Obstacle Race Magazine – Race SAFE Skills

Obstacle Race Magazine Interview with Michael Cohen
Obstacle Race Magazine

Race SAFE Skills

by Michael Cohen

Issue 2
April 2014

Coach Michaels’ core coaching requirements is to make sure all OCR contenders & athletes are Race SAFE…RACE FIT…RACE READY. However he rates RACE SAFE as the most important aspect to training. In this article we ask Coach Michael exactly why you need to consider Race SAFE skills more than your fitness!

ORM – Some OCR races claim that anyone can do an obstacle race without any training. Is this true?

Coach Michael – YES. Just as easily anyone could do a marathon or even an ironman. However, the difference is that with OCR’s the stakes are much higher, when it comes to doing a simple risk assessment.

ORM – What do you mean when you say the stakes are higher?

Coach Michael – What I mean is that there are so many aspects to an obstacle race, that are hazardous for the trained racer, let alone for the untrained or newbie.

ORM – Can you give us some examples?

Coach Michael  – Here are a few of the key hazards:

  1. Terrain – For one the terrain can be unforgiving, when it comes to deep mud & bogs, ditches, rabbit holes, roots, branches, tree stumps, tree trunks, rocks, stones, treacherous inclines and descents as well as many other natural hazards.
  2. Obstacles – are getting bigger, bolder and more testing as the seasons go by.
  3. Water Immersions – Most races including winter races have water immersions, which are responsible for the ever-growing cases of hypothermia and injuries.
  4. Poor Kit – Contenders being incorrectly kitted out with the wrong clothing, shoes as well as lack of race fluid and nutrition.

ORM – So what can ORM readers, or should I say contenders do to reduce the risk of injury?

Coach Michael – Firstly, and foremost it is not about Race FIT. But more importantly it is about Race SAFE skills.

ORM – Can you talk us through some basic Race SAFE Skills?

Coach Michael – Of course. The first Race SAFE skill is learning how to fall.  Everyone falls at some point during the race. You may slip, fall in a hole, fall from/on an obstacle, get knocked by another contender or just simply loose your balance. We are not just talking about newbies, we are also talking of the elite. So we train all contenders including our elite TEAM athletes how to do a break roll.

ORM – What is involved in a break roll?

Coach Michael – The key element to a break roll is to reduce the risk of a contender’s spine or head coming into contact with the ground. Unlike an old school P.E. gymnastics roll down the spine, we teach contenders to roll up the arm over the shoulder to the opposite hip. This way only 1 or 2 vertebrae come into contact with the ground. Similarly the head is off centre to one side so there is less risk of head and ground impact. On an OCR course we don’t have cushioned matting like they have in gyms or in martial arts. Lets get real if you fall, you have to minimalise the impact, by making sure the least body parts coming into contact with the ground.

ORM – Can you give our ORM readers a a few steps to learning the break roll?

Coach Michael – In this example we will do a right-sided roll (mirror instructions for a left-sided roll)

  1. Squat down with you right foot ahead of your left and your arms positioned in between your knees.
  2. Place the hands on the ground making a triangle shape with both thumbs and index fingers. The way the hands are positioned means that the hands and arms defuse the downward force as the body comes into contact with the ground. The remaining force from the fall is fully diffused through the roll.
  3. Roll up the right arm, which forms the front edge of a ball.
  4. As the body rolls over the right arm the next point of contact is the shoulder.
  5. At this stage the head is moved to the left side, so that it does not come into contact with the ground.
  6. The tongue is behind the teeth. The lips are closed but the teeth are separated.
  7. As you roll over the shoulder the roll continues across the spine to the left hip.
  8. There should be enough power to enable you to push up from the feet to enable you to immediately continue running.
  9. Avoid pushing off from the arms or legs against the ground. Also make sure you do not allow the shoulder to thud on the ground as you lower into the roll.

Obstacle Race Magazine - Race SAFE Skills

ORM – It sounds complex. Is it easy to learn to break roll.

Coach Michael – There are key elements to the break roll which are quite technical, and need to be learnt with the guidance of a competent OCR Coach. Then it is about practice. One of the biggest issues when training on your own or with friends is that unless you have the knowledge to know each element of the technique, as well as the best way to break down the roll into components, the likelihood is that you will make mistakes. Mistakes lead to spine, shoulder, neck and head injuries.

ORM – Sounds risky to me.

Coach Michael – It is a risky game when you do not know what you are doing, or how you can react to a slip or a fall. Just as similarly the amount of ankle and knee injuries occur from poor jump skills.

ORM – Surely everyone can jump?

Coach Michael – Jumping and landing in a sand pit or on a gym mat is one thing. But when it comes to jumping over a wall, off an obstacle, over a trench that is covered in mud and/ or water, then similarly the stakes are high.

ORM – A jump is a jump at the end of the day.

Coach Michael – It is not as clean cut as that. In our jump classes we teach correct form when it comes to precision jumps, single leg, double leg, running jumps all the way through to trench and water jumps. Each has different techniques and skill levels.

ORM – How can jumping me made safer?

Coach Michael – As well as knowing how to jump,  the other vital skill is the landing. I can’t tell you how many people cannot land correctly on the balls of their feet with stability and strength. When they land on their toes many end up head first into the ground or a tree. And when they land on the heals they end up on their backside. So it is important that contenders learn to precision land. This entails earning about their centre of gravity, body weight transfer and knowing how to counter balance. Then there is the need to learn how to do a slap landing where you land with hands and feet in order to gain control with more dynamic jumps. Plus break roll landings when your landing is out of control.

ORM – Wow that’s a lot to take on board?

Coach Michael – As OCR racing becomes a recognized sport contenders and racers are now realising the need to consider Race SAFE skills could make the difference to finishing a race, getting a PB or being on the podium. It is not just about the newbies. Just ask any die-hard racer or elite OCR athlete and they are all prone to injuries. My job is to educate everyone of them as to how they can reduce the risk and incidence of injury.

ORM Race SAFE Training 

Here at ORM we are 100% behind Race SAFE and Coach Michael’s dedication to the safety of OCR racers. So we have got together with Coach Michael to offer all our readers an ORM Race SAFE Training Session. Just visit http://bit.ly/ormtraining

Please comment or ask a question below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s