONES favorite right? Try 4 rounds of 30 burpees. – Typically when you fail an obstacle – this is the dreaded “punishment“

Grip Strength

Grip Strength

6. GRIP STRENGTH EXERCISES

• Let’s face it, this is a grip strength dominated sport. Imperative skill for rope climb, grip strength rigs, monkey bars, bucket carry, and much much more.

• Farmers Carry- Grab two buckets filled with sand or water and walk with them until failure for 4 rounds. *DumbBells work as well

• Plate Pinchers- Grab two weight plates and with each hand, pinch them and then stand holding them for as long as you can until failure. Repeat. 4 sets.

• Body Weight Hangs- Find an overhead bar. Grab wide grip with both hands and literally hang. Depress the shoulders and keep the chest up. Have your client do this until failure and repeat for 4 sets.

Bucket Carry

Bucket Carry

7. BUCKET CARRY

• Carrying a log, sandbag, or bucket filled with rocks or water are in probably every race I have ever done. Go to your local hardware store and buy a 5 gallon paint bucket. Fill the bucket with water, rocks, or sand until it weighs around 35-50 lbs.

• Have your client practice picking the bucket up and walking for as long as they can until fatigue. As mentioned before- make sure to engage the legs and when they pick it up initially- do a squat motion. 4 sets of walking until fatigue.

*If you can’t get access to a bucket- try finding a heavy log

Balance

Balance

8. BALANCE

• There tends to be more and more balance skill obstacles in races now, so let’s address this!

• With a Bosu Ball have your client balance on one foot with arms out in “T” position. Hold for 20-30 seconds each leg before switching. 4 Sets.

*More Difficulty wanted? Try Single Leg Squats or Single Leg Deadlifts 4 sets 15-20 reps

Agility

Agility

9. AGILITY

• Being quick on your feet and reactive is a skill that’s utilized more often than not on the course. When running trails there tends to be a lot of roots, rocks, and dirt holes you will want to avoid and we can do this by being agile. 4 rounds of 30 seconds each. Go for speed and accuracy with foot placement.

*Ladder Drills

*Cone Drills

10. CARDIO

• Intervals are crucial. We do a lot of running, but unlike in long trail runs, we have obstacles. We run, run, run and then come to an obstacle- the body has to stop, switch gears, and then recruit other muscle groups to complete the obstacle before returning to running.

– Your client can do this outside or indoors on the treadmill. Aim for 2 minutes of hard running followed up by 3 minutes at an easy manageable pace for 30 minutes.

• Endurance is also key. These races aren’t short. The average is around 3-5 miles, but they can get up to pretty lengthy distances.

– As the weeks leading up to your client’s race go by, gradually increase the time they are running based on the distance of the race they intend to run. These longer runs are meant to be done at a manageable, comfortable pace. Treadmill or Trail Run – 45 minutes to 1 Hour…

• Can’t run? Walk! Crank up that incline on the treadmill and have them walk for the same amount of time or hit up the StairMaster/StepMill. If outside, Hike! This is great training for the steep inclines found on most courses.

AJ Brye

AJ Brye

A.J. Brye, is a New York City based National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist. With 10-plus years in the Fitness and Athletic Industry, A.J. develops fitness programs that are functional and complement anyone’s lifestyle, in turn making daily life more enjoyable. Anthonybrye@gmail.com