Although it seems like obstacle courses are a new adventure, they actually date way back in history and were primarily used as training devices. In their origin, obstacle courses were used to build the mental and physical fitness of soldiers preparing for combat.
As far back as the Roman legionaries, the military trained for battle using natural barriers as obstacles. Somewhere in the 19th century, there is evidence of intentionally constructed obstacle courses throughout Europe that were designed to keep the people in fighting condition.
At the turn of the 20th century, a Frenchman named Georges Hebert thought of taking the individual obstacles and arranged them into a set obstacle course. He called this training the “Natural Method”, inspired by witnessing certain cultures practicing a diverse set of physical skills by navigating the natural environment and terrain. By making a permanent obstacle course, he could elevate the benefits by allowing the skills to be practiced in a deliberate way. The end result was a fitness regiment that allowed the participants to build their strength, agility, confidence, and mental toughness.
The concept of obstacle courses made its way to the American military and although much more known in WW2, it was also used for training the Dougboys in WW1. After WW2, all of the armed forces continued to use obstacle courses as a staple training in the boot camp experience.
The last 10 years has seen a significant rise in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) as a physical fitness event. As the public has embraced this, more types of races have appeared. The Tough Mudder is considered the most difficult, with obstacles that truly push participants to extreme levels. The Survival Race is a family based event, with difficult obstacles but designed for people to push themselves to their own comfort level. There are also other themed runs that highlight “dirty girls” or “beer drinkers” or “ninjas”. Point being, if there is an interest, there is probably an OCR to match it. No matter what you choose, OCR’s are a great way to engage in fitness with a action packed adrenaline experience.