Health: Why obstacle training courses are emerging as a popular trend

Updated: 05 February, 2018 12:55 IST | Sonia Lulla | Mumbai

Mumbai's Ritesh Shaiwal, who is back from representing India at a global obstacle course show, tells you why you should ditch rigid training to go leaping in the outdoors

Ritesh Shaiwal at an acrobatic and obstacle training session at Multifit gym. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Ritesh Shaiwal at an acrobatic and obstacle training session at Multifit gym. Pic/Suresh Karkera

A month after Ritesh Shaiwal represented India at the fitness reality show titled Ultimate Beastmaster, the pride in his voice is palpable. Shaiwal was one among 16 participants hand-picked from India to compete with other countries at the second season of the Sylvester Stallone-produced Netflix show. India may not have emerged winner, but Shaiwal recalls his tryst with the obstacle course spanning two football fields as one that can "test the human body".

With more attention being paid to functional fitness training — aimed at replicating everyday movements — city gyms are looking at ways to up their infrastructure. Obstacle training courses are thus emerging as a popular trend, with Shaiwal insisting that the benefits offered by the training method justify this development. Why obstacle course training?

Expert trainer Saheel Rasheed
Expert trainer Saheel Rasheed

Targets every muscle
Although mirroring movements that are incorporated in functional training help, "transition", says Shaiwal, is what gives obstacle course training an edge over the former. "You cannot complete an obstacle course race unless you move from one station to another. In the process, you are not only involving multiple muscles at a time, but also working on muscle groups that are difficult to train because of the nature of the movement," he explains. He further argues that while functional training routines are set according to a client's ability, obstacle courses are interspersed with elements that may seem tough to attempt, but are essential to execute. "For instance, a person may be unable to navigate a monkey bar, but is compelled to do so during obstacle courses. Eventually, one learns how to adapt the body to execute movements when there is no option. This in turn enhances muscular development," Shaiwal adds.

Is a holistic package
An obstacle course can comprise elements like a beam balance walk, rock climbing, inclined path run, rope climbing and the 100-metre sprint. "These elements target a variety of fitness components in a single routine. You challenge balance and stability in the beam balance walk, coordination at the rock-climbing wall, conditioning and strength in the sprints, and strength in the rope-climbing section. Few routines are able to target several components at one time," says Shaiwal. "Also, given that you are eventually encouraged to complete it in the shortest time possible, you find yourself negotiating [the course] mentally and physically to reach the finish line. You are probably not even aware of how your body is integrating all the components together. This entire process is a joy ride for the muscles. Needless to say, it's an ace method to improve agility too."

Illustration/Ravi Jadhav
Illustration/Ravi Jadhav

Helps develop organic strength
It is becoming increasingly evident that people are keen to move their workouts outdoors, so that they don't have to be dependent on gyms, and can break the monotony. "But what they don't know is that doing so also encourages the development of organic strength, or strength that enables you to have complete control over your body movements," says Shaiwal, adding that outdoor fitness stations at parks are incorporating obstacle course equipment, too. "The idea is to simplify fitness. It's alarming that people don't understand that all you need is your body to achieve enhanced levels of fitness, and not external equipment." Most fitness programmes stress on the need to replicate daily muscle movements to make it easier to negotiate the demands of everyday life, but Shaiwal argues that "unless you step out and jump over a fence, sprint over potholes to catch a bus, or climb a rope, how are you preparing yourself for life?"

City connect
Several city gyms are focussing on creating obstacle course-based routines. "You can see the incorporation of Olympic loops, tyres, rope ladders and beams, which is indicative of the desire to create a trend that is effective and enjoyable," says Shaiwal. Expert trainer at MultiFit, Saheel Rasheed highlights why the course is practised at the gym. "The interesting part about obstacle training is that it includes a variety of gaits. This helps the body move in different directions. Often, even weightlifters fail to hold their own body weight in an isometric position, whereas using body weight resistance can lead to better fibre definition of the muscles.".

Sign up for obstacle course training here:
At Fitness First, Palladium mall, Lower Parel.
At MultiFit, off Link Road, Andheri West.

Obstacle training and you
> Crawling under and over a row of chairs
> Crawling under a string stretched between two chairs
> Running with a beanbag overhead
> Throwing a beanbag into a laundry basket
> Walking along a chalked out straight line with a sandbag
(Three sets)

> Rope ladder climb
> Farmers’ walk - holding eight to 12 kg kettlebells on both sides
> Leg crawl under a lowered stretched-out rope
> Jump over and return from under a barricade
> Rope transverse climb
(Three sets)

> Monkey bar
> Rope swing
> Strongman shuffle — walking/running with a series of oddly shaped weights
> Balance beam
> Wall climb
> Stutter step tyre (Three sets)

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First Published: 05 February, 2018 08:36 IST



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