Obstacle Course Exercises (Conditioning)
Source: Department of the Army Field Manual, FM 21-20 Physical Fitness Training
CONDITIONING OBSTACLE COURSES
If possible, an obstacle course should be shaped like a horseshoe or figure eight so that the finish is close to the start. Also, signs should be placed to show the route.
A course usually ranges from 300 to 450 yards and has 15 to 25 obstacles that are 20 to 30 yards apart. The obstacles are arranged so that those which exercise the same groups of muscles are separated from one another. The obstacles must be solidly built. Peeled logs that are six to eight inches wide are ideal for most of them. Sharp points and corners should be eliminated, and landing pits for jumps or vaults must be filled with sand or sawdust. Courses should be built and marked so that soldiers cannot sidestep obstacles or detour around them. Sometimes, however, courses can provide alternate obstacles that vary in difficulty.
Each course should be wide enough for six to eight soldiers to use at the same time, thus encouraging competition. The lanes for the first few obstacles should be wider and the obstacles easier than those that follow. In this way, congestion is avoided and soldiers can spread out on the course. To minimize the possibility of falls and injuries due to fatigue, the last two or three obstacles should not be too difficult or involve high climbing.
Trainers must always be aware that falls from the high obstacles could cause serious injury. Soldiers must be in proper physical condition, closely supervised, and adequately instructed.
The best way for the timer to time the runners is to stand at the finish and call out the minutes and seconds as each soldier finishes. If several watches are available, each wave of soldiers is timed separately. If only one watch is available, the waves are started at regular intervals such as every 30 seconds. If a soldier fails to negotiate an obstacle, a previously determined penalty is imposed.
When the course is run against time, stopwatches, pens, and a unit roster are needed. Soldiers may run the course with or without individual equipment.
Obstacles for Jumping:
These obstacles are ditches to clear with one leap, trenches to jump into, heights to jump from, or hurdles. (See Figure 8-l.)
Obstacles for Dodging:
These obstacles are usually mazes of posts set in the ground at irregular intervals. (See Figure 8-2.) The spaces between the posts are narrow so that soldiers must pick their way carefully through and around them. Lane guides are built to guide soldiers in dodging and changing direction.
Obstacles for Vertical Climbing and Surmounting:
These obstacles are shown at Figure 8-3 and include the following:
* Climbing ropes that are 1 1/2 inches wide and either straight or knotted.
* Cargo nets.
* Walls 7 or 8 feet high.
* Vertical poles 15 feet high and 6 to 8 inches wide.
Obstacles for Horizontal Traversing:
Horizontal obstacles may be ropes, pipes, or beams. (See Figure 8-4.)
Obstacles for Crawling:
These obstacles may be built of large pipe sections, low rails, or wire. (See Figure 8-5.)
Obstacles for Vaulting:
These obstacles should be 3 to 3 1/2 feet high. Examples are fences and low walls. (See Figure 8-6.)
Obstacles for Balancing:
Beams, logs, and planks may be used. These may span water obstacles and dry ditches, or they may be raised off the ground to simulate natural depressions. (See Figure 8-7.)
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