What are the Best Adventure Race Training Tips?

Jennifer Voight

Training for an adventure race begins with defining a goal, being aware of current fitness levels, and assessing strengths and weaknesses. With that information, racers can plan an adventure race training schedule based on how much time there is before the race and how much time each day is available for training. The first phase of adventure race training should be devoted to building up a good base cardiovascular fitness level. As the race becomes closer, racers should increase speed and intensity, mimicking conditions that will be in place during the race, such as training at night and incorporating hills into training. Developing superior navigational skills is also crucial for completing an adventure race successfully.

Adventure racing may involve swimming.
Adventure racing may involve swimming.

Adventure racing typically combines endurance racing in two or more disciplines with orienteering or navigating. Cross-country running, mountain biking, kayaking, swimming, or riding are common endurance activities during adventure racing, but other activities may be involved. Races may last from two to 24 hours or longer.

Adventure race training is crucial to prevent injury.
Adventure race training is crucial to prevent injury.

Due to the strenuous and varied nature of the activities, a strong aerobic base is necessary before starting training. Training should also incorporate strength and navigational skills. Typical training schedules last from 3 to 6 months before the racing event, depending on the difficulty level of the race.

Runners should start training a few months ahead for an adventure race.
Runners should start training a few months ahead for an adventure race.

The first adventure race training phase typically lasts 2 to 5 months and is focused on developing endurance and working on weak areas. Training usually addresses each event in proportion to its length during the actual event. The exception would be to address weak areas. For example, if a racer is a strong runner but a weak swimmer, then more time should be devoted to swimming than running until proficiency is reached.

The second phase of training usually starts about 6 weeks before the adventure racing event. During this period, racers should build speed, endurance and make sure to train mimicking the conditions that they will face during the race. Racers may need to train at night, add hills, train when fatigued or cold, and train while wearing a heavy pack. If the racer will be using new gear during the race, this is the time to break it in.

Developing navigational or orienteering skills is very important during adventure race training. The fittest racer or team does not necessarily win the race; typically the winner is the one with the best navigational skills. Fitness does not matter if the racer does not know where she is going.

The week before the race, training tapers off and becomes very light to allow the body to refuel and gain strength for the event. The day before the adventure race, the racer should eat a well-balanced meal, stay hydrated, and sleep well the night before. Once the day of the race arrives, the racer should relax and enjoy the adventure race experience.

It is important to stay hydrated when training for an adventure race.
It is important to stay hydrated when training for an adventure race.

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Discussion Comments


@KoiwiGal - Training for a triathlon isn't really the same as adventure race training either. Adventure races tend to have a theme and be much more focused on everyone having a good time rather than on real competition (depending on the race, of course).

I don't know how much a traditional coach would be able to help if you're doing a race around an obstacle course, for example.

While they could help improve your fitness in general, I suspect most of what you need in adventure racing is a good attitude.


@browncoat - I'd say it would depend on what kind of racer you are and what kind of goals you have. If you do this sort of thing regularly, or if you are training to beat a particular time, then maybe it would be worth hiring someone to help you.

If you don't race very often and adventure race training isn't something you're planning to do all the time, you can get very good routines off the internet without spending any money on it.


If you can afford it, it can really help to have a coach or personal trainer help you to get into the best shape you can be. My sister does a lot of these kinds of races and she was reluctant to get a coach at first, because she liked doing things on her own.

But she finally caved in when her gym had a special offer and now she absolutely loves having a coach. He makes sure she gets the right nutrition and keeps up with all her races and how she needs to improve.

I don't think she actually pays that much for it either, as their sessions are relatively rare considering how much help he seems to give her.

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