There are some exciting contests coming up this year, and if you want to make your mark, you’ll need to start getting in shape as soon as possible.

Obstacle courses are among the toughest events out there, so you’ll need peak fitness, strength and flexibility to overcome them, especially if you want to achieve an acceptable time. That means getting to work with diet and exercise right now.

Build up your fitness

To cope with the taxing courses out there today, you’ll need to be as fit as possible, so it’s time to cut out the junk food, increase your intake of vitamins and minerals and start drinking plenty of water to get your metabolism running efficiently. Slow but lasting exercise such as one-mile swims, five-mile jogs or 15-mile bicycle rides are an effective way to build fitness if you do them two to three times weekly, and you can gradually up the intensity. While the focus should be on making your heart and lungs work hard, it’s beneficial to vary the kinds of exercise you do, to get a full body workout.

Build muscle

ObstacleGetting your muscles into shape for the challenge means you’ll need some serious strength training. If you haven’t been pushing yourself recently, start with half-hour sessions three times a week and build up to six a week – that day of rest is important to healthy development – lasting for as long as you’re comfortable with while avoiding strain. It’s important to give your body the nutrients it needs to build muscle, so take protein and intra workout supplements to aid your diet. Make sure you get enough sleep, as that’s when most of the muscle growth – in response to exercise – will occur.

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Improve your flexibility

Obstacle courses are much easier if you have a flexible body and good reach, so make sure you build flexibility-focused exercises into your routine. A simple ten minutes of stretches first thing in the morning makes a big difference and stretching before and after workouts also helps reduce the risk of strains and sprains. If you can add two half hour sessions of gymnastic, dance-based or martial arts stretching exercises twice a week, you should see serious improvements in your abilities.

Be up to the challenge

An obstacle course is a full body challenge so don’t make the mistake of focusing exclusively on the muscle groups that make you look good or on the training you find most fun to do. You’ll need a wealth of different skills to get you through this. Swimming is an excellent way to train because it exercises every muscle in your body, but you should also focus on specific activities to enhance skills you don’t otherwise use much, such as climbing, swinging by your arms and walking on a beam.

A regular, well-balanced workout and complementary diet will help you get your body into optimal condition for the challenge ahead. It’s not just what you do on the day but what you do now that matters if you want to show people what you’re made of.