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There are plenty of mud runs and obstacle course running races around now, but then there’s True Grit, the all-Australian challenge with a heart. True Grit managing director and former Commando Adam McNamee helps explain how to train for these events.
When McNamee left the Australian Special Forces, he wanted to build a unique brand that would leave a legacy for Australian families affected by conflict.
“I’ve lost five guys on operations, plus there were 32 wounded, including Matt on our last deployment.”
True Grit events are completely designed and operated by Australians.
“With our backgrounds in Australian Special Forces, we can bring that real world experience to obstacle racing, McNamee says. “Our courses incorporate natural terrain and military experiences like no other obstacle course that Australia has seen before.
“We choose our locations carefully. A lot of obstacle course races are just structures erected on paddocks, but we take a course and tailor it into a military-style event.”
If you’re a triathlon-style athlete (or surf-lifesaving or Ironman), then good for you – traditionally, these types of athletes have been most suited to the elite levels of True Grit Obstacle Courses. Aerobic fitness plays a big part in True Grit, so a suggested breakdown of training is 70% general aerobic fitness training (since running 10-12km is no easy feat!) and 30% training your obstacle strength and technique.
You don’t have to be a gym junkie or train every day to complete a True Grit course. Most successful participants work out 2 or 3 times a week (4-6hrs) and most often jog once a week, so from a training sense it’s very achievable with a busy life.
First-timers especially should be looking to build up a good base of running. Just like any aerobic endurance race, it’s important to find that zone and level that gets you into what is referred to as ‘steady state’ while running.
A steady-state run should be significantly lower than your lactate threshold – that point where the body can no longer keep up with lactate production. In a steady-state run, your fatigue should occur from the duration of the run – not from your speed. A suggested pace is one that you can maintain for 25 to 75 minutes. If you’re using your heart rate monitor, a steady-state run should maintain a relatively consistent heart rate between 83 and 87 percent of your maximum heart rate (this may vary with fitness and the individual).
There are plenty of ‘Gritters’ out there who aren’t much of a runner – maybe that’s one reason they’re tackling a True Grit course instead of a half marathon! For most of a True Grit event you’ll run for 400m (equal to a lap of a running track), complete an obstacle, and then run another 400m to the next obstacle. If you’re not a runner, then you may benefit from spending more time building up your runs, even if it’s at the expense of some strength or agility training. Start with a 5km, build up to 7km and then if you can tackle a 10km a fortnight before the event, you’re definitely ready to tackle a run with obstacles.
A True Grit course has more military-inspired obstacles per kilometre than any other type of obstacle course running event.
There’s a common misconception/fear that you have to complete all the obstacles in an event – you don’t. Can’t handle confined spaces? Got a phobia of heights? Can’t swim to save yourself? No drama – you can simply run around an obstacle.
Whatever your fitness level and no matter what phobia you have, the True Grit way is to at least have a go at as many obstacles as you can and challenge yourself. There are no timing chips and your results aren’t displayed against those of other competitors. Ultimately, a True Grit course is about challenging yourself, fighting the demons in your head and getting outside of your comfort zones.
For details on how to train for typical True Grit obstacles, check out the Training Guide.
For a lot of people, two words immediately come up when it’s suggested they do True Grit: “Yeah… sure…” The fact is that when many Gritters cross the finish line, they’re incredibly surprised at the number of obstacles they were able to complete successfully. A True Grit course is probably much more achievable than you think!
Yes, there may be Gritters with chiselled arms and perfect six-packs, but these aren’t a prerequisite to achieve True Grit glory. What you do need is the capacity up top, plus a whole lot of determination, grit, a willingness to attempt new things and the courage to keep going on. A True Grit course will challenge you to get outside of your comfort zone, but it’s about how you deal with it from within that will be the ultimate factor in determining an outcome for yourself.
It’s a myth that you need a buddy to join you at a True Grit event. It’s true that a partner will help for certain obstacles, such as the High Walls and The Ramp, but if you can’t find anyone bold enough to take on a True Grit course with you, then you’ll find that other Gritters will look out for you on the course.
There’s an incredible sensation of teamwork and camaraderie among True Grit competitors, and they’ll help each other through the course. Obviously, this sense of community follow through to enjoying an ice cold sangria or beer together at the finish line, too!
You need comfortable clothing and particularly shoes that have already been worn in. The top racers tend to wear compression so that they don’t get snagged on the sharp edges of obstacles such as the barbed wire commando crawl. Compression also helps reduce muscle fatigue and damage, heightens agility to be able to get through obstacles and helps increase or maintain power during repeat efforts on the obstacles. Long compression tights and long-sleeve compression tops are recommended, but it’s really up to the athlete and what he or she has trained in and feels comfortable with. The new 2XU XTRM Compression short-sleeve top and shorts are another option, since these have been specifically designed for all-terrain endurance activities. Both feature a combination of stronger compression panelling to support key muscle groups and lighter compression panelling to allow a full range of movement where it counts, as well as additional features to enhance the ‘breathability’ of the garments, such as Vent Mesh. If you’re not a fan of wearing compression during activity, 2XU’s Project X Short might be more your go. These shorts will still cut chafing and reduce the risk of snagging on obstacles, plus they have the advantage of being water resistant and they provide core support through the extra wide waistband – this can come in handy for the lifting challenges.
After the event, have an ice bath or an early morning beach swim followed by wearing a set of 2XU full length compression to assist muscle recovery, relieve muscle soreness and reduce the risk of DVT.